Sunday, September 27, 2015

Steelers GamePlay: Week 3 at St. Louis Rams

Week 3: at St. Louis Rams, Edward Jones Dome (66,000)
Sunday, 1 p.m., (CBS)
Radio: WDVE-FM (102.5), WMBA-AM (1230), WBVP-AM (1460)
Rams 27, Steelers 0
Sept. 12, 1993, Anaheim Stadium
The Steelers' Week 2 matchup against the Rams in the '93 season was significant for reasons neither team would realize at the time. It remains the Steelers' last game against the Rams in Los Angeles. It was the only game that Jerome Bettis played against the Steelers and it was also the game in which the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee scored the first of his 91 career touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, Bettis shook off the tackle of Steelers linebacker Jerry Olsavsy and rumbled 29 yards into the end zone. Bettis, the Rams' first-round pick that year, rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries (4.75 yards per carry). Los Angeles quarterback Jim Everett completed 21 of 34 passes for 221 yards and one TD but was picked off by Rod Woodson and Darren Perry. Neil O'Donnell threw for just 169 yards as the Steelers were shutout for the first time since 1989, when they were blanked three times in a season. The Rams, who had moved from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1945, were relocated to St. Louis following the '94 season. Today's game could be the Steelers' last in St. Louis as the Rams are believed to be relocating back to Southern California.
Realistically, what can we expect from Le'Veon Bell today?
In the time-honored debate of rust v. rest, expect rest to win the day in St. Louis. Bell is one of the most finely-tuned athletes in the league and says he's in better shape now than he was in training camp. With two weeks to prepare himself mentally and physically for the season ahead, expect Bell to announce his presence early and often. Look for Bell to rush for about 75 yards and add another 75 in the receiving game as the Steelers will look to exploit a St. Louis pass defense that has yet to face an offense the caliber of the Steelers.
Steelers offensive line vs. Rams defensive line
It’ll be one of the best defensive lines in football against a Steelers’ offensive line that didn't allow a sack against the 49ers. The Rams’ defensive line of Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald has helped the Rams rack up eight sacks through two games, tied for third in the league. Even backups Nick Fairley and Eugene Sims have recorded sacks. It’ll be one of, if not, the toughest tests of the season for the Steelers’ offensive line, who have given up just three sacks so far this year.
When the Steelers have the ball ...
The Steelers get RB Le’Veon Bell back from his two-game suspension, and Mike Tomlin has every intention on using him early and often. Whether it’s at running back or receiver, the Rams will see plenty of Bell, as they will try and get their run game going against a Rams defense that ranks 30th in rushing through two games. The Steelers will also have to continue to finish drives and build off of their performance against the 49ers in which they scored on all five of their red-zone attempts.
When the Rams have the ball ...
Steelers’ defensive coordinator Keith Butler noted that they will have to spot Rams dual threat Tavon Austin on every play. Despite being listed as a wide receiver, Austin leads the Rams in rushing through two games. That doesn't say much when a receiver leads the team in rushing, so the Steelers can’t let the Rams' rushing offense, which has averaged just 71.5 yards this season, get going. The Steelers will also look to continue to rush the quarterback like they did against the 49ers, when they sacked Colin Kaepernick five times.
Q&A: With Safety WILL ALLEN
As told to Times Steelers Writer Chris Bradford:
CB: Did you get a better explanation for exactly why you were flagged for unnecessary roughness last week?
WA: "I don't know if it was me or if it was Ryan Shazier. I don't really know. I didn't get a FedEx in my locker, so I guess it wasn't me. I don't know who it was."
CB: The NFL actually sends you, personally, a FedEx?
WA: "Yeah, you get an unnecessary roughness penalty if you get fined by the league. I don't know who did it."
CB: You and Mike Mitchell seem to have found good chemistry at safety?
WA: "We play well together. We played well together the last five games of the season last year. We're just going to see how that rolls and go with it, but it's going good. I enjoy plying with him."
CB: Do you think the defense may have turned a corner last week?
WA: "I just think it's a step. One step. One brick laid. That's all it is. We still have a lot to get better at. We can't get comfortable off that. I gave up a deep ball, we gave up a deep ball on the over-route, we gave up too many yards. To be the dominant defense that we need to be, we need to eliminate those things. That's why it's just a step."
  • Rams coach Jeff Fisher has a history with the Steelers that goes back to the days of the AFC Central Division, when Fisher got his start coaching the Houston Oilers. Fisher also has ties to Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, who coached under Fisher in Houston and Tennessee. Although he doesn't see the Steelers as much as he used to, there are still familiarities. “The offensive line is something familiar to me,” Fisher said. “It’s a Mike Munchak coached team. They’re very sound, very well coached, they don’t make mistakes. They finish games, they’re sound in protection, Mike’s doing a great job. It’s not surprising.”
  • When looking at the Rams’ defense, QB Ben Roethlisberger says he quickly noticed one thing that stuck out to him. “The pressure,” Roethlisberger said. The Rams have eight sacks through two games, seven of which come from the defensive line between five players. “The pressure, three guys, four games, sometimes adding a fifth,” Roethlisberger said. “They get on the quarterback, even if it’s not necessarily a sack, it’s a hurry. So we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
  • When the Steelers lost in New England in Week 1, the defense wasn't only lacking 11 players on the field (at least for two plays), they were also lacking in confidence, according to defensive coordinator Keith Butler. The Steelers' communication was better in Week 2 and their confidence is now much higher after that win over the 49ers. "The more and more they play together, the better they will communicate," said Butler. "It’s like being married." Veteran linebacker James Harrison has said that Butler's defense is a dumbed down from previous versions but that doesn't faze Butler. At least for now. "That is fair," he said. "He’s right in that. We want to play fast and we want to know what we are doing. We want to be confident in what we are doing. As we go along and as we play this year, we will get better and better."
  • With a win today, Ben Roethlisberger would break a tie for most wins by a Steelers quarterback. Roethlisberger (107-53) is currently tied at with Terry Bradshaw (107-51). Only nine other quarterbacks in the NFL's 85-year history have more wins than Roethlisberger. But he would become just the fourth to do it all with one team:
Rank, quarterback=Teams=W=L=T
1. Brett Favre=GB, Min=186=112=0
2. Peyton Manning=Ind, Den=181=77=0
3. Tom Brady=NE=162=47=0
4. John Elway=Den=148=82=1
5. Dan Marino=Mia=147=93=0
6. Fran Tarkenton=Min, NYG=124=109=6
7. Johnny Unitas=Bal, SD=118=64=4
8. Drew Brees=SD, NO=117=86=0
9. Joe Montana=SF, KC=117=47=0
10. Terry Brashaw=Steelers=107=51=0
11. Ben Roethlisberger=Steelers=107=53=0
If Washington's Kirk Cousins can complete 23 of 27 against St. Louis' secondary and Matt Jones can rush for 123 yards and two TDs against the Rams' vaunted front seven, you have to love the Steelers' chances with Ben Roethlisberger and a highly-motivated Le'Veon Bell to win and win big. If the Steelers can avoid the trappings of an inferior opponent, give Roethlisberger time in the pocket and don't get caught looking too far ahead to Baltimore in Week 4, they will. ... Steelers 35, Rams 19
4-0: Rams QB Nick Foles’ record in his last four games against the AFC. In those games, Foles has thrown for 1,183 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
5: Wins for Steelers under Mike Tomlin in the Central time zone in a dozen games. The Steelers have won their last two, including Week 11 last season at Tennessee.
6: NFL record for two-point conversions in a season set by Miami in 1994 and Minnesota in 1997. The Steelers, who are 3-for-3 this season on two-point conversions, had a franchise-best five in 2002.
153.6: Yards from scrimmage that Le'Veon Bell has averaged in past five games against NFC opponents
"The thing you notice, when he scored on the two-points he handed the ball to the official and when he scored a touchdown he did a little dance."
Todd Haley, offensive coordinator, on Antonio Brown and the difference between converting a two-point conversion and a touchdown
"You are going to have to bring your 'A-game,' and even with that he is still going to make his plays. He has an outstanding group of receivers. I’m just very impressed with his pocket presence and his ability to extend plays, like he has done for years."
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis coach, on Ben Roethlisberger

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