Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette provided an amazing statistic this morning. The 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers are the first team in NFL history to not allow an opposing to team to rush for more than 75 yards in any of its first eight games in a season.
The Steelers will host the Patriots tonight with starting defensive ends Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel both sidelined with injuries, and standout linebacker James Harrison questionable due to back spasms that re-appeared Saturday morning.
Despite having one of the least talented RB corps in the league that is led by BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, the Patriots actually rank 15th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, averaging 107 yards. Considering the Pittsburgh injuries and the Pats’ improved ground game, will the Pats pound the ball at the Steelers tonight? No chance.
Instead, you can expect New England to rely on its strength of QB Tom Brady, essentially only running once in a blue moon to keep the Steelers’ defense somewhat honest. Brady is still very good and he should be able to complete 25-35 passes against this defense, finding soft spots in the middle of the field against zone coverage, and picking on No. 2 and No. 3 corners Bryant McFadden and William Gay.
But the Patriots no longer scare this Steeler fan, especially with the departure of Randy Moss. I could see Brady moving the ball down the field between the 20s. However, I expect Pittsburgh’s defense to bottle up New England inside the red zone, completely shut down any running game, and not allow any big plays with Moss now in Tennessee. Tonight’s game will be won or lost by the Steelers’ patchwork offensive line, but the days of Brady and New England’s offense striking fear into the hearts of Steeler fans are over.