PITTSBURGH – Here are your five keys to the Patriots continuing their dominance of the Steelers later today:
- Get after Big Ben: The Steelers will have a very good shot at keeping up with the Patriots if QB Ben Roethlisberger has time to throw. Unlike other recent QBs against the Patriots, he’s not a game manager – he will throw and throw deep often without giving it a second thought. The Steelers’ line is not good, especially on the left side. The Patriots should be able to get pressure with just four rushers. I don’t expect them to blitz 23 times like last year. In any case, pressure on Roethlisberger is a must.
- Don’t give up the big play: Whether it’s deep passes, long runs or returns on special teams, the Patriots must keep the big plays to a minimum. Tackling would help.
- Protect Tom Brady: The Steelers didn’t get a whole lot of pressure on Brady last year, but they did hit him. The Patriots have been giving up too many shots of late and that can’t continue. Patriots need to get their protections sorted out against the zone blitz, or there could be trouble.
- Spread them out, but run the ball: Sometimes offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien relies too much on Brady, even when teams are daring him to run (like against the Jets and Cowboys). Don’t be afraid to pound the ball. The Steelers haven’t been that good against the run.
- Go to Gronk: The Patriots still don’t love Aaron Hernandez against zone teams, but they love Rob Gronkowski against them. He should have great matchups against this Pittsburgh defense.
If the Patriots don’t pressure Roethlisberger, this game will go down to the wire. We think they’ll hit him enough to throw him off, and not having WR Hines Ward or LB James Farrior will hurt the Steelers.
Patriots 30, Steelers 20.