NFL Matchup Breakdown
3 Things For the Steelers to Win
1. Big Ben needs to go off. The Steelers’ offense and Ben Roethlisberger will need to be in mid season form and operate with a high degree of efficiency throughout the game. The Steelers’ porous defense won’t be able to stop much of anybody this season and definitely won’t be able to stop Tom Brady, his gigantic chip on his shoulder, or the Patriots’ championship ceremony game in Foxborough. Therefore Big Ben, although missing Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, will need to attack the Patriots’ revamped secondary sans Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
2. Its all about the youth. Yes, James Harrison is a beast who has had and continues to have an excellent career as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers but it’s not a good sign that he is the team’s best pass rusher at the age of 37. The unexpected retirement of Jason Worilds thrust the former 2013 first round pick Jarvis Jones and this year’s first round pick Bud Dupree into the forefront to get pressure on Brady. To beat “Tom Terrific” and the Pats you have to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket and move him off his spot. The two first round pass rushers need to have solid games to make this a possibility.
3. Put hands on Gronk. Rob Gronkowski is an absolute animal on the field and he will need to be tamed by multiple (more than two) defenders. Get a player to bump him on the line of scrimmage, another player to play him man-to-man all over the field, and a third defender to shadow him. He is the Patriots’ only legitimate threat that can beat you single handedly so knowing where he is at all times can not be understated or forgotten. The Steelers possess two great inside line backers in Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier so make sure you utilze them to matchup against Gronk.
3 Things For the Patriots to win
1. Take advantage of the undermanned Steelers’ offense. More specifically take advantage of the absence of star running back Le’Veon Bell. One of the best running backs in the league Bell is suspended for the first two games and you know backup DeAngelo Williams is not going to beat you. Also, the injury to Maurkice Pouncy looms large in terms of the Steelers’ rushing attack. Pass rushers Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich can pin their ears back and get after Big Ben because the Steelers will probably throw the ball a lot in this game.
2. Take advantage of the undermanned Steelers’ offense. Not only are Bell and Pouncey not suiting up in this one but the Steelers’ big play deep threat receiver Martavis Bryant is facing a four game suspension as well. This gives Coach Bill Belicheck more confidence to do what he does best, shutting down the opposing team’s main weapon. All eyes will be on arguably the best wide out in the league Antonio Brown. Brown needs the same attention that Gronk will be getting on the other side of the ball. The absence of Revis (which would have been a dream matchup) looms large as the Patriots will need to find a plethora of bodies to go up against the diminutive but exceptional Brown.
3. Protect the franchise. The four game suspension the NFL handed Brady was overturned and all systems are a go for the Patriots entering the 2015 title defense season. I say that to say the only chance in my opinion the Steelers had to beat the Pats in this contest was the absence of the future Hall of Fame QB. Therefore make sure you protect the quarterback and keep him clean in the pocket. Don’t become too pass happy and allow Brady to get hit. Utilize the short passing game to James White, Dion Lewis, and Brandon Bolden. Brady should have his way in this game against the Steelers’ weak secondary so not protecting him will be the only way he doesn’t produce with high efficiency.
What to watch for…
The line of scrimmage. More often than not games are won or lost in the trenches. I’m expecting this game to be an aerial show and the team that can consistently pressure the opposing quarterback will gain the upper hand in the matchup. Can the Steelers’ young pass rushers step up? Or will Jones and Ninkovich “steal” the show?
Front Office Says…
The New England Patriots win.