The Steelers travel to St Louis in a critical game that may reveal the true identity of this team. As of now the Steelers look like an offensive juggernaut and the return of LeVeon Bell should mean bigger and better things for both the running and passing game. There are still question on the defense and Coach Butler will need to prove that he has found the perfect combination of players to lift a sagging defensive secondary.
Steelers left inside linebacker Ryan Shazier is being held out of this game due to a shoulder injury. Luckily for the Steelers, inside linebacker is one of their deepest positions, and though Sean Spence doesn’t possess the freakish athleticism of Shazier, the drop in production isn’t as drastic as it would be with most second string players.
Much to the chagrin of the remaining Steelers opponents, it seems that the Steelers offense is preparing to become even more lethal. The return of pro bowl running back LeVeon Bell adds to a running game that already leads the AFC.
Haley will also be sure to use Bell’s tremendous pass catching skills. The combination of DeAngelo Williams and LeVeon Bell is a going to be a nightmare for offensive coordinators who already lose sleep over a passing game that features Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton.
The Rams boast a defensive line that might be the best in the league and Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Robert Quinn and Michael Brockers will be the strongest test that the Steelers offensive line has had to face so far. The 49ers went right after Cody Wallace last week and I expect the Rams to do the same.
Rams outside linebacker James Laurinaitis is looking to redeem himself after a sub-par performance against the Redskins. The same can honestly be said of the entire Rams team, who will be motivated to win at home today.
On the ground, wide receiver Tavon Austin has more rushing yards than anyone else on the team . Running back Todd Gurney is still a game day decision and could be a boost for the Rams offense.
OC Cody Wallace vs DT Aaron Donald
Donald, The defensive rookie of the year has great instincts, elite athleticism and good strength. If you look back at the Seahawks/Rams game you can see him blowing up plays time and time again.
Wallace isn’t a bad center but he isn’t Steelers all pro Maurkice Pouncey. Look for stunts and blitzes aimed at confusing Wallace and disrupting the Steelers offensive line.
Coach Butler vs WR Tavon Austin
The Rams have yet to fully utilize Austins talents as a receiver. Knowing that Pittsburgh has some soft spots in their secondary, I would bet the farm that they will game plan for Tavon Austin to test the short to intermediate areas of the field to chip away at the Steelers defense. Butler will have to make sure his backfield is communicating and accounting for the diminutive speedy receiver.
WR Antonio Brown vs CB Janoris Jenkins
The Rams will attempt to contain Brown with cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who will be getting plenty of help over the top by safety T.J. McDonald. Jenkins is a risk taker which has led to a few interceptions this year but leaves him vulnerable to being burned by the more technically sound wide receivers.
Gambling on Antonio Brown could result in the Rams having a long and frustrating day. If St Louis decides to cheat a safety to Browns side, Wheaton could put up nice stats.
This is an area that the Steelers can truly exploit. The Rams young left tackle is no match for Cameron Heyward. Robinson will have his hand full trying to keep the right side of Pittsburgh’s defense out of the offensive backfield.
Pass blocking is not his strongpoint and I look for Heyward to pressure Nick Foles all day. Jarvis Jones could be the recipient of a sack or two as the Rams are forced to focus on Heyward.
I don’t think this game is as close as some of the pundits are making it out to be. I do think that the Rams may be able to contain the Steelers run game up the middle but not on the edges. They should be able to provide some pressure on the Roethlisberger, but in the end, the Steelers passing game is going to be too much for them to handle.
Score: Steelers 35 Rams 10
I think Bell could be instrumental out of the backfield. Williams was fantastic while filling in, but Bell’s return also elevates the receiving and backfield blocking. Don’t look for there to be much of a home crowd advantage because the St Louis area is a haven for displaced Steelers fans, and they will most assuredly fill the stadium with yellow towels.
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