Know Thy Enemy: Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots

Every week, I will be contacting the editor of the FanSided team blog the Steelers are playing that Sunday.  This week I wrote five questions to Jaime Pacheco, editor of the Pats blog Musket Fire.  Check out what he has to say after the jump, and be sure to visit his site and let him know what you think about what he has to say.

1. During the bye week, TE Gronkowski got into a bit of hot water with the media over his Twitter pics of spending some TLC with a porn star.  Thoughts on that?  Would it have shaken up any differently were it an older vet like Brady?
went into detail earlier in the week my thoughts on the Gronkowski situation, but in short, who cares? He wasn’t doing anything illegal hanging out (or whatever else he was doing) with a porn star, so no harm no foul. The guy is only 22 so I think that has to be taken into account. If he was breaking the law, that’s another story. In terms of team discipline, there wasn’t really much done in that regard. According to Gronk, he only spoke with owner Robert Kraft in passing in the hallway and wasn’t called into the owner’s office or anything. If it was Brady, I think it would have been worse because he is the face of the franchise, and that face has to remain squeaky clean.
2. What were your thoughts on the Patriots and this year’s draft.  Do you feel their strategy of lumping picks is working and when did that really become the practice for them?
I think most Patriots fans are getting a little tired of the “pick lumping” because the team has had obvious areas of need (pass rush mostly) for years now. Every year, we think, “This is the year we cash in our chips in the draft and get a marquee player.” However, it’s always the same story. Bill Belichick has done draft trades for several years now, but he’s become a real wheeler and dealer since around 2007/2008. The 2010 draft yielded a phenomenal draft class for the Pats, but the jury’s still out on this one. First-round pick OT Nate Solder has been solid and third-round pick RB Stevan Ridley has shown potential, but we haven’t seen much from anybody else.
3. Over him or still hopeful that Ochocinco will pan out for the Pats?
Chad Ochocinco is still on the team and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so I’m hopeful that he can contribute. However, I’m over him in the sense that I don’t expect much anymore. I’d rather see what last year’s third-round pick Taylor Price can do with an increased workload.
4. The Pats have dominated the Steelers for past 8 years (6-2 record).  Most of the wins being lopsided ones, and it’s obvious why – Tom Brady and the passing game.  Do you feel that the game plan will change much since the Steelers have the #1 passing defense in the league?  I cede that they haven’t played QB’s like Brady, but the secondary has been able to shut down the majority of the #1 and #2 receivers on each team.  Thoughts?
I don’t think that the Patriots are going to change a thing. The problem the Patriots pose to the Steelers is that they don’t necessarily line up their best receivers on the outside against the team’s best corners. Wes Welker, who is clearly the Pats’ best, lines up in the slot and occasionally moves outside. The tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, are the Pat’s next best receivers. Do you line up your corners against them? Are they physical enough and big enough to match up against the tight ends? If you do move your best corners in, are the remaining corners good enough to stop Deion Branch from having a big game? There’s no easy answers there.
5. What is the biggest matchup the Steelers should be preparing for?
As I mentioned above, the tight ends pose the biggest problem for the Steelers. Gronkowski had 5 catches for 72 yards and 3 touchdowns last season against the Steelers, and Aaron Hernandez, who’s a better receiver, didn’t play because he was injured. They’re tough to cover with linebackers, and you risk exposing your secondary to getting torched by Welker and Branch if you move your best guys inside. I think the Steelers will try something different because the coaching staff is too good to go with the same game plan that hasn’t worked well. I’m interested to see what they try. Maybe ratcheting up the pressure on Brady and hope he doesn’t have time to get the ball out?
Bonus: Predictions?
I think Tom Brady has the Steelers’ number, and Aaron Hernandez gives him an extra element that he didn’t have last year. I don’t think it will be a blowout because Ben Roethlisberger should have success against the Patriots’ secondary. I’m thinking a high-scoring game with the Patriots winning 38-34.

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