Guest Analyst: Jim Wexell, beat writer for Scout.com's Pittsburgh Steelers affiliate, SteelCityInsiders.com
What do you make of Anthony Smith's comments guaranteeing a win over the Patriots this week?
Jim Wexell: It was all about a radio man wanting better ratings, so he took candy from the baby's mouth, told all the other reporters about his "scoop" at lunch, and so they all packed around Smith's cubicle and put the word "guarantee" in his mouth (or in the question). Big deal. If the Pats need that, they have flaws in their adult character.
The last time the Patriots were on a record setting 21-game winning streak, the Steelers ended it. The Patriots are building toward eclipsing that record and they face the Steelers again. Do you think that gives the Steelers any extra motivation?
Wexell: No. Both teams have divisions locked up. Real urgency is gone till the playoffs. That's when real adrenaline flows.
Heinz Field has a reputation as being one of the worst playing surfaces in the NFL, a reputation that has been attributed to overuse. That was never more evident than the Miami-Pittsburgh slopfest a little over a week ago. The Patriots opted to rip out their own natural surface when they played the Jets on little more than painted dirt two seasons ago. Do you expect Pittsburgh to go in a similar direction as New England and replace the grass with Fieldturf or another artificial surface?
Wexell: Dan Rooney likes grass, as I do, and his son and eventual successor, Art Rooney II, likes field turf. Dan may have been embarrassed a wee bit, so there's hope for the Football-is-my-home-theater crowd, but my guess is he sticks with grass. (P.S. I'm the only dolt in Pittsburgh who thinks that way.)
Wexell: Troy might not return. The key returnee is LT Marvel Smith. The Steelers were 5-12 in games he's missed over the years. Replacement Max Starks and his lead feet were helped by the muck the last two weeks, and that record is now 7-12. Holmes is needed as a deep threat, but I don't know if he'll have all his speed back with the ankle injury. Troy has been replaced ably by Tyrone Carter, another knucklehead, like Anthony, who knows no better than to hit with extreme prejudice. Troy's a loss to [Dick] LeBeau though. He's his chess piece.
The Patriots were blowing out opponents early in the year, but have struggled with solid blitzing defenses the past two weeks. Do you think that the double-digit point spread for this game is warranted, or do you expect the game to be much closer?
I expect the Patriots to win, and if they add a touchdown to their six-point lead then they'll beat the spread. You're worried about your weak O-tackles and we're worried about our C and RG getting push up the middle, like the Ravens and Eagles did.
Be sure to check out part 1 of this Q&A with Steelers insider Jim Wexell