into a groove offensively, thanks in large part to their offensive line.This is what we expect a | Forum

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123 Jan 12 '17
BORDEAUX, France -- Germany coach Joachim Loew reckons Italy will try to catch his team out with an unexpected lineup when the two sides meet in their European Championship quarterfinal on Saturday.Italy is sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who is laboring with a thigh injury, while his natural replacement Thiago Motta is suspended for the game in Bordeaux.Fellow midfielder Antonio Candreva is injured, and Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were all ruled out before the tournament, giving Italy coach Antonio Conte a major problem to solve.And Loew is bracing for the possible answer.We have to assume that the Italians will want to surprise us, that theyll do something with the starting formation we hadnt expected, the Germany coach said Friday.De Rossi is a very good player; he was injured. Of course its important for Italy that he plays, but Italy have several good midfielders. Italy always finds a good solution.Loew has a full squad of 23 players to choose from as he bids to secure Germanys first ever win over Italy at a major tournament.And he is not taking anything for granted, despite the Azzurris injury problems as they prepare to face Loews world champions.The Italians are definitely at the same level, Loew said.Loews side was knocked out in the semifinal stage by Italy four years ago. He was assistant coach when Italy knocked Germany out of its home World Cup at the same stage in 2006. Of eight competitive meetings between the sides, Germany has won none.Midfielder Mesut Ozil indicated that the players were tired of hearing about the past results.There was always the hype that we always failed against Italy in the big tournaments. But as a player youre focused on the here and now. We want to show tomorrow that it can be different, that we can live with the Italians, said Ozil, who pointed to Germanys 4-1 win over Italy in a friendly on March 19 in Munich.We showed that we can beat Italy. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves, to play our game. We have the potential to beat any team, Ozil said. PITTSBURGH -- Steelers running back LeVeon Bell doesnt feel his offensive line receives the credit it deserves.The headlines are usually reserved for Bell, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the three stars who spearhead the Steelers dangerous offense. Bell believes the line is behind the Steelers recent offensive resurgence and helped snap a four-game losing streak. Pittsburgh has consecutive road victories against Cleveland and Indianapolis.Theyre playing superb, Bell said. Those guys give me a lot of room and space to make things happen and they allow me to get to the second level pretty much untouched. They deserve all the credit.The Steelers (6-5) host the Giants on Sunday. The Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are tied atop the AFC North and have a head-to-head Christmas Day matchup in Pittsburgh. The Steelers feel their offensive line will be critical to their success.We need to just stay consistent and keep doing our job, center Maurkice Pouncey said.One of the top priorities is keeping Roethlisberger upright. The line has allowed one sack in the last three games and 14 this season, tied for the second fewest in the league among quarterbacks with 10 starts.Ben is the key to the franchise moving forward, guard Ramon Foster said. Keeping him on the field is goal No. 1. That has to be our job.Roethlisberger, who missed a game in October after meniscus surgery in his left knee, has completed 73 percent of his passes during his last three games for 796 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions. He is tied for fifth in the league with 23 touchdowns and has thrown just seven interceptions.Any team, when you have a quarterback like that, you have to keep him healthy, so he can throw it down the field, Pouncey said. Weve beeen doing a good job and hopefully we can build off of that.ddddddddddddrown has reaped the benefits, most recently Thursday against Indianapolis when he set a single-game high with three touchdown receptions. Brown leads the NFL with 82 catches and 10 touchdowns, while ranking third in the league with 998 yards.Its not surprising with all the talent they both have, guard David DeCastro said. Its a special connection.Bell brings it all together, as his unique skill set makes him a threat in the backfield and as a receiver. He has 477 yards from scrimmage in the previous three games, including 201 against the Browns and 130-plus each against Dallas and Indianapolis.Weve been doing what we need to do to win games, Bell said. Whether its running or catching the ball out of the backfield, we just want to make sure we win the game.Bell, among NFL leaders in yards from scrimmage, has rushing touchdowns in each of his last three games. He also rushed for more than 100 yards in back-to-back games for the second time in his career. Bell, despite missing three games because of a suspension, leads all running backs with 57 catches and is just outside the top 10 in the AFC in overall receptions.Its hard to defend that type of player, Pouncey said. When hes heating up and scoring touchdowns, its good for everybody.Particularly good for the Steelers, who have settled into a groove offensively, thanks in large part to their offensive line.This is what we expect and we have to keep it going, DeCastro said. 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