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Pittsburgh Steelers Week 12 Matchup Preview

The Pittsburgh Steelers face off against the Indianapolis Colts on Thanksgiving night on NBC with 8:30 pm ET kickoff time at Lucas Oil Stadium. Playing the game on Thursday night means that the Steelers only have three days to prepare for the Colts after beating the Browns 24-9 on Sunday. Here is a look at this key matchup and what the Steelers need to do to win.

Nearly a Must-Win

While the Steelers do not have to win every game the rest of the season to make the playoffs, they cannot afford to lose more than one or maybe two games with their 5-5 record. That means the team needs to get in playoff mode right now. They need to treat every game the rest of the year as an elimination game because it very well could be.

Matchups to Watch

Ben Roethlisberger vs. Colts Pass Defense

If the Steelers are going to win this matchup, they need to focus on throwing the ball. That should be no problem since Pittsburgh has one of the best quarterbacks and passing attacks in the NFL. Big Ben is a beast, and he should be able to shred this Indianapolis pass defense. The Colts rank dead last in the league against the pass. They are giving up an average of 285 yards per game to opponents. With the Steelers sixth-rated passing attack, Roethlisberger should have no problem throwing the ball all over the field, racking up lots of yards and scoring lots of points.

Andrew Luck vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense

Unfortunately for Steelers fans, this year’s team is no Steel Curtain. They have been good against the run, but they are pretty awful against the pass. That is not a good thing when you have to go on the road to face one of the best young quarterbacks in the game. The Steelers rank 26th in the NFL against the pass, giving up an average of 268 yards a game to opposing quarterbacks. That is a scary statistic when they are about to face a quarterback of Luck’s caliber. The Steelers corners need to really focus on shutting down the Colts’ leading receiver, T.Y. Hilton, who has 888 yards receiving and five touchdowns on the year to lead the team.

This game really comes down to which poor pass defense can step up and play better than they have so far this year. The good news for Steelers fans is that the oddsmakers like their chances. They are currently two-point betting favorites. If they can keep their cool and play to their potential, Pittsburgh should leave Indianapolis with a victory on Thanksgiving night.

 

Pittsburgh Steelers Week 11 Matchup Preview

Ugh.  That last-second loss had to hurt.

The Steelers lost late to the Dallas Cowboys, and their extra point philosophy could be to blame.

Still, when NFL stands for Not For Long, the best thing to do is move forward. Pittsburgh is only one game behind in their division, and the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens face the league-leading Cowboys next. If the Cowboys stick to their winning ways, the Steelers can catch up with a win this week.

To top it off, they’re facing the worst team in the league, the 0-10 Cleveland Browns, who are fresh off being utterly demolished by the same teams that beat Pittsburgh the last two weeks. There’s plenty of game tape for the Steelers to draw on.

We’ll start with the obvious: the Browns have a weak passing game. It’s not necessarily a bad passing game, third round pick Cody Kessler has been a welcome surprise, with solid passing stats across the board (66.9% completion rate, 95.7 passer rating, 6 TDs against his one INT). Kessler hasn’t been explosive either, with a mere 222 passing yards per game for the team and only one game above 300 yards.

This leaves the Steelers free to key on the run game, and while that didn’t work last week, Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are not as good as Ezekiel Elliott. They should be able to completely shut this offense down until the game is already over, no matter how bad their defense is.

On defense, the Browns are 31st in the league in points, total yards per game, and rushing yards allowed per game. They are only 26th in passing yards allowed, but that may be because opposing teams throttle back after taking leads like 21-7 (Baltimore), 28-10 (Dallas), or 28-17 (Cincinnati).

Even in the loss, Pittsburgh flashed its offensive power. Ben Roethlisberger is back from injury, Antonio Brown is still impossible to cover, and Le’Veon Bell is in top form. Even though they’re on the road and facing a division rival, there’s no way this offense struggles.

It won’t be a 35-10 blowout like the Browns faced a couple of weeks ago, but it will be a one-sided victory in favor of the Steelers. Expect an early lead, something like 17-3 or 20-7 at the half, and then a quick game the rest of the way as Bell pounds the rock and burns the clock, breaking the losing streak and bringing Pittsburgh back to .500.

They’ll be tied for the division lead at 5-5, all the panic without Ben forgotten, and for Steelers fans, all will be right with the world.

 

Steelers must beware of underdogs in Dawg Pound

The Steelers need a volunteer.

No, they haven’t become so bad during their four-game losing streak that they need fans to suit up. That’s not it.

What they need is someone to hold their beer.

Huh?

The Steelers have pulled more than their share of jackass moves in recent years.

Losing to Ryan Mallett and the Ravens at Baltimore last year and nearly blowing a playoff berth.

Losing to the 2-14 Buccaneers at home and the 4-12 Jets in 2014.

Losing to 4-12 Raiders teams in both 2012 and 2013.

But if you think those belly flops were something, hold the Steelers’ beer and watch them lose to the 0-10 Browns.

This normally would be the time to ask the rhetorical question “Don’t think it can happen?” But it’s a safe bet that an overwhelming majority of Steelers Nation has a Terrible Towel to its mouth in fear that it will happen.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Week 10 Matchup Preview

On November 13th, the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the Dallas Cowboys in a game that features many intriguing storylines. Chief among them is the possibility that both teams could be featuring their backup quarterbacks. What should fans know about this matchup, and what are the odds that the Steelers pull out a victory?

Tony Romo Could Make His Season Debut

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has said that he can’t rule out the possibility of Tony Romo making his season debut against Pittsburgh, though he is not expected to be active. Romo has been out since injuring his back in preseason play against Seattle. In his absence, rookie Dak Prescott has led the team to a 7-1 record and the top seed in the NFC.

Will Ben Roethlisberger Start for Pittsburgh?

The man that they call Big Ben didn’t look right against the Ravens last week. Seeing as how he was supposed to be out up to six weeks, he may have rushed his return just 20 days after the injury happened. While this is a big game for the 4-4 Steelers, they could probably lose this game and still be in good shape as it relates to making a run to an AFC North crown.

Can the Steelers Bounce Back on Offense?

Regardless of who starts for Pittsburgh, the entire offense needs to get back on track, as it has shown it is one of the league’s best units. Injuries to the offensive line have made it harder for Le’Veon Bell to be the dominant rusher that he is used to being. He only rushed for 32 yards on 14carries against Baltimore, and Sammie Coates was once again held in check as he failed to catch a single pass. Even Antonio Brown was relatively ineffective despite generating 85 receiving yards and a touchdown on Sunday.

Which Steelers Team Shows Up?

In their past three road games, the Steelers have scored a total of 32 points and went 0-3. In their last three home games, they have scored 90 points and won two of those three games. Pittsburgh will need to hope that their streak of playing well in home games will continue against Dallas at Heinz Field this upcoming Sunday.

The Steelers and Cowboys have been two of the NFL’s most iconic franchises over the past 50 years. This weekend, they meet in a crucial game that may impact whether or not these two teams make the playoffs and where they may be seeded come January.

Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott energize Steelers-Cowboys rivalry

Not only has America been divided by red states and blue states every four years since 2004, it also has been divided by black and gold on one side and blue and silver on the other side.

The Cowboys visit the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field. It will be the fourth straight time they’ve met in an election year.

While an electoral map of Cowboys states and Steelers states might be interesting, how much of a rivalry is this?

The Steelers and Cowboys are the only teams who have met in three Super Bowls, but they don’t play each other often enough to breed the bitterness of Steelers-Ravens or Steelers-Bengals. Unlike “Ravens Week” or “Bengals Week” it doesn’t really sound right to say “Cowboys Week.”

The Cowboys might not even make the top-five list of Steelers rivals. The Ravens, Bengals and Browns all make it in one order or another. While an argument can be made for the Cowboys considering their Super Bowl link with the Steelers, the argument is stronger for the Patriots and Broncos because they’re the Steelers’ biggest playoff antagonists in the 21st century.

This will be just the fifth time the Steelers and Cowboys have met in the 20 years since Super Bowl XXX. That novelty is part of the matchup’s appeal.

While there’s no clear and present hatred, the Steelers-Cowboys saga spans generations. Cowboys fans whose hearts were broken as children in Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII got some retribution in Super Bowl XXX.

That emotional swing played out over a much shorter time frame the last two times the Steelers and Cowboys played.

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Steelers historically struggle when Ben Roethlisberger returns from injuries

Ben Roethlisberger has missed four games at Baltimore in his career, but it doesn’t look like Sunday’s game will be his fifth.

Roethlisberger practiced this week less than three weeks after having surgery on his torn meniscus, and at this point it would be stunning if he doesn’t start against the Ravens (3-4).

The Steelers (4-3) are trying to stay in first place in the AFC North. If they lose, they’d be tied with the Ravens atop the division with the Ravens holding the tiebreaker at least until the teams meet again on Christmas.

Roethlisberger’s imminent return is good news for the Steelers. He gives them a better chance to win than Landry Jones.

But can he change the course of history?

In Roethlisberger’s career, the Steelers are 2-5 in his first game back from an injury. He’s thrown nine touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in those games.

Here’s a look at these not-so-memorable performances.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Week 9 Matchup Preview

Week 9 of the NFL season has plenty of divisional showdowns on the slate, and the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers is one that plenty will have an eye on. The Steelers (4-3) currently lead the AFC North, but Baltimore (3-4) is right on their heels. The Cincinnati Bengals (3-4-1) are also right in the thick of things, and the Cleveland Browns are, well, the Cleveland Browns (0-8).

The Steelers will be traveling to Baltimore for the first of two games against their division foes. The second will come in Pittsburgh on Christmas day. Even though we are only at the halfway point of the season both teams will likely play this game with playoff intensity, with first place in the division on the line.

The Steelers may be getting a big boost to their chances after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced there is a possibility he will suit up for the contest, despite undergoing knee surgery just three weeks ago.

The Steelers have struggled without Big Ben under center. They are currently on a 2 game losing streak after losing 30-15 to the Miami Dolphins and 27-16 to the New England Patriots. Landry Jones played decently with  sidelined, but one’s a future hall of famer and the other is simply a mediocre backup quarterback. If Ben returns to action this Sunday, he will be just what the Pittsburgh offense ordered.

Whether Big Ben can play or not, Pittsburgh will rely on running back Le’Veon Bell to shoulder a big load once again. Standing in his way will be the formidable linebacker tandem of C.J. Mosley and Zach Orr. They have anchored a surprisingly good Baltimore defense that allows only 82 rushing yards per game, but rushing will only be half the battle.  Bell has amassed 589 total yards from scrimmage, 245 of them through the air, despite playing in just 4 games this season. The match-up between one of the best runners in the game and two of the best run stoppers in the game will be key all afternoon.

Baltimore’s offense has been the primary reason for their struggles this year. They rank near or below the bottom third of the league in every major offensive category, but could turn it around against a Steelers defense that allows almost 400 total yards per game to opponents. Terrance West has emerged as a formidable threat out of the backfield for the Ravens, and he figures to be highly involved with quarterback Joe Flacco struggling.

In such a tightly contested division, this game is sure to see some extra fireworks. Given the storied, yet brutal, history between these two division foes, who would expect anything less?

Steelers lose to Patriots, need better backup plan at quarterback

The Steelers have had a hard enough time beating Tom Brady and the Patriots with Ben Roethlisberger.

So with Roethlisberger sidelined Sunday, the Patriots’ 27-16 win at Heinz Field isn’t exactly a jaw dropper.

Landry Jones did his best. So maybe, as Stuart Smalley would say, the Steelers’ latest loss to the Patriots is “OK.”

After all, how should a team be expected to win without its starting quarter …

Wait a minute.

The Patriots started the season 3-1 with Brady serving his Deflategate suspension. The Steelers are 2-3 in their last five full games without Roethlisberger going back to last season. Sunday’s loss was their second straight.

If the Patriots can keep their season on track without their starting quarterback, why can’t the Steelers?

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Dolphins 30, Steelers 15: Steelers full report card

Where have we seen this before?

Once again the Steelers laid a big egg against an NFL weakling, falling to the Dolphins 30-15 Sunday.

Unless the Dolphins (2-4) really are as good as the Steelers made them look Sunday, this will be the fifth straight year the Steelers (4-2) have lost to a team that finishes 5-11 or worse.

This time, there’s an extra layer of concern because assuming this loss does fall into that category, it’s the first such loss that has come by more than seven points. This didn’t come down to an unlucky bounce. The Steelers were beaten soundly.

The good news is the Steelers don’t face a bad team next week. They host the Patriots. The bad news is they won’t have Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee and was scheduled to have surgery Monday morning.

The Steelers have a bye in Week 8 and go to Baltimore in Week 9. Roethlisberger could miss just one game since Pro Football Talk is reporting that his surgery will only be a “cleanup” procedure. Just when the Steelers were starting to look like one of the best teams in the AFC, their season hinges not only on Roethlisberger’s knee but finding a way to handle teams they’re supposed to beat.

QUARTERBACK

Ben Roethlisberger has been a different quarterback on the road since 2014. He’s thrown 51 touchdown passes at home since then and only 18 on the road.

He went 59 minutes without throwing one Sunday before feeding Cobi Hamilton for his career touchdown. It turned out to be too little, too late.

Roethlisberger completed 19 of 34 passes for 189 yards, just 5.6 yards per attempt. He temporarily left the game with the knee injury, and CBS analyst Solomon Wilcots said that it affected his accuracy after he returned. But his two interceptions were more about poor decision making. He threw both into double coverage.

Landry Jones failed to complete his only pass when he subbed for Roethlisberger.

Grade: D

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Five takeaways from Steelers’ 31-13 win over Jets

It’s hard to imagine the Steelers worrying about the Jets in Week 17 this year.

The Steelers delivered another blow to the staggering Jets Sunday, beating them 31-13 at Heinz Field. Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes and he’s thrown nine in the last two games without an interception.

The Jets could have made the playoffs last year, but instead let the Steelers in when they lost at Buffalo in Week 17. If the Steelers (4-1) keep playing the way they did Sunday, they won’t be doing any scoreboard watching on the last day of the regular season.

The Jets aren’t a bad team

This might sound like an observation more fit for a preview of the game, but part of the reason the Jets are 1-4 is their brutal schedule. They split their first two games, losing at home to the Bengals and winning at Buffalo. Then they lost at Kansas City, at home to Seattle and Sunday in Pittsburgh.

When the Steelers fell behind 13-7 in the second quarter Sunday and struggled to pull away early in the second half, there were grumblings on social media that they were in danger of losing to an inferior opponent like they’ve done a few times in recent seasons. Every year since 2012, they’ve lost at least once to a team with a 5-11 record or worse. The 2016 Jets might fall short of the playoffs, but they’re better than the 2015 Ravens and the 2014 Buccaneers.

The point is that the Steelers revealed some character in this win. Not everything went their way early in the game like it did last week against Kansas City, but they still won comfortably the way good teams do.

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