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Lions vs. Steelers key matchups: Ben Roethlisberger vs. Rashean Mathis

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sees the cornerback who's tormented him - and the Steelers - throughout his career when Pittsburgh hosts Detroit in Week 11.

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

If you've followed the Steelers in recent years, you know the name Rashean Mathis.

And you probably don't like hearing it.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger can't like hearing his name much. Mathis has 30 career interceptions, six of them have come against the Steelers, and five of them came from Roethlisberger. What's worse, he's returned three of those six for touchdowns, including a back-breaking return against the Steelers in the 2007 Wild Card playoff loss to Jacksonville.

It was with the Jaguars where Mathis did his damage. Now with Detroit, Mathis is used in slot and outside coverage, and figures to be eyeing a few more picks against his longtime feeding trough.

Roethlisberger has thrown five interceptions in his last three games, and was an underwhelming 18-for-30 for 204 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He's turned the ball over on the game's opening drive in consecutive weekends - a lost fumble against New England and an interception against Buffalo.

The Steelers won two games in a row in Weeks 6 and 7 against the Jets and Ravens, respectively, and Roethlisberger didn't turn the ball over at all. It's gone downhill since then, and Roethlisberger, as well as the Steelers' offense, has mostly sputtered in that time, losing two of three.

Roethlisberger needs to protect the ball above all else in this game, especially as Mathis lurks. Detroit's offense is good enough where its defense will take chances, knowing it can be bailed out. This is a big part of the reason the team is 6-3 despite giving up 24 points a game - just a tad less than the Steelers' 24.2 points a game.

The Lions' run defense has been on fire the last three games, holding their opponents to 157 total rushing yards in that span. The weather would indicate the Steelers would look to get the ground game going, but the staunch Lions defensive front will make that extremely difficult. Roethlisberger will have to throw well in this game for the Steelers to have a chance.

With his old buddy in the secondary, though, that may prove costly.

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