Pittsburgh Steelers 25 New England Patriotrs 17
The New England Patriots do a number of things on a consistent basis. They win games pretty regularly. They generally win after the bye week. And they almost always beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coming into yesterday’s game with the Black and Yellow, the Patriots were 5-2 against the Steelers in their last seven meetings including a number of victories in Heinz Field and in the playoffs.
Yesterday the Steelers took off the mask they have worn against the Patriots of late and put on a new one.
On the opening drive of the game the Steelers drove down the field with ease. It seemed as if the Patriots had forgotten they at least have to pretend to play defense during the bye. Big Ben Roethlisberger hit Heath Miller in the middle of the field more often than would seem possible. Every time Miller was surrounded by a whole lot of not Patriot defenders and would pick up huge chunks of yardage. Leaving the middle of the field wide open seems to be a quick fix but time and time again Heath Miller was open. This led to one of the most lopsided quarters Patriots faithful can remember seeing in some time. The Steelers absolutely dominated the first quarter and first half for that matter. If you missed the Patriots opening drive (a pathetic three and out) then you didn’t get to see their offense play again until the second quarter with New England down 10-0.
The Steelers clearly did their homework as they attacked the leagues worst pass defense, throwing the ball 50 times. In fact it’s tough to recall them ever really running the ball. Big Ben dropped back and although he was pressured at times, was often able to complete his passes and not for just a couple yards. Seven of the Steelers receivers who caught balls had at least one reception of at least 10 yards.
The Patriots mouth breathing defense also continued to break it’s own back by failing far too often on third down. It didn’t matter if it was third and three or third and the state of Pennsylvania. The Steelers went 10 for 16 on third down conversions. If the Steelers were in third down they almost always found a way to get the first down. Or the Patriots found a way to let them.
The PAtriots also seemed confused and disoriented on offense for much of the game. Although it’s tough to get any momentum going with two minutes of time with the ball, the Steelers clearly mixed up their defenses well and the Patriots were rendered ineffectual for much of the day. Their first touchdown drive was a whole nine yards. The Patriots played from behind and so were forced to abandon the running game which had been improving leading to only 43 yards rushing. It was good to see Kevin Faulk back, but he should not be the primary rusher, albeit with only six rushes. Tom Brady put up decent numbers but passing for 198 yards won’t cut it. This game yet again rested entirely on his shoulders with the defense doing very little to help.
The optimistic Patriots fan will say that the team went into a very good teams stadium and looked a little rusty, which is understandable off the bye week. Even with the stumbles they took they still managed to keep it a tight game and the defense improved as the game went on. These are all true statements but the issue remains that the Patriots have a huge, wide, obvious and gaping flaw in their inability to stop the pass. In games where they control the tempo and put up six billion yards of offense that doesn’t matter as they can generally win shoot outs but when a team can control a game as handily as the Steelers well then the Patriots should be getting a little frightened.