After a week of rest, relaxation, and controversial photos, the New England Patriots (5-1) get right back to work this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2). Two weeks ago, the Pats’ defense took a step in the right direction keeping Dallas out of the end zone in the 4th quarter to help give Tom Brady time to win the game. It reminded me a lot of the Raven game from last season where the defense had its turning point of the season that led to their solid progression.
As for the Steelers, the media called their defense old and slow after they were beat down by the Ravens in Week One. However, the team has started to quietly get better each and every week. With Baltimore’s shocking loss to Jacksonville on Monday, Pittsburgh, in my opinion, is the 2nd best team in the AFC. They have solid threats at wide receiver with Hines Ward and Mike “60 Minutes” Wallace. However, the run game just has not been there with Rashard Mendenhall not staying healthy. The D is still the answer for Pittsburgh since they are the top pass defense in the league!
Here are my 3 keys to the game this weekend in the Giant Ketchup Bottle:
- Big Ben Broken: The best attribute about Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger is his ability to extend the play. He does not put up big statistical games with the exception of his 5 TD game against the Titans earlier this year. Their offensive line has never been that great and the Patriots exploited that in last year’s matchup. They had a total of five sacks on Big Ben up in Heinz Field for the victory. The guy I look to get pressure on Roethlisberger this year is defensive end Andre Carter. Carter had two huge sacks against Tony Romo two weeks ago and has been by far the best offseason acquisition for Bill Belichick.
- Gronk Goes Off: The Patriot that made the biggest noise, but for the wrong reason was second year tight end Rob Gronkowski. The big problem was his photo with adult film star Bibi Jones where Jones was wearing his jersey in a pic where Gronkowski could have used the jersey. This is a game that Gronk is going to want to show a little bit of something to owner Robert Kraft that he is ready to play! Last year, against the Steelers, Gronk had five catches for 70 yards and three touchdowns. He takes advantage of the Steelers’ inability to match up against the two tight end sets.
- An Unknown Deep Threat: This year, Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin has transitioned his offense from more of a rushing team to a passing team. This transition has taken place through the drafting of some good wide receivers. We talked about Hines Ward and Mike Wallace, but I want to focus on Antonio Brown. Brown has 25 catches for 364 yards this year (2nd on team in yards). Last year, he made the big catch on the 3rd and long against the Ravens in the playoffs to send them to the AFC Championship Game. With the surprise release of Leigh Bodden, Brown has a huge advantage in this game because the Patriots other than McCourty and Arrington, do not have healthy cornerbacks. I like the Steelers in that matchup.
PREDICTION: This game is going to be a shootout because of the explosiveness of both of these offenses. However, how can I go against Tom Brady in Heinz Field after watching the passing clinic he put against them last season? You just can’t! When you give Bill Belichick two weeks to prepare for a team like the Steelers, he is going to find ways to exploit that defense. I think the Pats’ defense will continue their progression upwards from the game against Dallas and this “bad” defense did have five sacks on Big Ben last year. Look at Andre Carter to be the difference in this game!
PATRIOTS 35 STEELERS 27