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When the 6-1 Patriots take on the 5-2 Steelers this Sunday we all will get a little preview of what may come later in the playoffs as both teams look to make runs at the Super Bowl. Both teams have been playing well as of late and this should be another classic showdown between one of the leagues’ best offenses and one of the best defenses.
New England is the No. 1-ranked offense and Pittsburgh is the third-ranked defense. On paper this would seem like an even matchup and for years the Steelers have been known for their staunch defense, but there is one thing that those stats don’t reflect: Tom Brady is the QB for the Patriots and if history shows anything it’s that Brady plays really well against the Steelers.
Brady is 6-1 all-time against Pittsburgh with a 104.8 career passer rating and a 67.8 completion percentage. You don’t have to be a sports analyst to know that those are astonishingly good stats against a team whose defense is usually its strong point. In the most recent matchup between the two from last year, Brady was 30 of 43 for 350 yards and three touchdowns.
Mike Tomlin, whose now in his fifth season coaching the Steelers, has yet to beat the Patriots. “He is just very good physically and mentally,” Tomlin said this week. “He is very talented in both areas. He is tough to trick, he makes quick decisions, he has pinpoint accuracy and he has the arm to do the things he desires to do.”
The Steelers run a base 3-4 defense with a lot of zone-blitzes that are designed to trick and disguise quarterbacks, but Brady always seems to be a step ahead of them. Brady’s ability, plus the personel for both teams favors the Patriots. The Steelers strength is not their secondary it’s their front seven.
With the way the Patriots utilize spread formations along with the emergence of tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, the Steelers are forced to sub out linebackers for more corners, or live with James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, and Larry Foote matched up against the more athletic tight ends.
With the way the Patriots have been able to run the ball this year–they are 10th in the league–it’s a double edge sword for the Steelers. Not having James Harrison, who will miss his 4th game due to an eye injury, hurts as well because it takes away from the Steelers pass rush, which as we have seen over the years is the only way to get to Brady.
On the flip side is the atrocious Patriot defense, especially the secondary, against Big Ben and the Steeler offense. The Steelers have the 9th ranked pass offense and the Patriots have the 32nd ranked pass defense.
This matchup should favor the Steelers as Rashard Mendenhall has been running the ball effectively and with a WR core consisting of Mike Wallace, Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, and TE Heath Miller, the Steelers should have no problem exploiting the secondary.
This game has the looks of a shootout the question boils down to whether the Steelers can manage to stop Brady and if Big Ben, who isn’t known for putting up monster numbers in a game, can keep up with the high scoring Patriots. This is not to say that history won’t repeat itself again and that means that Tom Brady and the Patriots have the Steelers number.
Add to that giving Belichick an extra week to prepare and it is probable that the Patriots will win a high scoring. Final Prediction: Patriots 31 Steelers 21.
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