Lions vs Steelers: Week 2 NFL preseason preview

After two exhibition contests, the Pittsburgh Steelers are returning home to square off against the Detroit Lions on Saturday. Continue reading for our full preview of this showdown, including matchups to watch, key storylines and a predicted winner.

See where the Lions and Steelers rank in our latest NFL power rankings

Lions vs Steelers: What you need to know

Mason Rudolph vs Dwayne Haskins

Lions vs Steelers: Week 2 NFL preseason preview
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Haskins’ stellar preseason performance against the Philadelphia Eagles cemented his candidacy as the potential backup quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh took a flier on him, and the 2019 first-round pick has looked sharp and much more put together than he did as a flop in Washington.

Meanwhile, it’s not that Rudolph has been particularly awful, but he’s just not that spectacular. Having him as the successor to Big Ben doesn’t seem like a very appealing option.

  • Freeing Mason: Even if Rudolph acquits himself well the rest of the preseason, it benefits the Steelers, because they may be able to get a draft pick for him in a trade. Then again, Rudolph may simply request his release if he’s demoted below Haskins and choose his new team in free agency.
  • Hoping for Haskins: Really, Haskins has all the physical tools to be the next Steelers QB after Roethlisberger. It’s a matter of him staying consistent with his fundamentals and mechanics, which he has for the most part since arriving in Pittsburgh.

Advantage: Dwayne Haskins

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Dan Campbell vs Mike Tomlin

Lions vs Steelers: Week 2 NFL preseason preview
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit fans have to be loving their new head coach, Dan Campbell. The former NFL tight end came to the Lions after serving on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans. He knows what a winning organization looks like. And damn, can he win the heck out of a press conference.

But whether or not Campbell is successful is all speculation. The Steelers are a model of stability in key leadership positions, as Mike Tomlin gears up for his 15th season as Pittsburgh’s boss.

  • Dazzling Dan: If there were ever an ideal test for the hard-nosed mentality Campbell is projecting to the public and trying to get his players to buy into, it’d be going to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers. How prepared the Lions are will provide some idea of how well Campbell is building the foundation of his program in Year 1.
  • Eyes on the Prize: Tomlin’s trademark game face is among the most iconic coaching glares in major sports history. He commands the respect of his players, but he’s advanced past the Divisional Round only once since 2010. Tomlin needs to change that trend in short order.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

Where does Pittsburgh’s D rank among the league’s best? Find out in our NFL defense rankings

Lions offensive line vs Steelers front seven

Lions vs Steelers
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell (58) walks off the field after warm-ups Friday, Aug, 13, 2021 before the preseason game against Buffalo Bills at Ford Field in Detroit.

Superstar edge defender T.J. Watt isn’t likely to play much, if at all, but Pittsburgh just traded for veteran linebacker Joe Schobert in a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Schobert is likely to get his feet wet, and the Steelers still have plenty of depth up front on defense to make life tough on the visitors.

Detroit’s offensive line is viewed as a strength of its team, and the new regime bolstered that unit with the selection of Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell in the first round of this year’s draft.

  • Solving Sewell: Transitioning from left to right tackle has involved some growing pains, as Sewell struggled versus the Buffalo Bills in his preseason debut. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles some of the stunts the Steelers are liable to throw at him.
  • Joe Knows: Schobert is familiar enough with Pittsburgh, having previously played for the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North. Now, he’s joining one of the NFL’s premier defensive units, but he’ll need to get up to speed very quickly.

Advantage: Pittsburgh Steelers

The bottom line: The Lions are rebuilding right now, and the final score should reflect that. Pittsburgh has superior quarterback depth, too, which should help the Steelers get a “W” in front of their home fans.

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