The regular season is finally upon us and frankly, it couldn’t come soon enough as the Steelers head into New England to take on the Patriots.
What: Steelers (0-0) at Patriots (0-0)
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
When: 830pm ET
TV: NBC Al Michales, Cris Collinsworth and Michele Tafoya on the sidelines.
Radio: Steelers Nation Radio/WDVE Bill Hillgrove, Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley on the sidelines.
Rabble TV: You can hear my thoughts on the game in real-time at rabble.tv. You can interact throughout!
Key Injuries: Steelers QB Landry Jones OUT/Concussion, Patriots C Bryan Stork OUT/Concussion
How the Steelers Win: It’s no small task to go into home of the defending champions and knock them off but it can be done. The Steelers have to take the boxer’s approach and they must survive the flurry of punches the Patriots will throw at them early. If they can come out of the first quarter down by less than a touchdown or better, they will be in good shape.
It doesn’t happen often but the Steelers need to beat the Patriots in the turnover battle. That starts with pressure up the middle to take advantage of the absence of starting center Bryan Stork. Pressure in Tom Brady’s face is the most effective way to force him into mistakes and poor decisions. Regardless of what they do with Brady, the Steelers need to tackle the football make receivers pay with every pass thrown their way.
Lastly, the Steelers need to win on special teams. Whether it means they rip off a few big returns, block a punt or pin the Patriots deep in their own territory, Danny Smith’s charges must win their battles.
How the Steelers Lose: It’s not a difficult formula because we’ve seen Tom Brady do it so often against us. If Pittsburgh is unable to create pressure consistently then their chances of winning drop drastically. The secondary is too weak to cover these receivers, pedestrian they may be, for any length of time.
I expect Rob Gronkowski to make plays. He’s too good to go an entire game without doing some damage of one form or another. The question is; can the Steelers limit his impact? If he has his way with the Steelers’ linebackers and secondary then forget it.
Third, the Steelers cannot afford to be outcoached. There’s nothing wrong with saying you were out-coached by Bill Belichick but this is big boy business and you take the field expecting to out-do the man across from you. Mike Tomlin must manage the clock well and Todd Haley cannot afford to have personnel issues inside the red zone. Those things are momentum and points-killers.
Prediction: The Steelers have been Tom Brady’s whipping boys in recent contests and that’s when they had a defense that was supposed to be better than this one. I see the Steelers scoring but it won’t be enough.
Patriots 40 Steelers 29
photo courtesy sportsunbiased.com