Steelers-Patriots: How the Pittsburgh D Can Stop Matt Cassel
The Steelers have lost two AFC championship games to the Patriots and several regular season games, though they did snap the record 21 game winning streak of the Patriots in 2004.
In these games we typically see a Patriot's team, led by Tom Brady, picking apart the relatively weak secondary of the Steelers, and eventually throwing up the deep bomb on 3rd-and-long for a 60-yard touchdown.
Something tells me it will be different this time around.
First thing's first, though Pittsburgh's defense is usually a top five powerhouse, the defense this year is giving up fractions of a yard over 235 per game, which is easily one of the best defenses in recent memory, for any team.
The Steelers have also excelled in every defensive category, including Passing Defense, Points Per Game, and Red Zone defense. Those last three statistics are going to make the difference in this game.
Matt Cassel is good, but he has not faced a team like "Blitzburgh" with 37 sacks on the season and some of the most confusing blitzing schemes in the league. The pass rush is why the Steelers defense is so good, with both of the outside linebackers having more than 10 sacks and looking to get more.
This kind of pass rush the Patriots have not faced yet this year, and Cassel has yet to see.
I would be foolish not to mention the weaknesses in the Steelers offense, the offensive line is very poor at best and is allowing Ben to get hit entirely too much. Luckily for the Steelers, the Patriots do not usually test this aspect of an opposing team, especially not this year.
The Steelers also have injuries to key players, most notably, Big Ben Roethlisberger who has been playing hurt from week one and has managed, except for a poor stretch in the middle, to do well enough to win.
Willie Parker is also hurt... again, and may not be the same running back he used to be whenever he finally gets healthy, but the Steelers have shown depth at that position calling up practice squad players who now have touchdowns (Gary Russell).
The game will be close, it will come down to the offense of the Steelers, as the defense will keep them in every game they play.
If they can stick to the short efficient passes, as they did against the Chargers and Bengals and can keep Ben's TD column with a higher number than the INT column the Steelers will likely win, because with the No. 1 defense in football, the Patriots aren't putting up many points.
Now for the crystal ball portion of the article:
Final Score: Pittsburgh 21, New England 17
Both Roethlisberger and Cassel have two passing touchdowns, Ben has a pick, Matt has two.
Pats take the lead late in the fourth with a field goal. The Patriots bring the blitz and try to sack Ben but leave Nate “Clunky” Washington open for a deep bomb inside the 10. Davenport or Russell runs it in on 2nd and short to put up the difference.
No QB has a 400 in the passing yards column.
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