Ben Roethlisberger needs 280 yards Sunday to become the first Steelers QB to throw for 1,000 yards in the first 3 games of a season.
Over the 2014 season and the first two games of 2015, Roethlisberger has thrown 26 TDs and 4 INTs at home to 10 TDs and 6 INTs in away games. The Steelers need to right the ship on this count with a more even performance on the road if they expect to be a competitive playoff team come January.
I don’t see Todd Gurley having a huge impact Sunday, if he plays at all (questionable). [Update: Reports this morning indicate that the Rams intend to play Gurley today. They’ll put him through warm-ups and he will only sit if there are issues observed then.]
He tore his ACL last November 15th and was cleared to practice August 25th, but has been eased in slowly and not been active the first two weeks. It usually takes guys who tear an ACL a year to come back to full strength, Adrian Peterson being the exception and not the rule.
Le’veon Bell is back this week and I expect a big game from him. As many have theorized, we can probably expect to see Bell and DeAngelo Williams on the field together at some point. This point was made clear when they released a WR, Tyler Murphy, and not a RB when Bell was added back to the active roster. I envision a situation where Bell and DW line up on either side of Ben and Bell is put in motion.
The Steelers have given up 3 sacks on the year and collected 7. St. Louis does have a good defensive front and can get after the QB, so you may not see Ben standing back in the pocket with a lot of time, like he did versus the 49ers. But the Rams’ D overall is nothing special. I hope and expect to see the Steelers score 30 this week.
The Rams run a zone blocking scheme, mainly inside zone and some split zone concepts. This really only has significance to me because Cam Thomas will be the backup NT and he’s not very good versus ZBS. He doesn’t move laterally well enough to be effective. He also has a tendency to get tired and get in his teammates’ way when trying to defend ZBS. The only thing we have going for us is that he will probably only play about 20 or so snaps between NT and DE. We can also expect to see L.T. Walton dress, although how much he might play is anyone’s guess.
The Rams passing game is decidedly Meh in it’s effectiveness. That is to say mediocrity is their calling card. They use some misdirection by throwing to Tavon Austin and their RBs and then working the backside of that same formation later in the game. Lots of screens and wheel routes. Nothing all that effective. Nick Foles does have a decent long ball, but he hasn’t thrown it much the first two weeks of the year.
The Rams defensive front is stout. Their line, starting with Aaron Donald, is very talented. Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers and Chris Long are all very good players and Alec Ogletree lines up behind them as a tackling machine. They do have a tendency to penetrate too far up field on occasion and play very, very fast. This is actually the kind of defense that a player like Le’Veon Bell feasts on. He waits for them to overpursue or take an angle that creates a gap and he exploits it. If they don’t have someone staying at home and waiting for Bell to make his move, they will pay for playing the Gregg Williams style of attacking D.
The Rams do a pretty good job or mixing up and disguising coverages. However they lack the talent in the defensive backfield to be a proficient passing defense. That’s not to say they don’t make some plays. But, if they had even one CB who could take away 1 WR, they would be far improved over their current unit. They also run some zone blitz ala Dick LeBeau.
Shazier not playing this week is disappointing. They left him uncovered quite a bit last week and he has obviously made huge strides stacking and shedding blockers. I have to believe that the Steelers will start Vince Williams at the Buck and move Timmons over to the Mack while having Sean Spence spell them some. Spence did not have a great camp and is not a good cover LB. Should the Steelers run a sub package that requires an ILB to cover the deep middle, that man will be Terrence Garvin. Hopefully he does a better job versus the Rams than he did versus Gronkowski.
Overall, I see the Steelers scoring a lot of points and the defense probably yielding about 20 themselves. It would be nice to see them take a bend, but don’t break stance, but I don’t see that this week with the additions of Cam Thomas in the middle and Spence getting more time. It only takes one major breakdown to allow a touchdown.