Steelers' Schedule to Pick Up Steam

The 5-2 Steelers will now be tested by the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in successive weeks.

The Steelers completed an easy stretch of their schedule with three consecutive victories to go 5-2, and now here come the big boys.

The real test for the Steelers will play out over the next two weeks when they play the Patriots on Sunday and the Ravens the next week. Pittsburgh's edge: Both games will be played at Heinz Field.

The Steelers have not had much success against the Patriots. They are 2-7 against New England since 1998, including two home playoff losses in the AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field after the 2001 and 2004 seasons. Many Steelers from those teams still believe they were cheated by Spygate, that New England's offense and defense knew their plays too well.

The two Steelers victories over the past 13 seasons came in the regular season. Pittsburgh knocked New England from the undefeated ranks in the middle of the 2004 season, and the Steelers won at Foxboro with Matt Cassel and not Tom Brady at quarterback in 2008. Brady has a 6-1 record against the Steelers.

"They've beaten us quite a few times since I've been here, but every challenge is a new challenge, and every year is a new year," said linebacker and defensive captain James Farrior, who came to the Steelers as a free agent in 2002.

"Brady's one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He'll be a tough guy to stop. He'll study up on us pretty good, so we have to study up on him."

Brady has had an extra week to prepare because the Patriots had their bye Sunday.

As for the Ravens, they humiliated the Steelers in Baltimore in the opener, 35-7, in which they came up with seven takeaways to none for the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger had five turnovers that day, three interceptions and two lost fumbles.

The Pittsburgh defense has been shockingly quiet on the takeaway front. The Steelers have two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Last season, they forced 35 turnovers. They are on pace for one of their worst seasons in history for producing turnovers and know they need to improve in that area if they are to have a chance to win the next two games.

"If we want to be great, we've got to get those plays," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "We've got to get turnovers. We haven't had many up to this point. The turnovers are going to come, and it goes hand in hand with the offense holding onto the ball."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

BY THE NUMBERS: 95 -- Yards on a Ben Roethlisberger-to-Mike Wallace touchdown pass Sunday against Arizona, the longest pass play in Steelers history by 5 yards. The quarterback and receiver have now hooked up for 11 touchdowns of 40 yards or more in their three seasons together, and Wallace has 13 overall.

LINEUP WATCH: Ziggy Hood is now the permanent starting left defensive end after Aaron Smith went on injured reserve with a neck injury, ending his season and probably his career. Smith, 35, played in only two games this season after playing in only 11 total the previous two seasons. Hood was the Steelers' first-round draft choice in 2009.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

* TE Heath Miller surpassed Hall of Famer Franco Harris for sixth in Steelers history with 309 career receptions. He caught four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown Sunday.

* QB Roethlisberger has thrown for at least 200 yards in 15 consecutive regular-season games, a career high. He was 26-for-39 for 361 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday.

* LB LaMarr Woodley, who had 1 1/2 sacks through the first four games, has 5 1/2 in his past three for a team-high seven on the season. He had two vs. Arizona and also forced a safety. He and Dwight White are tied for eighth in Steelers history with 46 career sacks.

* WR Wallace has caught a pass of 40 yards or longer in six straight games, the longest such streak in the NFL since Isaac Bruce had six in 2000.

* WR Antonio Brown caught seven passes for 102 yards against the Cardinals, both career highs for the second-year pro who was a sixth-round draft choice from Central Michigan. Brown moved up to become the team's No. 3 wide receiver.


Steel City Insider Top Stories