There is no other game in the National Football League that fans are looking forward to more than this Sunday’s match-up between the New England Patriots (10-3) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2). The top two AFC bigwigs going at it in what should be the preview of a playoff battle destined to come. But there is a sense that the outcome will the opposite of what the majority of experts expect.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Big Bens Time To Shine
Steelers quarterback and proverbial Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger is coming off of a 506 yard passing showcase in an amazing 39-38 win over the stingy defense of their division rival Baltimore Ravens. He became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 500 yards three times in a career. But, this is something he has not accomplished against the Tom Brady led Patriots, yet.
New England may be sitting on top of the AFC East, but they are perched there with the league’s twenty-ninth ranked defense in yards allowed, 374.6 yards per game, 253.9 of those yards coming in the air. Match that up against Roethlisberger and his array of targets such as tight end Jesse James, wide receivers Eli Rodgers, Martavis Bryant along with the league’s leading receiver Antonio Brown (1,509 yards) and that could mean trouble for the Patriots.
Keep in mind that Pittsburgh not only possesses the league’s number one receiver in Brown but they also have the likes of Le’Veon Bell, the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,105 yards on the ground. This should pose for more problems for the Patriots and their twenty-fourth ranked rushing defense as well.
Not to take away from New England’s Most Valuable Player, Brady. Although he is coming off of a disappointing and somewhat embarrassing 27-20 loss against the Miami Dolphins throwing two interceptions, he is not well known for dropping two games in a row. Along with the fact that he has had Pittsburgh’s number since 2002, holding a 7-2 record over the Steelers in the regular season, 3-0 in the post season..I can see why most people would predict yet another Patriots victory this Sunday.
However, the Steelers are finding ways to win. Whether conventional or unconventional ways they have shown an incredible amount of resiliency. Losing the lead or coming back from an excessive deficit Pittsburgh has never given up. The Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars aside, both losses that happened early in the season. No team since October 8 has figured out a way to finish them off. If they continue to play like they have been, the New England Patriots will have a difficult time trying to do so as well.
Look for a heavy dose of Bell early on in this match up to get the Patriots defense to cheat up to stop the run. Leaving the play action open to allow Roethlisberger to pick and choose his targets all day long.