Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers preview the Lions-Steelers game on this week's Lions Lowdown. Detroit News
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s Lions-Steelers game at Ford Field (8:30 p.m. NBC/760 WJR).
STEELERS TO WATCH
Le’Veon Bell, RB: The former Michigan State star got off to a slow start this season but has picked it up in recent weeks, rushing for at least 134 yards in three of the past four games. As Pittsburgh’s backfield workhorse, he leads the league with 24.1 carries per game, ranks third in rushing yards per game (97.7) and is tied for the fourth-most rushing scores (four).
Antonio Brown, WR: The Central Michigan product is on pace for his fifth straight 100-reception, 1,000-yard season. Brown leads the league in receiving yards (765) by a wide margin — more than 200 yards more than Cincinnati’s A.J. Green (545) — as well as receptions (52) and catches of 20-plus yards (12). He already has four 100-yard receiving games this season, including three outings with at least eight catches and 155 yards.
Ryan Shazier, LB: The fourth-year pro is one of the most productive off-ball linebackers and makes plays all over the field. Shazier is tied for the seventh-most total tackles (57) and leads the team with two interceptions. He has also registered six passes defensed, three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles for Pittsburgh’s No. 2-ranked defense.
■ Ring the Bell: It’s no secret the Steelers’ offense will feature a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell. The key for the Lions’ defense will be limiting his touches. Dating back to last season and including the playoffs, Pittsburgh has won the last 12 games where Bell has received at least 20 carries.
■ Big Ben giveth: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had his fair share of giveaways this season with eight interceptions, tied for the third-most in the league. His turnover-prone ways could bode well for the Lions, who have cashed in on most takeaways and rank second in the league with 61 points off turnovers.
■ Clean it up: Sloppy play has cost the Lions the last two games. Matthew Stafford had five turnovers against Saints and lost a crucial fumble in the fourth quarter against Carolina that led to a field goal in a three-point loss. Stafford already has eight turnovers in six games, a mark he didn’t reach until Week 14 last season.
■ Get on track early: The Lions’ slumping offense is hoping the bye week can help cure what’s ailing it, particularly in the first half. Of the 14 touchdowns Detroit’s offense has scored, only five have come before halftime. Putting pressure on Pittsburgh right off the bat is imperative, but the Lions have struggled to get off to fast starts, with just one field goal and two defensive touchdowns in their six game-opening drives.
FACTS AND FIGURES
■ Matthew Stafford needs one more touchdown pass to reach 200 for his career. He’ll become the first Lions quarterback to achieve the feat and fourth quarterback under the age of 30 along with Dan Marino (245), Peyton Manning (244) and Brett Favre (218).
■ Pittsburgh ranks first in passing defense (147 yards), second in total defense (258.7 yards), tied for second in sacks (24) and third in scoring defense (16.6 points).
■ Rookie Jamal Agnew is the fifth Lions player to record at least two punt return touchdowns in a season, joining Jack Christiansen (four in 1951, two in 1952), Tom Watkins (two in 1964), Eddie Drummond (two in 2004) and Andre Roberts (two in 2016).
■ The Lions have five total punt and interception returns for touchdowns, the team’s most through the first six games since 1971 (five).
■ With touchdown receptions of 20 and 22 yards, Darren Fells is the first Lions TE with two scores of at least 20 yards in a single season since David Sloan (74 and 22 yards) in 1999.
■ The Steelers have won eight of the past nine meetings between the teams, including the last four.
■ The Lions have won five in a row coming off a bye.