One of the great equalizers in sports is a slow track. Heinz Field isn't exactly compared to the greatest running surfaces on earth. Its loose soil gets particularly sloppy in wet weather, which is exactly what they're expecting today in Pittsburgh. It will slow down both teams, and the faster Lions have more to lose in that instance. Running back Reggie Bush loses much of what makes him great on a slow field. That lack of explosion could slow Detroit's high-tempo offense down to a more manageable speed.
Weather II - The Return of Ben
That, in turn, plays into the Steelers' strengths offensively. Nevermind trying to "fix" Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers can play the weather right back at the Lions' porous pass defense by letting the game's best off-schedule passer do his thing. His receivers are used to it. He has a great short-pass option in Le'Veon Bell. It's not a coincidence Roethlisberger has put up some of his best career performances (not from a statistical, but rather, from a win/loss perspective) in the postseason. The weather is nasty, and he loves it. He's not the classic, southern-prepped quarterback like today's adversary, Matthew Stafford. Ben can win ugly.
Quarterbacks making their first career starts against Dick LeBeau are 12-27 since 2004. Stafford isn't exactly the prime example of those passers in the 27 category - 16 of which are rookies. Still, that doesn't mean his defense is easy to figure out on the fly. Wrinkles and variations, things from the past, things re-instilled into the defense are his specialties. For all the firepower in the Lions' offense (and it's plenty powerful), confusion and misdirection are threats that will always be present, and when a quarterback has to react, that extra half second advantage they may have goes away quickly.
Embrace the Underdog Role
Plenty is said about how it's unusual the Steelers are, by most accounts, out of the playoff run while the Lions are vying for a division champions. Looking at the talent level between these teams, it shouldn't be a surprise at all, on either side. But games aren't won on talent alone. Veterans playing for bonuses and jobs can be just as motivating as playing for postseason glory. The Steelers are not yet eliminated, but another loss will push them to that level - 10-6 looks like a playoff record in the AFC this year. A 9-7 mark, though, won't do it, most likely. They can put that playoff mentality on and try to play spoiler.
Home Sweet Home
It's cliche to pull out the ol' Home Field Advantage bit, but the Steelers' defense plays dramatically better at Heinz Field (perhaps it's due to the slow grass). They dominated Buffalo and Baltimore in their last two games there, and the savage beatings they've taken (New England, mainly) are usually on the road. The loss to Chicago in Week 3 comes into play here, but that was a different time for this team. The team was charged with 40 points allowed but two touchdowns were scored by the Bears' defense, and five overall turnovers put them in bad position most of the game. Pittsburgh's defense - playing in the bees uniforms for the first and only time this season - plays well at home. Their defense will be the key in this game.
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