Week 8 Preview: Steelers vs. Lions

Sunday night, the Steelers will travel to Detroit and take on the Lions in a prime time showdown. Pittsburgh soundly beat the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday while the Lions allowed 52 points, but scored 38, in a loss to the Saints. Here is the preview for the game. First, the away team:

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2)

  • Offensive Points/Game: 21.0 (18th)
  • Total Offense: 359.7 Yards/Game (11th)
  • Passing Offense: 246.0 Yards/Game (10th)
  • Rushing Offense: 113 Yards/Game (16th)
  • Defensive Points Allowed/Game: 16.6 (3rd)
  • Total Defense: 258.7 Yards/Game (2nd)
  • Passing Defense: 147.0 Yards/Game (1st)
  • Rushing Defense: 111.7 Yards/Game (15th)

The Steelers are full of distractions over recent weeks between Ben Roethlisberger‘s comments about retirement, Antonio Brown throwing water coolers, and Martavis Bryant‘s trade request. This seems to have only fueled them to a 5-2 start, one of those wins dethroning Kansas City who was the only undefeated team left.

The Steelers offense will have a lot to prove this weekend after Mike Tomlin‘s announcement that Bryant will be benched this weekend for his actions on social media over the past two weeks. With Bryant out, the Steelers will rely more heavily on JuJu Smith-Schuster in the passing game while sprinkling in Darius Heyward-Bey and Eli Rogers behind number one reciever Antonio Brown.

This offense has relied heavily on the run in recent weeks giving the ball to Le’Veon Bell and having him run it down teams’ throats. While Bell is one of the most talented backs in the league, he will be going against one of the better run defenses in the NFL. He likely will still top 150 all-purpose yards because of the volume of touches he gets on a weekly basis.

Defensively, the Steelers have made it clear that they won’t let teams beat them with their passing game. Allowing only 147 passing yards a game, they rank the best in the NFL at stopping the pass. With veterans and youngsters alike, the secondary has been very effective all season long at defending passes and not allowing quarterbacks to gain much of a rhythm. They made Alex Smith, the perennial MVP early in the season, look like his former self.

Something the Steelers will have to do better that the Lions have the clear advantage in is their third down and red zone efficiency.

The Steelers have given too many possessions away offensively due to their 36.0% third-down efficiency rate which ranks 24th in the league. Their red zone efficiency is strikingly worse (accounting for touchdowns only). There are only two teams that score less touchdowns in the red zone. Lots of points being left off the board.

The key to victory will be shutting down Marvin Jones in the passing game. Matthew Stafford doesn’t have a ton of weapons to throw to. He often looks for his running backs, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick on some passing downs but it hasn’t led to a ton of passing success. If the duo of Artie Burns and Joe Haden shut down Jones, this shouldn’t be much of a game.

Detroit Lions (3-3)

  • Offensive Points/Game: 26.8 (8th)
  • Total Offense: 298.0 Yards/Game (26th)
  • Passing Offense: 214.0 Yards/Game (19th)
  • Rushing Offense: 84.0 Yards/Game (26th)
  • Defensive Points Allowed/Game: 24.8 (28th)
  • Total Defense: 338. 5 Yards/Game (19th)
  • Passing Defense: 244.2 Yards/Game (22nd)
  • Rushing Defense: 94.3 Yards/Game (7th)

In a season where Stafford signed a massive extension in the offseason, the Lions committed to their franchise quarterback that is about their only offensive bright spot. They have a guy like Jones at wide out, but replace Stafford with any other quarterback and I’m not sure they come close to making a playoff since Stafford’s arrival in 2009.

Their running game is suspect as well. Abdullah and Riddick are okay running backs, but don’t pose anywhere near a dual threat as the Falcons or Saints possess in their running game. They’re 26th in the run game and any production from the running backs will likely come from the passing game. Offensively, the Lions don’t have enough weapons to beat a Steelers defense that seems to only be getting better every week. The Lions still have the league’s 8th highest scoring offense, so it work for them.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions have a solid front seven that stops the run, an obstacle the Steelers and Bell will have to overcome. Their secondary is a different story. They allow a lot of yards, and the defense as a whole is 28th in keeping points off the scoreboard.

As previously mentioned, the Lions do have a sizable advantage as far as red zone and third down efficiency. They are middle of the pack at converting on third down but they don’t leave many points on the board as they punch it in the end zone 60% of the time so far this season.

To win, Stafford will have to find a way to beat the Steelers’ secondary because the Steelers’ offense should have a field day.

Prediction: Steelers 30, Lions 13

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