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Five things to watch: Lions vs. Steelers

The Detroit Lions are coming off their bye week, and are in need of a big win Sunday night after dropping two straight and three of their last four.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who are coming off back-to-back wins over Kansas City and Cincinnati, are playing good football right now, so Detroit has its work cut out for them.

It's Sunday Night Football on national television at Ford Field. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday night.

Here are five things to watch out for in tonight's contest:



The Lions would certainly prefer to be 100 percent healthy and have their full complement of weapons on offense against a Steelers defense that ranks second overall and No. 1 against the pass coming in. That won't be the case for Detroit tonight, however. The Lions have already listed Kenny Golladay, out and Golden Tate is questionable.

Tate injured his shoulder before the bye after taking a big hit on a completed pass in the second half. He left the game and didn't return. Tate took part in practice all week, but in a limited role. The team's leader in receptions (36) and receiving yards (363) could be a game-time decision.

Teammates seemed pretty matter-of-fact talking on Monday that Golladay would be back this week after missing the last three games due to a hamstring injury. But then Golladay showed up as a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and sat out entirely on Thursday and Friday. He'll miss his fourth straight contest.


Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is on pace to be sacked more than 60 times this year. That hasn't happened to a quarterback in more than a decade. Detroit's inability to consistently protect Stafford and provide time for him to get through his progressions in the passing game is one of the biggest reasons why this offense has struggled early on this season.

Detroit could be starting a new left tackle in Brian Mihalik tonight with Greg Robinson (ankle) missing the whole week of practice.

Trying to put Stafford squarely on his back tonight will be a Steelers defense that leads the NFL in sacks (24). The difficult thing about facing the Steelers' pass rush is they have five players with at least three sacks. They get pressure from everywhere.


Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin took the bye week as an opportunity to do some self-reflection and evaluate where their respective units are at this point in the season.

Austin said he typically doesn't make any radical changes over the bye, but did say it was beneficial to get an extra-long look at a very talented Steelers offense. Austin-led defenses have been very good coming off the bye the last three years.

Cooter took the bye week to go through what he thought was working and what wasn't, and said he threw out some of the stuff that hasn't been working. Could we also see a new wrinkle or two on offense? Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick on the field together a little more? Riddick having a bigger role in passing game? What does Jace Billingsley bring to the table, if he plays?

Will there be any noticeable new wrinkles on either side of the ball for the Lions?


Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and I'll throw in Big Ben for good measure, have the Steelers' offense rolling right now.

Bell has 684 of Pittsburgh's 796 rushing yards.

Brown has 52 catches for 765 yards. Bell has 33 receptions for 214 yards. Combined, Bell and Brown have more than half of the team's total catches and receiving yards.

"They're really good those two guys in particular," Austin said this week. "So, it creates a heck of a challenge for us in terms of what we're going to do and how we're going to handle those things. We have to be judicious in how we play them, but it doesn't mean we're going to be scared."


The Lions are opening the Ford Field gates a half hour earlier tonight (6 p.m.), and are encouraging all fans to wear blue to the game in hopes of packing the stadium by kickoff and creating a strong home-field advantage.

The Lions will need every edge they can get against a Steelers team looking to improve to 6-2 on the season and 4-1 on the road.

Ford Field hasn't been the home-field advantage the Lions have hoped it would be early on this season. Detroit has just one win (Arizona) and two losses (Atlanta & Carolina) at Ford Field this season.

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