Every week through the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 season, I'll run a simulation on EA Sports Madden NFL 24 for the Steelers opponent for that week.
The structure of the sim is rather straightforward. I'll allow the CPU to play the game against itself to allow for a more authentic simulation. Six-minute quarters, with the weather as close to the forecast as possible. I won't pick up the controller to aid the Steelers in any way.
The simulation will run with Madden's most up-to-date rosters. I will only take out an injured player not yet recognized by Madden if they are confirmed to be out for the game.
So far through the season, the sim Steelers have looked better than the true-to-life Steelers, and that trend certainly continues this week against the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams have been an interesting team early in the 2023 campaign, but far from the team that won a Super Bowl two years ago. The Steelers exploded out of the BYE week in 2022, can they repeat that success again this year? Here's what the Madden simulation had to say about it.
Another Defensive Battle Unfolds Early in LA
It's been the case in the past few simulations with defensive battles starting early. I even have new sliders running and it's still a slow start for both offenses this week.
Pittsburgh got the ball first and after two quick runs by Najee Harris, Diontae Johnson made his return on third down with a solid pickup of 17. A holding call on Isaac Seumalo on the following second down backed the Steelers up behind the sticks. Pickett threw incomplete on third and 14, forcing a Steelers punt.
Alex Highsmith made an instant impact, getting a sack on Matthew Stafford on just the second play of the game. Facing third and 13, Stafford launched deep for Puca Nacua but overthrew his receiver. Rams go three and out.
A shanked punt had the Steelers starting inside the Rams 40, but Byron Young got into the backfield to back the Steelers up on a first-down run. Facing third and 11, Pickett looked for Pickens but only picked up two. Chris Boswell missed the following 56-yard field goal to the left.
After the Steelers three and out, the Rams had better field position this time around. Zach Evans got his first carry on second down, in for the injured Kyren Williams, and was promptly stuffed at the line of scrimmage to close the scoreless first quarter. Stafford missed a sideline throw for Nacua and a battle of three and outs was underway.
The Steelers still try to run the football, but on Harris’s sixth carry of the game, he only had eight yards. So, looking to the air on second down, Pickett found Johnson over the middle for seven yards. On third and two, Pickett hit Pickens between the zones and the sophomore receiver got upfield for 26 yards, the longest play of the day so far. Two plays later, Aaron Donald powered his way through a double team to take Pickett down for a 10-yard sack. A white flag draw play on third and 20 ended the Steelers' drive with another punt from Pressley Harvin, which barely bounced into the endzone for a touchback.
The Rams looked to capitalize on the momentum from Donald’s sack with a quick first down from Stafford to Tyler Higbee. The next set of downs was less explosive, and facing fourth and inches inside their own territory, Los Angeles opted to punt the ball back to Pittsburgh.
Starting at the 39 with 1:48 to work with, Pickett hit Harris on a screen pass for 11 yards on first down to barely cross the 50. Two plays later, Pickett launched one deep down the left sideline to a wide-open Allen Robinson II for a 50-yard touchdown. The Steelers took a lead with 1:10 on the first half clock, 7-0.
After picking up a first down to Tutu Atwell, Stafford nearly threw a pick to Cole Holcomb. Stafford was rattled and missing passes badly at this point. Two plays later, Stafford squeezed another one to Atwell to cross the 50. A five-yard pass to Kupp over the middle on the next play forced LA to use its last timeout with 16 seconds remaining. Stafford was able to send two more passes to the endzone, but both missed the mark to end the half.