NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions Preview
Welcome to the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steelers Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers offense showed signs of breaking out of their slump. Pittsburgh’s first two drives ended up in the end zone. The rest of the day, the offense continued to move the ball at will, that is, until they got into the dreaded red zone, where the production stopped, and Chris Boswell ended up kicking five field goals to give the Steelers a 29-14 victory over their rivals.
Any drive is successful if it ends up putting points on the scoreboard. Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive weapons had thoughts of scoring over 30 points a game this season. Drives ending up with seven makes those goals easier to carry out, but Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley is good with what he sees so far.
“I don’t think I ever stated that was my goal (on averaging 30 ppg),” offensive coordinator Todd Haley said, “and when that was talked about, I think it was a few years ago. Every year it’s something different. No. 1, it’s win games. And as your entire team changes, I think you’re smart as offensive coaches to adjust what you do also. We got a great running back, a great line. It leaves a lot less risk out there. I’ll take that anytime.
“We’re winning games, I’m excited how our defense is playing and that affects some of the decisions we make.”
Be that as it may, putting more points up and converting those field goals into touchdowns will make the Steelers that much more difficult to defeat considering how great the defense is playing in 2017.
The Steelers defense ranks first in yards per game at 258.7. They are second in passing yards allowed at 147.0. They are third in the league in scoring, yielding just 16.6 points per game.
The defense will have another challenge again this week as they face one of the league’s most underappreciated quarterbacks in Matt Stafford.
“This guy is a great player,” defensive coordinator Keith Butler said. “There is a reason they paid him. He has a cannon on him. He’s very accurate. He’s had some people get hurt around him and that’s hurt him a little bit, but he’s an excellent football player.”
Corner Joe Haden has been a great addition to the secondary for the Steelers and knows how tough it will be to defend against Stafford.
“He’s the highest-paid player in our league for a reason,” Haden said. “He can make all the throws. He’s been doing it a long time. He’s a gunslinger. He’s not afraid to throw the ball. He squeezes the ball in tight windows. He has a special arm.”
Stafford has a bevy of weapons to throw to, including Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Jr., Kenny Golladay, and Theo Reddick out of the backfield. The Lions have two nice options at tight end with Eric Ebron and Daniel Fells.
You don’t know who is going to get the brunt of the passes,” Haden said. “He spreads the ball around. He spreads it out to receivers, running backs, tight ends. Anyone can get the ball. With Calvin gone, he’s made them more open. He can just throw wherever.”
If Pittsburgh is able to get the offense going, they may want to keep the pedal to the metal till the clock strikes zero at Ford Field. Stafford has led the Lions to 26 4th quarter comebacks.
“He has a real good command of the offense,” Butler said. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s a very smart guy. The stuff you show him in the first half he gets it down and comes back and attacks you in the second half. They’re a good comeback team. It’s going to be hard to put these guys out if we beat them.”
The Steelers offense will be without the services of WR Martavis Bryant, whom head coach Mike Tomlin has benched for the week following Bryant’s second consecutive week being a distraction in the locker room with his antics on social media over not getting the ball enough for his liking.
“I’m not playing Sunday, which is fine,” Bryant said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not trippin’. It is what it is.”
This opens the door for rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster to elevate his game, even more, provided his bike isn’t stolen again and he can make the trip to Detroit.
“It’s just momentum, just working with the guys,” Smith-Schuster said when asked how he can keep improving during Bryant’s absence. “The more I work with Ben (Roethlisberger), the more I work with AB, the more I work with the O-line, the running backs, the chemistry will keep building and building — and getting better.”
No matter who is playing, Le’Veon Bell expects the offense to perform up to its capabilities.
“We’re going to run our offense,” Bell said. “We’ve always carried the next-man-up mentality. Whoever is in, whether it’s Juju or J-Hunt, they’ll be ready. They’ll be ready to go out there and make plays.”
Keys To Victory
- Unleash Le’Veon Bell! Utilize Bell in every fashion. Get him going early with the run and spread him out wide in the passing game to create match-up nightmares for Detroit.
- Free Ben Roethlisberger! It’s time for Big Ben to take the reins and play to his strengths, which is attacking downfield.
- Utilize all of your weapons! Throwing to Antonio Brown is a must, but make the Lions pay if they double him up. Exploit Detroit’s secondary and spread the ball around to Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Eli Rogers, and your tight ends! Spread the wealth and keep the opposing defense guessing.
- Bring the heat! It’s tee-off time for Bud Dupree, T.J. Watt, and James Harrison. Matt Stafford can’t make throws from his back.
- Make Lions one-dimensional! Contain the passing game and force the Lions to run the ball. Disguise coverages and blitzes to make Stafford’s day a long one.
- Shut down, Golden Tate! Artie Burns will be up to the task. Make Marvin Jones and T.J. Jones have to beat you.
A win Sunday night would improve the Steelers to 6-2 for the first half of the season before heading into the bye-week. No one wants the bitter taste of defeat in their mouths lingering for two weeks before their next game.
The Steelers offense is capable of roaring alive at any time. There is simply too much talent on this roster for it not to. Better play calling in the red zone would help greatly.
The Lions will play the Steelers as tough as they can, but Pittsburgh is clearly the better team. Detroit has enough talent to make sure the Steelers won’t take them lightly, as they are prone to do against lesser teams, so look for Pittsburgh to avoid any type of letdown on Sunday night.
Steelers 34 Lions 20
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 5-2
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 108-59 (.647)
Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
Last Game: Steelers 29 Bengals 14
Scouting the Steelers
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger leads a vastly underperforming offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Big Ben has normally been outstanding at home but has struggled to put up the same numbers on the road the past few seasons.
Running Backs – Le’Veon Bell is one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not the best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner will spell Bell from time to time.
Wide Receivers – Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster is looking to make his mark in the NFL in his first season and is already becoming a reliable Roethlisberger target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.
Tight Ends – Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the end zone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the red zone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice target for Ben inside the 10-yard line.
Defense – The Steelers defense is ready for an awakening in 2017. On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.
At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get to the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier is a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. Don’t count out James Harrison, who will rotate in to spell Watt or Dupree. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside and is making a name for himself every time he steps on the field.
The addition of Joe Haden at corner has revamped the secondary. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with JJ Wilcox backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.
A look at the Detroit Lions!
Overall Record: 3-3
Head Coach: Jim Caldwell (4th Season with Lions)
Overall Regular Season Record: 56-46 (.549) | 30-24 (.556) with Lions
Playoff Record: 2-4 (Qualified for playoffs 4 times)
Last Week: Bye (Saints 52 Lions 38 – Week 6)
Scouting the Lions
Quarterback – Matt Stafford, when given time, can sling the ball. One of the more underappreciated quarterbacks in the league.
Running Backs – Ameer Abdullah is the lead back with Theo Riddick being a dangerous man out of the backfield on 3rd downs.
Wide Receivers – Golden Tate is the Lions top receiver. He is questionable this week. Marvin Jones is a solid #2, with young players like T.J. Jones and Kenny Golladay beginning to make their mark when healthy. Golladay is out for this match-up. The Lions expect Tate to suit up.
Tight Ends – Eric Ebron and Darren Fells give Stafford two nice receiving options at tight end.
Defense – The Lions are pretty stingy against the run, but are pillow soft against the pass.
Fantasy Football Impact
Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, Steelers D
Sleeper: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Brown and Bell are always going in your starting line-up if you are lucky enough to have them. I like Roethlisberger in this match-up. It’s a Dome and a fast track.
Start: WR Golden Tate
Sit: RB Ameer Abdulla
Sleeper: QB Matt Stafford
If Stafford is your main guy, don’t be shy, you have to use him. However, be wary that the Steelers pass defense has shut down everyone so far.
NFL Week 8
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) at Detroit Lions (3-3)
Venue: Ford Field, Detroit, MI.
Game-time: Sunday, October 29th, 8:30 pm
TV: NBC (Local WPXI) | Announcers: Al Michaels (play-by-play) Cris Collinsworth (analyst) | Michele Tafoya (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh – 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: Westwood One | Announcers: Kevin Kugler (play-by-play) Mike Mayock (analyst)
Weather at Kickoff: Dome
Vegas Line: Pittsburgh -5.5
- Series History: Series began in 1934.
- The Steelers are 16-14-1 in the overall Regular Season series against the Lions.
- Steelers are 5-12 playing in Detroit.
- Streak: Steelers won previous four meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 17, 2013, in Pittsburgh- Pittsburgh 37 Detroit 27
- Steelers are 0-0 in the Post-Season vs the Lions.
- Last Post-Season Meeting:
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, would improve to 4-0 vs. Detroit in the regular season as a starter and 2-0 on the road at the Lions.
- Antonio Brown will surpass Marvin Harrison (563) for the most receptions in any five-year span in NFL history with 83 in 2017.
- Brown, with 100 catches in 2017, will become the first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in five consecutive years.
- Le’Veon Bell needs two rushing scores to tie Terry Bradshaw (32) for the fourth-most in franchise history.
- James Harrison is 2.5 sacks from 85 in his career with the Steelers.
- William Gay will break a tie with Rod Woodson to set the record for the most interceptions returned for touchdowns in team history with his next pick six of six.
- Ryan Shazier’s next interception will match his single-season best of three (2016).
QB – Ben Roethlisberger (1,745 yards passing | 9 TD passes | 8 interceptions | 10 sacks)
RB – Le’Veon Bell (684 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 33 receptions | 214 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB – James Conner (88 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR – Antonio Brown (52 receptions | 765 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR – Martavis Bryant (18 receptions | 234 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
WR – Juju Smith-Schuster (17 receptions | 231 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR – Eli Rogers (7 receptions | 64 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR – Justin Hunter (2 receptions | 11 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR – Darrius Heyward-Bey (1 receptions | 44 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE – Jesse James (18 receptions | 151 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
TE – Vance McDonald (3 receptions | 63 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE – Xavier Grimble (1 receptions | 12 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
K – Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 13-13 | FG: 16-18 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 7-7 | 30-39: 4-5 | 40-49: 5-6 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 49)
QB – Matthew Stafford (1,428 yards passing | 12 TD passes | 4 interceptions | 23 sacks)
RB – Ameer Abdullah (342 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 68 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB – Theo Riddick (38 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 23 receptions | 180 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
WR – Golden Tate (36 receptions | 363 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR – Marvin Jones, Jr (20 receptions | 280 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
WR – T.J. Jones (13 receptions | 173 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR – Kenny Golladay (7 receptions | 102 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
TE – Eric Ebron (13 receptions | 102 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
TE – Darren Fells (10 receptions | 101 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
K – Matt Prater (Extra Point: 15-15 | FG: 10-12 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 1-1 | 30-39: 3-3 | 40-49: 2-2 | 50+: 4-6 | Long: 46)
Steelers – Lions: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 369.3 | Lions allow 338.5 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 113.7 YPG | Lions allow 94.3 YPG
Passing: Steelers average 255.6 YPG | Lions allow 244.2 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 21 PPG | Lions allow 24.8 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 258.7 YPG | Lions average 322 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 111.7 YPG | Lions average 84 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 147 YPG | Lions average 238 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 16.6 PPG | Lions average 26.8 PPG
Injury Report (10/27/2017)
Out: T Marcus Gilbert (Hamstring), TE Vance McDonald (Knee), DE Stephon Tuitt (Back)
Out: T Emmett Cleary (Ankle), WR Kenny Golladay (Hamstring), T Greg Robinson (Ankle)
Questionable: DE Ezekiel Ansah (Knee), WR Golden Tate (Shoulder), LB Paul Worrilow (Knee)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)
Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (5-2)
Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 21-18
Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W – 26-9
Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 17-23
Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 26-9
Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 9-30
Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 19-13
Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 29-14
Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS)
Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to flexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 13-14 Divisional Playoﬀ Games
Sunday, Jan. 21 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)