When did the off season begin and end? Seriously. Between all the headache-creating talk about Deflategate and Gisele and Tom’s perfect marriage being on the ropes, I must have spent just as much money on Aspirin as the NFL did on the Wells Report.
But, finally, we’re back to football talk. X’s and O’s, player analysis and game recaps…or at least my biased opinions and crazy predictions. So, let’s get started.
If I’m the Patriots this week, I’m polishing the muskets because all reports indicate this will be a slaughter for the home team. Let’s explain why that’ll likely be the case by focusing on New England’s offense and how it could dissect Pittsburgh’s not-so-steel defense.
Patriots’ Offense vs Steelers’ Defense
In the nine games Brady has played the Steelers, including the playoffs, his stat line reads 2,638 passing yards (yds), 20 touchdowns (tds) and 3 interceptions (ints). If we break that down further, Brady has averaged 300 yds, 2 tds and 0.3 ints per game against Roethlisberger-led teams.
Yes, you read that correctly: 0.3 interceptions per game. Brady just doesn’t make mistakes against them.
So, if history is telling us anything, it’s that the Patriots aren’t running the ball Thursday against a Steelers team that has never been able to stop Brady’s aerial attack. Mind you, Dick LeBeau and his porous zone-blitzing defense is gone, but I still don’t see the Patriots approaching the Steelers much differently this time around.
What we’ll likely see is the Patriots line up in a heavy set (2 TE, 2 WR, 1 RB) for most of the game. With injuries along the offensive line (Brian Stork) and receivers (Brandon Lafell and Julian Edelman, to a point), this type of formation helps the team better protect Brady while also allowing them to attack the Steelers on multiple fronts.
The Steelers pass defense:
At this point, the Steelers’ pass defense is awful, and they don’t appear as if they’ll improve from their 27th ranked defense last season. In 2014 they were the 9th least likely team to be thrown on, but opponents still completed roughly 65 percent of their passes when they did throw. They also surrendered a little over 250 pass yards per game, bad enough for 25th in the league, and close to 2 touchdowns per game, which ranked 29th.
Tomorrow night the Steelers will deploy an unproven secondary which could be over matched. They did draft three new cornerbacks this past offseason, but they’re either awful or are hurt. Second-round pick Senque Golson is on injured reserve. Fourth-round pick Doran Grant played himself out of the starting lineup and onto the practice squad and seventh-round selection, safety Gerod Holliman was also released.
We could spend awhile talking about the Steelers’ defensive woes, but will leave it at that.
- While they aren’t being discussed much, watch out for the Patriots’ running backs. Most expect the Steelers to key in on Rob Gronkowski and then Juilan Edelman, leaving the Patriots’ running back by committee to steal part of the show. Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, James White and Dion Lewis all bring an element of speed, pass catching and blocking ability to the table. And because New England is thin at receiver, we wouldn’t be surprised if this unit played a key role early in the game to help the Patriots kick start their offense.