View Full Version : Game 5 Matchup: Steeers vs. Lions

10-11-2009, 09:18 AM
Game 5 Matchup: Steeers vs. Lions
Sunday, October 11, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Game plan
When the Steelers have the ball:

The offense had great balance against the Chargers, using 36 running plays and attempting 37 passes. The result was season highs in points (38), first downs (32) and yards (497) and converting all five red-zone opportunities for touchdowns. Rashard Mendenhall is expected to get his second consecutive start, even though RB Willie Parker might play after sitting out last week's game with a turf toe injury. In only his eighth NFL game, Mendenhall had 165 yards rushing and two TDs and also caught two passes for 26 yards. The Lions, who rank 20th in the league in rush defense (121.3 ypg), allowed the Bears to average 7.6 yards per rush attempt last week.
When the Lions have the ball:

Injuries are hampering the Lions offense, and the biggest are to rookie QB Matthew Stafford (knee) and WR Calvin Johnson (thigh). Stafford, the first rookie quarterback to start a season opener for the Lions since Greg Landry in 1968, did not practice for two days and is not expected to play, which means Daunte Culpepper will start for the Lions. A former three-time Pro Bowler with Minnesota, Culpepper started five games for the Lions last year but had not played this season until Stafford was injured against the Bears. Look for the Lions to attack the middle of the field with rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew (10 catches, 131 yards).

MLB Larry Foote -- After spending the previous five seasons as a starter in the Steelers 3-4 defense, Foote is trying to adjust to playing middle linebacker in the Lions' 4-3 defense. It has not been a seamless transition, though Foote leads the team with 34 tackles (23 solo). Foote has always been solid in run support because he knows how to take good angles to the ball. The Lions finished last in the league in rush defense last season and have already allowed two 100-yard rushers this season -- New Orleans' Mike Bell (143) and Chicago's Matt Forte. (121).

The Steelers are making their first appearance in Ford Field since they won Super Bowl XL in February, 2006. Since 1966, they are 3-2 against the Lions in Detroit and 10-2 overall, with both losses coming on Thanksgiving Day (1983, 1998). But the Steelers are 0-2 on the road and haven't won back-to-back games this season. The Lions are coming off the NFL's first winless season in 32 years and ended a 19-game losing streak two weeks ago.
Keys to victory

To win, the Lions must ...

1. Be hard on Rashard. Mendenhall has been very effective running the team's counter plays.

2. Get No. 34 into the 3-4. RB Kevin Smith will need more than his 57-YPG average if the Lions want to keep pressure off their passing game.

3. Soften the secondary with Johnson & Johnson. WRs Calvin Johnson or Bryant Johnson must make plays against a defense that doesn't have an interception in three games.

To win, the Steelers must ...

1. Keep their Foote to the ground. Even with the addition of the former Steelers LB, the Lions have been giving up big chunks of yardage in the run game.

2. Pepper Daunte. If Stafford doesn't play, Culpepper will be more of a stationary target in the pocket for the Steelers blitzes.

3. Be jean-tight on Calvin. The defense will give up the underneath stuff to Johnson to keep him from making big plays for the Lions.

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