Tale Of The Tape: Pittsburgh Steelers At New England Patriots
- QuarterbackThe Steelers were ill-prepared to take on the Oakland Raiders in Week Eight and no matter what was said after the game, they were looking ahead to this game against the Patriots and it cost them in a big way. Ben Roethlisberger is healthy right now, and that’s a big change from past years but he is not getting the kind of protection he needs.While Tom Brady does not have the receivers he has had in the past, that’s not the only reason the quarterback has been off this year. He is playing with swelling in his right hand and his passes have lacked accuracy. Brady won’t use that as an excuse and he shouldn’t. He merely needs to take what opposing defenses are giving him, something he did regularly in the past.
- OffenseThe Steelers were hoping they would get a hard-edged running back when they selected Le’Veon Bell last spring. While it’s too early to write him off, Bell’s 3.3 yards per carry average has not given the Steelers the ground game they need. Antonio Brown is proving to be a solid target who will catch nearly anything he can touch. Heath Miller is still a solid tight end.The Patriots’ running backs demonstrated fumbling problems earlier in the year, but it appears those issues have been solved. Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden form a solid combination for Brady. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is getting closer to top form, while Danny Amendola will try to stay healthy so he can make a few plays on the outside.
- DefenseThe Steelers appear to have gotten it back together defensively since they rank fourth in overall defense, and that makes their Week Eight loss to the Raiders that much more galling. Inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons is having a solid year and he leads the team with 59 tackles and he also has five passes defensed. Outside linebacker has a team-high 5.0 sacks.The Patriots had a solid defense earlier in the year, but that unit has been ripped apart by injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib. While Wilfork and Mayo are done for the year, Talib could return from his hip injury this week. Defensive end Chandler Jones has a team-high 6.5 sacks, while defensive tackle Chris Jones is right behind with 4.5 sacks.
- Special TeamsThe Steelers appear to be playing fast and loose with their return teams. They haven’t given up any touchdown returns, but they appear to be on the verge of giving up a damaging return every week. Placekicker Shaun Suisham has been shockingly effective, making 15-of-17 FG attempts.The Patriots are not taking their special teams for granted. They regularly do an excellent job in coverage and Julian Edelman is a threat to flip field position on punt returns nearly every time he touches the ball. Stephen Gostkowski has made 20-of-21 FG attempts and may be the best kicker in the league.
The Patriots are not about to feel sorry for the Steelers and allow them to come into Foxboro and steal a win. However, if Brady can’t improve his accuracy, New England could be vulnerable. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor