Meet The Opponent: Los Angeles Rams
Who: Los Angeles Rams (5-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (4-4)
When: Sunday, November 10 at 4:25 PM ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Broadcast Team: Chris Myers (play-by-play), Daryl Johnston (analyst), Laura Okmin (reporter)
Spread: Rams (-3.5)
One word to describe the Los Angeles Rams? Streaky. After beginning 2019 with a hot 3-0 start, the Rams proceeded to drop their next three games before riding their current two game win streak.
Yet Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin gave nothing but praise for the Rams as they enter Pittsburgh for the first time since 2011. After all, Los Angeles still sits at a 5-3 record and is less than a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance.
"Collectively, they have a really formidable bunch," Tomlin said. "You've better stay on schedule, better be able to do that, if you're behind the chains you're swimming in shark infested waters, with this rush and the people I just mentioned that comprise the back-end."
That really formidable bunch includes the likes of superstars Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley and now Jalen Ramsey following his acquisition near the trade deadline. Trickle in their top-tier receiving trio (although Brandin Cooks has been ruled out) along with several other superb supporting cast-members, and the Rams have a gorgeous roster that provides eye candy on the stat-sheet and in the film room.
With both the Steelers and Rams trying to keep pace in their respective divisions, Sunday's meeting will provide another tough battle for Pittsburgh to persevere through, despite a slew of names presenting themselves on the injury report this week.
To talk about the upcoming Rams/Steelers match-up, I was able to speak with Skyler Burkardt from DowntownRams.com. For more updates on the Los Angeles Rams, follow Skyler on Twitter at @BurkardtSkyler.
Donnie Druin: I don't think any discussion about the Los Angeles Rams is appropriate without starting with defensive linemen Aaron Donald. In my opinion, he's one of the most dominant defensive linemen in league history. We obviously know he's talented, but what do you think sets him aside from the rest of the pack?
Skyler Burkardt: Every great athlete has one thing in common and that is work ethic. Donald works every day on his technique and strength to be better than everyone else and perfect his craft. What also sets him aside from the rest is the amount of research he does on his opponents and other pass rushers to add to his arsenal. We saw these last few off-seasons where he has worked out with some great pass-rushers in the likes of Demarcus Ware to help improve his game.
DD: Defensive back Jalen Ramsey is now a member of the Rams defense, which seems crazy to think. It appears Los Angeles is all-in for winning, and considering the years before Sean McVay, that's pretty exciting for fans. When the Rams dealt Aqib Talib and a 5th round pick to Miami, everybody's ears sort-of perked up around the league, like we knew there was something big coming. Walk me through the trade deadline ups and downs, and just speak on what you saw from Ramsey in his debut.
SB: During the trade deadline there were plenty of rumors involving the Rams making a big splash, but I don’t think many knew how big it was going to be. Once we saw Peters get moved, most Rams fans were relieved to see one of L.A.'s most inconsistent players move on. Yet once Talib was sent away, most were ready to write off the Rams and panic began to set in. Others thought there was a big move to come. Very few thought it would be Jalen Ramsey though... Once Ramsey put on a Rams jersey and played that first game, I saw the best damn corner to currently play the game. I’m excited to see what he brings for the rest of his career with the Rams. Definitely worth the "King’s ransom" that we gave up to bring him home.
DD: Coming off a bye-week, the Rams will have had an extra week to prepare for a Steelers team that is currently riding a three-game winning streak. A lot of criticism has came at the expense of quarterback Jared Goff, with many calling him a simple product of McVay's play-calling. I can't lie, I think Goff is a good enough quarterback to play in the current system that he's in, although I do enjoy the memes. Goff plays in an offense where he has an All-Pro running back, the best trio of receivers in the league and an offensive line that has only allowed 12 sacks through eight games. Do you think Goff solely benefits from where he plays, or do you think he's talented enough to play anywhere and be successful?
SB: I believe he’s successful to play anywhere with the arm talent that he has, (well maybe not the Dolphins) but that’s a story for another day! As we have seen from Goff, he can make those difficult throws over/between defenders with the right velocity and touch. Not many quarterbacks can do that in this league and we’ve seen him do it every week. He may miss some easy throws, but we’ve seen even the greatest of quarterbacks miss some easy ones. I think if the Rams can get the running game back to what it was last year, we will see a more consistent Jared Goff.
DD: Shifting more towards McVay, he's often brought up as one of the brightest offensive minded coaches in the league. He's young. He's energetic. He's charismatic. Pretty much anything you could say about Matthew McConaughey can be subbed for McVay. He's certainly turned the Rams around since his tenure began in 2017, yet he has been the subject of heavy finger-pointing during big games, and you've been one of those people. What do you think McVay does to set himself apart from other coaches, and what area do Rams fans believe he could improve in?
SB: I think what sets McVay apart from other coaches is his willingness to be aggressive in more situations than most. We see many coaches that don’t take a chance in a game to regain momentum or get their team back in the game, whereas McVay is willing to roll the dice. Rams fans believe his biggest area to improve on is his stubbornness with his game-planning. Most coaches will make adjustments and completely change their game plan if needed to win the game. Looking back at the Super Bowl and some of this season, we see a coach (McVay) that continues to pass more often than most and stray away from his teams biggest asset, which is the running game.
DD: Moving on to the upcoming Rams/Steelers match-up, Steelers fans know the big names on both sides of the ball (Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, etc). However, we know that often times the contributions of a less-talked about player can be the difference between a win and a loss. Give me two players (one for each side of the ball) that Steelers fans may not know, but could very well be the determining factor in this game.
SB: On offense I’m gonna go with receiver Josh Reynolds since he’s starting in place of an injured Brandin Cooks. Steelers fans may see a tad of what he can do when presented with some playing time. In this game I expect him to play a big part in the offense and help keep drives alive on 3rd down. On the defensive side of the ball, I will point towards the direction of cornerback Troy Hill. The Rams have bestowed a ton of faith into this kid, as we saw L.A. part ways with both of their starting cornerbacks in Marcus Peters/Aqib Talib. Hill will help set the tone for this secondary as Mason Rudolph will look to test his side throughout the game.
DD: Let's say you're in charge of putting together a game-plan for the Rams/Steelers game. What would you do offensively/defensively to give Los Angeles the best chance of winning in Pittsburgh?
SB: On offense, I would establish the run early and some play-action going with my tight-ends. Time and time again we've seen the Rams struggle to consistently run the ball while dropping back to pass every down, which leads to dead drives more times than not. Establishing the run will make this easier on everybody involved with the offense while also helping open up their lethal play-action. Defensively, I would look to blitz often to keep Rudolph uncomfortable in the pocket, especially with James Conner’s status up in the air for this game.
DD: Lastly, give me your game prediction.
SB: I see the Rams walking out of Pittsburgh with a 28-24 victory.