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Scouting the Opposition: Pittsburgh Steelers Defend the Pass Well Though Short on Forcing Turnovers

November 14th, 2013 at 10:05 AM
By Max DeMara

The Pittsburgh Steelers last played in the Super Bowl in 2010, narrowly losing to the Green Bay Packers. Since, the team has faded a bit from their usual winning ways, losing in the playoffs in 2011 and missing out in 2012. This season, they're 3-6 and in need of an abrupt turnaround 

Perhaps the best news for the Steelers is the old guard from the Super Bowl teams is still around. With veteran experience, the possibility of a run exists in a wide open AFC North which nobody is running away with. In order to have a shot at the playoffs, a Pittsburgh turnaround will have to continue with a win over Detroit. What's the word on the Steelers? Today, we take a closer look at them.

Steelers' Offensive Difference Maker: Antonio Brown, WR. The Steelers let Mike Wallace go during the offseason, largely because Brown was considered an emerging star. Though things haven't gone exactly as planned and Brown has continued to grow, he's still a major threat down field and has constant big play ability. Detroit's secondary is coming off a terrible performance in Chicago, so they'll need to be mindful of Brown, who has snagged 805 receiving yards and is a big threat with Ben Roethlisberger on the move. Brown could have a big day going against the Lions, who possess the 27th rated pass defense in the NFL.

Steelers' Defensive Difference Maker: Troy Polamalu, S. Even though Polamalu is getting older, he still has an explosive first step and can wreak havoc over the middle of the field. He is still one of the top three tacklers on the team, in addition to having a sack, an interception and a forced fumble on the season. Bottom line, he's still a jack of all trades and a big hitter that Detroit's receivers and running backs will have to watch out for.

Steelers' Major Strength: Pass defense. The Steelers are only allowing opponents 201.3 yards per-game through the air, which is good for fourth in the league. Those are great numbers. Calvin Johnson will face a major challenge from William Gay, Ike Taylor and company. Johnson was held to only two yards receiving in 2009 when these teams last met. Much of that had plenty to do with who was playing quarterback for Detroit that day (an overweight Daunte Culpepper instead of Matthew Stafford) but that doesn't take away from what the Steelers did. They'll need to find a way to limit Johnson and his other targets again if they want to slow Detroit's explosive offense.

Steelers' Major Weakness: Making impact plays on defense. It sounds strange to say, but Pittsburgh isn't making enough big plays on defense. They've only collected five interceptions and seven forced fumbles on the year, which is a far cry from where the Steelers have been during some of their better seasons. The defense only has 16 sacks (near the bottom of the league) which is also a long way from where they've usually been. The Lions are taking care of the ball.

Intangible: Detroit's road warrior mentality. The Lions haven't won in Pittsburgh for a while, but then again, they hadn't won in Washington or Chicago in a while, either. Can the Steelers overcome Detroit's newfound road warrior mentality? The environment in Pittsburgh remains fantastic, and the Steelers have long had one of the tougher environments in football. Is Detroit better equipped to deal with it or will they go back to struggling? That could play a major role.

Max DeMara is the managing editor of Lions 101. You can find him on this site's Twitter @detroitlions101

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Tags: Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Ike Taylor, Matthew Stafford, NFL, Troy Polamalu

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