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Your 2016 Pittsburgh Steelers...

2021 Patriots Season:
Upcoming Opponent:
Next Up: at Bills
Pick Results: NE: 82.3% at BUF: 17.7%

Mon
Dec 6th

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patman52

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Great post, Welcome. As everyone knows BB will take one weapon away from the opposition. My guess is that he tries to take away Bell, and plays a lot of zone type coverage, with the inexperienced Landry playing.

At least Wheaton gave the Steelers more than Dobsun did that year.
 

PScottman

In the Starting Line-Up
That video is actually really well done. Pretty cool. Pure fiction, but cool nonetheless.

If I may clarify: it is technically well done - shot and especially edited, but content-wise it's telling the editor could only find what - three total QB sack shots out of how many times the teams have played?

And even more ironic the Steelers BEST attribute this matchup is offense and the video harkens back to the early 2000s team dynamic.

Edgy, cool videos are nice, but if your content is...well...pretty much 100% wrong for the times - the final product suffers.
 

MassPats38

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
Greetings Pats Fans,

Each year the Steelers play the Pats, I post my pre-game thoughts here. It's meant to be straight football talk (while I'm perfectly fine with hearing trash talk, it's personally just not my thing.)
Pats 41, Steelers 13

Best wishes for a good and healthy game,

Good to see you back, lilloyd, as always.

I would personally love to see that blowout, but I agree with those saying it will be closer than that. Whether it is the lack of game film on backups, your home turf, or the wear and tear of the last game, it wouldn't surprise me if this game is decided by a TD.

This fan frequently discusses how long Brady can go in terms of a career. I have watched many Steelers games since Big Ben showed up. He's only 34, but having watched the Steelers put him behind some lousy offensive lines (taking more hits than he should) and ask him to throw with defensive linemen on his back for years, how long do you see him playing in the NFL?

He is a unique QB talent and one of the best in the NFL when healthy (probably the only QB that could play in the manner the Steelers ask him to play, and a shame given the quality of weapons around him at this point in his career permitting ridiculous offensive possibilities), but my concern is his recent health issues may be the product of wear and tear from years of hits and his style of play. As you have watched him more closely, do you chalk it up to fluke injuries, or do you see it the same?
 

MassPats38

PatsFans.com Supporter
PatsFans.com Supporter
If I may clarify: it is technically well done - shot and especially edited, but content-wise it's telling the editor could only find what - three total QB sack shots out of how many times the teams have played?

And even more ironic the Steelers BEST attribute this matchup is offense and the video harkens back to the early 2000s team dynamic.

Edgy, cool videos are nice, but if your content is...well...pretty much 100% wrong for the times - the final product suffers.

Content wise, I would have personally focused on the Pats D (secondary) with the Steelers offense (their strength), but I enjoyed the concept. I vividly recall the Halloween beatdown in Pittsburgh in 2004 (4 sacks and I believe Brady's worst day), but the D is not the strength of the Steelers these days (one of my laments, given their history of intimidating Ds but the rules have sent many teams toward a focus on high scoring offenses).
 

SEA_Pat

Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job
Always enjoy your pre-game posts during Steelers week lillloyd, in fact had come searching for them the other day (but you hadn't posted it yet). Very informative and well written, as usual. Similar to many, I'm disappointed we don't get to see two heavyweights battle it out with the losses to injury.

Here's hoping you're right and we don't have a competitive contest. I wouldn't mind enjoying a leisurely blowout on Sunday.
 

mosslost

Pro Bowl Player
Greetings Pats Fans,

Each year the Steelers play the Pats, I post my pre-game thoughts here. It's meant to be straight football talk (while I'm perfectly fine with hearing trash talk, it's personally just not my thing.)

This year's writeup was a pretty solemn affair, and - *SPOILER ALERT* - I'm expecting a huge blowout. Details below...

Steelers Offense - Skill Positions

For a few heady days in March, sport commentators positively gushed about the Steelers' offensive potential: records would be broken, and Pittsburgh was a Super Bowl contender...perhaps even a favorite. Their lineup would include 2016's version of 'the triplets' (Big Ben, AB, Le'veon Bell), an emerging star in Martavis Bryant, the newly-signed Ladarius Green to race down the seams, with Marcus Wheaton and Sammie Coates as your WR3 and WR4 (!!)

Alas, life happens...which in football means injuries (and of course, marijuana).

Let's start with the obvious: there is a yawning chasm between the abilities of Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones. Jones won the QB2 job largely by default, as vet Bruce Gradkowski could never stay healthy. To his credit, Jones did help engineer an improbable home victory against the Cardinals last year, and I guess he has in fact improved over time. But he remains a subpar backup with fundamental accuracy issues that will almost certainly be exposed over multiple starts.

At wideout, Bryant is of course suspended, Green is not yet practicing, Marcus Wheaton has been perpetually injured (and frankly awful--in a contract year no less--to the extent he's even seen the field), and Sammie Coates is playing--if only barely--through finger fractures. Green and Wheaton are certainly out for Sunday, and Coates is only getting reps on the scout team, meaning he will likely only play sporadically (like last week).

Antonio Brown of course remains, but historically speaking AB has suffered greatly when Ben has been out. Teams bracket Brown consistently - a tactic I'm sure the Patriots will employ -- and Jones simply lacks Roethlisberger's pinpoint accuracy when it comes to breaking down double coverage.

Ben's abilities have masked a significant lack of game experience at the wideout position. Aside from AB, Jones will have the following 1st-year starters to throw to: WR Eli Rogers (promising young slot receiver), Jesse James (sure-handed but plodding TE), and WR Cobi Hamilton (journeyman call-up from the practice squad last week). Darius Heyward-Bey remains rostered, and will give you an occasional pop as a still-viable speed merchant...but sadly he remains 'Darius Heyward-Bey'. Bottom line, this is a very inexperienced group behind AB, so there are times every game when the wideouts are simply not where they should be on their routes. This clearly has hampered Ben from time to time, and certainly won't help Jones.

At RB: Le'Veon Bell.....'Nuff said. He should get a TON of touches in this game, as both a RB and at WR.


Steelers Offense - OL


On paper, Pitt boasts 3 Pro Bowl-caliber linemen in Pouncey, RG David Decastro (an All Pro last year), and unheralded RT Marcus Gilbert. But both Gilbert and his backup (IR'd Ryan Harris) are out, and out-of-position guard Chris Hubbard is now in as the 3rd string RT. Beyond that, DeCastro has disappointed, struggling mightily at times with power players (Suh, Fletcher Cox). The truth is that while Pouncey and DeCastro are elite as athletic move-type run blockers, they can both can struggle in pass pro against strong interior D-linemen. Ramon Foster is a savvy, smart, but limited LG; Allejandro Villenueva is a much better story at this point than a player, and can be exploited with athletic edge rushers.

As a whole, this is still an above-average offensive line, but like most OLs it is better at road-grading than pass-pro. The Pats should have pass rush advantages against both OTs on Sunday.


Steelers Defense

The core of the Pitt defense resides in stud 3-4 ends Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, and ILB Ryan Shazier. The hope was that Bud Dupree would also 'make the leap' has an immensely athletic but raw LOLB, giving the Steelers a young, talented, and explosive nucleus. Alas, all save Tuitt have struggled with injuries (although there is hope that Shazier may see the field Sunday.)

Assuming Heyward can't go, New England should be able to cave in the left side of the Steelers' defensive front (typically pretty stout at home against the run). Miami simply wore down the Steelers front last week; without Heyward, rookie Javon Hargrave and reserve Ricardo Matthews will again be forced into heavy snaps.

Last year, Pitt manufactured a pass rush with a steady diet of blitzes, to the tune of 48 sacks - one of the better numbers in the league. This came at a price -- if blitzes did not get home, the back end could not hold up, so there was a real boom/bust quality to the defense.

This year has been quite different - DC Keith Butler has severely restricted his blitzing, typically rushing only 4-- with the result being an extremely low sack total (8). Tuitt and Heyward remain the team's best pass rushers--they can be a handful with their strength and athleticism--but there is no one left at Pittsburgh's once-proud OLB position to collapse the edge. James Harrison gets a bull-rushing push from time to time, but that's about it. Disappointing Jarvis Jones has evolved into a quality run-stopper but little more; Anthony Chickillo is just a pup with some burst; and Arthur Moats is 'just a guy'. The loss of Dupree (more specifically, the loss of what they *hoped* Dupree would become in his 2nd year) has clearly hurt.

Pitt's D spends a ton of time in its nickel and dime packages, with both Tuitt and Heyward staying in at DL. Vet CB William Gay and SS enforcer Mike Mitchell are probably the best of the secondary lot; beyond that there are a bunch of young, unproven high draft picks. There has been talk this week of 1st rounder Artie Burns and (former) 1st rounder Justin Gilbert spending a lot of time at the line this Sunday, jamming receivers or TEs. This is contrary to Pitt's typical approach (keep everything in front of you, tackle the catch) but was deployed with some success in 2011 against the Pats. That said, Burns, Gilbert, and starter Ross ****rell (who is actually decent in pass coverage) will remind no one of Rod Woodson in terms of physicality; one can easily imagine Gronk and Bennett swatting away this CB group like flies if Pitt chooses to play press coverage.

One consistent bright spot for the defense has been their strength in the Red Zone, where they have been near the top of the league. But I have serious doubts as far as whether this will translate into success against a team like New England, with TFB and his elite RZ weapons.

Overall, this is a defense with some health issues and many unproven players. Even at full strength, they would likely have major problems with New England's attack; in their current state they will have issues simply getting off the field.

Steelers Special Teams

We actually have a GREAT punter...that counts, right? (Can we just make this a punt-off? First guy to 1000 yards wins?)


Game Thoughts and Prediction

Hoo boy. Where to begin?

The Pats should have their way with Pittsburgh's defense; it's simply a terrible matchup for Pitt. Brady may not get touched the entire game if we continue to rush 4. (Pitt may try a couple of well-timed blitzes, but they also know Brady is murder against the blitz.) There are obvious mismatches with Gronk and Bennett - Shazier, if healthy, may have a chance in coverage, but outside of that it's the standard dilemma against NE (CBs too small, LBs too slow). Our coverage liabilities extendsto New England's slot receivers and pass-catching backs - it seems that no one runs the short passing game as well as the Patriots, and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see the Pats relentlessly pepper us with body blows underneath to wear us down. I think NE will really have their pick of the litter in this area of the field; Pitt outside of Shazier has no one to match up with James White, let alone Edelman or Gronk.

In the run game, Pitt is typically stout at home, but the injury status of Heyward and Shazier factor significantly here. One terrifying thought is Blount getting to the second level repeatedly over Heyward's vacated spot; Pitt has poor, non-physical tacklers in its secondary outside of Mitchell.

When Pitt has the ball, expect a large dose of Bell and the running game to take pressure off of Jones. But this is strength on strength, and without a credible QB in the passing game NE should be able to stifle the run. Of course, the beauty of Le'Veon is that he's also a pro-quality wideout, so expect him to be split out quite a bit (particularly if the run game stalls.)

Jones -- God bless 'em -- is actually a very confident player (arguably, far too confident for his own good) who will throw aggressively. He has just enough of an arm to challenge most parts of the field, and Pitt's coaching staff (for better or worse) has some faith in him, so he may throw more than we expect. But the tape on him repeatedly shows erratic decision-making and basic issues with accuracy--I'd charitably put the over/under for picks at 3.

I expect BB to remove AB from the game completely - Jones simply has never shown the ability able to feed him in tight spaces when bracketed - so expect a lot of Bell and Eli Rogers underneath, with a sprinkling of Jesse James. Assuming Coates is out or severely limited like last week, Darius Heyward-Bey is the lone remaining deep threat (DHB has actually had a mini-career resurgence in Pittsburgh...but he is still Darius Heyward-Bey, sigh). Bottom line: with AB taken out and a nondescript group of remaining receivers, this will likely be a case of Bell vs. the world when Pitt has the ball.

I expect the Pats to attack Hubbard at RT to see if he can hold up; it's a minor miracle he hasn't been a complete turnstile out there so far. More generally, this seems like an awful Xs and Os matchup, with the inexperienced Jones forced to read BB's nuanced defensive schemes. Expect Jones to throw into coverage early, and often :(

So...is there any way the Pats can lose? Sure, anything is *possible*. Pittsburgh has one of the biggest Jeckyll/Hyde things going in terms of home and away games, and they typically play their best in marquee matchups. (Although to be fair, a lot of that has to do with Roethlisberger IMO). Bell is a stunning talent, and if he can have a superstar-level game with Landry somehow avoiding killer INTs, it's possible Pitt can play some keepaway and shorten the game. Maybe Coates plays, and is able to get behind the Pats' defense a couple of times (and I do think the Pats' pass D is the weaker aspect of their defense). Maybe Jones *has* matured into an NFL-caliber QB, behind the scenes. Pitt has come up with hugely improbable wins in previous years under Jones and Charlie Batch -- maybe, just maybe, at home, the ball will simply bounce our way and we can take out a superior team, against all odds.

*****************

That all said...uh, no. There may be a period of a few minutes or even a quarter where Pitt stays surprisingly close, but I think ultimately the Steelers' D will be overwhelmed by NE's varied attack, with the Steelers' offense will be too limited to keep up.

Pats 41, Steelers 13

Best wishes for a good and healthy game,

lillloyd

Nice write up.

Pats 52-7
 

tasmlab

Starting QB, won 20 SBs, number is retired
PatsFans.com Supporter
2020 Weekly NFL Picks Winner
Nice post.

I sort of miss ten years ago when the Steelers were one of NE's top 1 or 2 rivals and half of the Steelers' defense players were household names.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Good to see you back, lilloyd, as always.

I would personally love to see that blowout, but I agree with those saying it will be closer than that. Whether it is the lack of game film on backups, your home turf, or the wear and tear of the last game, it wouldn't surprise me if this game is decided by a TD.

This fan frequently discusses how long Brady can go in terms of a career. I have watched many Steelers games since Big Ben showed up. He's only 34, but having watched the Steelers put him behind some lousy offensive lines (taking more hits than he should) and ask him to throw with defensive linemen on his back for years, how long do you see him playing in the NFL?

He is a unique QB talent and one of the best in the NFL when healthy (probably the only QB that could play in the manner the Steelers ask him to play, and a shame given the quality of weapons around him at this point in his career permitting ridiculous offensive possibilities), but my concern is his recent health issues may be the product of wear and tear from years of hits and his style of play. As you have watched him more closely, do you chalk it up to fluke injuries, or do you see it the same?

Here's what Roethlisberger has in his favor in terms of potentially playing a good while longer:
  • He is playing behind a vastly better offensive line than he had in his middle career (2007-2011, when he arguably had one of the worst offensive lines in football). Plus, the key components (Pouncey, DeCastro, Gilbert) are locked up long term.
  • The general perception of Roethlisberger as a playground-style QB who just runs around a lot until he can make a play is no longer accurate. Under Haley, Ben gets the ball out extremely quickly (I haven't looked at stats from this year, but last year he was top 5 or 6 in terms of shortest time getting the ball out), and makes most of his plays from the pocket.
  • He's obviously a big, strong guy with a pretty effortless delivery; so long as the injuries don't accumulate on his *arm*, he theoretically could continue to throw the ball effectively for a long time.
OTOH, it would be absolutely crazy not to be concerned about the cumulative effects of his injuries. I'd argue that the Miami injury was a bit flukey - he was just barely clipped at his feet, but sort of planted awkwardly - but there's already speculation that his timetable was lengthened due to bone bruising from a previous injury. And while he does not attempt to extend plays all the time like he used to, the reality is it only takes one of those plays to end in disaster. Unless he eventually turns into a QB that just throws it away and never tries to extend, he's going to be at risk. (The fact that he has been decidedly un-Brady like in his offseason conditioning until very recently does not help).

Personally I think the most likely scenario is that he plays at high level for a good while longer, while continuing to miss games. At some point he'll start missing more than he plays, at which time they'll just have to move on. I'm hoping for another 4 years or so, but we'll see.
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Great post, Welcome. As everyone knows BB will take one weapon away from the opposition. My guess is that he tries to take away Bell, and plays a lot of zone type coverage, with the inexperienced Landry playing.

At least Wheaton gave the Steelers more than Dobsun did that year.
You know, I'd never actually considered that - that they might focus on Bell and take that away, rather than AB, and count on Jones' inaccuracy to take AB out of the game. Bell has been on the field so rarely the past couple of seasons that I've sort of taken it as a given that the defense will be focusing primarily on AB. But AB's dominance is predicated somewhat on Ben; they're kind of a package deal.

It will definitely be interesting to see how they play it. One consequence of playing the Patriots right after Ben's injury is that your coaching staff (assuming they'll be successful, as they typically are) will immediately provide the best possible blueprint for the remaining teams on the schedule on the most effective way to approach the Landry-led Steelers. (I'm old enough to remember how the Pats helped create original blueprint on how to beat LeBeau's 3-4...soon thereafter every team was spreading them out like the Pats.)
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
@lillloyd, this is awesome, thanks. Like others, I've nothing to add as far as gameplay/strategy, so I'll just ask a couple questions about the future. Grab your crystal ball! :)

I'm curious as to how you feel about Bell since his decision making has caused him to be suspended the last two years. Do you feel that his actions are causing a riff between him and the Rooneys for a new contract, regardless of his otherworldly talent, and if so, is it possible that he leaves if one more wrong move, ala Josh Gordon?

The next CBA negotiations are coming and the Steelers were probably the one team that rejected the last one. Do you think it's possible they recruit more teams during talks or continue to fly by their lonesome, especially considering the latest Josh Browns news and how it's riffed a bunch of players?

Thanks again!

I'm pretty sure that the Steelers were the *only* team to vote against the last CBA in 2011. Part of this was they had Charlie Batch as their rep, and he just an extremely thoughtful vet at that point in his career and had a lot of sway in that locker room. I doubt the rank-and-file Steelers had given it too much thought (although the reality was, Goodell was already extremely unpopular with them over the apparent arbitrariness of the punishments levied on the Steelers).

But obviously the Steelers look pretty prescient in hindsight, as their principal argument was against the consolidation of power in Goodell's hands, and his ability to make seemingly unilateral, arbitrary decisions on behalf of the league. And FWIW, the Steelers have another very thoughtful vet as their current player rep, who recently urged his teammates to 'begin saving now' ahead of next round of CBA negotiations (Steelers player rep urges players to save money for a work stoppage) My guess is that many teams have now come around to the Steelers' original position in 2011.

Re/ Bell, that's a tough one. Bell's otherworldy...but he's had both knee injuries and suspensions in each of the last two seasons. RBs don't make AP-type money anymore; I'm guessing the Steelers will want to pay $10-$11 million per season. Bell may not be on-board with that, and all it takes is one team to pony up for a contract north of $15 million to torpedo the Steelers' chance of resigning him. (I wouldn't put him in the Josh Gordon class just yet however, if for no other reason that he somehow negotiated his weed penalty down to the '2nd offense' level, meaning that another transgression will remain at 4 games rather than 10...I've got to believe if he had NOT done that, it would have been a major sticking point in his negotiations since he'd be one strike away from missing the better part of a season).
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Nice job Lloyd, but be careful of all the flattery you've gotten, if you were less pessimistic, it might have been a different story. ;)

Ha! Don't worry, I'm under no illusions here.

And full disclosure: had Pitt been at full strength, I would have picked the Steelers. (Not because I think the Steelers are a better team--I think the Pats are better even with the Steelers at full strength, on a neutral field--but basically because it's a home game and Roethlisberger has been crazy good at home).

Add me to the large number of fans who were looking forward to a nice heavyweight fight amongst equals in order to gauge where are teams are at the near half way point of the season. On the other hand, no one gave us an ounce of sympathy when we were leading the league in starters injuries and players on IR, so it's nice to be on the other side for a change.

I think you ARE being too pessimistic though. It's easy to say, "just bracket AB and stop Bell". But that is what EVERY team's plan is for the Steeler offense, and yet AB and Bell keep on racking up All Pro stats, so I'm sure the Steelers will have something prepared for what the Pats are likely to do.

I appreciate all the Pats fans saying I'm too pessimistic--I really do--and that the score should be closer.

I also think the aforementioned Pats fans have not actually seen Landry Jones play. Fun fact: Landry Jones threw four interceptions in the first half in the preseason against the Eagles.

Along with lots of touches for Bell, I think we'll see AB in motion or in stacked set in order to get him clean releases off the LOS. I also think it would be wise for the Steelers to be patient and take what the Pats give you on defense, because they will give up stuff underneath to protect against the "big play". It's just the way BB wants to play (much to the frustration of many here). We are second in the NFL in scoring D, yet many here think our defense isn't Superbowl quality. I don't understand it but it "is what it is".

Another poster just mentioned the possibility of Bell rather than AB being the chess piece that BB decides to take away. Given that AB's production has been pretty dismal with Ben out, maybe that makes the most sense...what's your opinion here?

Pitt's underneath options are actually pretty good. It starts obviously with Bell, but Eli Rogers has been a pleasant discovery in the slot (although to be fair, his ceiling is as a nice complementary piece, not some star in the making), and James for all his blocking woes has been very sure-handed. Whether Jones has the discipline and accuracy to make these options work is another matter. But we've got to shorten the game somehow, to be sure.

I think Landry is good enough that the Steelers will move the ball.

See above re/ Jones, Landry. 4 picks, one half. SixPatrick-esque.

We don't have a 4 man pass rush that will scare anyone as individuals, but as a unit they will provide pressure, but few sacks. We blitz rarely but effectively, and our secondary people are all excellent tacklers.

Here's another question: does your pressure 'travel well'? While it's obviously true of most teams, I really feel Pitt's OL and DL have an unusually high disparity between home and road performance. We actually have a bit of a pass rush at home, but have zero on the road. How are the Pats in this regard? If we can keep Landry clean, there's at least a theoretical chance of hanging in for a while...but if he's getting pressure I'd say our chances are nonexistent.

As for our offense, it really IS scary. Right now we have a few guys playing hurt, but they ARE playing. The OL is still our biggest question. The C and 2 G's are either rookies or 2nd year guys. The right T is our back up that a lot of people don't like here, but he seems to be playing better than expected. No probowls here, but rather a better than average well coached group that we hope will get better the more experienced they become. It is however the key to any success the Steelers might have.

The Bengals provided an excellent bluepring last week in how to defend this offensive juggernaut. They were very physical on the LOS to keep Brady from getting rid of the ball quickly and in rhythm. They rushed 4 and got enough pressure to move Brady off his spot, and they doubled Gronk (and held him like mad). It worked well enough to hold the Pats to just 10 first half points. And when they started the 2nd half with a TD on their first drive, they held a 14-10 lead. They actually got a stop on the Pats first drive of the half (actually the pats killed their own drive with penalties).....and then the let loose the dogs.

They made adjustments to the pass blocking and routes they were running and suddenly everyone was open, and Brady had tons of time, and the rest is blow out history. 35-17 in a game that was over by the start of the 4th quarter.

FWIW Pitt's strength is its defensive line. I really believe Heyward and Tuitt will evolve into one of the best 3-4 tandems in the game, if they aren't already there. They really like rookie Javon Hargrave at NT as well; he's an unusually sudden player for that position. But the bottom line is that they're not particularly healthy, Hargrave needs seasoning, and their depth is not good enough to stomach the loss of Heyward. I expect Brady to have a ton of time this game.

Cinci has that good pass rushing DL, but their LB's couldn't stay with Gronk, Bennett, and James White (a player we'd all like to upgrade, but keeps on being productive if unspectacular anyways) Good hands- zero run threat.

That's the unsolvable dilemma. Pitt has Shazier and they've drafted some larger, quick corners, so they obviously have an eye towards being able to match up against modern NFL attacks...but the reality is NO ONE has 3 Luke Keuchlys, Lavonte Davids, Cardinal hyrbrids etc. to deploy against the Pats. This is also why Pitt wouldn't be able to stop NE even at full strength; our only hope would have been to outscore you.

So I think, especially at home, the Steelers can have some success in frustrating the Pats offense. The problem is to be able to do for 60 minutes, because once they decipher the defensive game plan, regardless of how good it was to start, they will be hard to stop.

For the Steelers, TO's are the key. You can't turn the ball over to the Pats, and you have to create some of your own. The Pats have a good Defense, but have been weak in the read zone and on 3rd down. On the plus side, as I said, they don't seem to allow many points (about 15/game).

Pitt has forced very few TOs. Also: Landry Jones. (Have I mentioned Landry Jones yet? ;)

Very odd to me that the Pats have been weak in the RZ, seems unlike most BB teams.

I think the Steelers' D may get by on emotion and some unusual looks from Butler (who has been much more of a game-to-game tactician than LeBeau was, FWIW) for a little bit. But at some point, the wheels will come off and the Pats will move at will.

I'm not worried about Brady playing on the road, but I am about the other 45 guys who will dress. The OL and defense are pretty young, and this is only Brady's 3rd game back from his travesty of justice. Still working out the kink, though the stats say he's doing fine. I see the Pats winning the game, but the ball bounces funny sometimes and sh!t happens. We just have to look at what happened last week in Miami. NO one expect you guys to lose that game, let alone get crushed.

Good teams bounce back, especially at home...and the Steelers might just be the other best team in the AFC. So regardless of what transpires on Sunday, a rematch is likely in our future.

For all his woes against inferior competition, Tomlin has been extremely good in 'bounceback' games, and Pitt has been very, very good at home in marquee matchups. But a lot of that has been predicated on Big Ben (3 TDs+ in his last 6 home games, 19-1 at home in October last 20 games). I still think it would take a minor miracle (maybe, not so 'minor'?)...but who knows. "Any Given Sunday" I guess!
 

lillloyd

Third String But Playing on Special Teams
Game Thoughts:
It's the classic 'puncher vs technician' boxing match. Steelers are going to try and land a haymaker early to offset the talent difference with Ben out. They had success last year with deep passes - guys running wide open - but drops haunted your guys. I think they'll try that again to see if they can jump ahead early and make it a shootout which is contrary to everyone thinking it's going to be Bell, Bell, and more Bell - which it will be if that early lead materializes.

I'll try to get to the rest of your post later (gotta run - turns out, there are other life responsibilities besides football :). But this portion caught my eye and is in line with something I've been thinking about.

For better or worse, the Pitt coaching staff has more confidence in Landry Jones than just about anyone else in the world. It would not be out of character for Pittsburgh to try to be clever and script a game plan that runs counter to what everyone else is thinking - basically, throw the ball a ton.

Personally I think this would be too clever by half--basically, running a counter-strategy simply because it's 'outside the box' without consideration for how effective that strategy would actually be (I think Jones will have about 1 in every 10 throws picked TBH). But if you believe that the Pats' defensive strength is in its run D, and if you think the Steelers' strength is its passing game--which I think the Steelers coaching staff probably believes-- I could see Pitt sort of talking themselves into a "we're going to stay aggressive/ keep doing what we do"-type approach.

Again, I think this would likely be disastrous...but I also think your theory about this is a real possibility.
 

PatriotsPimp136

Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract
Our defense might make landry jones look like a pro bowler. Who knows. Gotta stop their running game. I remember when geno smith would look like a stud against our defense. Need to jump on them from the start.
 

patchick

Moderatrix
Staff member
PatsFans.com Supporter
OTOH, it would be absolutely crazy not to be concerned about the cumulative effects of his injuries. I'd argue that the Miami injury was a bit flukey - he was just barely clipped at his feet, but sort of planted awkwardly - but there's already speculation that his timetable was lengthened due to bone bruising from a previous injury. And while he does not attempt to extend plays all the time like he used to, the reality is it only takes one of those plays to end in disaster. Unless he eventually turns into a QB that just throws it away and never tries to extend, he's going to be at risk. (The fact that he has been decidedly un-Brady like in his offseason conditioning until very recently does not help).

Needless to say, the limits of QB longevity are a popular topic around these parts. :) Brady is entering uncharted territory. Based on past QB history this should be just about his last rodeo, but there are several factors suggesting otherwise:

1. So far he's exhibited no skill decline or adjustments due to age-related limitations.
2. He hasn't missed a game to injury in 8 years.
3. He's off the charts on devotion to fitness, including a focus on flexibility for injury prevention.
4. He plays in the "hands off the QBs" NFL era.

Ben checks box #1, but not 2-4. (IMO his style of play earlier in his career largely cancelled out the benefits of the QB protection rules.) In terms of "playing age," Brady at 39, Brees at 37 and Ben at 34 might actually be pretty comparable. I wonder if any of the league's young QBs can really fill the void they'll leave behind.
 

zoostation

In the Starting Line-Up
Nice writeup lilloyd - I'd be curious to get your prediction of the score with a healthy big Ben. My gut says 28 - 20 Pats. I know all signs would point to a shootout but unlike teams like the Colts both of these teams play defense.

Having said that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pats put 35 or more on the board tomorrow but that's only because Ben won't be around to keep TB12 and the Pats O off the field.
 

SVN

PatsFans.com Retired Jersey Club
Ha! Don't worry, I'm under no illusions here.

And full disclosure: had Pitt been at full strength, I would have picked the Steelers. (Not because I think the Steelers are a better team--I think the Pats are better even with the Steelers at full strength, on a neutral field--but basically because it's a home game and Roethlisberger has been crazy good at home).



I appreciate all the Pats fans saying I'm too pessimistic--I really do--and that the score should be closer.

I also think the aforementioned Pats fans have not actually seen Landry Jones play. Fun fact: Landry Jones threw four interceptions in the first half in the preseason against the Eagles.



Another poster just mentioned the possibility of Bell rather than AB being the chess piece that BB decides to take away. Given that AB's production has been pretty dismal with Ben out, maybe that makes the most sense...what's your opinion here?

Pitt's underneath options are actually pretty good. It starts obviously with Bell, but Eli Rogers has been a pleasant discovery in the slot (although to be fair, his ceiling is as a nice complementary piece, not some star in the making), and James for all his blocking woes has been very sure-handed. Whether Jones has the discipline and accuracy to make these options work is another matter. But we've got to shorten the game somehow, to be sure.



See above re/ Jones, Landry. 4 picks, one half. SixPatrick-esque.



Here's another question: does your pressure 'travel well'? While it's obviously true of most teams, I really feel Pitt's OL and DL have an unusually high disparity between home and road performance. We actually have a bit of a pass rush at home, but have zero on the road. How are the Pats in this regard? If we can keep Landry clean, there's at least a theoretical chance of hanging in for a while...but if he's getting pressure I'd say our chances are nonexistent.



FWIW Pitt's strength is its defensive line. I really believe Heyward and Tuitt will evolve into one of the best 3-4 tandems in the game, if they aren't already there. They really like rookie Javon Hargrave at NT as well; he's an unusually sudden player for that position. But the bottom line is that they're not particularly healthy, Hargrave needs seasoning, and their depth is not good enough to stomach the loss of Heyward. I expect Brady to have a ton of time this game.



That's the unsolvable dilemma. Pitt has Shazier and they've drafted some larger, quick corners, so they obviously have an eye towards being able to match up against modern NFL attacks...but the reality is NO ONE has 3 Luke Keuchlys, Lavonte Davids, Cardinal hyrbrids etc. to deploy against the Pats. This is also why Pitt wouldn't be able to stop NE even at full strength; our only hope would have been to outscore you.



Pitt has forced very few TOs. Also: Landry Jones. (Have I mentioned Landry Jones yet? ;)

Very odd to me that the Pats have been weak in the RZ, seems unlike most BB teams.

I think the Steelers' D may get by on emotion and some unusual looks from Butler (who has been much more of a game-to-game tactician than LeBeau was, FWIW) for a little bit. But at some point, the wheels will come off and the Pats will move at will.



For all his woes against inferior competition, Tomlin has been extremely good in 'bounceback' games, and Pitt has been very, very good at home in marquee matchups. But a lot of that has been predicated on Big Ben (3 TDs+ in his last 6 home games, 19-1 at home in October last 20 games). I still think it would take a minor miracle (maybe, not so 'minor'?)...but who knows. "Any Given Sunday" I guess!
Our defense has the habit at times of making ordinary QBs look like pro bowlers. So I wont be surprised if throws it all over the pats on sunday. Regarding pre season performances of his , its had to gauge .Garrapolo looked quite bad in the week 3 pre season game as well. Also ,I am trying to remember, wasnt landry jones the QB when you guys beat the raiders in a shootout at home last year?
 
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