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Week 3 Preview: Steelers at Rams

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The Sports Xchange

Pittsburgh Steelers (1-1) at St. Louis Rams (1-1)

Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Edwards Jones Dome, St. Louis – TV: CBS

*TV announcers: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Jamie Erdahl

*Keys to the game: The Steelers welcome 2014 rushing leader Le’Veon Bell back to an offense that dismantled a 49ers defense that had overwhelmed Adrian Peterson and the Vikings just six days prior. The Rams have a deep and talented defensive line, and look for Bell to make an immediate impact with his ability to be a pass rush-killer as a receiver out of the backfield. The Steelers want to be able to set up play-action to buy QB Ben Roethlisberger the time to test the Rams’ young secondary over the top. WR Antonio Brown has averaged 8.7 receptions for 116.5 yards to go with 10 touchdowns over his past 13 games, but Big Ben still spreads the ball around to TE Heath Miller and WR Markus Wheaton when defenses overplay Brown.

The Rams would be wise to make a more concerted effort to establish the ground game early and own time of possession. They lack the firepower ask QB Nick Foles to get into a shootout with Roethlisberger, but can keep the Steelers’ young defense guessing by mixing in a few creative plays to get the ball in the hands of WR Tavon Austin. Pittsburgh is still vulnerable defensively despite last week’s impressive showing against the 49ers. With a shaky offensive line likely to face an array of blitzes, TE Jared Cook should factor heavy into the game plan.

*Matchup to watch – Steelers RBs Bell & DeAngelo Williams vs. Rams run defense: Williams leads the AFC in rushing through two weeks and his production could encourage the coaching staff to give him a few more carries to spell Bell in his return. The Rams are coming off a rough showing against another duo in the Redskins’ Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, who combined for 182 yards aided by three big gainers.

*Player spotlight – Steelers OLB Bud Dupree: In an overhauled defense with plenty of inexperienced youth, the first-round pick is paying early dividends with a pair of sacks through two games.

*Fast facts: Brown extended his NFL record of catching at least five passes for 50 yards in 34 consecutive games, 15 more than any other player. … Through two games, opposing quarterbacks have completed a combined 55 of 68 passes (80.9 percent) against the Rams.

WHO WILL WIN AND WHY

The Steelers aren’t as discombobulated as their opening loss at New England or as world-killing as their beat-down of San Francisco while the Rams aren’t as ferocious as their victory over Seattle or as mediocre as their loss at Washington. Pittsburgh uses its versatile offensive firepower to abuse St. Louis’ leaky secondary.

*Our pick: Steelers 30-26


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