Is Pittsburgh Good Enough To Beat New England?
There were many of us who felt that the Baltimore Ravens would step it up for the visiting New England Patriots Monday night, but I doubt anyone expected the inspirational effort they would provide. Using the spirit of Sean Taylor and led by three former University of Miami players in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Willis McGahee, the Ravens were fired up the entire game and quite frankly deserved to win and should have won.
The Ravens incorporated relentless defensive pressure that resulted in Tom Brady completing less than half of his passes, throwing an interception and getting sacked three times, but an ill-fated timeout by the Baltimore defensive coaching staff prevented the Patriots from losing their first game of the season. New England would end up winning 27-24, and now await the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers, present inheritors of the #1-ranked defense in the NFL.
Rookie head coach Mike Tomlin has admirably filled in for the absent shoes of longtime-Steelers coach Bill Cowher, keeping a philosophy of a run-oriented offense combined with powerful and balanced defense. The Steelers defensively have allowed an average of nearly 231 yards per game, and no other team in the NFL is even close. But some question how good the team actually is.
At 9-3, only four teams in the NFL have better records than Pittsburgh: Dallas, Indianapolis, Green Bay and, of course, the Pats. But those three losses came at the hands of 6-6 Arizona, 5-7 Denver and the 3-9 New York Jets. All those losses occurred on the road, where Pittsburgh shall be on Sunday.
On offense, the Steelers are showing that you do not need to have a passing game to win games in today’s NFL. The Atlanta Falcons and the St. Louis Rams statistically have better air attacks than Pittsburgh, and both of those teams have 3-9 records.
The Baltimore game showed the NFL that the Patriots are capable of being beaten if you provide constant defensive pressure using a variety of blitzes and you keep players deep to prevent any big plays from going for scores. New England had two long plays all game – a 43-yard pass-and-run to Laurence Maroney and a 42-yard reception by Donte Stallworth – and that was all.
Pittsburgh will use the same blueprints to try to hand New England their first loss, and other than the top-ranked defense, there is further reason to believe in such a possibility. During the 2003-2004 seasons, New England accumulated an NFL-record 21 straight wins (including playoff games) before that streak was ended by the Steelers.
Three major contributors to Pittsburgh’s success this season will likely suit up after they all missed the last two games due to injury. Safety Troy Polamalu, tackle Marvel Smith and receiver Santonio Holmes will ensure that the Steelers enter this huge game at full strength.
Steelers safety Tyrone Carter pretty much summed things up when talking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about preparing for the Patriots. “We just have to bring our A-game…and not get caught up in the hype (of): ‘They’re undefeated. They’re a dynasty team.’ We just have to go in and be physical and things should happen for us.”