2019 Game 9: (4-4) Steelers vs (5-3) Rams

The Steelers defense is currently on top of its game and it will need to continue that way Sunday for the visit of the Los Angeles Rams.

As it’s throwback Sunday, it will be appropriate if that Pittsburgh defense can win the game for the Steelers. The teams’ defenses are ranked almost equal, but in the turnover ratio the Steelers are well ahead with +11 compared to the Rams’ 0.

That’s is where the Steelers can take control of the game. The Steelers defense has improved as the first half of the season progressed and the statistics are there to support it.

Over its first two games of 2019, Pittsburgh allowed 61 points (fifth worst in the NFL), seven TDs (tied for fifth worst), 75.0 opposing completion percentage (fourth worst) and 131.3 opposing passer rating (fourth worst).

Over their last six games the Steelers have allowed 108 points (sixth best in the NFL), 18.0 points/game (7th), 12 TDs (sixth best) and 74.6 opposing passer rating (third best).

James Conner is still out, and it will be Jaylen Samuels and Trey Edmunds leading the offense once again. They shared 156 yards of offense against the Colts, but they will need to improve on that contribution if the Steelers are to overcome their opponents.

After his absence with concussion, Mason is coming off two straight wins and he showed last week that he can overcome a bad start to a game. His college teammate James Washington set career highs in both receptions (4) and receiving yards (69) in the game and hopefully their rapport will continue because the offense will need a spark from somewhere.

The Rams in the spotlight:

The Steelers will be up against the reigning NFL Defensive Player of 2018 Aaron Donald. “Look at his sack reel,” suggested coach Tomlin at his Tuesday press conference.

“He’s got sacks against right guards, left guards, left tackles. This guy moves up and down the line of scrimmage. They are thoughtful about that. It’s an effort to minimize your opportunity to get two people on him. Regardless of how much they move him, we are going to have to work to get two people on him because that is the type of player that he is.”

The Rams are coming off their bye week after travelling to London where they rolled over the Bengals 24-10. That win saw the Rams post a two-game winning streak following a 37-10 win over the Falcons in Atlanta.

Cooper Kupp posted a career-high 220 yards receiving on seven catches (31.4 yards/reception) with one touchdown at Wembley. The 220 yards is the second highest receiving output of any pass catcher this season and the most ever in an international game. Kupp, who had reconstructive knee surgery less than a year ago, currently ranks third in the NFL with 792 receiving yards.

Kupp does his best work on third down, gaining 21 first downs and 3 touchdowns and the Steelers need to shut this stat down if they are to put themselves in a position to win.

OLB Dante Fowler Jr. has posted 4.5 sacks in the team’s last two games and leads the Rams with 6.5 sacks through Week 9. L.A. has three defenders with at least 5.0 sacks, including Fowler, LB Clay Matthews (6.0) and DT Aaron Donald. The Rams have 23.0 sacks on the season, including 10.0 in their previous two games. The Steelers have 29 sacks so far this season with T.J. Watt owning 7.5 of them.

NFL fact:

If Baltimore rushes for at least 150 yards on Sunday against Cincinnati, they would become the first team since the 1976 Steelers to rush for at least 150 yards in eight of a team’s first nine games of a season since 1970

Steelers stats:

NFL Game capsule

Steelers and Rams game notes