If Mick was right that women weaken legs, Rob Gronkowski will be in a wheelchair on Sunday.
The Baltimore Ravens are considered the biggest rivals of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With all due respect (which is to say, none), I disagree. A true rivalry is borne out of two equals battling to accomplish the same goal. The Ratbirds haven’t beaten the Steelers in a meaningful game since Ben Roethlisberger first stepped foot in Heinz Field. Over the past ten years, they’ve been a good team but not a great one.
No, there are only two teams who can legitimately claim greatness here in the 21st century. The Steelers and the New England Patriots. Over the past decade, the Patriots have appeared in four Super Bowls and won three. The Black and Gold have appeared in three, winning two. If it were not for the Patriots, the Steelers alone would be able to lay claim to the title of the NFL’s premiere franchise.
If that fact weren’t galling enough, our history with the Patriots is as unfortunate as Baltimore’s is with us. Tom Brady is 6-1 against the Steelers, and overall the Patriots are 7-2 against Pittsburgh since Dreamboat took over signal-calling duties up in New England. Even more heart-breaking, the Pats are 3-1 in post-season meetings. More recently, who can forget the Patriots humiliating 39-26 defeat of the Steelers last season?
STEELERS DEFENSE vs PATRIOTS OFFENSE
Godzilla vs. King Kong. 300 Spartans vs. 15,000 Persians. The Rock vs. Stone Cold Steve Austin. An unstoppable force vs. an immovable object.
You can add to that list, the Steelers defense against the Patriots offense. Unfortunately, the Black and Gold have more often resembled the Spartans in that comparison. Valiant efforts which are ultimately doomed to failure. Of course, Leonidas didn’t have Dick LeBeau helping him with his game plan.
The Patriots have one of the top rated offenses in the NFL. As usual. The Steelers have one of the top rated defenses in the NFL. As usual. The question is who will break first?
Tom Brady is having another of his typical fantastic seasons. Although he has shown himself to be a tad more mortal than in years past. He’s already thrown eight INTs after only throwing four all of last season. Of course, none of them were his fault if you go by his childish gesturing after each pick. Regardless, he’s still the best quarterback in football not named Aaron Rodgers.
The law firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis provides a solid if unspectacular running threat they’ve been missing since Corey Dillon retired. But make no mistake, this is still a pass first-pass often team. Our old buddy Chad Ochocinco was brought in although he hasn’t really been much of a factor. Wes Welker remains Tommy Boy’s favorite target. They also have two emerging stars at tight end in Aaron Hernandez and Woodland Hills’ own Rob Gronkowski.
New England has historically been a tough match-up for the Steelers simply because their strengths exploit the Steelers’ weaknesses. For example, the Steelers are built on speed and the ability to play sideline-to-sideline. When they struggle, they struggle with teams who attack the middle of the field. Naturally, Welker and the tight ends make their living over the middle.
Ike Taylor is a great shutdown corner. The natural thought is, “Okay, put him on Welkah and that takes care of him.” The problem is Bill Belichick knows that we know that he knows so he moves Welker around and puts him in motion thereby making it hard for Ike to match-up with him on every play. What’s more, our ILBs are slow and our safeties (yes, even Troy Polamalu) aren’t the greatest open-field tacklers. These weaknesses have been exploited time and time again by Peepin’ Bill.
James Farrior has been limited in practice which makes me wonder if they’ll bother suiting him up at all. I think the Steelers best strategy on Sunday would be to forget the base defense and just roll with the LeBeau Special of six DBs, two LBs and three down lineman. The extra safeties should do a better job of containing Welker and Hernandez than slow-footed Farrior or equally slow Larry Foote. I don’t expect Gronkowski to be much of a factor what with his hands being preoccupied with the curious burning and itching emanating from his jock. Thanks for takin’ one (and another one and another one) for the team, Bibi!
STEELERS OFFENSE vs PATRIOTS DEFENSE
I can’t believe I’m going to say this but… The Steelers need to learn from the Buffalo Bills. The Bills handed New England their sole loss of the season by doing two things. First, they picked off Tom Terrific four times. Second, they put the pedal down and didn’t let up on offense.
If I were Mike Tomlin, I would tell Shaun Suisham to stay nice and limber for those kick-offs because he won’t be attempting a field goal all afternoon. Three points are worthless when you’re playing the Patriots. It’s all about touchdowns, baby. I’ve been blogging for five years now. Every time the Steelers have faced the Patriots I’d write something along the lines of “control the clock, blah blah blah, establish a running game, blah blah blah, and keep Tom Brady off the field.” Well, that hasn’t worked. So, screw it.
Unleash the Flying Circus.
Yes, I’m encouraging Bruce Arians to throw early and throw often. Go deep. If it fails, go deep again. Hines Ward hasn’t practiced this week and appears doubtful for Sunday. Good. I love Hines but he’s too slow to keep up with the Young Money posse. We have Heath Miller for a safety valve anyway.
I’d rather see Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders running wild all over the field. The Patriots have the worst pass defense in the NFL. Chad Henne of the pathetic winless Dolphins dropped 400 yards on them. If the o-line gives him time to throw, Big Ben can do some serious damage to their secondary.
In other words, I want the Steelers to out-Patriot the Patriots. Beat them at their own game. I know it’s not the Steeler Way but the Steeler Way hasn’t worked against New England. It’s time to take ’em out a whole new door. As my pal Hennessy said in his post Thursday, perhaps the Steelers are doomed to go down. But if we’re going down, down in an earlier round, sugar, we’re going down swinging.
Good lord, I’m quoting Fall Out Boy. Tom Brady’s overwhelming metrosexuality has gotten to me.