The Pittsburgh Steelers will take on the Detroit Lions Sunday at Heinz Field and below are seven things to watch for in the game.
A Boy Named Suh And A Guy Named Whimper - Guy Whimper is expected to make his first career start at left guard for the Steelers with Ramon Foster expected to be down with an ankle injury. With that assignment comes the task of controlling Lions defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh. Suh comes into the game with 4 quarterback sacks, 8 hits and 34 hurries, so it goes without saying that the three Steelers interior linemen will have their hands full in pass protection. In addition, Suh has 19 stops already to his credit, so needless to say, the Steelers would be wise not to run at him that often.
Optimus Ike Versus Megatron - Cornerback Ike Taylor will likely be covering Calvin Johnson quite a bit on Sunday with help over the top in the form of a safety. So far this season, Taylor has only allowed more than 57 receiving yards in a game just twice and has given up just one touchdown. Johnson has caught a high percentage of his passes this season between the numbers and within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage and he is nearly unstopping inside the red zone. In order for the Steelers to win this game, Megatron can't be allowed to take it over. That means less than 100 yards receiving and no more than one touchdown.
Control The Bush YAC - Lions running back Reggie Bush is as dangerous as they come as a receiver out of the backfield and nearly all of his receiving yards this season have come after the catch. Over half of Bush's catches this season have gone for seven or more yards and only one has gone for negative yardage. The Steelers will not shut down Bush completely in this game, but holding him to a per catch average of under seven yards should certainly be the goal. They have to get him on the ground quickly.
Run Game Alternatives - If you hate the use of the bubble screen, you might not like what you see from the Steelers offense on Sunday. Expect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to make use of the quick passes on the perimeter in an attempt to loosen up the Lions cornerbacks for the big play. Allowing Roethlisberger to drop back and throw down the field 30 times in this game could end in disaster as the Steelers offensive line is sure to give up some hits.
Raise Your Hands In The Air - Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has only been sacked 10 times coming into this game and that is because he gets the ball out in less than 2.5 seconds quite frequently. The Steelers are unlikely to get to Stafford unless they have a lead late in the game, so their defensive linemen are advised to get their hands up as much as possibly in attempt to tip a few passes that could wind up being intercepted.
Special Needs - In order for the Steelers to win this game, they are likely going to need a big play or two out of their special teams. That means a punt or kick return for a touchdown or forced fumble on a Lions return that will set the offense up for an easy score.
Rain Dance - At the time I am writing this, the game forecast calls for wind and showers with the possibility of a few thunderstorms. The Lions are a dome team, so rain and wind could certainly help the Steelers. Should the inclement weather indeed take place, the team that is able to run the ball the best without committing turnovers will have a huge advantage. Heinz Field could be a mess thanks to Pitt playing there on Saturday, so that too could slow down both offenses. Pray for rain.