Game Preview: Rams and Steelers set for first meeting in Pittsburgh since 2011

The Rams (5-3) travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers (4-4) in Los Angeles' first regular season game at Heinz Field since 2011.

Both teams are looking to extend win streaks heading into the matchup. L.A. has won two straight, while Pittsburgh earned their third consecutive win last week with a 26-24 victory over the Colts.

To get you ready for the contest, theRams.com compiled a quick preview featuring who to watch, what to watch for on offense and defense for both the Rams and the Steelers and three keys to victory for L.A.

Five players to watch

  • Rams CB Jalen Ramsey: He will likely be matched up with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh's new No. 1 receiver, though Smith-Schuster is also questionable for Sunday's game with a foot injury.
  • Rams LB Clay Matthews: What kind of impact can he make in his first game since Oct. 3?
  • Steelers RB Trey Edmunds: It remains to be seen until Sunday, but Edmunds figures to lead the backfield in carries if last week's game is any indication.
  • Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick: The former Alabama star has played a big role in helping Pittsburgh's defense produce the second-most takeaways in the NFL through the first half of the season.
  • Rams WR Josh Reynolds: Starting in place of the injured Brandin Cooks, it will be interesting to see how Reynolds is used against the Steelers since he can play all three receiver spots in the Rams' primary offensive package.

What to watch for…

On offense for the Rams

What the approach at running back looks like.

Rookie Darrell Henderson Jr. made the most of his opportunities in the three weeks before the bye and has given Rams coaches the confidence to use him more. However, those opportunities also came in games where either Todd Gurley (49ers) or Malcolm Brown (Falcons and Bengals) missed time.

Gurley has been healthy for the last two games, and Brown is set to return from an ankle injury. Combined with the trust established by Henderson, this means Sunday's game will be the first time Rams feel good about using the top three running backs on their unofficial depth chart this season.

The utilization of Reynolds will also be worth watching. In Los Angeles' primary offensive scheme – 11 personnel, or one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers – Reynolds is capable of playing in all three receiver spots.

On offense for the Steelers

Similar to the Rams, it will also be the backfield.

Edmunds paced Pittsburgh's available running backs with 12 carries for 73 yards, both team highs. However, Jaylen Samuels saw more action in the passing game with 12 receptions for 73 yards.

When healthy, Conner handled both duties, so it will be worth watching to see if the Steelers choose to split them again with Conner out this week as well.

On defense for the Rams

The Matthews effect, and in the bigger picture, how it initially impacts the linebacker rotation.

Prior to his freak accident of a broken jaw against the Seahawks, he had produced six sacks in five games for the Rams and was an important part of their pass rush. However, younger linebackers like Ogbonnia Okoronkwo earned the right to continue seeing playing time with how they capitalized on the extra snaps afforded by Matthews' absence.

Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said Thursday that Matthews won't play every snap, but they'll be glad to have him back. At the same time, he said the Rams will continue to rotate linebackers, wanting to make sure the others get some playing time as well.

On defense for the Steelers

Fitzpatrick.

NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger put together a breakdown earlier this week showing the safety's nose for the football since joining the Steelers. It also showed that Fitzpatrick is capable of making plays all over the field.

Three keys to victory

  1. Take good care of the ball: As mentioned before, Pittsburgh has 22 takeaways, trailing only New England's 27 for most in the league.
  2. Establish a run-pass balance: Even though the Rams offense averages the fifth-most passing yards per game at 287, the Steelers defense allows the 10th-fewest at 228. In other words, while Los Angeles will have its chances – it's a difference of 59 yards – it won't be able to rely exclusively on their aerial attack to move the ball against Pittsburgh. An effective run game would also help win the time of possession battle and tire out one of the league's top defenses.
  3. Protect QB Jared Goff: Besides takeaways, the Steelers also have a knack for getting to the quarterback this season – their 29 sacks are fifth-most in the NFL.

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