The Green Bay Packers hope to build on last week’s win over the Rams when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Packers enter the game with a 3-5 record while the Steelers are 5-3. The Packers are coming off a 20-3 victory over the Rams while the Steelers edged the Tennessee Titans 20-16 in Pittsburgh. Here are six key Packers matchups that determine who will win Sunday’s game.
The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 19-16-0 in the regular season. These two clubs first met in 1933 when the Steelers were known as the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Packers won the last meeting between these teams in 2021 but haven’t won a game in Pittsburgh since 1970. The Packers have won the only postseason meeting between these teams when they beat the Steelers 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.
Here is a look at six key matchups for the Packers that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh:
Packers Key Matchups: Number One, Protect Jordan Love
The strength of the Steelers defense is their pass rush. They presently rank 8th in the NFL with 26 quarterback sacks and have several players who can get to the quarterback.
The most dangerous pass rusher is T.J. Watt who has 9.5 sacks which ties him for second in the league. Watt typically lines up on the left side and rushes off the edge which means Zach Tom will have the primary task of slowing down the former Wisconsin star. Expect the Steelers to move Watt around the formation to create mismatches whenever possible.
Besides Watt, the Packers offensive line will have their hands full trying to block Alex Highsmith who has 4.5 sacks and Markus Golden who has three.
Both Yosh Nijman and Jon Runyan did not practice on Wednesday but were limited on Thursday. Their status for Sunday remains a question. If they can’t go, Rasheed Walker and Sean Rhyan are likely to replace them.
Key Matchups: Number Two, Get Aaron Jones His Touches
Aaron Jones has been healthy enough to be a major factor in just two games this season and it’s no surprise the Packers have won them both.
Jones is a dynamic runner who can pick up extra yards when the initial hole is not there. His cutting ability and speed make him a threat to break a long gain both as a runner and as a receiver.
The Packers are 17-1 in games when Aaron Jones has 20 or more touches since LaFleur took over as head coach in 2019. Getting the ball in Jones’ hands and sticking to the run will be important for the Green Bay offense.
The Steelers are allowing 133.1 yards per game on the ground which ranks them 29th in the NFL.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Three, Get Pressure on Kenny Pickett
The Steelers have allowed 19 sacks in eight games thus far this season while the Packers defense ranks 21st in the league with 20 sacks.
The Packers will need strong performances from Rashan Gary, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark to create pressure on Kenny Pickett. The second-year man out of Pitt has done a good job of limiting interceptions, but he is less effective under pressure than he is when he has time to throw.
Gary should no longer be on a play count which should make him more dangerous as a pass rusher. The Packers would also like to get more pass rush production from first round pick Lukas Van Ness and third edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare.
Key Matchups: Number Four, Take an Early Lead
The Packers and the Steelers are both struggling early in games. In fact, both teams are playing poorly in the first half before attempting to rally late in games.
Thus far this season, the Steelers have been outscored 98-55 in the first half of games while the Packers have been outscored 91-36.
Getting off to a fast start and holding a lead before we get to the fourth quarter is important for the Packers. Scoring early for the second game in a row would help build the offense’s confidence.
The Steelers offense has a habit of waking up in the fourth quarter and pulling out games late. The Packers need to take a lead into the fourth quarter and force the Steelers to play catch up.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Five, Win the Turnover Battle
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense is not statistically good, but they make a lot of big plays. The Steelers are ranked 31st in total yards allowed per game, 25th in passing yards allowed and 29th in rushing yards allowed. But they are 13th in points allowed because they are a plus-eight in turnover ratio which puts them second in the league.
Both offenses struggle to score a lot of points so getting creating a short field and getting an early lead are two factors that can help determine the outcome of the game.
The Packers are minus-two in turnover differential this season but need to at least break even in this game to win it.
Packers Key Matchups: Number Six, Keep the Steelers Offense One-Dimensional
The Pittsburgh running game has struggled this season and is presently 25th in the league and averaging 90.5-yards per game.
The Packers run defense has been better in recent weeks and that needs to continue Sunday if the Packers hope to win. Young linemen like T.J. Slaton, Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks, and Colby Wooden have done a good job getting penetration and disrupting running plays.
The Steelers top two backs are Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren. Harris gets more of the carries, but Warren has a better average per carry.
The Packers need to slow down the Pittsburgh rushing attack and make the Steelers offense one-dimensional. The defense must force Pickett to beat them with his arm.
The Packers haven’t won back-to-back games yet this season and haven’t won in Pittsburgh since 1970 (0-5 since then).
These two teams are mirror images of each other in many ways with two statistically identical quarterbacks and inconsistent offenses.
The big difference between the teams is mistakes. The Steelers force opponents to make them while the Packers make too many of them themselves. Turnovers and penalties will be important in this game.
The Packers will keep it close but won’t quite pull it off, but the team’s improvement will continue.
Steelers 17, Packers 13
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