The Los Angeles Rams face the 3-2 Pittsburgh Steelers, who somehow have found a way to claw out of a blowout loss against the 49ers to kick off the season. While the first taste of the team made some lose faith instantly, the season did go on and now the Steelers have a better winning percentage than the 3-3 Rams. However, the Rams can fix that this Sunday.
While some would argue that any of the 25-30 players who will see the field on Sunday could make the key play to win the game for the Rams, one player stands to be the difference above all others: Puka Nacua. The new Rams star helped keep the offense afloat as they waited for Cooper Kupp to return. Now, with the wide receiver in line to play in his third game of the season, it still places a lot of stress on Nacua’s shoulders. Here’s why.
The Rams are decimated at running back. Kyren Williams popped up as a seemingly great franchise back. However, now with a second injury to Williams’ right ankle, the backfield will be forced to rebuild on the fly. Williams will be back eventually, but until then, nothing is guaranteed on the ground.
As such, Cooper Kupp will no doubt take on much of the offensive production. However, two key points will be working against him. First, the wide receiver will have the attention of the entire defense. Second, Kupp might be less than 100% as he works through a ding he appeared to have suffered in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals. He wasn’t listed on the injury report this week, but even if he was able to practice at full speed, his ankle will be something to monitor.
That said, Puka Nacua will have less attention and as he appears to be in better health than Kupp and the backfield, it will fall to him to elevate the Rams past the Steelers. The good news is that he might not need to go exactly nuclear to give the Rams a winning point total. The Steelers have the 30th-ranked offense and average 15.8 points per game, per ESPN analytics.
As such, Nacua simply needs to score a touchdown and move the team into position for a field goal. If Kupp can get the other touchdown, that would be enough points to win. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the team should work hard to score two touchdowns and a field goal and take the second half off, but it would go a long way towards defeating their first team actively over .500 this season.
This season, Nacua has earned at least 115 yards in three of the six games and at least 70 yards in all but one game. If he doesn’t turn in a similar performance this week, it might be asking just a little too much from a Cooper Kupp still easing his way back into his peak form and a backfield that’s unrecognizable compared to Week 1.