Steelers look to keep pace in tightly contested AFC North as Green Bay visits

By The Associated Press


Sunday, 1 p.m. EST, CBS

OPENING LINE: Steelers by 3 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Packers 4-4; Steelers 5-3.

SERIES RECORD: Packers lead 20-16.

LAST MEETING: Packers beat Steelers 27-17 on Oct. 3, 2021, in Green Bay.

LAST WEEK: Packers beat Rams 20-3; Steelers beat Tennessee 20-16.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Packers minus-2; Steelers plus-8.

PACKERS PLAYER TO WATCH: RB Aaron Jones. Now that Jones is finally getting a little healthier after missing three games with a hamstring injury, it’s apparent how much of a difference he makes to Green Bay’s offense. Jones ran for 73 yards to lead a 183-yard rushing attack in the Packers victory over the Rams, which snapped a four-game skid. The Packers had a season high in total yards (391) and time of possession (35:16) in that game.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: WR George Pickens. The talented but mercurial Pickens raised some eyebrows — outside the locker room anyway — with actions on and off the field after the win over Tennessee. The Steelers say they need to get Pickens the ball more after he had just three receptions over the past two games after the 22-year-old struggled to hide his frustration against the Titans. Expect QB Kenny Pickett to look Pickens’ way early in hopes of creating some good vibes and giving Pickens’ confidence a boost.

KEY MATCHUP: Green Bay’s offensive line against Steelers edge rushers T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith. The best pass rush tandem in the league could feast against a Packers front that allowed four sacks to Aaron Donald and company last week. Pittsburgh’s straightest path to victory all season has been to let Watt and Highsmith cook. If Green Bay can’t protect QB Jordan Love, it could be a long afternoon for the first-year starter.

KEY INJURIES: Packers CB Eric Stokes (hamstring) and S Darnell Savage (calf) are on injured reserve and must miss at least two more games. Packers CB Jaire Alexander (shoulder), LT Yosh Nijman (back), RG Jon Runyan (neck) and LB Quay Walker (groin) didn’t practice Wednesday. Walker’s injury kept him from playing against the Rams. … The Steelers are hoping All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (hamstring) will be good to go after he sat out last week’s win over Tennessee. DT Montravius Adams (ankle) did not practice early in the week. DT Cam Heyward (groin) and LB Elandon Roberts (knee) were limited but are expected to play.

SERIES NOTES: These two teams have split their past four meetings, the most recent one being a Packers 27-17 victory at Lambeau Field in 2021. That’s the lone previous head coaching matchup between Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin. … The Steelers have won their past five home matchups with Green Bay. The Packers haven’t beaten the Steelers in Pittsburgh since a 20-12 triumph in 1970. They haven’t faced each other in Pittsburgh since 2017, when the Steelers won 31-28. … The Packers earned their most recent Super Bowl title by beating the Steelers 31-25 in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 6, 2011. Including that Super Bowl matchup, six of the past eight Steelers-Packers meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer.

STATS AND STUFF: Green Bay ended a four-game losing streak with last week’s win over the injury-depleted Rams. Pittsburgh has won three of four to stay in the mix in the highly competitive AFC North. … The Packers had failed to score a first-half touchdown in five straight games before breaking through in the second quarter of the Rams game. … The Packers have allowed 159 points so far, the lowest total they’ve given up through the first eight games of a season since 2010. … Green Bay has given up a total of 130 yards rushing on 57 carries over its past two games, just 2.3 yards per attempt. … Packers QB Jordan Love completed a career-high 76.9% of his passes against the Rams. … The Packers are averaging an NFL-low 4.5 points in the first half of games and a league-high 15.5 points in the second half of games. … Packers TE Luke Musgrave scored his first career touchdown and Packers S Anthony Johnson Jr. had his first career interception in the Rams game. CB Carrington Valentine had three passes defensed and DL Karl Brooks had two in that same game. All four players are rookies. … Jones scored his 63rd career touchdown (45 rushing, 18 receiving) against the Rams to overtake Donald Driver and Paul Hornung for seventh place in Packers history. … Packers WR Christian Watson has just one touchdown this season. He had nine (seven receiving, two rushing) as a rookie last year. … The Steelers are the only team in NFL history to be outgained in each of their first eight games and post a winning record in the process. … Pittsburgh’s running game took a significant step forward against the Titans, getting a season-high 166 yards as Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren were effective behind a line that featured rookie first-round pick Broderick Jones making his first start at right tackle. … This is the final game of a three-game homestand for the Steelers, who will play five of their last eight on the road starting with trips to Cleveland and Cincinnati the next two weeks. … Pittsburgh, like Green Bay, has struggled in the first quarter all season. Last week’s opening-drive touchdown was its first in a game Pickett started since last October. … While Pickett has had issues over the first three quarters, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league in the fourth with a quarterback rating of 108.0 … Pittsburgh’s formula is to keep things tight and win it late. It’s working. The Steelers have won eight straight one-score games going back to last season and have come from behind in the fourth quarter in four of their five wins this season. … Pittsburgh has thrived with extended rest. The Steelers are 17-8 the week after playing on Thursday night since 1970, the best winning percentage in the NFL.

FANTASY TIP: With points hard to come by for two teams that struggle to find the end zone, might be wise to start Steelers kicker Chris Boswell. The veteran is 14 of 15 on field goals this season, the lone miss being a 61-yarder against Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago. Then again, might be wiser to start either of the defenses, particularly Pittsburgh’s, which has created 16 turnovers, which is third in the league behind Jacksonville and New Orleans (18).


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