If you’re like me, you had this game circled on your calendar since the schedule got released. With a lack of “elite” quarterback matchups so far this year, it would have been great to get to see Big Ben and Brady in a shoot-out. However, yet again, Rothlesberger is out with yet another leg injury. So it turns out that we are stuck with watching Landry Jones, who has fewer passing yards in his career than Brady’s had in the last 2 games.
To be fair, the Steelers still have more high-powered skill position players than almost anyone else in the NFL. And when you’re talking the Steelers, you have to start by talking about Bell. Despite what feels like a slow start, he’s had more than 100 all-purpose yards in every start so far this season. Belichick thinks he’s one of the best players in the NFL, and for good reason. He’s regularly considered to be in the top 5 weapons in the league, and in his only game against the Patriots, he put up 140 all-purpose yards on only 20 touches — he’s really really good.
I think he broke more tackles than there are Browns on that play.
Obviously, Bell’s not the only weapon on the Steelers. Even without their Randy-Moss-clone Martavis Bryant (who’s suspended for the year), they still have a fearsome wide receiver corp, headed by Antonio Brown and his dance moves.
Life imitating art.
The Steelers have put up the most receiving TD’s in the league so far this year, and the Patriots have only shown a middle-of-the-road pass defense so far. Butler, Chung, and the rest of the secondary will have to be on their A-game to stop the Steelers from getting open down-field.
A big advantage the Patriots should have this week is…
According to the most recent news, the Patriots pass-rushers should all be healthy this week (Jamie Collins is active), and with Belichick knowing that he was scheming against an inexperienced QB, should give New England a chance to disrupt the Steelers at the point of attack. If they can get off to an early start, and force Landry to throw, they can pin their ears back and try to get significant pressure on him.
And I think they’ll have a great chance to get off to a quick lead because of one often underrated factor:
James White’s been looking increasingly potent in the offense with Brady back — he’s been more than just a safety valve, but a valid offense threat, especially when working in tandem with Gronk to create mismatches with linebackers.
The Steelers are a great matchup for him — they’re one of the worst teams in the NFL against pass-catching RBs, to the tune of 65 receiving yards/game. Look for the Pats to go to him early and often this week.
But he’ll have some help from…
He’s the (Edel)man
Look for Edelman to have a break out day. The Steelers have allowed the 9th-most receiving yards to wide-receivers this year, and the 2nd-most receptions so far this year (just behind the dead-last-in-most-pass-defense-categories LA Rams). Edelman’s had a couple of drops that have hurt him so far this year, and he’s been off to an overall slow start. But I think he’ll get back on track against the Steelers defense, which he roasted for over 100 all-purpose yards last year.
If the Patriots can get up early, they will make Landry Jones’ life miserable and could cause the Steelers’ offense to fizzle. They’ll need good performances from their LB’s to slow down Bell, and their secondary to stop Brown from getting free deep. But at the end of the day, I think the lack of Big Ben will slow them down, and the Brady revenge tour will continue.
Enjoy the game!