Thursday, December 20, 2007

Quick Take: Pittsburgh at St. Louis

Week 16 gets underway tonight, with 9-5 Pittsburgh on the road to face 3-11 St. Louis. I'll have my preview for the Dallas-Carolina game tomorrow and Saturday, but this will kick off my previews of the other action around the league.

Pittsburgh at St. Louis

The Steelers have lost their last two games and their hold on the AFC North heading into tonight’s visit to St. Louis.

They’re now tied with Cleveland for first in the division at 9-5 (though they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker), and considering that four of their five losses have come on the road, Pittsburgh’s in quite the precarious situation. As for the Rams, they don’t have anything to play for besides pride and a top-5 draft pick, but could be a spoiler to Pittsburgh’s division title hopes. The Rams have lost four games at home by seven points or less, and were hanging tough with Green Bay for a while until the Packers ran away with it.

Pittsburgh’s defense has struggled in the last two games, and tonight will be a chance to regain their pride, but given that the Rams moved the ball well against the Packers on Sunday, they can't afford to get burned in the air (vs. the Patriots and Jaguars) and on the ground (vs. the Jaguars) like they have lately. As for the offense, considering the fact that the Steelers have had to play in horrible weather multiple times lately, being in the dome might be just what the doctor ordered. Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been as sharp lately, but could be in line for a big night, and so could the NFL's leading rusher, Willie Parker, who's put together back to back 100-yard games and has a total of eight on the season.

The Rams won’t go quietly, but the Steelers are a better team, and should show it. But, if they stumble, they're going to be looking at going into the postseason limping. How much of a chance St. Louis has tonight will depend on which Marc Bulger takes the field - if it's the same one that's struggled most of the season, it could be a long night. But, given that the Steelers haven't been too fearsome with their defensive pressure as of late, Bulger could have plenty of time to throw, and Steven Jackson could have a hole straight through to his third straight 1,000 yard season.

And, if that's the case, then we could be in for quite the battle, and this one could be worth going to your local sports bar for, or at the least, following on-line.

Score: Pittsburgh 27, St. Louis 17

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