NFL Game of the Week: Steelers vs. Lions

Story posted October 26, 2017 in Sports, CommRadio by Camden Tofil

A matchup between the AFC and the NFC highlights this week’s slate of games, as the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football.

Lack of familiarity between these two teams should be an intriguing detail to follow as the game takes place at Ford Field. These two teams have not met since 2013, when the Steelers beat the Lions 37-27 in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh enters this matchup with a record of 5-2 and has won two in a row. The Steelers beat the Bengals last week 29-14 to improve to a 3-0 record in the division. Pittsburgh dominated Cincinnati, outgaining them 420 yards to 179 yards.

Running back Le’Veon Bell led the way for Pittsburgh as he rushed for 134 yards and added another 58 yards in the passing game. Wideouts Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster both had a touchdown in the game.

The Lions are coming off a bye, but hold a record of 3-3 coming into Week 8. Detroit last played in Week 6 and lost in a shootout with New Orleans. The Saints won that game 52-38 in a matchup that saw both defenses score touchdowns.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns, but also had three interceptions. Wideouts Marvin Jones and Golden Tate both had 96 yards and one touchdown, but it proved to not be enough.

Pittsburgh seems to be a better team than Detroit, but Lions are a very good team at home and the Steelers tend to play down to lesser competition.

Steelers Offense vs. Lions Defense

Pittsburgh’s offense was expected to be among the league’s elite coming into the season. However, they have been far from it, even though they are starting to get into a rhythm.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has struggled throughout this season even though he is sixth in the league in passing yards. Roethlisberger has only thrown nine touchdowns compared to eight interceptions. With all the retirement talk Big Ben had in the offseason, some have wondered if his head is in it this season.

Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons at his disposal. Wideouts Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Martavis Bryant are the targets Roethlisberger has. Brown has been his number one target for several years, and nothing has changed this season. Brown leads the league in receptions (52) and receiving yards (765). Brown has a 220-yard lead on second place (A.J. Green).

However, Pittsburgh’s offense is run through All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. After holding out the entire preseason and training camp, Bell got off to a rocky start this season. But, Bell has been back to his normal self. In the Steelers last three wins, Bell has 102 carries for 457 yards. And now he is second in the league in rushing and first in rushing attempts.

Detroit’s defense has been middle of the pack this season, as they rank 14th in the league allowing 338.5 yards per game. The Lions pass defense has been middle of the pack, as they rank 11th in the league in passing yards allowed per game, but have done a great job of picking off the opposing quarterback as they rank third with nine interceptions on the season.

Led by linebacker Tahir Whitehead and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit’s front seven has been very good this season. Whitehead leads the team in tackles (36) and Ansah leads the team with 4 sacks. The Lions rank eighth in rushing yards allowed per game at 94.3.

Detroit’s defense always plays better at home, so look for them to try and shut down Bell and force Roethlisberger to beat them.

Lions Offense vs. Steelers Defense

The Lions offense has struggled some this season. They rank 26th in the league in yards per game. Stafford has played well so far this year as he has thrown for 1,428 yards and 12 touchdowns. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have been the main targets for Stafford this season. The two have combined for 643 yards and five touchdowns.

The main reason for a Lions struggling offense has been their lack of a consistent running game. Detroit has lacked a good running back for several years now. Leading rusher Ameer Abdullah only has 342 yards and one touchdown.

The offensive line hasn’t been good for Stafford either, as he has been sacked 23 times through six games. Look for Pittsburgh to send a lot of blitzes at Stafford throughout the game.

Pittsburgh’s secondary was expected to be a weakness for them this season, but it has been one of their strengths at the midpoint in the season. The addition of Joe Haden and development of Artie Burns had led to a resurgence in Pittsburgh. The Steelers rank first in the league in passing yards allowed.

Led by linebacker Ryan Shazier, the Pittsburgh front seven has been among the league’s elite. With 24 sacks on the season, the Steelers are able to get to the quarterback while only rushing four people. Rookie T.J. Watt and the return of Cameron Heyward have been a huge boost to this defense that was only average last season.

Pittsburgh seems to be better than Detroit in every aspect of the game, but the Lions will have had two weeks to prepare for the Steelers and Pittsburgh has a history of playing down to lesser opponents on the road.

Look for Shazier and company to get after Stafford early and often and force him to throw a couple of interceptions. Bell will go for over 100 yards again and Roethlisberger will expose a weak Lions secondary with his many weapons. Antonio Brown will another big game and Jesse James will have two touchdowns in a relatively easy win for the Steelers.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Detroit 13

Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising/public relations. To contact him, email camdentofil@gmail.com