Start Time: 1:00 pm EST
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
TV Info: CBS
Spread: PIT -3.5
ATS Records: Packers lead all-time series 20-16
In a classic NFL showdown, the Green Bay Packers face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a highly anticipated matchup. Despite their storied history and notable successes, the Packers carry a decades-long challenge into this game: they haven't clinched a victory in Pittsburgh since 1970. This long-standing drought in the Steel City has become a notable subplot in the rivalry between these two historic franchises. As the Packers step onto the field, they aim to rewrite history and break the jinx that has loomed over them for over 50 years. Meanwhile, the Steelers look to uphold their formidable home-field advantage and continue their dominance in this matchup. The stage is set for an electrifying contest filled with high stakes and deep-rooted rivalries.
As the NFL season progresses, a compelling encounter will occur in Pittsburgh, where the 5-3 Steelers host the 3-5 Green Bay Packers. The Steelers, riding high on a solid start to the season, look to solidify their position as a formidable force in the league. With a robust defense and an increasingly confident offense, Pittsburgh aims to leverage its home-field advantage to secure another crucial win.
Pittsburgh's running game excelled against the Titans, achieving a season-high 166 yards, bolstered by Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, and rookie Broderick Jones in his debut as right tackle. The Steelers are wrapping up a three-game homestand and will play five of their next eight games away, starting with upcoming matches in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Despite early-game struggles similar to Green Bay, last week marked their first opening-drive touchdown in a game started by Pickett since last October. Pickett shines in the fourth quarter with a 108.0 quarterback rating. The Steelers' strategy of keeping games close and clinching late victories has proven successful, with eight consecutive one-score wins since last season and four fourth-quarter comebacks this season. Additionally, Pittsburgh performs exceptionally well after extended rest, boasting the best post-Thursday night game-winning percentage in the NFL since 1970 at 17-8.
On the other side, facing a challenging start to their season, the Packers come into this game with a sense of urgency. The Packers will focus on overcoming their historical struggle at Pittsburgh, where a victory has eluded them for decades. This game presents a perfect opportunity for Green Bay to turn their season around and make a strong statement.
Key matchups include the battle in the trenches, where the Packers' offensive line will face a stern test against the Steelers' aggressive defensive front. The quarterbacks' performance under pressure will also be crucial, as both teams boast formidable pass rushes. Special teams could play a pivotal role, often being the difference in such closely contested games. On the other side of the ball, Packers LT Zach Tom vs OLB T.J. Watt will undoubtedly be Tom's most challenging test to date.
In last week's matchup, Green Bay snapped their four-game losing streak with a victory against the Rams, who were grappling with injuries. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh, keeping pace in the fiercely contested AFC North, has secured wins in three of their last four games. The Packers, who had struggled to score a first-half touchdown in five consecutive games, finally found their rhythm in the second quarter against the Rams. Notably, the Packers' defense has been quite robust, conceding only 159 points to date. This is their best defensive performance in the first eight games of a season since 2010.
In the recent game against the Rams, Packers' tight end Luke Musgrave celebrated his first career touchdown, while safety Anthony Johnson Jr. achieved his first career interception. Additionally, cornerback Carrington Valentine impressively defended three passes, and defensive lineman Karl Brooks contributed with two defensive stops. Remarkably, all four of these players are in their rookie season. Furthermore, Jones marked a significant milestone by scoring his 63rd career touchdown (comprising 45 rushing and 18 receiving touchdowns) in this game, surpassing Donald Driver and Paul Hornung to claim the seventh spot in the Packers' all-time scoring history.
First Half Woes:
The Packers, ranking last in first-half scoring with just 4.5 points per game, and the Steelers at 28th with 6.9 points, both face a challenge to kick-start their offense early in Sunday's game. Will the first half continue to be a struggle, and will either team find an offensive rhythm? The Packers showed signs of improvement last week by scoring a first-half touchdown for the first time in five games and holding a halftime lead, offering a glimmer of hope. However, they must avoid falling significantly behind early on in the game. That would undoubtedly leave Jordan Love and the offense vulnerable to the aggressive defense led by T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith of the Steelers.
Green Bay Packers:
I'm not sure about everyone else, but it's quite astonishing to witness the Packers' defense ranking at 11th while the Steelers are positioned at an unexpected 31st. This almost seems like a clerical error, but it's accurate. The absence of Matt Stafford in the Rams lineup undoubtedly enhanced the Packers' defensive statistics. Yet, what's more perplexing is the Steelers' position near the bottom of the rankings, which doesn’t quite align with their on-field presence despite what the numbers suggest. Fortunately, we are on the cusp of determining which team truly has the superior defense.
Players to Watch:
Both the Steelers and Packers depend on their running back pairs to bolster their offenses, which relatively inexperienced quarterbacks guide. In their victory against the Rams, Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon of the Packers combined for 142 yards and a touchdown from 34 touches. Similarly, the Steelers' Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren amassed 189 yards and a touchdown on 32 touches in their triumph over the Titans. The upcoming game raises the question: which running back duo will be more instrumental in supporting their quarterback? The Steelers have allowed an average of 4.5 yards per carry this season, whereas the Packers have effectively contained the run games of the Vikings and Rams in recent weeks. Another factor to consider is how effective Warren will be as a receiver from the backfield, especially with Packers linebacker Quay Walker likely sidelined.
In their recent encounters, the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers have demonstrated a balanced rivalry, each claiming two wins in their last four matchups. The most recent clash saw the Packers emerge victorious with a 27-17 win at Lambeau Field in 2021, marking the only previous head-to-head coaching duel between Green Bay's Matt LaFleur and Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin. However, the Steelers have dominated their home turf, winning their last five encounters against the Packers in Pittsburgh. Green Bay's previous triumph in the Steel City dates back to a memorable 20-12 victory in 1970. Their most recent visit to Pittsburgh was in 2017, a nail-biting game that ended in a 31-28 win for the Steelers.
Adding another layer to this storied rivalry, the Packers clinched their most recent Super Bowl title by defeating the Steelers 31-25 in a gripping showdown in Arlington, Texas, on February 6, 2011. Reflecting the closely contested nature of this matchup, six out of their last eight meetings have been decided by a margin of seven points or fewer, underlining the intense competition and unpredictability that define the Steelers-Packers games.
Jaire Alexander is doubtful for the upcoming game after a shoulder injury sustained against the Rams, compounded by missing this week's practices. His absence could lead to an intriguing mix of cornerbacks for the Packers against Steelers' receivers George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Keisean Nixon is set to continue as the slot corner, and Carrington Valentine, following an impressive debut replacing Rasul Douglas last week, is also in the mix. The question remains about additional support. Corey Ballentine, recently elevated from the Packers' practice squad, and Robert Rochell, signed from the Panthers' practice squad, emerge as the primary options. The Packers will rely heavily on one of them to take on a significant role on the perimeter in Sunday's game.
The Packers face challenges beyond their secondary, with their offensive line also compromised. Four preferred starters were on the initial injury report, with left tackle Yosh Nijman (back), center Josh Myers (knee), and right guard Jon Runyan Jr. (neck) all listed as questionable. Elgton Jenkins is playing through a knee issue. Right tackle Zach Tom is in good health, a relief as he faces T.J. Watt in most snaps. However, it's a tough time for the offensive line to be weakened, facing the Steelers' formidable pass rush led by Watt and Alex Highsmith, who have contributed to the team's 26 sacks. Rookie Keeanu Benton poses an additional threat from the inside. While Nijman, Myers, and Runyan might play, they won’t be at full strength.
This matchup has the potential to be a gritty affair, with the outcome possibly hinging on one or two critical turnovers. When considering which team might be more prone to a costly error, the Packers, particularly in an away game setting, seem the likelier candidate. To succeed, Matt LaFleur's squad must execute a flawless game plan and ensure Jordan Love's protection. However, it's doubtful they'll manage to do so with consistent effectiveness in Sunday's game at Pittsburgh. Despite the obvious, I feel the Packers will surprise everyone and escape out of there with their first win in Pittsburgh since 1970.
Final score: Packers 23, Steelers 20
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