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Gametime: Steelers (9-3) at Patriots (12-0)

With time from the offensive line, Brady could have another big night. (Courtesy of NFL.com)
With time from the offensive line, Brady could have another big night.(Courtesy of NFL.com)

The Game: Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots
The Place: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass
The Time: 4:15pm
The Channel: CBS
The Skinny: On paper this is the toughest game left for the unbeaten Patriots. The Steelers are quietly having a very good season overall and possess one of the best defenses in the NFL. Pittsburgh is unbeaten this year but just 2-3 on the road, including losses to Denver and the woeful Jets. Ben Roethlisberger has rebounded from last year’s struggle and has 25 touchdown passes on the season. The Steelers are a dangerous teams because they possess many of the same qualities as the Ravens team who nearly beat the Pats last week: a power running game, good coaching and a smash mouth attitude. The Patriots are coming off two wins which may have felt like losses, as they were beaten thoroughly in the trenches against the Ravens and seem tired after three straight night games and a short week of practice. If the Pats can prevail, an undefeated regular season would be in reach with pretty smooth sailing until week 17.

3 Keys to the Game:

  1. WIN THE BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES: For the first time in recent memory, the Patriots defense was pushed around all night against Baltimore. Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour were dominated and allowed Willis McGahee to run wild into the secondary; the Pats offensive line wasn’t much better. With the infamous zone blitzing scheme of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LaBeau, the entire offensive line will need to play smart to keep Brady off his back.
  2. KEEP WELKER INVOLVED: Last Monday, Wes Welker had a couple catches in the first quarter and seemingly was never heard from again. Welker is just as important to this offense as Randy Moss is as Wes can torch nearly any linebacker in the slot and usually demands safety cover, allowing Moss more room to roam. With the ability to run on the Pittsburgh defense in doubt, Welker must get involved and stay involved if the Patriots are to move the ball at will.
  3. SCORE EARLY TO SET THE TONE: Much of the reason the Ravens were nearly able to knock off the Patriots is that they were able to stick to their power running game plan. If the Patriots score the opening touchdown and get up early, teams will have to evolve into more of a passing/catch up scheme. If the Pats get up early on the Steelers and make Willie Parker less of a factor, New England will be able to sit back in coverage and force Big Ben mistakes.

Prediction
After the Colts game, Pittsburgh was always seen as the opponent with the best chance to unseat the Patriots. After two close games for the Pats, the Steelers are the sexy pick by pundits this week. I think if the Pats can get up early and force the Steelers away from the power running game, Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison will be able to make a few big plays. In front of a raucous home crowd (including myself) and staring home-field advantage in the face, the Patriots will win the battle in the trenches and pull out a gutsy victory. Moss is due for a big game and this may be the week.

Patriots 34, Steelers 27

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Discussion

3 comments for “Gametime: Steelers (9-3) at Patriots (12-0)”

  1. I think the line in Vegas for this game is 10.5/11 points. Like you, I think the Steelers will cover that…

    Posted by KC | December 8, 2007, 2:02 pm
  2. Go Steelers! This is a defining moment for you. it takes a team to beat a good team like NE. Ben, don’t try to be the hero. Settle down and lead the team using all of your resources. Defense: Take no prisoners. This must be your most physical game. I predict Steelers 34, NE 28. I will watch every minute from here in Costa Rica

    Posted by Hoops Hobbs | December 9, 2007, 10:47 am
  3. Should have been a 21+ spread. New England beats the spread again. As soon as Vegas brings the line down, the Pats bust it open again.

    Posted by Dan | December 9, 2007, 9:51 pm

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