Tale Of The Tape: Detroit Lions At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackMatthew Stafford is still going to make some errors that hurt the Lions in crucial situations and he clearly has some work to do. However, Stafford is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks in the NFL and he continues to improve his performance in crucial games. Stafford threw three TD passes in the Lions' 21-19 road victory over the Bears that gave them sole possession of first place in the NFC North.The Steelers probably are not going to have a chance to play postseason football, but they are playing much better now than they did at the start of the season. Ben Roethlisberger has become a dependable quarterback once again as he played confident football in the Steelers’ 23-10 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Roethlisberger completed 18-of-30 passes for 204 yards with a TD in that game.
- OffenseThe Lions are a very difficult team for opponents to defend because of the versatility. Running back Reggie Bush is coming off a 105-yard rushing game against the Bears, his second 100-yard effort against Detroit’s division rivals. The Lions must get the ball to Calvin Johnson, who should have his way with the slowish Pittsburgh secondary.The Steelers have enough of a running game to cause some problems for the Lions. Rookie Le’Veon Bell is a power back who can run between the tackles. He’s not a star but he is effective. Antonio Brown is a big-play receiver who caught six passes for 104 yards against the Bills. Wideout Jerricho Cotchery is a TD threat for Mike Tomlin’s offense.
- DefenseThe Lions struggle to play consistently on defense, but that unit came up with the play of the game in the win over the Bears when Nick Fairley smashed Matt Forte on the two-point conversion attempt that would have sent the game into overtime if it had been successful. Ndamukong Suh’s explosive quickness could be a problem for the Steelers. The Detroit front four is solid.The Steelers have been fairly effective on defense in several games, but this unit does not resemble previous versions. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau can still outscheme most opposing offensive coordinators, but the Steelers lack the speed on the back end to stay with faster wide receivers. That should play to the Lions’ advantage.
- Special TeamsThe Lions have been ordinary in their special teams coverage, but they have not given up any TD returns on kickoffs or punts. Micheal Spurlock is a solid return man for the Lions. Veteran placekicker David Akers has a strong leg, but he is not dependable because his FG attempts tend to drift.The Steelers have done a decent job in the punt and kickoff coverage, and they are waiting for Brown to give them a game-changing return as a result of his explosive speed. The Steelers have been quite pleased with placekicker Shaun Suisham, who has made 19-of-21 FG attempts.
While the edges on this game are even, the Lions' edges at quarterback and offense are much bigger than the Steelers’ edges on defense and special teams. If the Lions don’t panic playing on the road against a traditionally strong home team, they should have a good chance to win this game. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor