The Apple Pre-Game Report

<b>Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots</b><p> The revenge factor should be high when the Steelers face the Patriots on Monday night. I can't help but feel that the Steelers might overcompensate for the revenge instead of sticking to the basics and just winning the game.

This recalls the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Indy and his father were inexplicably kept alive by the Nazi's. You just knew Indy would find a way to free himself and stop the Nazi's from finding the Holy Grail. Now RELAX, I'm not saying the Steelers are Nazi's, it's just a metaphor. I'm saying that if the Steelers have the opportunity to put the game away early, they better do it or the Patriots will find a way to make the game much more interesting.

  1. Defense:
    Pittsburgh retains all but one of their key players on defense and will have Kendrell Bell as close to healthy as one can hope after a high ankle sprain. The defense should be able to contain the Patriots offense once again. I don't expect very many long drives from New England because I don't expect their running game to get on track. The Steelers need to get to Brady early and often so that he doesn't get into any sort of rhythm in the short passing game.

    Bill Belicheck has had 6 months to prepare for the Steelers. He should once again throw some unique coverages and sets to confuse the Steeler offense. This should keep the Steelers under wraps for at least a half. Remember last year it took the Steelers about 2 ½ quarters to finally figure out how to combat the Patriots defense, and when they did they scored 2 touchdowns in 4 minutes.

    Advantage: Steelers should be a top 5 defense again.

  2. Offense:
    The Steelers have a ton of weapons on offense and they'll need every one of them. The offensive line has looked erratic, especially on the right side where Oliver Ross has made Brendan Stai look like an All-Pro. Bettis needs to get out of the gate early with a few keys runs. He doesn't need overwhelming numbers, but he needs to show to Cowher that he will be able to wear down the Patriots line, which means runs of 4 - 6 yards.

    The Patriots on the other hand have deceptive weapons. Their wide-outs are solid with a playmaker in Troy Brown. The offense revolves around a short passing attack. Antowain Smith had a career year last season after Buffalo gave up on him (but not to worry Bills fans, you have Richard Huntley). I'm not certain he'll be able to repeat that effort. He gained the bulk of his yards in the championship game last year on a 30+ yd run well after the outcome of the game had been determined.

    Advantage: Steelers have too many weapons and should put some points up if they remain patient.

  3. Quarterbacks:
    Both Kordell Stewart and Tom Brady had coming out parties last year. And both players struggled in the playoffs. The difference is Brady won a Super Bowl.

    I like Stewart's improvisational ability over Brady. And Brady got hurt early in an otherwise forgettable AFC Championship game performance. Yet, Brady won a Super Bowl.

    Advantage: Even

    Speaking of Stewart, he's part of some alternate lyrics I've written to the refrain from The Who's "We Don't Get Fooled Again" in honor of the start of what is perceived to be a Steeler Super Bowl run.

    I tip my hat to a new Kordell Stewart.
    Drink a beer for the defensive unit.
    Cheering loud while we win the North Crown!
    Pick up my towel and wave!
    Just Like Yesterday!
    Then I get on my knees and pray!
    We Don't GO LOSE Again!
    Yup…I have that much time on my hands. And yes, Yuengling had something to do with it. And now back to the pre-game!
  4. Special Teams:
    The Steelers coverage units struggled at times once again in the pre-season, although the lack of cohesion due to player analysis contributed somewhat towards the inconsistency. Todd Peterson kicked balls out of bounds with surprising regularity this exhibition season. The Steelers also face a definite psychological disadvantage, knowing the Patriots walked all over the coverage units last season. The Steeler's performance last year on Special Teams was about as much fun to watch as "Kazaam!"

    On the other side, Troy Brown will continue to be a threat until the Steelers can find a way to either kick away from him or corral him. I'm still amazed that Josh Miller kicked directly towards Troy Brown with a low line-drive kick. I almost dropped my beer all over the Girl Apple when I saw that one. Adam Vinatieri is a clutch kicker in every vein. The Steelers can't afford to give him a chance to win the game in the final seconds.

    Advantage: Patriots have a definite advantage.

Outlook: I like the Steelers to pull this one out by 5 - 6 points. I think they have too many weapons and the Special Teams can't choke again…can they?

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