After getting off to a rough start to the 2019 season, our Pittsburgh Steelers are starting to turn their season around. The Steelers have won their last three games to give them a 4-4 record and put themselves right back in the playoff hunt. As good as they have looked the past few weeks, they will face one of their biggest tests of the season on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Rams will travel to Heinz Field Sunday afternoon sitting at 5-3 and looking to stay in the hunt in a very good NFC West division. As both of these teams have a lot at stake, this should be one of the more intriguing games in the league this week. With that in mind let's take a deeper look at this week's opponent, the Los Angeles Rams.
Luckily for the Rams, they are one of few teams in the league that aren't dealing with very many crucial injuries. The two biggest injuries that they have faced recently are too strong safety John Johnson (Shoulder) who was placed on the Injured Reserve list a couple weeks ago and wide receiver Brandin Cooks (Concussion) who was ruled out this week and has been seeing specialists in Pittsburgh. Wide receiver Jojo Natson (Illness) and linebacker Bryce Hager (Shoulder) are listed as questionable this week. Hager was unable to practice on Thursday while Natson's practice participation was not reported online.
Rams passing attack looks to stay hot against improved Steelers secondary
In their third season with offensive guru Sean McVay as their head coach, the Los Angeles Rams have continued to display an impressive passing game. They currently rank 5th in the league in passing offense, averaging 287.2 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Jared Goff is sitting at ninth in the league in passing with 2,367 yards, eleven touchdowns, and seven interceptions.
He has benefited from a huge year out of wide receiver Cooper Kupp who is third in the league in receiving with 58 receptions for 792 yards and five touchdowns. He is joined by an impressive group of weapons in Robert Woods, tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, and Josh Reynolds who will be seeing more targets with Cooks out. They will be facing a much improved Steelers secondary, led by their new weapon in safety
Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is tied for second in the league with four interceptions. Pittsburgh has improved to tenth in the league in passing defense since acquiring Fitzpatrick, allowing 228 passing yards per game with 15 total passing touchdowns while coming away with eleven interceptions.
As good as their passing game has been, the Rams have struggled to get much going on the ground this season. They rank 20th in rushing offense, averaging 97.2 yards per game on the ground. Their leading rusher, Todd Gurley, is 29th in the league in rushing with 355 yards and six touchdowns. Gurley will be going up against a Steelers defense that ranks 16th in the league against the run, allowing 107.5 rushing yards per game and only four total rushing touchdowns so far.
LA defense looks to shut down Pittsburgh's injury-heavy offense
As has been the case the past few seasons, the Los Angeles Rams have one of the most talented defenses in the league. They currently rank 12th in the league in total defense, allowing 338.2 yards per game and 21.8 points per game. Their defense has been at their best against the run, ranking ninth in the league in run defense allowing only 96.9 rushing yards per game and seven total rushing touchdowns this season.
This dangerous front seven is led by arguably the best defensive player in the league in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. He is joined on the defensive line by Sebastian Joseph-Day at nose tackle and Michael Brockers at defensive end. Rookie Greg Gaines will also see some time at nose tackle. Behind them, the linebacker core consists of Cory Littleton and Bryce Hager on the inside with Clay Matthews and Dante Fowler Jr. on the outside. If Hager can't go this week, Troy Reeder will be his replacement.
They will be facing a Steelers run game that has been hit with the injury bug lately as they will be likely down to Jaylen Samuels and Tony Brooks-James as their only healthy running backs, and could be without fullback Roosevelt Nix as well.
While the Rams have been dominant against the run, they have been less impressive against defending the pass. They currently rank 19th in the league in passing defense, allowing 241.4 yards per game and eleven total passing touchdowns so far while coming away with six interceptions so far.
Their secondary is led by newly acquired lock-down corner Jalen Ramsey who is joined at the other corner spot by Troy Hill. Nickell Robey-Coleman will also see time in the corner rotation. Marqui Christian will start at strong safety to replace John Johnson while veteran Eric Weddle will be the starter at free safety.
I'm also interested to see how much playing time rookie Taylor Rapp will see at strong safety as he is listed as the backup and was a player that I was very high on in the draft process.
As I already mentioned, there is a lot on the line for both teams as they both look to stay in the playoff hunt. Los Angeles is the more talented team on paper but they have had a lot of ups and downs this season.
On the other side, Pittsburgh has looked shaky at times as well but they are starting to pull it together at the right time. I believe this game will come down to quarterback play. Goff will make some throws to keep the Rams in this game but I also think the loss of Cooks will be a bigger hit for their offense than expected.
Minkah Fitzpatrick has been having a Pro Bowl-caliber season and I think that will continue this week with him coming away with at least one interception. For the Steelers, they are going to struggle to run the ball with their low running back depth along with all of the shakeup on the offensive line following the injury to Ramon Foster. This will leave the game in the hands of Mason Rudolph and I believe he will step up to the challenge and take advantage of some new faces in the Rams secondary.
With Juju Smith-Schuster likely being covered by Ramsey all game, this will be a big Diontae Johnson and James Washington game. This game will come down to the final minutes and Rudolph will step up and make some big throws late.
I have the Steelers pulling away and winning this one 27-24 to continue their win streak.