By: Russ Goldman
The Patriots are back in action on Sunday to face the Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Here are Five Things for you to look for in this match-up.
1. Can the Patriots offense actually feature running back Stevan Ridley throughout the game? It is really time that the Patriots get the ball to Ridley on a consistent basis. Last week he ran for 79 yards, with only 14 carries, which comes out to an impressive 5.6 yards per carry.
There is a serious opportunity to take advantage of a Steelers defense that is 27th in the NFL in rush defense giving up 121.9 yards per carry. Please forget about running back by committee, and feature Ridley in the running game.
2. Can the Patriots offensive line finally protect Tom Brady? The Patriots offensive line continues to struggle to protect Brady. This has been a constant theme lately, and it is time for this issue to go away.
The Steelers only have ten sacks, so their pass rush is not what it has been in the past. The line needs to have a strong showing, because the Steelers defense is actually second in the league in passing yards, so Brady might need more time to find the open receiver.
3. Can the Patriots offense convert on third down? The Patriots last week were again pathetic on third down converting on 2-10 which is horrible. One of the major reasons the Patriots offense has been poor this season, is there lack of ability to continue drives by converting on third down.
A key in this game is to get the percentage of conversion way up against the Steelers. If they cannot improve on third down on Sunday, it could cost them the game.
4. Can the Patriots defense cover tight end Heath Miller? A weakness of the Patriots defense continues to be covering the tight end in passing situations. Miller is one of the better tight ends in the league, and has 20 receptions for 225 yards.
You could see a safety cover him in this game, and they need to contain Miller, because Roethlisberger likes to go to him often to move the chains. If you want to stop the Steelers offense, you can start by shutting down Miller.
5. Can the Patriots defense get after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger? The Patriots did a nice job last week as they put serious pressure on Ryan Tannehill in the second half.
Regardless of the Steelers record, Roethlisberger still has the ability to beat you, if you just let him sit back there. The Steelers are having issues on the offensive line, so there should be an opportunity to bring the pressure. If I was Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, I would blitz early and often.
Now, on to the game, I know the Steelers are down this season, but I still fear their quarterback. I am actually expecting a fairly close game, but in the end, the Patriots should survive and get the victory.
If you are looking for more of an extensive preview of this game, please take a listen below to Patriots Fourth And Two.