These two teams are almost a mirror image of each other. They both have improved but underrated defenses that don’t give up touchdowns, they both have a dangerous run game, and they both have future Hall of Fame QB’s. In fact, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have identical stats over the last eight games! The Patriots almost never lose at home, especially in the postseason, but we’re split on this one, and some of us think the Steelers have the talent and match up well enough to get a win in Foxboro.
Adding to the intrigue is the fact that New England just didn’t look very good last week. They struggled in pass pro against the Texans inside pressures, Brady threw uncharacteristic interceptions, and they put the ball on the ground. They have to clean that up. Despite the struggles, they still won 34-16, but this is a Steelers defense that will present different challenges. We don’t expect to see the Patriots work the RB-LB matchups this week against a much more athletic LB group. Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell will have to step up and help Brady exploit a secondary that is the weak link on this defense right now.
Defensively for the Patriots, they are disciplined, and they are stout at the point of attack, which could make them a better match for Le’Veon Bell than most teams. They are #3 in the league against the run, and are allowing less than 15 points per game overall.
Bell is the key to the Steelers attack, but if he struggles as a runner, don’t be surprised to see Big Ben use the screen game and short passing game as an extension of the run. Bell is as good a receiver as he is a runner, and he is averaging 33 touches a game over the team’s last eight games. If the Steelers can force the Patriots to put an extra man in the box, it creates better matchups for Ben’s perimeter threats like Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers, and the rest.
On defense, The Steelers pass rush has exploded, which will force Brady into a quick passing game. But Pittsburgh also has the athletic LB’s who can matchup with the RB trio of Blount, Lewis, and White.Add to My RFN