Next up for the Detroit Lions' offense is a matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who currently rank second in total defense (258.7 yards per game) and are No. 1 against the pass (147.0). The Steelers are also second in sacks (24), second in successful plays allowed (only 39.6 percent), and are holding opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 70.9, which is fourth best.
If the challenge facing quarterback Matthew Stafford and Co. wasn't difficult enough, they could potentially be without Golden Tate, their leading receiver. Tate injured a shoulder in the loss to New Orleans a week and a half ago, and didn't take part in Monday's practice. The Lions will release their first practice report of the week Wednesday afternoon.
Tate leads the Lions in both receptions (36) and yards (363) through the first six games.
"Everybody else has to step up," fellow receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said Monday. "We're getting Kenny (Golladay) back. Golden is a great playmaker and we'll get him back as soon as we can, but until then, that's why we practice and all of us (other receivers) are grinding every day and it's next man up."
Getting Golladay back on the field this week would certainly help Detroit's cause. The rookie has missed the last three games due to a hamstring injury. Golladay has the kind of size and skillset the Lions have missed the last few weeks. He's proven in limited action early this season that he can be a deep threat and also a weapon in the red zone.
"(We've missed) his physical presence," Jones said of Golladay. "He can go and do it all, so it's good to have him back."
If Tate isn't able to go Sunday night, the Lions will also be counting on veterans TJ Jones and Jared Abbrederis to step up and fill the void. TJ Jones has 13 receptions this year for 178 yards. He's been a sure-handed target for Stafford. Abbrederis, a four-year veteran, has made some plays and caught three passes for 44 yards in limited action.
"The league doesn't wait for anybody," TJ Jones said Monday. "Losing one of our best players on offense, we collectively just have to come together, not only become better as an offense generally speaking week to week, but now there's more of an emphasis to pick up the slack that might be missed if Golden misses the game."
Both TJ Jones and Abbrederis are versatile pass catchers in that they both can play all three receiver spots. That's an important skillset to have if the Lions are in a situation Sunday night where they have to replace another versatile receiver in Tate. The Lions have used Tate out of the slot the majority of the time this season, but he can line up anywhere.
"I think it's very important," TJ Jones said of his and Abbrederis' ability to play all three receiver spots. "I think it lessens the amount of people you may have to necessarily have up (on gameday).
"If they can count on the two guys to know all three positions, you don't have to have two-deep at every position. It just brings another weapon to both of our repertoires and it allows them to have trust in us to go in at any position and perform."