The Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers have each fallen short of preseason expectations. Los Angeles (5-3) is starting to get its groove back after a Super Bowl appearance last year but sits just third in the NFC West. Meanwhile, a Week 1 injury to Ben Roethlisberger is the main reason Pittsburgh (4-4) is on the outs of the postseason as well.
Here is a preview for this Week 10 matchup, along with odds and a pick.
By the Numbers
Led by former Coach of the Year Sean McVay, the Rams are still one of the best offensive teams in the NFL. Los Angeles is 10th in total yards with 384.5 per game and eighth with 26.8 average points.
The Rams have excelled in the passing game with Jared Goff (fifth in yards) a lot more than in the running game with Todd Gurley (20th in yards). On defense, they rank in the top half in most categories, including yards allowed (338.3, 12th) and points allowed (21.8, 15th).
Under QB Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled this season. The Steelers have averaged the fifth-fewest yards with 290.8, sixth-fewest passing yards with 202.4, and seventh-fewest rushing yards with 88.4 per game.
Still, they’ve managed to score an average of 22 points per game, 18th in the NFL. They’ve been able to hang around in playoff contention thanks to their defense, which is in the top half of the league in points allowed (21.1, 13th) and total yards allowed (335.5, 11th).
What to Watch
There are three main storylines in this game that will dictate how it plays out. First, the homecoming for Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Donald, the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who went to the University of Pittsburgh, will return to where he played college ball and play in front of fans who cheered for him just a few years ago.
After a slow start to the year, Donald has sacks in three straight games and will look to keep it rolling against the Steelers.
The second will be a matchup between a stud receiver and a shut-down corner. Pittsburgh has one of the best wide receivers in the game in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has 459 yards and three touchdowns this season. But expect Los Angeles to have cornerback Jalen Ramsey shadow Smith-Schuster all game long. Ramsey and the new-look Rams secondary has performed well in their last two games, so this battle will be fun to watch come Sunday.
Lastly, there’s the matter of how Pittsburgh performs in the red zone. After having a lot of success last year, the Steelers are 28th in red-zone touchdown percentage and went just 1-for-4 last week in scoring TDs in the red zone.
The Steelers have a defense that can rush the QB and force turnovers, putting the offense in good field position. They just need to be able to capitalize.
For the Rams, wide receiver Brandin Cooks is out with another concussion. Look for Josh Reynolds to fill in as the slot receiver on Sunday. Linebacker Bryce Hager will also miss the game with a shoulder injury.
For the Steelers, running backs James Conner and Benny Snell are both out again, paving the way for Jaylen Samuels to once again be the every-down back. Starting guard Ramon Foster is also out with a concussion.
Odds and Pick
The Rams are -4 on the road in a game that is expected to be a little lower-scoring. But I like the Rams in a close game. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the secondary to be able to match up against Cooper Kupp and the rest of the Rams weapons.
Furthermore, Los Angeles plays well on the road and has a run-stopper like Donald who can limit how well the Steelers move the ball. Give me the Rams -4, winning by about a touchdown.