An In-Depth Preview Of The Lions Week Eight Opponent, The Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers’ 2017 Season So Far
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a good season so far. They are sitting atop the AFC North, sporting a 5-2 record on the season. They have played well on the road so far, getting wins in Cleveland, Kansas City and Baltimore. Their only road loss this year was to Chicago, and even that game went into overtime. This could be a factor in this game as the Steelers are traveling to Ford Field for Sunday Night Football.
The Steelers have won this year largely thanks to a great pass defense, currently ranked number one in pass yards allowed per game so far. This coupled with star running back Le’Veon Bell looking like he has returned to form in three of his past four games. Which has helped the Steelers to a 3-1 record over that time. Which has been a breathe of fresh life for this team on offense because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been having a bad year, apart from the most recent game. However, with Pittsburgh trending up as Detroit is trending downwards, they could really use a win this week. A win against this Steelers team could really help the Lions get going in the right direction again.
Matchups To Watch For
This segment could have also been labeled “Bell versus the Lions run defense”. But, rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson are singled out because of their impact on opposing running games so far this year.. One thing that has worked well for this Lions defense is the ability to stop interior runs for big gains. This has largely been due to the play of both Davis and Robinson.
However, they will have their hands full with arguably the most talented running back in the NFL. Bell has the patience and vision to really take advantage of an undisciplined defense. When defenses over-pursue, over-penetrate, or lose their gap assignments, he has continually made those teams pay.
For the Lions defense to help their team win this game, this is a big matchup for them to win. Bell has averaged 152 rushing yards per game, averaging 4.5 yards per carry, and earned three touchdowns in their most recent three wins. In their two losses, Bell has merely 108 yards, one touchdown, and averaged 3.6 yards per carry. If Davis and Robinson can limit the star back, they give their team a good shot to win this one.
Lions’ Receivers vs Steelers’ Pass Defense
If the Lions cannot limit Bell, the need to win this matchup. It will be a difficult one however. The Lions receivers have been extremely limited by press man coverage over the pass couple weeks and it has really hurt the offense. Detroit needs to do a better job getting separation earlier in their routes, especially with quarterback Matthew Stafford recovering from multiple injuries still and with their left tackle situation still up in their air. The offense cannot afford to wait as long as they have in the past few weeks for routes to develop.
Fortunately for the Lions, the defense this week does not run as much press-man as they have seen so much recently. They run a lot of zone blitzes out of exotic looks. The problem for the Lions is even when the Steelers do not always generate pressure with talent, their exotic blitzes can confuse offensive line assignments and often end up with sacks or forced turnovers as a result. However, if the Lions receivers can consistently find space to work with in the zones, they could succeed well. With their receivers ability in open field, you have to like their chances if the unit is able to find space to operate.
Ameer Abdullah vs Steelers Run Defense
This is a matchup could work out well for the Lions if they get it going is the running game. That has been the main issue for the Pittsburgh defense. While they have defended the pass well, they are in the middle of the pack as a run defense. They have had issues getting consistent penetration and maintaining gap control this year.
While the Lions offensive line has really struggled lately on the ground, this could be a good game for them to turn this around. The Steelers are not set up well to defend the run. Abdullah has been one of the top running backs in terms of hits taken behind the line of scrimmage this year. But if the line can keep defenders off Abdullah before he hits the hole, it could be a good bounce back game for Ameer and would help set the Lions up for victory on Sunday Night Football.