New England Patriots: 5 keys to beating the Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Lean on Sony Michel early to control the line of scrimmage on offense.
Michel is having a terrific rookie year with the Patriots so far. Despite missing three full games due to injuries, he leads the team with 706 rushing yards, and could easily finish the season with over 1000 yards from scrimmage. His selection by New England at the end of the first round raised a few eyebrows around the league – the Patriots hadn’t drafted a running back that high since choosing Laurence Maroney 21st overall in the 2006 NFL draft.
But the powerful runner from Georgia has made Bill Belichick look brilliant for picking him. Injuries are the only real concern with Michel moving forward. He’s already missed time because of two separate incidents, but if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, it’s a huge advantage for the Patriots offense.
Running the football successfully isn’t just important in cold-weather games and snowy conditions; it also helps out the passing game by providing balance and an element of unpredictability.
As magnificent as Brady, Gronk, Edelman, Gordon, and the rest of the aerial attack is for the team when they’re rolling, consider the drop-off in points scored this season after Michel went down in Week 7.
New England’s offense put up point totals of 38, 38, 43, and 38 points in Weeks 4-7. Michel got hurt, and the offense could only muster up totals of 25, 31, and 10 points in the three weeks that followed before the bye.
Those latter numbers aren’t insignificant, but in today’s NFL where points come in bunches – and especially against a team as offensively-talented as the Steelers – the Patriots might need to score around 40 points in order to secure a win.