Patriots vs. Steelers: Can Pittsburgh Finally Solve Tom Brady?
Including the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2) have won 16 of the last 21 home games, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.3 points a game.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, one man has dominated them for nearly a decade.
Bieber hair and Ugg boots aside, Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. There are many teams who haven't been able to stop him, but none as good as the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even when the Steelers have great teams, they can't seem to beat the Patriots when Tom Brady is under center.
The last regular season victory the Steelers had over a Brady-led Patriots team was on Halloween night 2004, in Pittsburgh.
It was a huge win for the Steelers, snapping the Patriots 21-game winning streak. That success was short lived however, as the Patriots went on to blow the Steelers out later that year in the AFC title game.
Is it simply a bad matchup for the Steelers schematically, led by mastermind Bill Belichick?
Perhaps the Patriots filmed all of the Steelers practices?
I tend to think it's a combination of both, but now isn't the time for the Steelers to make excuses!
Read on to see how the Steelers can conquer Tom Brady and the evil empire on Halloween weekend!
Defense: Must Hit Tom Brady
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense relies on pressure.
This has been the case for several years, and has been successful more often than not. Get pressure on the quarterback and force an errant throw, leading to an interception or at least an incomplete pass.
Against the New England Patriots, this scheme has been unsuccessful most of the time.
This is why Tom Brady has been so elite, especially against the Steelers.
It isn't because he is the best quarterback to ever play the game, look back to his Michigan days.
Brady has shown that if you give him all day to look around, he will embarrass you, much like Peyton Manning.
Also like Manning, Brady is average at best when under pressure.
The key to solving Brady is simple. HIT HIM!
Once you have him moving around and looking for pressure, he isn't nearly as good as advertised. He gets happy feet and doesn't have the athleticism to beat you on the move.
He definitely can't beat anybody running the ball. I remember his pro day and how poorly he performed, which is why he fell so far in the draft.
Defense: Don't Forget About Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski!
In last year’s 39-26 loss to New England, the Steelers allowed tight end Rob Gronkowski to make a name for himself.
He single-handedly dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, scoring three touchdowns.The good news is that big play Willie Gay shouldn't be covering him again this time around.
Wes Welker seems to get open against everybody who tries to cover him, but the Steelers have to find a way.
Welker already has 51 receptions, 785 yards (15.4 avg) and six touchdowns this season. He's been a favorite target of Tom Brady since he became a Patriot.
He's surprisingly quick, deadly on slant routes over the middle of the field.
Pittsburgh must check him at the line, you cannot let this man go untouched and stop him. As far as Gronkowski is concerned, you cannot allow him to terrorize your linebackers.
At six foot six inches tall, you have to stay in front of him and stay physical. Otherwise he's going to box you out and go up for a rebound, basketball style.
Defense: Force Turnovers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have won a lot of games over the years thanks to the defense.
This season has been shockingly different, as the Steelers turnover margin is minus-nine. What's even more shocking is the fact that the Steelers only have two interceptions on the season, and none were by star safety Troy Polamalu.
If the Steelers are going to win this game, they need to return to form.
I don't care whether the turnovers are in the form of fumbles, interceptions, or blocked kicks, but they must force at least a couple.
As I stated earlier, you cannot allow Tom Brady to get comfortable and still win the football game.
Dick Lebeau needs to change his style against New England, or feel the wrath of Brady yet again.
The good news for Steelers fans in this. Old man Dick is finally playing more press coverage! As you may have noticed, the Steelers secondary is ranked No. 1 in the NFL.
They aren't playing so far off of the receivers either.
There is a reason Ike Taylor has been shown harassing wide receivers more often on TV, and getting called for pass interference!
Ike Taylor is one of the best coverage guys in the NFL, unfortunately the league punishes physical defenders under Roger Goodell.
If they let him play, he may finally pick Brady off.
Offense: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben Roethlisberger will play a huge part in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
His play will either propel the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory, or he will sink them to defeat.
For the Halloween fanatics, his play will resemble a king sized Hershey bar or those nasty wax lips we all hated getting as children.
The key for Big Ben is simple, take care of the football.
If he can avoid the costly fumbles and forced interceptions that make appearances in losses, the Pittsburgh Steelers will win this game.
This game will show the world why Ben Roethlisberger deserves to be mentioned with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. (No I didn't forget Aaron Rodgers, but he needs to prove the success isn't short lived)
Contrary to popular opinion, I don't believe that Ben needs to throw for 400 yards and three-plus touchdowns for the Pittsburgh Steelers to win the game.
What he needs to avoid is trying to be the hero, and play within himself.
Scramble and look deep on occasion, but work the ball short and take advantage of the Patriots weak secondary too. Don't bail them out by launching everything deep to Wallace, Brown, and Sanders when it isn't there.
Use Heath Miller and Hines Ward all night long!
Offense: Establish Rashard Mendenhall and the Running Game Early
Considering that New England has the worst secondary in the game, passing the ball a lot is the way to beat the Patriots. They give up an average of 322.2 passing yards a game.
This doesn't mean you neglect the running game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers need to get Rashard Mendenhall several carries early in this game. If he can churn out some yards, New England will be forced to get more guys in the box, taking pressure off of the Steelers receiving corps.
Isaac Redman needs to get a few carries as well. Bring him in to spell Mendenhall and he will pound the ball right at New England. He has proven to be a more physical running back than Rashard, so this is a nice one-two punch. Both guys run hard but differently.
Mendenhall will be looking to have a big game, as he has been held in check most of the year.
If the Pittsburgh Steelers get too one dimensional, New England will be able to tee off on Big Ben behind the porous offensive line.
Keep the Patriots guessing!