NEWS

Sunday's Starter Still Unknown

Posted Oct 7, 2009

This week, the big question Lions fans want the answer to is which quarterback is going to start against the Steelers: rookie Matthew Stafford or veteran Daunte Culpepper.

There likely won’t be an answer until an hour and a half before game time.

Head Coach Jim Schwartz told the local media on Monday that there is the possibility that Stafford will start, despite suffering a knee injury in the fourth quarter at Chicago.

Culpepper will of course be ready to step in and, as Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan said, this isn’t his “first rodeo.”

“I certainly know Daunte,” said Linehan. “So, if he were to play, obviously my background with him helps. If Matt were to play, we don’t really change anything from where we left off and I’ve had a lot of experience with Drew (Stanton) in different roles during the preseason.

“So I feel very comfortable with where we’re at.”

Since Stafford is day-to-day, Stanton also has to prepare differently this week, because he would likely be the No. 2 quarterback against the Steelers.

“Regardless of what happens, whenever you’re day-to-day with one player, you have to have that next guy ready as you’re getting ready for a potential different role,” said Linehan.

Stafford was held out of practice Wednesday, which is unfortunate considering his performance at Chicago. There were throws he made that offered the tip of the iceberg to what he could be capable of down the line, but Linehan says this shouldn’t alter his growth.

“He’s figuring out what life in the NFL is like, too,” he said. “You get knocked around a little bit. Now he’s one of those guys who is having to deal with a day-to-day ding to his leg. But that’s part of his growth, I think. It’s part of any player’s growth.

“When you start having those, the season becomes, really, what an NFL season is. You’re not always going to feel good.”

Regardless of which quarterback is under center, the Lions will have their work cut out for them against a Steelers’ defense that allowed 16 total rushing yards against San Diego.

In fact, LaDainian Tomlinson attempted just seven rushes; the other was a 1-yard gain by quarterback Phillip Rivers.

“Their strength has been their strength for years,” said Linehan. “It’s a great scheme, very, very well coordinated and they’ve got great players that have been playing together for lots of years.

“That’s the key to having a great defense or offense: if you can have that kind of continuity, they know what they’re doing. This is going to be a heck of a challenge. It’ll be fun to go out and meet the challenge against a team as good as this one.”

With a team that good against the run and a Lions’ team that struggled running the ball last week, how is Linehan going to approach this game?

Pittsburgh has been prone to giving up passing yardage late in the game, but coming out of the gate throwing the ball may not be the best answer either.

“I know no one’s scored a point in the first quarter against them in four games. That says a lot about how they play coming out,” said Linehan. “We’ve got to match the intensity we know they’re going to bring with how they play early.”