Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Storylines, prediction for a crucial game for both sides

    What are the main storylines for this Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Week 10 matchup, and what is our prediction for how it may go?

    This Sunday’s Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers appears to be a straightforward one to make a prediction for, given the Steelers’ recent resurgence. However, the winless Lions do not have many more games on their schedule that are as potentially winnable as this one. Let’s take a look at the main storylines for this Week 10 matchup between the Steelers and Lions, examine the current NFL odds, and make a prediction for how this game may play out.

    Detroit Lions vs. Pittsburgh Steelers predictions | Storylines to watch in Week 10

    If we roll back to Week 4, this would have looked like a game that could be intriguing regarding the Lions’ potential to win. At that point, the Steelers were 1-3, having suffered three straight losses by 9+ points. Yet, roll forward to Week 10, and the Steelers haven’t lost since. Meanwhile, the Lions were thoroughly embarrassed the last time they took the field.

    With both teams desperate for a win for very different reasons, this has the potential to be a surprisingly high-intensity matchup. Let’s take a look at three key storylines for this week.

    The Steelers are looking to demonstrate they are true contenders in the AFC… without their starting QB

    The Steelers have done a lot of good in the last four weeks. It hasn’t always been convincing, but they’re unbeaten in four straight, currently sitting as the sixth seed in the AFC. With a victory in Week 10, they would join the Ravens at 6-3 atop the AFC North.

    Still, their credentials as legitimate AFC contenders are still up in the air. While they have a 5-3 record, they have a -8 point differential. Pittsburgh’s last three victories have come by a combined 10 points, and they’re 4-0 in one-score games this season. Therefore, it is legitimate to ask whether they are a real playoff team or simply riding a hot streak with regression potentially to come.

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    Now, they are contending with the loss of Ben Roethlisberger after he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last Saturday. We have seen what Mason Rudolph brings to the table and it is not pretty. His career numbers are a 61.7% completion rate, 15 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 6.4 yards per attempt, and an 82.7 passer rating. He has been better at home than on the road in his career, but this is still a downgrade.

    Roethlisberger’s season started poorly, but he has played better in recent weeks. His average passer rating through the first four games was 80. During the Steelers’ four-game win streak, it has improved significantly to 106.3. If Pittsburgh can win with Rudolph under center, they will prove they are AFC contenders.

    Can the Steelers overcome another WR loss?

    Not many teams had a better receiving trio entering the 2021 NFL season than the Steelers. However, with Chase Claypool now absent for Week 10, Pittsburgh will be without two of those players this week. This goes back to the contender question. The best teams absorb these losses and continue to win, so can Pittsburgh shrug off the loss of Claypool and win regardless?

    In James Washington, they arguably have one of the best No. 4 wide receivers in the league. Not all that long ago, many felt Washington would be the WR2 in this offense when Antonio Brown departed. Things have not turned out that way, but in what is likely his final season in Pittsburgh, Washington now has a golden opportunity.

    While there should be ample focus on the receivers in terms of making a prediction for this Steelers vs. Lions matchup, there are concerns elsewhere on this offense. Sure, Najee Harris is the 10th-leading rusher this season, a large part of that is volume-based. His 3.6 yards per attempt are the lowest of the top 10 by a considerable distance.

    That WR impact will be felt more starkly without Roethlisberger under center. Rudolph will do an efficient job as the starter, but he is not a game-breaking QB. If the run game gets bogged down by the Lions, Rudolph will need his pass catchers to break big plays if the Steelers’ offense is to really tick in this one. The change in QB moves the Steelers projected total down by around 3 to 4 points, depending on your feeling about Roethlisberger.

    Will this be a “kitchen sink” game for the Lions?

    When you look through the Lions’ schedule, there aren’t many more games that you think they could win. While anything can happen in the NFL, it feels like we can count a handful out right now.

    They still have matchups with the Packers, Browns, Cardinals, and Seahawks on the schedule, which are all penciled in as losses right now. That leaves games against the Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Falcons, and this one against the Steelers. Those are all winnable, but they are unlikely to be favorites in any of them.

    What this means is that we could see the Lions really focus their attention on the games their coaching staff believes they can win. We have seen how close they can play teams when they are focused. Detroit has had two weeks to prepare for this game and faces a Steelers team coming off a short week following a physical battle with Chicago.

    After Detroit threw the entire contents of the kitchen sink at the Rams in Week 7, opposing coaches will be prepared for a similar treatment. However, that doesn’t mean the Lions shouldn’t try to steal some possessions on special teams. They were the first team to go winless in a 16-game season, and they won’t want to be the ones who also hold that dubious honor in a 17-game season as well.

    Lions at Steelers betting line and game prediction

    The 6.5-point line on this game tells you that not many predictions will have the Lions beating the Steelers on the road, even with Rudolph. The Steelers have more talent on their roster than the Lions, and the home-field aspect only plays into it. Additionally, even with Roethlisberger having been better recently, Rudolph is not viewed as the downgrade he once was.

    Trusting the Steelers to cover a spread around a touchdown is not something to be taken lightly. They have failed to cover spreads of 6 and 6.5 points against the Raiders and Bears, respectively, this season already. Furthermore, they are 0-4 against the spread as favorites this season. Therefore, while they should win, a victory of around 3-6 points is the more likely outcome than covering the spread.

    Lions vs. Steelers prediction: Steelers 20, Lions 17

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