Winners of five in a row, Mike Tomlin has his Pittsburgh Steelers rolling towards December. Next in the path of the red-hot Steelers are the 5-5 Green Bay Packers. Coming off a shut-out loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the Packers are limping into Heinz Field to take on the red-hot Steelers. Though the national consensus may be in the Steelers’ odds, here are how the numbers are swaying for Sunday night’s matchup.
The Steelers are 5-0 this season when rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster scores a touchdown. The Steelers will have to do without their good luck charm this week as Smith-Schuster has been ruled out for Sunday night’s affair with a hamstring injury. Without the services of Smith-Schuster, the Steelers will have to turn towards another offensive weapon to find their way into the end zone.
While the Steelers may be favored, their road to victory has one roadblock in its path – the takeaway potential of the Packers’ defense. The Packers have forced a takeaway in eight straight games, recording 15 takeaways during this span. The key for the Steelers will be protecting the football and keeping quarterback Ben Roethlisberger out of mistake driven football. Roethlisberger has shown a turnaround in his play as of late, throwing just three interceptions to ten touchdowns over his last five games.
Packers quarterback Brett Hundley has started four games since Aaron Rodgers landed on injured reserve. In those four games, the Packers are averaging just 14.25 points per game, spelling trouble for their odds Sunday against the NFL’s number two ranked defense. The Steelers have held eight of their 10 opponents to under 20 points this season and with a dormant Packers offense approaching, the Steelers have to like their odds at yet another shutdown performance.
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has certainly enjoyed the spotlight as one of the game’s premier receivers over the years but his craving for the late-night spotlight have been almost unbelievable. In 29 career late night regular season games, Brown has recorded 22 receiving touchdowns. In 30 less games, Brown has recorded one more receiving touchdown than in 1pm contests (21 touchdowns). Brown’s 14.35 yards per reception during late games is also higher than his afternoon (11.88 ypr) and early (13.65 ypr) game output. Look for Brown to have another boomin’ performance under the lights of Sunday Night Football.
The Packers have allowed a troubling 36 sacks this season with Hundley being the victim for 17 sacks in just four starts. The Packers will now welcome the Steelers, who have 34 sacks as a defense this season and come equipped with quite the pass rushing arsenal. First, is defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who is coming off a two-sack performance against the Tennessee Titans last Thursday. Heyward also has four sacks in his last four games. Another name is linebacker Vince Williams who is second only to Heyward with six sacks. Like Heyward, Williams is bringing his own pass rushing fever as the linebacker has recorded a sack in back to back games.