When New England Has the Ball
Something has to give this week. The Pittsburgh Steelers are allowing 17 points per game this season. The Patriots are averaging 30.
The key to the game for New England will be the play of Wes Welker. Welker is leading the league in receptions, so it's no surprise that Bill Belichick will want him to be the focus of the offense. The Steelers plan to use Ike Taylor in coverage against Welker, but playing in the slot is not something Taylor has done much in his career. This matchup, and Taylor's success against Welker, will dictate the outcome of the game.
If Welker is slowed at all, the Patriots will look to the tight ends. Pittsburgh is known for its great linebacker play, and the ability of James Harrison in zone coverage is something Tom Brady has to be ready for.
The Steelers are allowing over 100 yards per game on the ground, which means we could see a heavy dose of the three-headed running attack from the Patriots.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Ben Roethlisberger has an impressive group of wide receivers this season, even if Hines Ward isn't healthy for the game. Big Ben has found a new best friend in Mike Wallace, and the two will look to hook up deep as much as possible against a New England secondary that's giving up too many big plays this year.
New England's best defense may be a clock-eating offense. Belichick will ask the offense to control the tempo, limiting what Pittsburgh can do offensively. The Steelers have yet to break out as a running team, but the threat of Roethlisberger to Wallace is enough to scare the Patriots defense.
New England's defense is not good enough to stop this offense, but it is great at coming up big in huge games.
Prediction: New England 28, Pittsburgh 24