By Danny Cox
The Pittsburgh Steelers know that the AFC is too important for every single game not to count, and they have won four of their first six games this season while dealing with a number of injuries. Now, they’re facing one of the biggest of them all as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a torn meniscus in his left knee. The Steelers now have to face off with the New England Patriots at the worst time possible.
Landry Jones is looking to step in for Big Ben and he’s going to have to deal with a team that is operating at a high rate of speed and with all cylinders turning.
Patriots Season Record: 5-1
So far this season, the Patriots have a 3-1 record with back-up quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett at the helm. In Week 5, Tom Brady returned from his four-game suspension and showed absolutely no signs of rust as he has led the Patriots to two straight wins in very impressive fashion.
Patriots on Offense
Obviously, it’s going to be Brady that will need to be the focus of the Steelers’ defense, because he can pick teams apart with any range of weapons. It doesn’t matter who is standing behind him or on either side of him—Tom Brady knows how to make even sub-par players appear as if they are Pro Bowlers.
If the Steelers pay too much attention to the passing game, they’ll lose sight of running back LeGarrette Blount, who is a very strong and physical runner. He already has six rushing touchdowns this season and more than 430 yards on the ground.
Patriots on Defense
While the Pats always appear to have a ton of offensive weapons, they also have a lot of talent on defense. Safety Patrick Chung is the leader of the secondary as he is now in his eighth season and just keeps on getting better. On the front line, defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard is having a fantastic season and showing that the Cleveland Browns should have held onto him.
The Patriots make it difficult for any team to gain yardage whether through the air or on the ground.
Players to Watch: TE Rob Gronkowski and CB Logan Ryan
It’s not like it is a huge surprise that teams need to watch out for Gronk, but he just keeps on getting better. In the last two games, Gronkowski has racked up five receptions for 109 yards and seven receptions for 162 yards with one touchdown. No matter where he is on the field or what he’s doing, the Steelers have to keep their eyes on him.
Cornerback Logan Ryan is making a big name for himself this season, as he is currently leading the Patriots in tackles. He’s well on his way to a career season and is an absolute ballhawk when on the field. If Landry Jones isn’t careful, Ryan is going to sneak up on him and make for a long day on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have started out well this season with a 4-2 record, but numerous injuries and now the loss of Ben Roethlisberger could turn this season on its head. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are playing at an extremely high level and they could walk out of Heinz Field with another big victory and further their lead in the AFC.