Keys for the Pittsburgh Steelers to Earn a Victory Against the Patriots
Brady has won six of seven games against the Steelers, completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 2,008 yards and 14 touchdowns. His passer rating against Pittsburgh is an impressive 104.8.
Despite having a top defense on a yearly basis, Brady and the Patriots always seem to have their way against Pittsburgh.
Why? Brady’s accuracy, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.
“He is just very good physically and mentally,” Tomlin said. “He is very talented in both areas. He is tough to trick, he makes quick decisions, he has pinpoint accuracy and he has the arm to do the things he desires to.”
Brady can find his target anywhere on the field, even with minimal space between a defensive back and the receiver.
No wonder Brady can shred the Steelers, since the quickness of the Patriots receivers as well as the athleticism of their tight ends provide a favorable matchup against Pittsburgh’s defensive backs. He gets the ball out before the Steelers’ pass rush can get to him.
The other advantage that New England has is their detail to preparation, as explained by Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
“New England adapts week-to-week to their opponent better than anyone in the league on both sides of the ball,” Williamson said. “Where I think the Steelers are more like ‘We’re the Steelers, and we’re just better than you are.”
It will take more than a belief for the Steelers to defeat the Patriots this weekend. Here are the keys for a Pittsburgh victory.
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Brady is a tough quarterback to play against, but getting pressure in his face and knocking him down gets him off his game.
That will be one of the priorities for the Steelers defense this weekend.
Given New England’s history of passing against Pittsburgh, they will likely spread the field and utilize a short passing game. This will for the Steelers into the nickel defense, which could open up a ground game for the Patriots.
Pittsburgh’s defense will have to shut down the run while in the nickel, but more importantly, put pressure on Brady.
Even though Casey Hampton is expected to return to the lineup this week, he will be on the sidelines a lot when the Steelers are in their pass defense formations.
A defensive front of LaMarr Woodley and Brett Keisel on the outside with Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward in the center would give the Steelers their best run stopping and pass rushing combination along their defensive line.
Woodley has been outstanding over the past three weeks, as he has accumulated five-and-a-half sacks.
It will take more than Woodley rushing from the outside, though.
Pittsburgh’s defensive linemen will need to get pressure up the middle, as well as the middle linebackers.
When Brady gets on the move, he loses his accuracy and is more prone to mistakes.
With a younger and athletic defensive front, the Steelers may have enough success rushing four and dropping seven into coverage, clogging the passing lanes for Brady.
Watch Welker, Tight Ends
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Wes Welker will be the top target for Brady, and the Steelers will have to do everything in their power to take him out of the Patriots passing attack.
He is very quick off the line and is easily the Patriots’ leading receiver, with 51 receptions and an impressive 15.4 yard average.
Ike Taylor will spend a good portion of his day on Welker and should get help from the linebackers and safeties.
Ryan Clark believes he has the key to stopping Welker and the rest of the New England receivers.
“Anytime you get guys who are going to catch-and-run and who run a lot of inside routes, you have to pound on them,” said Clark. “You have to be physical with them and hit them and have to jam them.”
Pittsburgh has been playing more press, and Taylor set a physical tone last week against Larry Fitzgerald.
While this style of play may work well against small, quick receivers, it will not be successful against the big tight ends that New England lines up.
Rob Gronkowski shredded the Steelers, particularly William Gay, last season for three touchdowns.
He, along with Aaron Hernandez, gives Brady two big targets who can exploit size match ups with cornerbacks and speed match ups with linebackers.
When in the nickel, Lawrence Timmons will have to spend time in coverage, and a third safety, Ryan Mundy, may also be needed in this area.
Furthermore, expect Troy Polamalu to spend a lot of his day in coverage as opposed to mixing up his play near the line.
These weapons have proved to dominate the Steelers once, and Pittsburgh cannot let it happen again.
Light Up the Scoreboard
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New England’s offense typically has no problems scoring a lot of points, and this might be a game where Pittsburgh’s offense will simply to have to out score them.
The Patriots are dead last in the league in pass defense, and Pittsburgh has a plethora of offensive weapons who can exploit this weakness. The offense has shown flashes of brilliance over the past few weeks, but this week, they will need a complete game.
Roethlisberger will be well aware of New England’s struggling defense and wants to put touchdowns, not field goals, on the board this week.
“Our goal is to score as much as we can,” said Roethlisberger. “Every time we get the ball, we want to put points on the board.”
The Steelers won’t be able to score a lot with passing alone. Therefore, establishing some form of a run game will help set up the play action pass.
Mike Wallace, who is uncoverable on deep patterns, especially those set up by the play action, and Antonio Brown will have a more prominent role in the offense, with the ailing Hines Ward possibly missing the game.
Both Wallace and Brown are excellent deep threats, while Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller present a speed option and size option over the middle.
It will be interesting to see how the Steelers use their running backs.
Rashard Mendenhall is the more versatile back who always has the chance to make a big play. However, Isaac Redman will always pick up positive yardage and wear out New England’s defense, as well as open up the passing game.
This week is a perfect chance to exploit a weakness on the Patriots, and the Steelers really need to take advantage of New England’s weak defense.
Spotlight Player: Offense
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Roethlisberger is a winner, but he has been unable to defeat Brady since 2004, his rookie season.
He and the Steelers offense will need to put up a lot of points this week if they are going to come out on top.
Roethlisberger has done a lot in his career, except for conquer Brady. He would certainly like to add a second win against New England, especially by outdueling Brady.
Spotlight Player: Defense
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Troy Polamalu is always an X-factor on defense, and he will have to be better than ever this week.
Chances are that Polamalu will spend a lot of time in coverage trying to slow down New England’s dangerous passing attack. However, if the Patriots can spread the field, they will also try to exploit the Steelers defense on the ground.
Not much will confuse Brady, and he has seen Polamalu before. If he can make his first interception this week, it will be a huge boost the Steelers.
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- Ben Roethlisberger has defeated the Tom Brady led Patriots just once.
- The Steelers have not defeated Brady under Mike Tomlin.
- Since 1994, the Patriots have the best winning percentage (.664) and the Steelers the second best (.638).
- Mike Wallace has a reception of at least 40 yards in six straight games.
- Pittsburgh has only given up 10 points a game at Heinz Field this season, tops in the league.
- Roethlisberger has 15 straight games with at least 200 yards passing.
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