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Key Matchups Loom As Lions Prepare To Mix It Up With Steelers

By: Will Burchfield

Eight-year veteran Glover Quin wasn't exactly thrilled when he learned of the Lions' plans to take to the road and practice with the Steelers during training camp.

"I was just like, 'Awwww man, we gotta go to Pittsburgh,'" Quin laughed.

But after two weeks of the same old thing in Allen Park, he's looking forward to a break in the routine.

"It gets you in a different environment. You kind of get to go against another team, other players that you haven't been going against every single day, a different scheme, and it's some good work, obviously." Quin said.

The Lions will practice with the Steelers on Tuesday and Wednesday at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Penn. On Friday night, the two teams will kick off their respective preseason schedules with a game at Heinz Field.

For the Lions, it will be a good indication of their development – and deficiencies – on both sides of the ball.

"We're going against a good team," said Quin. "They're a very explosive offense for us, and a good defense for our offense to go against. Normally the first preseason game certain guys don't really play as much, so to get two good days of work with them, it'll be fun, it'll be good, it'll be very beneficial."

The Steelers finished third in total yardage and fourth in points in 2015. Their passing attack was especially prolific, led by Ben Roethlisberger and the electrifying Antonio Brown. Both Quin and linebacker Tahir Whitehead are eager to line up against them.

"This is my first time practicing against another team in training camp, so going up against a guy like Ben Roethlisberger who's a great competitor, and he's been great for a long time in this league, I'm definitely looking forward to the opportunity to be able to go against him," Whitehead said.

As for Brown, Quin called him "one of the top guys" in the league and is eager to see how the Lions' defense responds to the challenge.

"He's a very explosive guy, very quick, really good after the catch. So getting to go against him this week is going to be good work for us, good work for him, and we're looking forward to it," said Quin.

The Steelers' other big offensive weapon is running back Le'Veon Bell. Whitehead, the Lions' presumptive starter at middle linebacker, figures to have his hands full when the two of them are on the field at the same time.

"He can run the ball, he can catch the ball, so he presents problems from an offensive standpoint," Whitehead said. "So I'm looking forward to that matchup as well, being able to defend him in man-to-man and looking forward to playing against him in the run game."

Coach Jim Caldwell, in typical fashion, said that every positional battle will be interesting. But he allowed that the confrontation between the Lions' young offensive line and the Steelers' vaunted pass rush, which racked up 48 sacks in 2015, will be particularly telling.

"I think that's certainly a key area that we'll be watching, as well as the one-on-one's with the defensive backs and wide-outs and vice versa. I mean all the way across the board, it presents an opportunity for us to be challenged," Caldwell said.

Aside from facing new competition, Whitehead is also looking forward to the change in scenery.

"You gotta be able to adapt, that's what it's all about. You don't play 16 games at home, you got away games, too, so that's the way I'm looking at it. It's just an opportunity to go on the road, take our show on the road," he said.

After battling amongst themselves for the first two weeks of training camp, the Lions will get their first chance to mix it up with someone else in 2016.

"It's kind of a fresh look against some of the best talent in the league, so we're excited about having this opportunity," Caldwell said.   

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