Steeler Nation doesn’t just reside in the surrounding areas of Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. It is a world-wide army that lives and dies with the NFL franchise that calls Pittsburgh it’s home. The six-time Super Bowl champions are a team that always strives for excellence, and their fans expect nothing less in return. This is the ultimate Steelers Game Day Preview that all followers of the black and gold come to find everything they need to know about the Pittsburgh Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich (@PghSportsNation), who covers both Pitt football and the Steelers for NGSC Sports, brings you inside the huddle for both teams with a weekly game story, the Steelers offensive and defensive game plans for success, prediction, game day information, a detailed breakdown of each team, and an up to date team injury report. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform.
Steelers won’t overlook winless Lions
The Detroit Lions (0-8) will invade Heinz Field this Sunday at 1:00 pm, and through eight contests, the Lions have yet to find a win.
Normally when a winless team visits Pittsburgh, you’d be thinking easy win for the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3) who always play great at home.
That won’t be the mindset for any of the Steelers, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who despite a 5-3 record, knows full well his team has many issues to correct as well.
“Listen, we’re not exactly the best team in football right now,” Roethlisberger said this week. “We have a winning record, but you ask most of the guys in this building, they will tell you we have a long way to go.”
A win this week would give the Steelers a share of first place with Baltimore at 6-3, who fell Thursday night to Miami 22-10.
Despite a four game win streak, the Steelers have only won their past three games by a total of 10 points, as the offense has been average at best, and the defense has allowed 2nd half leads to disappear with poor play and execution.
“I know coach will pull out all his ‘nameless gray faces’, but, honestly, they’re an NFL team that will come in here and want to beat us and we want to beat them,” Roethlisberger said. “I don’t look at the records and how they are. They’re trying to get a win and so are we.”
Roethlisberger mounted his 38th comeback victory on a drive late in the 4th quarter after the defense blew a 14 point lead to the Bears last Monday night.
“I think this last game, especially, shows guys you’re never out of it, whether winning by a lot or losing by a lot,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s good to let guys know that anything can happen in this league. Sometimes in college, if you’re up by 21, it’s hard to catch up a lot. In this league, it’s not always the case. Anytime you win the game is great, and if you can pull a little lesson from it, it’s even better.”
Though Big Ben and the offense have struggled this year, when the game was on the line, #7 put the team on his shoulders and took care of business.
Roethlisberger has been careful with this throws the past month, not tossing an interception since week five.
“I always joke with coach Tomlin whenever we do the two-minute drills in practice, he’ll give me a time, yardage and a timeout, maybe two if I’m lucky,” Roethlisberger said. “I always joke with him, ‘Do I need a field goal or a touchdown?’ Obviously, a field goal is a lot different. He’ll say, ‘You need a touchdown.’ Only needing a field goal made it a little easier.”
As stated above, the defense has had some mid numbing lapses during 2nd half play the past three games, and it’s an issue that the team knows that they must rectify immediately, if this team is to remain successful.
“It’s the NFL. You’ve got to stay on top of your communication. Football’s a game of momentum, and once it slips once, it’s hard to get it back,” Steelers linebacker Joe Schobert said Thursday. “Obviously, at halftime, there’s a lull, and we’ve all got to focus on coming back out in the second half with the same intensity as the first half.”
The first half of games have gone well for the Steelers, as they have allowed just 7.8 points a game during the first 30 minutes. That number jumps to 13.4 points allowed in the 2nd half of games.
Finding the answers to the problems have been perplexing for Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler.
“If we did, we’d obviously try to half it. We don’t like it, either,” Butler said. “We’re going to do the best we can. We need to start out the second half better than we have. That seems to be the big thing for us. I think we’ve done a good job in terms of the start of the game, but what we’ve got to do is when we come back out, we’ve got to win the first couple of series and try to get the momentum on our side.”
With first place on the line, players like Schobert are eager to play a full game and take care of business vs Detroit.
“You don’t want to be the first one to lose to a team like the Lions,” said Schobert. “They’re going to be coming for it, and they’ve got a lot of good players.”
**UPDATE… late Saturday night, it was announced that Ben Roethlisberger had been placed on the Covid list and would be out for the game. Mason Rudolph will now take the helm for Pittsburgh vs the Lions.
Steelers Game Plan for Success
- Get the ball downfield: It’s a perplexing issue for this team. Is on the shoulders of Ben Roethlisberger or the game plan by Matt Canada? Whomever it is, it isn’t working, and this issue needs addressed pronto, or the offense will continue to sputter. This week we will find out that answer, as Roethlisberger is out on the Covid list. Mason Rudolph will now start for the Steelers.
- Feed Friermuth: The tight end has become a Big Ben fixture in the red zone. Rudolph would be smart to continue that trend.
- Score: Seriously, if this team can’t score vs the hapless Lions, they should be ashamed. The Eagles piled on 44 points vs Detroit. Even with Rudolph in for Big Ben, the Steelers should get the ball rolling, as Rudolph may actually open up the offense a bit, being that he has better mobility than #7.
- Beware De’Andre Swift out of the backfield: The shifty Lions back has done more damage catching passes out the backfield than he has running the ball.
- Pressure Goff and force turnovers: Perhaps a strip sack or an ill timed interception.
- Close the game: I don’t know what this team has been thinking come the 2nd half of games, but they have been awful during the final 30 minutes of games. Sloppy tackling and too many splash plays allowed. Keith Butler and Mike Tomlin had better address this issue by any means necessary.
Let’s make this short and sweet. The Detroit Lions have yet to win a game this year, and the Steelers, with a victory, will be tied for first place in the AFC North around 4:00 pm Sunday. The offense, which has struggled to be consistent and put up points, may be further hampered with Big Ben and WR Chase Claypool out. This should be a big week for Rudolph to prove his worth, Diontae Johnson and Pat Friermuth to shine, and for James Washington to elevate his game with Claypool out.
Even with Roethlisberger out, and Rudolph in, this better be a week where the team figures out their woes and finds a way to both put up points, and close out the game defensively in the 2nd half, as the cupcake part of schedule comes to an abrupt end this Sunday. It’s the Detroit Lions out there Sunday, not the ’85 Bears defense.
Jared Goff should find himself a victim of T.J. Watt a few times this week and with kicker Austin Seibert out, Detroit may have a tough time kicking field goals this week. Practice squad kicker Ryan Santoso is expected to take Seibert’s place. Back-up RB Jamaal Williams is also out for Detroit.
Look for Rudolph to handle his business in his opportunity to shine, and for Najee Harris to have a big day in total yards, especially on what may be a miserable weather day in Pittsburgh. The Steelers to take care of business for the fifth straight time Sunday… Steelers 31 Lions 13
Game Day Information
Pittsburgh Steelers vs Detroit Lions
- Vegas line: Pittsburgh -6.5
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
- Field: Kentucky Blue Grass
Game-time: Sunday, November 14th, at 1:00 PM
TV: Fox (WPGH-TV)
- Announcers: Chris Myers (play-by-play) Daryl Johnston (analyst) | Jen Hale (reporter)
Local radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM & 970 WBGG-AM
- Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Craig Wolfley (analyst) | Max Starks (sideline) Missi Matthews (sideline)
Internet broadcast: Steelers Nation Radio (SNR) on Steelers.com
Weather at kickoff: 39 with a 80% chance of rain. Winds out of the South at 10 mph.
Scouting the Pittsburgh Steelers
Overall record: 5-3 (2nd in AFC North)
Last game: Steelers 29 Bears 27
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (14th Season with Steelers)
- Overall regular-season record: 150-81-1
- Playoff record: 8-8 (Qualified for playoffs 9 times)
- 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers Team Roster
- Steelers Team/Individual Statistics
- Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Schedule
- Points per game: 20.1
- Total yards per game: 336.6
- Passing yards per game: 248.3
- Rushing yards per game: 88.4
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Balance between run and pass attack. Najee Harris.
- Weaknesses: Scoring. Passing downfield. Being consistent…
Starting Quarterback: Ben Roethlisberger* | Back-up: Mason Rudolph
- Ben Roethlisberger has 1,986 yards passing with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been sacked 18 times. Big Ben is best suited dropping back to pass around 25-30 times a game. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger has lost his mobility that made him one of the best passers in the league, and he rarely attempts long passes downfield anymore, which was once a staple of his game. Mason Rudolph gets the start this week and knows the offense well. Consider Sunday an audition for Rudolph competing for the starting job in 2022 if Big Ben likely retires.
Starting Running Back: Najee Harris | Back-up: Benny Snell, Jr. and Kalen Ballage.
- Rookie Najee Harris is showing why the Steelers drafted him in the first round, and has rushed for 541 yards and four scores this year. Harris is 2nd on the team with 40 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns.
Wide Receivers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool*, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud, Steven Sims, and Cody White.
- Diontae Johnson is tied for the team lead with 45 catches for 530 yards and three touchdowns. Chase Claypool has 29 receptions for 433 yards and a touchdown, but is out this week with a toe injury. James Washington has caught 12 passes for 154 yards. Ray-Ray McCloud has eight receptions for 66 yards. Cody White will look to make the most of his chances, but had better not drop anymore passes like he did vs Denver. Steven Sims was just promoted from the Practice Squad. Sims had 61 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns for Washington in 2019-20.
Ends: Pat Friermuth, Eric Ebron, Zach Gentry, and Kevin Rader
- Pat Friermuth has passed Ebron on the depth chart, and has 27 receptions for 245 yards and a four touchdowns. Zach Gentry has logged six catches for 60 yards. Eric Ebron has seven catches for 47 yards.
Placekicker: Chris Boswell
- Extra Points: 14-15
- Field Goals: 15-16
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 4-4
- 30-39 yards: 2-2
- 40-49 yards: 4-5
- 50+ yards: 5-5
Steelers Defense (Base 3-4)
- Points per game allowed: 21.1
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 354.
- Passing yards allowed: 244.5
- Rushing yards allowed: 109.8
- Sacks: 22
- Interceptions: 3
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: Great pass rush lead by T.J. Watt that limits opposing run game as well.
- Weaknesses: DE Stephon Tuitt is still on IR. Bad tackling and communication has lead to some blown plays this year.
Defensive Line: Cam Heyward, Isaiah Buggs, and Chris Wormley.
- Cam Heyward and Chris Wormley bookend Isaiah Buggs in the middle. Wormley will be in for starter Stephon Tuitt who is out indefinitely. Heyward has 2.5 sacks, a fumble recovery, and 42 tackles.
Linebackers: T.J. Watt, Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, and Alex Highsmith.
- Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt leads a solid linebacker corps alongside Devin Bush, Joe Schobert, a Pro Bowler acquired from Jacksonville, and Alex Highsmith. Watt has 11.5 sacks so far. Bush has 33 tackles and two sacks. Schobert is 2nd the team with 50 tackles.
Secondary: Joe Haden, Terrell Edmunds, Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Cameron Sutton.
- Joe Haden and Cameron Sutton will be at the corners with Minkah Fitzpatrick at free safety and Terrell Edmunds at strong safety. CB James Pierre will see plenty of field time in the nickle. Fitzpatrick has a team leading 59 tackles. Edmunds has one the Steelers three interceptions. Former first rounder Karl Joseph has been elevated to the 53 man roster.
Steelers Special Teams
Punter: Pressley Harvin III
Kickoff Returners: Ray-Ray McCloud
Punt Returner: Ray-Ray McCloud
Scouting report: McCloud is averaging 23.8 yard per kickoff return and 8.8 yards per punt return.
Scouting the Detroit Lions
Overall record: 0-8 (4th in NFC North)
Last game: Eagles 44 Lions 6
Head coach: Dan Campbell (2nd season with Detroit)
- Overall regular-season record: 0-8 | 5-15 with Detroit
- Points per game: 16.8
- Total Offense per game: 344.6
- Passing yards per game: 251.5
- Rushing yards per game: 93.1
Offensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: De’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams form a nice duo at RB and T.J. Hockenson is a top 10 tight end.
- Weaknesses: Horrible offensive line. Trouble finding the endzone.
Starting Quarterback: Jared Goff | Back-up: Jack Fox
- Jared Goff has thrown for 1,995 yards, with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Goff has been sacked 22 times, and has rushed for 76 yards.
Starting Running Back: De’Andre Swift | Back-up: Jamaal Williams* and Godwin Igwebuike
- De’Andre Swift is having a solid year with 289 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and is very dangerous out of the backfield with 47 receptions for 415 yards and another two touchdowns. Jamaal Williams has 19 less carries than Swift but leads the team with 312 yards on the ground and a pair of scores. Williams also has 16 catches for 99 yards. Unfortunately for Detroit, Williams is out this week.
Wide Receivers: Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus, Josh Reynolds, Trinity Benson, KhaDarel Hodge
- Kalif Raymond leads the receivers with 334 yards off of 26 catches, two for touchdowns. Amon-Ra St. Brown has 27 receptions for 250 yards. Quintez Cephus has contributed 15 catches for 204 yards and two TD’s. Trinity Benson and KhaDarel Hodge have combined for 12 catches and 106 yards. Josh Reynolds was just recently signed and gets to resume playing with Goff, whom he played with for four seasons while with the Rams.
Tight Ends: T.J. Hockenson and Darren Fells
- T.J. Hockenson leads the team with 48 catches for 448 yards and two scores. Darren Fells has four receptions for 43 yards.
Placekicker: Austin Seibert
- Extra Points: 12-13
- Field Goals: 11-11
- 1-19 yards: 0-0
- 20-29 yards: 5-5
- 30-39 yards: 4-4
- 40-49 yards: 2-2
- 50+ yards: 0-0
Lions Defense (Base 3-4)
- Points per game allowed: 30.5
- Total offense yards per game allowed: 378.9
- Passing yards allowed: 244.4
- Rushing yards allowed: 134.5
- Sacks: 14
- Interceptions: 4
Defensive Scouting Report
- Strengths: None.
- Weaknesses: Pick a spot. Defense allows more than 30 points per game.
Defensive Line: Michael Brockers has 24 tackles and a sack.
Linebackers: Alex Anzalone leads the team with 48 tackles, has one sack and one interception. Charles Harris has 27 tackles and four sacks.
Secondary: Safety Tracy Walker has 44 tackles and one sack. Corner Amani Oruwariye has three interceptions.
Lions Special Teams
Kickoff Returners: Godwin Igwebuike
Punt Returner: Kahlif Raymond
Scouting report: Godwin Igwebuike is averaging 23.8 yards per kickoff return. Kahlif Raymond is averaging 9.1 yards per punt return.
Steelers vs Lions History
Series History: Began in 1934
Overall Record: 18-17-1
- Home: 12-3-1
- Away: 6-13
- Neutral: 0-1
- Postseason: 0-0
Streak: Steelers won the last five games.
Last regular-season meeting: Steelers Win, 20-15 (Oct. 29, 2017)
Last postseason meeting: N/A
Injury Report (11/12/21)
- Out: WR Chase Claypool (Toe), QB Ben Roethisberger (Covid)
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: None reported
- Out: K Austin Seibert, RB Jamaal Williams
- Doubtful: None reported
- Questionable: LB Austin Bryant, OT Taylor Decker
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.
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As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.
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