Pittsburgh, Detroit meet going in opposite directions
Since an ugly overtime loss to Chicago, Pittsburgh has won three of four. Meanwhile, Detroit has lost three of four since a 2–0 start. That doesn’t bode well for the home team when the Steelers and Lions meet Sunday night at Ford Field.
Pittsburgh appears to have found its stride offensively, putting up back-to-back games of 400-plus yards since an ugly five-turnover performance in a loss to Jacksonville. The Steelers' defense has been dominant at times and ranks second in the NFL in total defense and third in scoring defense. Pittsburgh has not allowed more than 313 yards in any game this season.
The Lions had last week off to recover from a wild 52–38 loss at New Orleans during which they turned the ball over five times. Don’t be surprised to see more turnovers in this one; no defense has more takeaways than Detroit’s 14, including at least three in four of six games so far, while the Steelers have forced at least one turnover in every game but one.
Pittsburgh at Detroit
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 29 at 8:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Steelers -3
Three Things to Watch
1. The Lions must find a way to protect Matthew Stafford
Detroit fans knew it wasn’t good when starting left tackle Taylor Decker was lost for the season before it even started. But things are getting really ugly now, as three tackles, including current starters Greg Robinson and Ricky Wagner, are listed as questionable for this game. Wagner has the better chance of playing at right tackle, but left tackle is more likely to be Brian Mihalik than Robinson. Mihalik has never started an NFL game, and he’ll be facing a defense that is tied for second in the NFL in sacks. Given that Stafford has been sacked 17 times in the last three games with more experienced players than Mihalik protecting his blind side, the Steelers must be licking their chops.
2. The running game may rule the day
If for some crazy reason you couldn’t find the scores for Steelers games this season but you did have the rushing totals, you could still easily tell who won. Pittsburgh averages 131 yards in wins, 70 in losses. It’s even more pronounced on the other side of the ball. In their five wins, the Steelers are allowing 65.8 yards per game on the ground. In their two losses? A whopping 226.5. The Lions aren’t exactly built for 200-yard rushing days, but they may be able to slow Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers' running game. Detroit ranks seventh in the NFL against the run and has held four of six opponents to 87 yards or fewer on the ground.
3. Road Roethlisberger? Not so fast...
Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles on the road in recent years have been well documented. The script has been flipped a bit this season thanks to his five-interception day at home against the Jaguars, but generally teams would rather face Big Ben in their homes as opposed to his. But Roethlisberger has actually thrived indoors; he has won four of his last five starts in domes and is 5–3 in his career, completing 73 percent of his passes for 1,805 yards with 10 TDs and five INTs. That’s good for a passer rating of 106.8, well above his overall career road rating of 88.8. The Lions' ball-hawking defense could still force him into some mistakes, but this week it’s not as easy as “Bet against Roethlisberger on the road.”
The Steelers appear to be rolling, especially on defense. That’s bad news for a Lions team that is still banged up along the offensive line and has mostly relied on takeaways to save its 28th-ranked defense. Unless Detroit can force Ben Roethlisberger into another handful of turnovers, the Steelers will enter their bye week at 6–2.