Keys To the Game
Overcome the Dropsies - Randy Moss, Ben Watson and Donte Stallworth have all had important passes dropped at key times in the Patriots past two games. Those drops led to contests that shouldn't have been as close as there were. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal when Watson dropped a first quarter touchdown and Randy dropped another.
Protect Tom Brady - If the Patriots can prevent the Steelers from doing what they do best - pressure the opposing quarterback-then the Patriots should be able to exploit Anthony Smith's brash claim to guarantee a victory. Smith said he didn't see any reason why the Steelers can't win on Sunday. So he guaranteed it. Much of Smith's confidence obviously came from watching how both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Baltimore Ravens were able to exploit the Patriots protection to get to Brady. While Brady hasn't had the kind of time he's used to, he was still able to move the ball when he needed to.
Stop The Run - Willie Parker is the type of back who can go off on a defense that doesn't' perform good discipline or tackle well. The Patriots have had their hands full giving up 166 yards on the ground to the Ravens, Willis McGahee managed 130 on his own. Parker is faster than McGahee, and the Steelers can exploit the Patriots at the line.
Run Over and Over - The Patriots defense, as mentioned above, have issues stopping the run. Actually they have had a number of problems stopping runs on the inside, outside even, draw plays or scrambles. Breakdowns in gap control have been the main culprit, but linebackers not shedding blocks have also contributed to the issue. The Steelers have been able to get Parker on track for 100 yards 6 times this season (Cleveland x2, Buffalo, San Francisco, Seattle and Cincinnati). Much like Cleveland, the Patriots run a 3-4 defense meaning if the guys up front are blocked, there's a good chance to bust into the open field.
Sustain Drives - If the Steelers want to keep Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and crew off the field, they're going to have to sustain drives and finish with touchdowns, not field goals. If Ben Roethlisberger can avoid making a dumb mistake late -- like Kyle Boller and AJ Feeley did the past two weeks - then Pittsburgh has every chance of being in the same position (on top) late in the game. Pittsburgh has a better defense than both the Ravens and the Eagles, so holding any lead the Steelers offense can generate will put more pressure on Brady than he's faced all year.
Get To Brady - It's simple, just pressure Brady. If the Steelers defense can get to Tom Brady to knock him around or hurry his throws, then the Patriots will struggle on offense. It's not the same high-powered attack when Brady is under pressure and can't find his weapons downfield. The Steelers have some of the best defenders in the league and should be able to apply heat to Brady and that offense.