Back at it on gameday, breaking down what the Pittsburgh Steelers have to do to win (or lose) in today’s game against the Detroit Lions. My always unreliable prediction at the bottom.
The Steelers Will Win If…
– James Harrison has the chance to do his thing. Mike Tomlin’s approach to playing Harrison against the Kansas City Chiefs was centered around the height of their left tackle Eric Fisher, standing in at 6’7. The Lions will start Brian Mihalik, the ex-Steeler who is a legit 6’9. He’s new to the lineup and I can’t see him handling Harrison’s rip and speed bull rush. T.J. Watt has a minor ankle injury too so I’d like to see a fairly significant split.
The only problem with this idea is the worry over covering the Lions’ backs, who are a threat, but the pressure is more important.
– Todd Haley figures the Lions out on third down. Steelers have been poor in that area and the Lions are in the top ten defensively. They throw a lot at you, a driving reason why they’ve created as many turnovers as they have this year. Ben Roethlisberger has done well against two tough defenses in consecutive weeks, the Chiefs and Bengals, but this will be a similarly tough challenge. Hope Haley is on his “A” game.
– Ziggy Ansah is contained. For as many looks as they’ll throw at you, the Lions’ pass rush is stasitically weak. Just four sacks this season. Ansah is their biggest threat, healthy and dominating after an injury-plagued 2016 season. Alejandro Villanueva hasn’t been bad but certainly uneven in pass protection. He’ll need to have his best game of the year and keep Roethlisberger upright. Pressure + talent in the Lions’ secondary is a dubious combo.
The Steelers Will Lose If…
– They can’t tackle in space. An issue that’s reared its ugly head in pretty much every loss and close game. The Lions have weapons who can win in space. Ameer Abdullah is an explosive runner with great lateral mobility and Theo Reddick has consistently been one of the NFL’s best pass catching running backs. Golden Tate is a throwback to a previous era while Marvin Jones has the speed to run away from everyone. Even the tight ends, who don’t see a lot of action, present problems. Field is a little slicker in Detroit so a guy like Ryan Shazier has to make sure he can keep his feet.
– They don’t have an answer for 12 personnel. Like I said, the Lions’ tight ends are unique. Eric Ebron and Darren Fells are big dudes and are going to have the size/length advantage over outside linebackers in the run game. But the Lions will throw out of there too and get those guys running down the seam. Guys you forget about until they burn you.
– Steelers’ special teams lose out. Remember the name Jamal Agnew. A rookie punt returner from San Diego, he’s already housed two punts this year. The rest of the league has three…combined. So the Steelers better not take a guy they’ve never heard of until this week lightly. He’s got the ability to flip the field and give a potent offense an easier path.