Inside Enemy Territory is a feature where I ask a blogger for the Patriots’ upcoming opponent five questions about their team and the upcoming game. This week, the Patriots travel to Pennsylvania to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Patriots are coming off a bye week and are the healthiest they’ve been all season, whereas the Steelers enter the game missing guys like James Harrison and likely Hines Ward. I contacted Craig Gottschalk from Nice Pick, Cowher, a Pittsburgh Steelers blog, to get his insight on the Steelers. Craig runs a great site and has loads of content. Craig also asked me five questions about the Patriots, which you can read HERE.
Here’s our Q&A…
1. Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or are the Steelers becoming a passing team on offense?
Jury’s still out. Off. Coord Bruce Arians says they are still a run focus team. He could be right in the sense that week in and week out they plan on running the ball to control the clock and wear down the other team’s defense. But, the running game has had its problems this season – most blame Mendenhall with his indecisive running. So the team is forced to throw the ball more. Ben’s has had success hitting his young receivers. So it may be a little deceiving in that regard.
Ward had limited practice late in the week. WR Emanuel Sanders says that he and the offense expect him to play this Sunday. It’s unclear whether or not he will start. If he doesn’t Sanders will start in his place and that’s not a bad thing. The receiving core is so deep and talented for the Steelers this season that if one falls another quickly takes his place. Ward would be missed as a leader of this team, but I believe the Steelers would still be productive on offense with it’s depth at wide receiver.
I had said earlier this week that the Steelers should concentrate on a fast start. That would probably mean lots of passing and some shots downfield. Once they establish a lead (if they can) then they can start to become more of a balanced attack. But, I still feel that they will tend to pass a bit more than run – especially with the Pats’ secondary struggling as they are this season.
The front 3 need to be disruptive in the Pats’ blocking schemes enough to allow a LB or corner or safety get through and disrupt Brady’s timing. He’s not a great scrambling QB, so if the Steelers can get pressure they certainly increase their chances. I look for the Steelers to stunt off the outsides to help get the OLB’s around the edge, or for Polamalu to come off the edge. They usually will set up their run blitzes this way, so they may stick with that.
Two players – Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace. As I stated in that same article above, if they can set a tone that says, ‘you must respect the deep ball’ they can control this game. It will also give them a little more breathing room in running the ball because the Pats defense won’t be able to commit an extra guy in the box. If Wallace can get over 120 yards and Ben over 300, then I would expect that final score to be in favor of the Steelers.
I agree with you as far as the high scoring game goes. I think the Steelers to get out to a fast start and set the tone for a gunslinging one. I don’t think the score will be as high as you do, but still up there. Fantasy Teams should be happy with this game. Steelers take it 31-28 at Heinz Field.