Week 15 Tale Of The Tape: New England Patriots At Pittsburgh Steelers
- QuarterbackAfter a rough first quarter of the season, the Patriots won eight games in a row before losing to Miami Monday night. Tom Brady has not suffered any slippage even though he has reached 40, and his ability to read defenses and call the right play is remarkable. Some may try to diminish him after a poor game against the Dolphins, but that would be a foolish tact to take.The Steelers have the right quarterback for their system because Ben Roethlisberger can stay upright in the face of a heavy pass rush because of size, strength and instincts. Roethlisberger is coming off a 506-yard performance in the Steelers’ comeback win over the Ravens, and he may have to be even better if the Steelers are going to beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
- OffenseThe Patriots regularly win the battle on offense because they are one or two steps ahead of the opposing defense. It is very difficult to figure out how Brady and Bill Belichick are going to attack, and the plethora of receiving weapons in Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks is likely to be quite impactful here.The Steelers rank sixth in yards gained, but sharp football fans understand that that stat is not relevant with this team. Pittsburgh is the most dangerous offensive team in the league because they have the best running back in Le’Veon Bell and the best receiver in Antonio Brown. Both are unstoppable, while rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (suspension) will be back for this game and is a game-changing receiver.
- DefenseThe Patriots are going to get tested severely by the Steelers, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is up against it because the combination of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown is nearly unstoppable. Pittsburgh will get its yards, but New England has to make the Steelers settle for field goals. Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy are the key to New England’s pass rush.The Steelers are likely to play with a peak emotional effort in every meaningful game from this point forward as a result of the spinal injury suffered by star linebacker Ryan Shazier. However, the loss of Pittsburgh’s most important defensive player is eventually going to hurt. Cameron Heyward has 9.0 sacks and he must have a dominant game rushing the quarterback.
- Special TeamsThe thorough Patriots are always near the top of the special-teams rankings, and this year has not been an exception. They have a game-breaking return specialist in Dion Lewis, and Stephen Gostkowski doesn’t have to take a back seat to any placekicker in the league.The Steelers have a wonderful weapon in Chris Boswell, who seemingly ignores pressure and comes through in game-winning situations every time. Boswell was 4-of-4 against Baltimore, and he has hit the game-winning kick three weeks in a row.
The Steelers will be emotionally ready to put on a great show, but the Pats are too smart, talented and experienced to come through with anything less than their best effort. The loss of Shazier hurts them badly here.