Notebook: The 21-game solution

<b>PITTSBURGH -</b> It was difficult for the Steelers to keep a lid on their enthusiasm for today's game against the New England Patriots.

Off the record, players echoed Brian St. Pierre's belief that the Steelers can run on the Patriots, and will stick with it and therefore have a great chance to end a record 21-game win streak.

"A lot of teams get away from it," St. Pierre said. "You don't get the big hitters against New England, but if you stay consistent with the four and five-yard gains and wear them down, you're going to be there in the fourth quarter."

Then again, that's what the past 21 victims thought. And here are the Patriots, coming off their ninth consecutive win in a game decided by 6 points or less. The Pats are 18-1 in such games under quarterback Tom Brady. They are 6-0 in overtime.

How?

"Brady just gets it done," said Steelers linebacker Clark Haggans. "At the end of the day, any coach knows winning is the only thing that matters. He seems to do it very well."

OK. So how do you beat him? The Boston Herald broke down the New York Jets' pass-rushing approach. Against five or more rushers, Brady was 5 of 6 for 91 yards. Against three rushers, he was 4 of 4 for 37 yards and a touchdown. Against four rushers, he was 11 of 22 for 112 yards and three sacks.

So it's the four-man rush. More nickel?

According to The Herald, "those numbers are consistent with how Brady has performed most of the season."

So look for the Steelers to put just enough pressure on Brady and keep seven in coverage. And stick with the running game, of course.

INJURY UPDATE

Kendrell Bell (groin) is doubtful for the game but has been shooting for a Nov. 4 return at home against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton is out for the season, of course, but the Patriots may not be able to take full advantage because of injuries to halfback Corey Dillon (thigh) and fullback Patrick Pass (thigh).

Dillon was downgraded from probable to questionable late in the week.

Also, short-yardage blocker Dan Klecko is out. He'll be replaced by defensive end Richard Seymour and possibly tight end Daniel Graham.

The Patriots will likely be without wide receivers Troy Brown (shoulder) and Deion Branch (knee) again. Brown hasn't started a game this season and has only played in two. He hasn't played in three weeks, has practiced in a red (no contact) jersey this week and is questionable. Branch hasn't played in the last four games. He's doubtful today.

In their places, speedster David Givens and David Patten have started, with another speedster, Bethel Johnson, coming off the bench.

PRODIGAL PUNTER

Josh Miller makes his return to Heinz Field today and is in the midst of a fine season.

In eight seasons with the Steelers, Miller averaged 42.4 yards per punt with a net average of 35.6. This season, Miller is averaging 44.2 yards per punt with a net average of 37.8. His replacement with the Steelers, Chris Gardocki, is grossing 43.5 and netting 36.0.

QUOTABLE

Linebacker Larry Foote on playing without the 330-pound Hampton at nose tackle:

"I'll be able to see a little bit more in the backfield."

Defensive line coach John Mitchell on the Steelers allowing 4.9 yards per carry the last three games:

"The biggest thing we're worrying about is winning the game. A lot of things people don't know. We do things to help us win, and some teams that we played in the past we wanted to make sure certain players didn't beat us so we were a little soft up front. That doesn't bother me. When the game's over, and we look up at that scoreboard, if we're ahead fine. You can take stats and make them say whatever you want them to say. But, hey, those guys have played hard. We've got more pressures this year. I've got more guys up front with more sacks. So if people are looking for a lot of things, I care less about that."

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