Can the Steelers beat the Patriots?
Yes, of course they can. Anyone can beat anyone.
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the likelihood of Pittsburgh pulling a win out on Sunday against the 6-2 Patriots is pretty slim. Right now, the Steelers don’t have a lot going for them. Their beleaguered offensive line is badly banged up and could be without three starters, their running game vanished again last week, their defense has been inconsistent, and they team is suffering an overall lack of talent and depth.
To be fair, I don’t see the Pats running away with this one, there is still talent on the defensive side for the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger has the ability to keep this team in every game. The Patriots are banged up as well and their no-name receiving corps has not exactly set the world on fire. Letting Wes Welker go and bringing in Danny Amendola to replace him has blown up in the Pats’ faces. Amendola gets hurt getting out of bed in the morning , and Welker is on pace for a career year, so the Patriots clearly out-cuted themselves on this one. Julian Edelman remains a viable threat in the passing game and on kick returns, but the rest of the bunch is pedestrian at best. New England’s offensive line is banged up as well and their middle linebacker and tempo setter Jerod Mayo is gone for the year. Tom Brady’s numbers are way down this year, and the combination of father time and the lackluster play at the skill positions are proving to the world that Mr. Gisele Bunchen is quite human. New England is not at their most dominant, far from it, and it could be that the Brady/Belichick magic is starting to wane. The Pats are far from unbeatable, but the question for Mike Tomlin’s crew is can they exploit those weaknesses.
I’ve spent a great deal of time and space spelling out my case for why Tomlin should be fired, so I won’t go through that dance here. I have no faith that he has the skills or talent to pull off a win Sunday. Trust me, I’d love to eat those words come Monday morning, and by all means I will if they can pull off the win. Tomlin just looks so lost, so clueless, so ill prepared game after game, I just see this season spiraling down the tubes.
On Tuesday I suggested it was time to gut the Steelers, to clean some house, and was met with a mixture of opinions. I was labelled a comedian on facebook and was presented with the fact that this is Tomlin’s first losing season, so I should hold my horses. I was also reminded that Cowher had a string of bad years and was allowed to stay on and right the ship, which is fact. But aside from this being his first losing season, this will be Tomlin’s third time to not make the playoffs (’09,’12) and he lost twice in the first round of the playoffs (’07,’11). So in his seven years he will have failed to make the playoffs three times and lost in the first round in two others, but he’s been to the Superbowl twice, winning one, so draw your own conclusions. The game against the Pats will be the featured game on CBS’ doubleheader, so all of America will be able to see for themselves about the state of the Steelers and their head coach.
As I said, anyone can beat anyone. Despite their record, I don’t think the Steelers are as bad as the Jaguars or Bucs. If they can find that same fire and intensity that they rode to victories over the Jets and Ravens than they have a chance. If Le’Veon Bell can find that mojo he ran with against the Ravens then they have a chance. The best plan would be for Todd Haley to draw up a first series that will keep the Pats off balance and bust their schemes. Throw the ball deep on first down, none of these quick receiver screen passes that gain two yards. Utilize Felix Jones’ speed, get him some pitches to the outside, give him an opportunity to turn the corner. Use Derek Moye’s size against the smaller New England corners and find someone other than Antonio “captain fair catch” Brown to return punts. Brown does not give his team good field position on punt returns, unlike his Patriots counterpart Julian Edelman, who is a threat to bring one back every time.
Defensively, the Steelers corners need to play tighter, get in the receivers faces, knock them off of their routes, throw off Brady’s timing. We all know how nervous Brady gets when there are defenders at his feet, putting pressure on him Sunday is crucial. Belichick’s offense relies on timing, getting Brady to have to hold the ball for an extra few seconds can lead to sacks and possibly an ill advised pass or two. If the Steelers continue their trend of playing from behind, then forget any hopes of pulling out a victory. To beat New England you have to jump on them early and often. No lead is ever too safe from Tom terrific, but these are not the same Pats as in the past. They have weaknesses that good teams can exploit. Whether or not the Steelers are one of those teams will be proven on Sunday.
What are the Steelers keys to beating the Pats? Tell me what you think.