Once again, it's time for our weekly Q&A session with a blogger who covers the Patriots' upcoming opponent. Up this week is Bam from Blitzburgh Blog. Here's what Bam had to say about the Steelers and Pats leading up to Sunday's game.
1. The Steelers are 5-2, but are not really on anyone's radar. Why do you think that is and where do they stack up in the AFC in your minds?
I think the general, football-watching public saw the Steelers get trounced by the Ravens in week one and decided that they were too old and too slow to still be an elite team. There might be some truth to that, but the Steelers turned the ball over 7 times at Baltimore in week one, something they do about once every 25 years. They are not nearly as bad as they looked in that game. Injuries have been the team's biggest issue, though, and that can be something that's impossible to overcome. I think the Steelers are among the AFC's three best teams (with the Pats and Ravens). I haven't seen enough football yet to stack anybody up in more detail than that.
2. Pittsburgh has always been known for pounding the football, but Rashard Mendenhall has been getting pounded by injuries. Are we seeing more of a transition to Roethlisberger throwing the ball more in this offense?
It's interesting that you brought this up. Win or lose, tons of Steeler fans complain every week that the team isn't running the ball enough and call for the team to get back to "Steelers football." The
truth is ever since Ben Roethlisberger showed up, the Steelers have been a passing-first offense. Roethlisberger carried the offense during the 2005 Super Bowl run and did the same thing during the
team's 2008 title. With the NFL's recent rule changes regarding downfield contact by defensive backs, it has gotten a lot easier to pass and the eye-popping passing numbers being put up this year
reflect that. The Steelers have wisely adapted and began airing it out a little bit more, much to the chagrin of the old school fans.
3. James Harrison has been out the last couple of weeks with that eye problem. Do you think he will be back this week and how has the defense played without him?
Harrison broke the orbital bone above his right eye three weeks ago in Houston after being headbutted and he won't be back for a few more weeks. What's crazy is that he actually came back and played a few more series in that game after sustaining a broken face. Harrison's backup at LOLB is Jason Worilds, but he's out with a leg injury so ILB Lawrence Timmons has moved to the outside to take Harrison's place. The Steelers haven't missed Harrison too much, but I think his absence
is going to loom large this weekend. Timmons is by far the Steelers most athletic linebacker and not having him on the inside to cover backs and tight ends is going to create some mismatches for Tom Brady to exploit.
4. Speaking of the Steel Curtain D, it seems the only guy that is not confused by Dick Lebeau's schemes is Tom Brady. What does Brady do right that the other 30 teams do not?
I wish I knew all the answers to this one...I'm sure Dick LeBeau and Mike Tomlin do as well. The Steelers have managed to contain great QBs in recent years like Brees and Manning, but the team hasn't beaten Tom Brady since 2004. Brady does a few things really well that I think help him against the Steelers. He releases the ball very quickly which negates the impact that the Steelers pass rush has. LeBeau's entire system revolves around pressuring the quarterback and dictating the
game with the LBs. Brady has the ball out of his hands before guys like Harrison and Woodley ever have a chance to hit him. Brady also uses his RBs and TEs often against Pittsburgh. The Steelers have had a really tough time matching up with athletic backs and ends, in part because James Farrior and Larry Foote are a lot slower than they used to be.
5. Give me a X-Factor for this game!
Pressuring Tom Brady. If he is comfortable in the pocket, he is going to pick apart the Steelers defense and I don't think the game will be close. The Steelers have seen time and time again what happens when No. 12 has time to find open receivers. I think the Steelers can hang some points on the Patriots, but if the game becomes a total shootout I don't like Pittsburgh's chances.
6. Who is going to win Sunday night in the Giant Ketchup Bottle and Why?
I honestly thought the Steelers were going to get over the Patriots hump last season, but I was once again proven wrong. I've decided that I will never pick the Steelers to beat Brady and Co. until they prove that they actually can. I have zero confidence that anything will be change on Sunday from 2010 or any of the other recent meetings between the two teams. I guarantee Brady will probably throw 3 TDs to some white guy we have never heard of and a Patriots defensive back will return a Big Ben interception for six.
Patriots 41 Steelers 17