Each week I am hoping to bring a view of the upcoming game from a writer who covers the Patriots opposition, and this week we have Scott Brown who covers the Steelers for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Scott was generous enough to take some time to answer my questions about Sunday’s game, and it’s always interesting to get some insight from someone who writes about the opposing team.
Here are my “Five Questions About The Upcoming Steelers Game with Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review."
1. Ben Roethlisberger has started the season real strong, and the passing game seems to be a bigger part of the offense. Have the Steelers gone away somewhat from their focus on establishing the run?
I think they Steelers have been moving in that direction for a couple of years now due to several factors, including Ben Roethlisberger's development and an offensive line that has struggled to establish control of the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers do want close to a 50/50 split when it comes to run/pass but they aren't going to run the ball just to run the ball. Last week served as a case in point. Arizona, determined not to let Pittsburgh run the ball, played strong safety Adrian Wilson close to the line of scrimmage and used him frequently on run blitzes. As a result the Steelers aired it out and Roethlisberger threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns.
A week earlier, the Steelers ran the ball considerably more than they passed it against Jacksonville so they will try to establish the run. They are just not going to force it if it isn't there, especially since they have Roethlisberger and so much talent at the skill positions.
2. The Patriots defensive backfield has not been tested lately on deep routes. Do you feel the Steelers will take their shots against the Patriots down the field with the emergence of Mike Wallace as a real deep threat?
Without question. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said recently that he likes to go into a game with the plan of going deep to Wallace five times. Expect to see the Steelers test the Patriots deep not only with but also emerging second-year men Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. They are not as speedy as Wallace but they are among the fastest players on the Steelers.
3. The defense for the Steelers is still ranked very high in most categories. However, there has been talk that the defense could be starting to show some age. Do you see any downturn on this unit this season?
The Steelers had some struggles early on defense and I do attribute that to age -- but more on the younger players than the older ones. While the age of the Steelers' defense was well documented, players like LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and Ziggy Hood didn't play well early. I think that had as much to do with some of the Steelers' shortcomings on defense as anything.
4. Would you consider the defensive backfield, the weakness of the Steelers defense?
To be determined. The secondary has been a bright spot through the first seven games with cornerback Ike Taylor playing argably the best ball of his career. The same goes with William Gay, who starts opposite Taylor, and third cornerback Keenan Lewis, who is finally showing why the Steelers used a third-round pick on him in 2009.
However, the best quarterback the Steelers faced to date was Matt Schaub, and he didn't have to do much throwing against them given how effective Houston's ground game was that day.
In short, the Steelers are facing a whole different caliber of quarterback in Tom Brady, one that also happens to own the Steelers.
5. What is your key match-up for this game?
Tom Brady vs. the Steelers pass defense. It isn't just up to the secondary to slow down Brady. The Steelers also need their front seven to hurry or sack Brady, something Pittsburgh didn't do last season. If the Steelers are not able to pressure Brady it won't matter how well their defensive backs play, he will again have a big game at Heinz Field.
Can you also give me your prediction for the game?
The Steelers don't have a signature win this season, and they won't get it against the Patriots. Brady has just been too much for them, and he improves to 7-1 lifetime against the Steelers. Patriots 31, Steelers 20.
A special thanks to Scott for taking his time to give his thoughts on this weekend’s match-up. You can also follow him on twitter at ScottBrown_Trib.