the Steelers have to do on Sunday
An Insiders perspective from New England.
By Patriots Insider Staff
In order for the Steelers to win, they must focus on attacking three areas where the Patriots have shown weakness:
1) Run, run and run some more. The Patriots have had trouble slowing down the run in each game they've place during the regular season as well as the preseason. In uncharacteristic fashion the New England has shown the inability to stop the run early in a game. Although the team is ranked 12th overall against the run, they have allowed their opponents to exploit this weakness for drive sustaining ruins on 3rd down. Against the Raiders, they allowed LaMont Jordan to rip off runs of 7 yards nearly half a dozen times before slowing him at all. Against the Panthers, it was a near repeat performance until Rodney Harrison came up to provide safety support. The Steelers have one of the best rushing attacks in the league with Willie Parker. Parker's 5.8 yard per carry average is tops in the league for backs with at least 20 carries. His 272 yards in two games has him second in the league behind only Cadillac Williams. With the Steelers ability to run, coupled with an efficient passing game, the Patriots injury-depleted secondary will be more vulnerable to the play-action, and the Steelers will have better control the clock.
2) Stack the line and prevent the deep ball. If the Steelers can stack the line to slow down and stop Corey Dillon, they're going to get Tom Brady in second and long or third and long situations. That would play right into Pittsburgh's tough blitz schemes designed to disrupt the timing of plays such as are the main staple of the Patriots 3-step drop and throws. With Dillon and the Patriots ground game contained, the Steelers can unload on a susceptible Brady in the pocket, a tactic that Carolina employed with devastating results. Stopping the run enabled Carolina to limit the plays available to the Patriots offense, something that they needed to do in order to prevent Brady from using TE's Ben Watson and Dan Graham in the medium passing game.
3) Exploit special teams. The Patriots haven't been able to slow any kick returners down to the point that is acceptable thus far in the season, and it doesn't look like they've made enough adjustments to think that will turn around any time soon. They currently rank 26th in the league in kick return coverage. If the Steelers can break a couple long returns and add that to the momentum they're sure to have with a ball-control rushing game, they should rack up some points while keeping the Patriots off the field and limiting their ability to keep pace. Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick has voiced his disgust with the special teams performance, this week and the team has frantically been bringing in players for tryouts in a quest to find help. When good teams start drives on the 30 yard line or better, as has been happening regularly against the Patriots, that's going to lead to points. Any points are already going to be hard to come by against a very solid Pittsburgh defense.
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