Catching up with … the Steelers
|07.23.13 at 11:31 am ET|
As we count down to the start of training camp, we’ll take a look at all 13 opponents on the Patriots’ regular-season schedule and break down each one of them. We’ve already featured the Bills, Jets and Dolphins, as well as the Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals and Saints. Now, it’s the Steelers.
Specifics: The Patriots will host the Steelers at Gillette Stadium on Nov. 3 at 4:25 p.m.
Say goodbye to … wide receiver Mike Wallace, outside linebacker James Harrison, guard Willie Colon, running back Rashard Mendenhall, defensive tackle Casey Hampton, quarterback Charlie Batch, center Doug Legursky, offensive tackle Max Starks.
Welcome … running back Le’Veon Bell, outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, wide receiver Markus Wheaton, cornerback William Gay, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, tight end Matt Spaeth, punter Brian Moorman, running back/returner LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Recent history: The Steelers have had the edge over the course of the series, holding a 15-11 advantage over New England since the two teams first met in 1972. The Patriots won six of the seven games between the two teams that were played from 1998 through 2007, but Pittsburgh has won two of the last three games, including a 25-17 win over New England at Heinz Field on Oct. 30, 2011.
The Patriots should be worried because … the Steelers do what they do — play tough, physical defense and try to wear you down on offense with a steady, consistent ground attack (with a little passing mixed in for good measure). Even in a relatively down year in 2012, Pittsburgh was plenty stingy on defense — the Steelers were 8-8, but were first in the league in team defense and passing defense, second in rush defense and sixth in overall scoring defense (19.6 points per game).
The Patriots shouldn’t be worried because … Pittsburgh has some questions on the offensive side of the ball, including a troublesome offensive line situation and new faces at wide receiver in Wheaton and running back in Bell, both of whom were taken with high draft picks. (In fact, setting aside the offensive line, there are some comparisons to the New England offense in that both teams have a proven veteran at quarterback who has won on the big stage but now have offenses in a state of flux that could go through some growing pains early in the season before they start to come together.)
The skinny: While it lacks some of the rivalry juice of a Patriots-Ravens game, Patriots-Steelers is always compelling theater. (Even though Pittsburgh is coming off an 8-8 season, the networks had the good sense to move this one to a 4:25 p.m. start.) This year should be no exception, as a Brady-Ben Roethlisberger matchup is always good fun. This Week 9 contest will be the final game for New England before its bye, and by this point on the schedule we should know what sort of team the 2013 Patriots really are before they start a key five-game stretch that will have them facing the Broncos, Texans and Ravens.