The Patriots beat the Steelers at their own game Sunday night.
New England was the more physical team, knocking the Steelers receivers around. (Hines Ward left with a “neck” injury.) New England blitzed Ben Roethlisberger to confusion. They even ran the ball fairly well with 103 yards on the ground.
Oh, and Tom Brady completed 30-of-43 passes for 350 yards and three scores in his most impressive outing since he tore his ACL in 2008.
New England’s 39-26 win was the team’s most complete performance of the season. It was the type of game many folks wondered if the Patriots had in them. (The win in Miami was impressive, but a little fluky. You can’t repeat all those return scores.) The Patriots are now 7-2 and hold the tiebreak over the Steelers and Ravens because of head-to-head victories.
While the Patriots are riding high, the Steelers have a potential fatal flaw to fix. The cavalcade of injuries they’ve suffered on the offensive line showed up in a big way on Sunday night. New England had 13 sacks all season going into this game, but they sacked Roethlisberger five times.
“We brought a little more pressure this week from different looks and it had a great outcome,” linebacker Jerod Mayo told NBC’s Andrea Kremer said after the game.
The Steelers have struggled to recognize blitzes all season long and it only got worse this week following their recent injuries. The guys up front also lost individual battles on both sides of the ball. Brady was barely touched all night.
Pittsburgh’s offensive line issues are a problem with no easy solution. Upcoming opponents like the Raiders, Ravens, Jets, and Browns will all blitz Ben until he shows he can handle it.