The Steelers sit in familiar territory going into their marquee matchup against the 6-2 New England Patriots on Sunday Night Football. Pittsburgh is also 6-2 and considered one of the best teams in the NFL at the midway point of the season. While this is a great start for them, it isn’t the first time they find themselves with this record. As a matter of fact, the Steeler’s have started 6-2 in every season that Mike Tomlin has been the Coach. Judging from the past seasons, it may prove not to be as good as it sounds.
After a 6-2 start in 2007, the Steelers went on to finish the season at 4-4 only to suffer a first round loss at the hand of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the playoffs, 31-29. In 2008 however, the Steelers followed up their 6-2 start with a finish of the same, as well as a little trophy known as the Vince Lombardi Trophy. 2009 however was even worse than the 2007 year by losing 5 games in a row to teams including the Chiefs, Browns and Raiders. How will 2010 end up for the Black and Gold? Will they follow the 2008 version and finish strong? The game this week will be the tell all. In only 1 of the past 3 years, have they won their 9th game of the season and that was against the Browns. The game this weekend will pit together the winners of 5 of the past 10 Super Bowls and the top teams of the decade.
Tom Brady has lost only 1 game in his career against the Steelers. How will the Steelers plan on stopping Tom Bieber and the Pats? The Steelers Defense has been as dominate as usual this year and they go by the bend but don’t break method. They don’t let the big pass happen and are more than willing to give up the short gains in front of them and bring the pressure. The only problem is that ever since the Patriots traded Randy Moss to the Vikings, the Patriots have went to a Dink-n-Dunk approach. With more 2 Tight End formations with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, as well as arguably the best third down receiver in the game in Wes Welker, the Pats are more than willing to take the short passes. In fact, they welcome the blitzes and use the passes as extended run plays with Welker, Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead. The Patriots aren’t afraid to take chances down field however if given the opportunity as the second year product of North Carolina, Brandon Tate, has proved more than capable to stretch the opposition when called upon.
If the Steelers are going to win this game, they have to take advantage of the young and weak Defense that the Patriots have. Look for Mike Wallace to get involved often and early by burning Darius Butler and Leigh Bodden. Maurkice Pouncey will face his toughest competition this week in Vince Wilfork. Speaking of the Offensive Line, will the Steelers be able to overcome issues with the loss of Max Starks to the IR joining Willie Colon, as well as Chris Kemoeatu missing at least this weeks game? In 2008, the team dealt with similar injuries to the front line and ended up winning the Super Bowl. But can an aging Flozell Adams, Jonathan Scott and Trai Essex protect Ben and open up lanes for Mendenhall for the rest of the season? I have my doubts. The Patriots are just too quick over the middle, even for the daunting Steelers Defense to handle and the return of Logan Mankins to protect Brady may prove too much for the Steelers. After an embarrassing loss to the Browns last week, look Brady and company to come out firing and more focused than ever to regain the Number One record in the AFC, 28-23.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com