Green Bay Packers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: Prediction, preview, pick to win

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 23, 2017 at 11:54 AM
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GREEN BAY PACKERS (5-5) AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS (8-2)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET, Heinz Field. TV: NBC, Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya (field reporter).

SERIES HISTORY: 34th regular-season meeting. Packers lead series, 18-15. The Steelers have won the past four in the series, including a 37-36 victory in 2009, the previous time the Packers visited Heinz Field. The Steelers and Packers have split the 14 meetings in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers have won the past four in the Steel City. The most recent victory for the Packers in Pittsburgh came in 1970. These two teams have met once in the postseason, the Packers winning 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Pittsburgh doesn't have many defensive weaknesses. But Green Bay's best -- and perhaps only hope -- might be to milk the ball and clock.

That means a heavy dose of Jamaal Williams and taking the ball out of quarterback Brett Hundley's hands, after his turnover-plagued day last week killed Green Bay's offense.

The Steelers had success running the no-huddle offense against the Titans and it helped them reach a season-high 40 points. Expect them to go back to it Sunday night against the Packers, who, like the Titans, have struggled to defend the pass. The Packers are 18th in the NFL against the pass and could be without versatile linebacker Clay Matthews, who is effective as a rusher and in coverage.

The Steelers didn't bother trying to establish the running game against the Titans, and it could be a similar game plan against the Packers, who have struggled to generate a consistent pass rush even when Matthews has been healthy.

The Steelers will try to stop the running game and force Hundley into obvious passing situations. They were successful doing that against the Titans as Marcus Mariota threw four interceptions. The Packers turned the ball over five times against the Ravens in a 23-0 home loss last week. The Steelers will try to force mistakes again by making the Packers one-dimensional on offense.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

--Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell vs. Packers ILBs Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez. Bell leads the NFL in rushing, but his gap has dwindled in recent weeks as he has struggled to find a rhythm. Bell hasn't had a 100-yard game since Oct. 22 against Cincinnati. He was held to 46 yards against the Titans last week. Bell has to get back on track against a Packers defense that has been stingy against the run this season. They are 11th in the NFL thanks in large part to the play of Ryan and Martinez. Martinez leads the Packers with 84 tackles.

--Packers LT David Bakhtiari vs. Steelers OLB T.J. Watt. Pittsburgh has 34 sacks this season and two players have gotten to the quarterback more than Watt. But make no mistake: This game is personal for Watt. The state legend would have loved to play for Green Bay. Instead, Packers general manager Ted Thompson passed on Watt in April, and now the outside linebacker would like a measure of revenge.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Packers RB Jamaal Williams. He has 38 carries for 124 yards in the last two games. With Green Bay's top two running backs -- Aaron Jones and Ty Montgomery -- both sidelined, Williams has to run with his opportunity.

FAST FACTS: The Packers lost 23-0 to Baltimore in Week 11, their first shutout at Lambeau Field since 2006. Green Bay is 1-3 since QB Brett Hundley took over for the injured Aaron Rodgers. ... Hundley has completed 65.7 percent of his passes for 696 yards in his past three games. He has run for a TD in two of the past four. ... WR Davante Adams led Green Bay with eight receptions for 126 yards in Week 11. He has nine TD catches in his past seven road games and has one in five straight games. ... LB Nick Perry has 4.5 sacks in his past four games. In his past three road games, he has four sacks. ... The Steelers are 15-2 in their last 17 regular-season games -- tied with the Patriots for the best record. ... QB Ben Roethlisberger threw four TD passes last week. Since 2007, he has 13 four-TD games, tied for fourth among active QBs. In his only home game vs. Green Bay, he threw for 503 yards and three TDs. ... RB LE'VEON BELL leads NFL with 886 rush yards. Had 103 scrimmage yards (57 rec., 46 rush) in Week 11. Aims for 11th in row at home with 90+ scrimmage yards. Has 5,985 scrimmage yards since 2014, most in NFL. ... WR Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns in Week 11. Brown leads the league in receptions (70) and yards (1,026) -- he has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in a team-record five consecutive seasons. He has 702 career catches, reaching 700 in the fewest games (111) in NFL history. ... DE Cameron Heyward tallied two sacks last week. He has three sacks in his past two home games. ... CB Mike Hilton recorded an interception last week. He is the only cornerback with five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

PREDICTION: Pittsburgh has won five straight, not allowing more than 17 points in each. The Packers were just shut out by Baltimore, which lost to Pittsburgh 26-9 earlier this season. It's easy math.

OUR PICK: Steelers, 31-10.

--Chris Cluff

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