Patriots Games Follow Same Script

Unfortunately, Mike Prisuta doesn't expect much to change this Sunday when the Steelers host the New England Patriots. Here are the grim reminders:

Here they come again.

And by now we all know what's coming, don't we?

The Steelers actually beat the Patriots in 1997 in the playoffs (7-6 at Three Rivers Stadium).

Since then New England is 7-2 against Pittsburgh. The exceptions were a 34-20 Steelers triumph in 2004 at Heinz Field. The Patriots made up for that on their return visit with a 41-27 thumping in that season's AFC Championship Game. The other was a 33-10 victory in 2008 at New England against Matt Cassel, not Tom Brady.

Last year it was 39-26 bad guys at Heinz and it wasn't that close, which means it was pretty typical as far as Patriots-Steelers encounters go.

The following notations and numbers from a year ago are presented in an effort to help you brace yourself for the impending next installment:

QB COMPARISON: Tom Brady was 30-for-43 for 350 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger was a very comparable 30-for-49 for 387 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.

The major difference was in the sacks department. Brady wasn't sacked and Roethlisberger went down five times. Whether that's because Brady gets the ball out quickly or because the Steelers' offensive line can't adequately protect doesn't really matter anymore. The bottom line is when these teams get together one quarterback goes down and the other doesn't.

Count on it.

RUN TO WIN: Brady's greatness overshadows a New England running game that's usually better than it is given credit for being. It certainly was last year when the Pats rushed for 103 yards and averaged 4.3 yards per carry against the Steelers. Pittsburgh's first eight opponents had all rushed for 75 yards or fewer and none of them had averaged as much as 3.7 a carry. None of that seemed to deter the Pats.

PASS DEFENSELESS: On those 43 Brady pass attempts he was hit precisely three times. And the Steelers wound up getting credited with two passes defensed.

Brady and his pass-receiving targets might as well have been playing catch.

NOT MAKING PLAYS: The Steelers often have their chances against the Patriots but wind up unable to capitalize. That was clearly the case a year ago. Mike Wallace and Antwaan Randle El dropped potential touchdown passes. Emmanuel Sanders didn't get his head around to look at what could have been a touchdown pass on a "hot" route. Heath Miller was unable to make what would have been a difficult catch for a touchdown. Jeff Reed missed a 26-yard field goal in what turned out to be his last appearance with the Steelers.

As for the defense, in addition to getting just two passes defensed and zero sacks it managed all of one tackle for a loss -- William Gay on a flanker screen to Wes Welker.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Last year it was safety James Sanders going 32 yards on an interception return for a back-breaking score. Isn't it always somebody, Troy Brown, Rodney Harrison, etc?

That was the only time the Steelers' offense was scored upon last regular season. No surprise that the team doing the scoring was New England.

RENEGADE DIDN'T HAVE IT MADE: The Steelers played their unofficial fight song just prior to a New England possession that commenced with 3:40 left in the third quarter and the Pats up, 17-3. New England promptly matched 80 yards in seven plays for six more points.

The Steelers wound up outscoring the Patriots post-Renegade by a 23-22 count. But it was still a case of way too little way too late.

Isn't it usually?


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