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Snap Judgments: Steelers 25, Patriots 17

10.30.11 at 7:25 pm ET
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In a game that was the definition of Not As Close As The Score Would Suggest, the Steelers dominated the Patriots statistically in almost every significant category on Sunday, riding a brilliant effort from Ben Roethlisberger to a 25-17 victory at Heinz Field. The Patriots fall to 5-2 on the season (and into a share of first place with the Bills) with the loss and host the Giants next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– The Steelers had a very clear game plan on offense from the start of the game: Throw, throw, throw. Roethlisberger (36-of-50 for 365 yards and two TDs) attacked an inept middle of the Patriots defense, picking on linebackers Gary Guyton, Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes early, connecting with Heath Miller four times for 55 yards on the opening TD drive. That set the tone for the defense, a group that — save for one throw — was shredded by Roethlisberger. Third downs were a killer, as the Steelers converted 10-of-15. Total yards? 448. First downs? 29. The Steelers had five drives of at least 10 plays. Make no mistake, this defense was exposed on Sunday. Just dreadful stuff.

– The combo of James Ihedigbo and Antwaun Molden were to blame on a pair of Pittsburgh scores, failing to communicate on Melwede Moore’s first-quarter TD catch and Antonio Brown’s second-quarter score. Ihedigbo had a rough afternoon, getting beat by Miller on a couple of early catches and falling down on an Emmanuel Sanders 26-yard grab. Molden also had plenty of lowlights, blowing coverage on Brown on a 3rd-and-15 (17 yards) in the third quarter, keeping alive a drive that would eventually end in a Pittsburgh field goal. Could Leigh Bodden really be this bad?

– Logan Mankins struggled (again, not having a season up to his standard), picking up a pair of first half-penalites. Both flags halted what appeared to be promising drives — particularly the first penalty (false start), which put the Patriots, in Pittsburgh territory, in a 1st-and-15 hole on their second drive (the drive would end in a punt). Mankins also whiffed on LaMarr Woodley’s first sack of Brady. Other lowlights from the offensive line? Sebastian Vollmer manhandled by Woodley on another sack (as well as being flagged for a false start at the Pittsburgh 3 in the fourth quarter) and Matt Light collecting a false start in the fourth quarter, five yards that cost the Patriots field position in a series that ended with the missed Gostkowksi field goal.

– Nice to see Kevin Faulk back and in the mix, but BenJarvus Green-Ellis (five carries, nine yards) was a non-factor and Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley had no carries in a game that saw the Patriots rush for 43 yards.

–  Remember Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco? Once again, zero impact from either player. It’s almost incomprehensible that Kevin Faulk has contributed more to this team in 2011 than Ochocinco and Haynesworth combined.

– Following an Aaron Hernandez TD that cut the score to 23-17 with 2:35 left, the Patriots (with three timeouts and the two-minute warning left) elected to attempt an onside kick. Stephen Gostkowski couldn’t even advance the ball the required 10 yards, giving the Steelers the ball at the New England 37.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– Faulk, in his first game since Week 2 of 2010 (ACL injury vs. Jets), looked an awful lot like the Kevin Faulk we have seen over the last decade. He was the lead back throughout the game (was on the field on the opening drive) and was a factor in both scores. Faulk had a superb blitz pick-up of Ryan Mundy on Brady’s TD pass to Deion Branch, and his third-down direct snap rush put the Patriots in position for Gostkowski’s 46-yard field goal. Faulk posted 52 yards of total offense.

– Andre Carter had his second two-sack game of the season (and second in three games), also forcing a Roethlisberger fumble. Max Starks was unable to contain Carter, who also had a couple of pressures on Roethlisberger.

– Guyton did have what appeared to be a crucial interception, picking off Roethlisberger and returning it to the Pittsburgh 8 with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter. Two plays later Brady connected with Branch and it was a 10-7 game.

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