The highly-anticipated and climactic matchup between St. Louis and Pittsburgh actually starts Monday in Pittsburgh as the Pirates make one last push to wrest away the division title from the rival Cardinals. However, on Sunday, we get to kick off the battle between the two sports fan-bases with (although not nary a shred of hatred) a pretty decent battle between two 1-1 clubs.
The Steelers are coming off of a dominant offensive performance over the San Francisco 49ers, while St. Louis returns home after an embarrassing loss to the Washington Redskins.
Both teams need to place themselves and keep pace in their respective divisions, so a win is imperative not to fall to 1-2 so early.
Here are five of the many key matchups to focus on during the Rams game.
Key Matchup #1
LT Kelvin Beachum vs RDE Robert Quinn
Actually, let's just call this Mike Munchak's O-line vs Greg Robinson's five first-rounders. Quinn, Michael Brockers, Aarron David, Chris Long and Nick Fairley, who doesn't start. On defense, the Rams typically like to rotate eight men on the line because of their wealth of talent and to keep them fresh.
Beachum is very underrated at the left tackle position and he has done a good job since securing the position of protecting Roethlisberger. However, Quinn is, by far, one of the best pass rushers in the entire league. The two-time Pro Bowl selection has accumulated 47 sacks over four years in the league. 42 of them came in the last three years.
To neutralize Quinn and the rest of the St. Louis defensive front, Beachum and his linemates need to stay in the outside zone and refrain from firing off of it. They can't get overextended or St. Louis will make them pay.
The likely match-up combinations, besides Quinn vs Beachum, are Ramon Foster vs Brockers, David DeCastro vs Donald, Cody Wallace vs Donald or Brockers and Marcus Gilbert vs Chris Long.
All of these men can kill an offense's momentum. But so far this year, the Rams have allowed 10 runs of over 10 yards, four runs of over 20 yards and two runs of over 30-plus yards. Hopefully the Steelers line can give the returning Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams room to gallop to freedom.
The pride of their defense has not lived up to their solid reputation so far, ranking 30th against the run in the 2015 season. But it's only been two games and cream rises to the top. With their penchant for stopping running backs in their tracks and getting to the passer, The d-linemen of the Rams are not to be taken lightly and remain a formidable foe.
Key Matchup #2
QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown vs CB Janoris Jenkins and SS T.J. McDonald
Antonio Brown is playing at the highest of levels. Statistically, he is the best receiver in the NFL. Brown is the epitome of the Dan Patrick catchphrase, "You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him." With 18 highlight reel-quality catches, 328 receiving yards and two touchdowns receptions, Brown is on pace to break all-time marks.
Big Ben completed 21 of his 27 passes for 369 yards against the Niners. Roethlisberger has tallied four touchdown passes and three two-point conversions on the young season. He seems to be firing-at-will as he leads the #1 ranked offense in the entire NFL.
Tasked with stopping this dynamic duo will be Jenkins, McDonald and friends.
Jenkins is a big ball hawk who has returned two picks for scores already. But opposing quarterbacks have put up a quarterback rating of over 115.3 when targeting him. That ranks him 75th out of 81 corners that qualified for rank. His risky style and penchant for freezing on double moves and getting fooled on pump fakes will make for an interesting day.
The Rams loss of their top corner, E.J. Gaines, has been a paramount void and the load has to be carried by Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson, a more instinctual corner that some say may be the better of the two.
The strong safety, McDonald, combines intelligence, physicality and fundamentals to quarterback the secondary. Along with the speedy Rodney McLeod, McDonald and company will give up the short passes to defend the deep ball, which Roethlisberger specializes in as of late.
Key Matchup #3
RDE Cameron Heyward and ROLB Jarvis Jones vs LT Greg Robinson
This is a young and inexperienced offensive line that includes two rookies and a second-year, second-overall pick that has yet to live up to the high expectations assigned to him.
Robinson is the aforementioned sophomore assigned to the blind side of QB Nick Foles. Slimmed down from 339 lbs to 319 lbs, the 6'5" mammoth has shown improvement from his rookie year and is now the veteran-presence on the line. The dominant run-blocker, who has shown room for improvement in the pass blocking realm, has already given up a sack this year on an inside stunt by an outside linebacker.
Enter Jarvis Jones and Cam Heyward. With the improving pass rush of the Steelers getting penetration, it could possibly be a long day for Robinson and Foles, if the big man can't get his heavy hands on the right side of the Pittsburgh defensive line
Key Matchup #4
Steelers Front Seven vs RB Todd Gurley
The first-round draft pick of the Rams has not played in nearly a year. But when you select an injured player so early, there's got to be something very special about him. Gurley seems to be that kind of player.
The scouting report of the Georgia running back coming out of college shows him as an explosive runner with power blended in. Gurley has the ability to shed arm tackles, sink and explode into tacklers or simply sidestep them altogether.
Although the injury report has not rendered a decisive answer on Gurley, indications have him playing on Sunday. If he shows no signs of rust, Todd is the kind of player that can break a game wide open.
If he can't go, look for Tre Mason or Benjamin Cunningham to get his reps.
With Ryan Shazier a definite scratch for the game, Lawrence Timmons and Vince Williams will likely be the two main defenders that need to account for Gurley. However, the whole D will be aware of his presence on the field. The 2015 version of the Steelers run defense has shown great promise so far, ranking 12th in the league in allowing only an average of 95 yards rushing per game.
Key Matchup #5
The Steeler Secondary vs QB Nick Foles and WRs Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin
It is absolutely amazing what happens when the Steelers' Defensive Front Seven gets good penetration and applies relentless pressure to the quarterback. In turn, it relieves tension on the defensive backfield and helps to not expose their coverage flaws.
The Steelers did just that against the 49ers. The philosophy in recent years has been to draft high and establish dominance up front. With (the recently retired) Jason Worilds, Cam Heyward, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree and (to some extent) Jarvis Jones...the unit is becoming a strength.
That strength became more apparent, as the Steelers were able to turn the heat up against the 49ers and the corners and safeties benefited from it. However, the weak secondary still showed some deficiencies. They surrendered 335 passing yards, including a 75-yard touchdown strike from Colin Kaepernick to Torrey Smith.
Brandon Boykin, Antwon Blake, Ross Cockrell and William Gay need to avoid coverage lapses to prevent a revival of "The Greatest Show on Turf".
Foles is a big and accurate thrower. He does not throw interceptions often and has the touch to deliver a deep ball. The leader of the 23rd-ranked passing offense has two touchdowns on the season, but against the Pittsburgh pass defense, anybody and everybody has a chance.
The team's top-two receivers are TE Jared Cook (132 yds) and RB Benjamin Cunningham (104 yds). This duo will be relied upon, but Foles willl be tempted to test the Steelers suspect secondary by going deep.
Quick is the best receiver of the bunch, but has not caught a pass this year and is being brought along slowly due to a lingering shoulder injury. He should be active in this game though.
Bailey and Kendricks each are averaging around 29-yards receiving per game, but too will get opportunities and have the talent and pedigree to shine.
Last year's receiving-yards leader, Kenny Britt has restaurant-quality talent but his greasy spoon character has hindered him from breaking out. Britt has only 81 yards on the year and is the team leader in yards among wide receivers.
Anything can happen when Austin is on the field and he needs to be accounted for at all times. He hasn't done much so far this year, but he's a spark that can ignite at any time. He's just the kind of player that can burn the Steelers. Look for coach Jeff Fisher to get Austin involved in the game.
RB Le'Veon Bell vs Rust and LB Alec Ogletree
RB Deangelo Williams vs Decreased Playing Time
LOLB Bud Dupree vs RT Rob Havenstein
ST Shamarko Thomas vs KR Tavon Austin
WR Darius Heyward-Bey vs CB Trumaine Johnson
ILB Lawrence Timmons and DB assistance vs TE Jared Cook
TE Heath Miller vs MLB James Laurinitis