Patriots Report: Can the Steelers be Stopped?
By Chris Goodhue, Site Contributor
Many people are wondering just how the Patriots will stop the ball-control offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday. The Steelers have run the ball 62 percent of the time this year, controlling the clock for an average of 34 minutes per game, best in the league. This strategy keeps their defense fresh to run roughshod over opponents and force mistakes. So how do you avoid being slow-pounded to death? Its simpler than you might think.
There is no doubt that the Steelers have two very good running backs in Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley. Are they great however? Jerome Bettis 13 TDs is the statistic that shines brightest in his 2004 season profile. However, only one of those was more than 5 yards long, a 12-yard rumble against the Jets in week 14. On top of that, his longest carry of the year was only 29 yards long. His yards per carry average was low also, as he only averaged 3.8 yards per attempt, good for 18th among AFC-qualifying backs. Bettis figures to get the start Sunday, so the Pats will be smart to bring Rodney Harrison up to the line and put 8 men in the box when he is in the backfield.
Duce Staley also does his share of the legwork. Staley gained 830 yards on 192 attempts for average of 4.3. Although he is being nagged by a hamstring injury, he will be used to spell Bettis and on third downs as well. When he is in the game they may try to give it to him on the outside, so he can use his power and deceiving speed to shed the outside linebackers and corners. A receiving threat throughout his career, Duce has a surprisingly low 6 receptions in 10 games. In all, Steeler backs have caught only 34 passes on the season, led by Verron Haynes with 18. Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel will be honed in on containing Staley when he is in there and will be able to force him inside on off-tackle runs allowing either Ted Johnson or Tedy Bruschi to come up and make the play.
Perhaps the reason the Steelers run so much, is the fact that they are not very adept at pass-blocking. Ben Roethlisberger has been sacked 30 times in only 295 attempts. On average, he is sacked once every 9.83 attempts which is the second worst among AFC starters. When Ben is sacked, it is usually a big loss as well. He was 3rd worst in the AFC with 7.1 yards lost per sack. This shows that as a rookie, he does not step up in the face of pressure and could either make mistakes throwing off his back foot to a receiver or rolling out and forcing the issue. In passing situations, the Patriots could bring the house.
It is fairly obvious what has to be done. When Bettis is in, theyve got to stuff the middle and force him to minimal gains and make Roethlisberger throw in uncomfortable situations such as 3rd and long. They must kill the run early, take an early lead and let them depend on a rookie who has not thrown more than 30 passes in a game all season. Hell take a page out of Bill Cowhers playbook and reserve hotels for the Superbowl .but hell be calling on behalf of Bill Belichicks boys.
Chris Goodhue has been running fantasy football and baseball teams since 1999 with one title to his credit. He can usually be found at a local Boston area sports bar settling arguments of sports history, but in case you can't find him send your questions and feedback to cgoodhue in the Insider Forums
If you are reading this article via a news portal, you can find the original
story as well as links to others at Patriots
Or talk about the Team and the players on the Patriots