Headed into their bye week, the Steelers were able to pick up a big division win over the Ravens. Even with that win, fans are still understandably calling for Matt Canada’s job and headed on the road this weekend, Canada’s offense will have to keep pace with a Rams offense that ranks in the top half of the league for scoring. With Pittsburgh’s tendency for slow starts this year, I’ll explain why I think the “Fire Canada” talk will be extra loud by halftime of this matchup.
After dropping their first two, the LA Rams secured their first home win of their season last weekend over the Arizona Cardinals. Matt Stafford and the Rams' offense came out sluggish in the first half, managing just six total points. The offensive momentum would flip at halftime, though, with Stafford and Cooper Kupp connecting more often, resulting in a 20-point second half and a (10.25) offensive EPA.
For the most part this season, LA has relied on Stafford’s arm to carry the offense, but in their win over Arizona, running back Kyren Williams had a big day with 158 rushing yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Rams, Williams is expected to miss time with an ankle injury, which means for the time being, it is likely up to rookie Zach Evans to take over the Rams running back room that is 17th in average yards per game and 14th in yards per carry.
LA already comes into this matchup ranked 5th in the league in pass-play percentage, so even if he needed to drop back more, Stafford could handle it. Besides, a pass-heavy approach against the Steelers' defense has worked before since they allow an average of 245.6 passing yards per game and 6.7 yards per pass. In their win over the Ravens prior to the bye week, Pittsburgh got bailed out a few times thanks to the Ravens' wide receiver’s inability to catch the ball.
Those drops and the Steelers' clutch defensive plays were crucial for the win since their offense put up a (-5.08) EPA for the game, the fourth time in five games they’ve finished in the negative. Much like the Rams, the Steelers will also be missing a key offensive player due to injury this weekend, as tight-end Pat Freiermuth is expected to miss his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
Los Angeles is currently favored by (-3) points for the game, but for my play, I ’ll be taking their first-half spread of (-2.5) at (-110). Over their last three games, the LA Rams are averaging 13.3 points per game in the first half, which is the 12th most in the league. In that same three-game span, the Steelers offense is averaging 5.3 points per game, which is tied for the 2nd lowest average.
Slow starts have become customary for the Steelers offense, and I have a hard time believing they magically found a sense of identity over the bye week. Pittsburgh is ranked 28th and 27th, respectively, in rushing yards and passing yards per game, which has them averaging just 4.5 yards per play. Aside from their lack of explosiveness, Kenny Pickett has the 5th lowest completion percentage in the league amongst active quarterbacks.
Between the lack of run game and inconsistent passing game, I don’t see the Steelers being able to keep pace with a Rams offense that has the 4th most plays of 20 yards or more this season. That explosiveness could cause a lot of trouble for the Steelers' defense since they rank 23rd in explosive play rate out of man coverage and play man coverage at a top ten rate, according to PFF.
Los Angeles Rams 1H (-2.5)(-110)