Five things to know as winless Lions face the Steelers

Rested and ready after a bye week, the Lions continue the quest for their first win of the season on Sunday at Pittsburgh.

The Steelers (5-3) have won four straight and are 7.5 point favorites.

If you rate losses, the Lions (0-8) are coming off their worst of the season – that ugly 44-6 shellacking by the Eagles.

 “We put that game to bed and tried to put most of that to bed before the bye as to what we need to clean up, what we really need to work on,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “Here we go and now all of the focus has been on this game and where we’re at. These guys are coming off a bye. I thought they came out and practiced well, practiced hard, but there again, we’ve got another game and you’ve got to go out and execute.”

Here are five things to watch.

1. The Lions claimed wide receiver Josh Reynolds off waivers this week. It was definitely a position of weakness so it seems like a smart move. It’s not a certainty he will play at Pittsburgh since he is still learning the offense. “Look, we’re just trying to get him up to speed as fast as possible. Anything is on the table right now, and I think he’s a pretty sharp guy,’’ Campbell said. “It will just be how much we feel and he feels comfortable as to whether we do it or not.” He will wear No. 8.

2. Taylor Decker could return after being out after finger surgery. He’s officially listed as questionable. Campbell said on Friday that there’s more than a 50-percent chance he’ll go. It’s uncertain if he could play the entire game but Campbell said he’s in very good shape and if anyone could do it, it would be him. Decker’s leadership has been missed. “It’s all encompassing because not only is he a talented player, he’s big, he’s long, he’s got really good feet, but he is, he’s smart. He’s very smart. He’s a student of the game, he gets it, he’s done it for a while,’’ Campbell said. “And so, just that level of experience too with the talent sure does – it helps.” If he plays, Decker  will start at left tackle and rookie Penei Sewell will move back to right tackle where he started the season. 

3. One of the Lions’ offense’s many issues has been in the red zone. They’re ranked 30th in the NFL with 50-percent effectiveness. Campbell said they’ve been working on fundamentals and trick plays. “You certainly need to do what you feel like you do well or can do well with your personnel. But at the same time, there again, you start – you go too far that way and then you forget about this rush or the mismatch in the run game one way or another,’’ Campbell said. “That will bite you. I know I’m speaking out of both sides of my mouth, but it is both. You’ve got to be aware of both.”

4. Kicker Austin Seibert (right hip) is officially out for the game as is running back Jamaal Williams. Injuries have been an issue all season long for this bunch.

5. Big Ben Roethlisberger may be 39 years old but he’s been playing well so the defense has to be prepared. “He gets rid of the ball quickly and he can still make those downfield throws, those go throws, up and down, back shoulder, and when he’s in the red zone, he’s still as dangerous as he’s ever been,’’ Campbell said. “It’s even like what happened to us in preseason, these back shoulder throws to the tight end. Look, he can still do that stuff. He’s just not quite as mobile as he once was in the pocket. But look, it’s problematic and I still think that you’ve got to find a way to make these guys as one dimensional as possible. I think if you can do that and close the pocket in a little bit, at least you help your odds is the best way to say that.’’
PREDICTION: Steelers 42, Lions 27.

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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