GAME PREVIEW: Five keys for the Lions at Pittsburgh

Posted Nov 17, 2013

The Lions hit the road for a second week in a row trying to stay atop the NFC North


Detroit and Pittsburgh meet for the 31st time today with the Steelers holding a slight 15-14-1 advantage in the series. The two teams haven’t met since Pittsburgh won in Detroit, 28-20, in 2009.

The first-ever meeting between these clubs took place in 1934 with the Lions winning 40-7 behind a then-NFL record 426 rushing yards.


Record 6-3 3-6
Points per game 26.4 (7) 19.9 (25)
Total yards per game 410.2 (6) 336.1 (15)
Rushing yards 103.3 (21) 80.6 (27)
Passing yards 306.9 (3) 337.1 (15)
Points allowed 24.0 (18) 24.2 (19)
Total yards allowed 376.2 (24) 328.6 (10)
Rushing yards allowed 100.7 (8) 127.2 (29)
Passing yards allowed 275.6 (27) 201.3 (4)
Turnover ratio +1 (15) -11 (31)


8,740: Receiving yards for Calvin Johnson in his first 100 career games. Second all-time behind Lance Alworth.

68: Passing yards needed by quarterback Matthew Stafford to surpass Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne (15,710) for the most passing yards in franchise history.

15-3: Steelers record since 2011 when rushing for at least 100 yards in a game.



Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

The Lions haven’t been in first place in their division this late in the season since 1999. That should, however, be the farthest thing from their mind right now.

Pittsburgh (3-6) is a tough place to play and the Lions can’t afford a let down.

"Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk about how well we’re playing and what we’re doing right and all these things, but one thing we can’t do is ‘eat the cheese,’ so to speak," said running back Reggie Bush, after he rushed for 105 yards in the 21-19 win in Chicago last week.

"We just have to focus on the little things right now. We can’t worry about winning the division, but just this next game."


Something will have give today in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have given up 36 sacks in nine games, which are the second most in the NFL.

The Lions have accumulated only 15 sacks in nine games, the fourth-fewest in the league.

Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham talked about the pressure his defense was getting despite the lack of sacks. He'll need to keep the pressure on and hope for a few more sacks. The defensive front is doing a nice job getting pressure up the middle, but the defensive ends will have be better.


Today will mark the fourth football game played on Heinz Field in the last eight days. The weather forecast is calling for rain (40 percent chance) and windy conditions. This is a notoriously rough surface to play on in good conditions.

The Steelers rank 29th against the run (127.2 yards) and the Lions would love nothing better than to get Bush going and not have to rely as much on the vertical passing game in those conditions.


Roethlisberger does a good job of extending plays and working down the field. He’s got a terrific weapon at his disposal in receiver Antonio Brown, who leads the league in receptions (67).

The Lions have given up eight passing plays of 40-plus yards this season. Only Baltimore (14), Buffalo (13), Atlanta (9) and St. Louis (9) have given up more.

The Steelers have five plays of 40-plus yards in the passing game this year.


The Lions haven’t allowed a 50-yard rusher over their last three games against Chicago, Dallas and Cincinnati. They jumped from 29th in the league vs. the run to seventh (100.7) over that stretch.

The Steelers are averaging just 80.6 yards on the ground (27th in NFL) and the Lions would like nothing more than to make the Steelers one dimensional as an offense.


Calvin Johnson, WR:

Johnson will play today after dealing with some "maintenance issues" this week. In his past eight games vs. AFC opponents, Johnson has 63 catches for 1,100 yards (137.5 per game) and eight touchdowns and seven 100-yard games.

Nick FairleyDT Nick Fairley made the game-winning tackle last week at Chicago. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Nick Fairley, DT:

Fairley has played well the last two weeks after a bit of a slow start to the season. He made the biggest play of the game in last week’s win over Chicago when he stuffed a potential game-tying two-point conversion in the backfield. Will that performance be a stepping-stone to a great second half of the season?

Stephen Tulloch, LB:

Tulloch leads the team in tackles (72) and is coming off his best performance of the season in Chicago last week. The entire linebacking corps has been very good this year and Tulloch has been the glue.


Antonio Brown, WR:

Needs three receptions to surpass his career-best of 69 in 2011. Brown posted his second 100-yard receiving game of season last week.

Le’Veon Bell, RB:

He’s been the featured back for the Steelers since returning from a Lisfranc injury and a three-down player. He posted his fourth rushing touchdown of season last week.

Troy Polamalu, S:

A player the Lions will always have to keep track of. He’s a wildcard for the Steelers defense. He plays the deep part of the field better than most safeties in the league but can also come up and make plays at the line of scrimmage. He’s a do-it-all player for that defense.