Five Final Thoughts Before Kickoff
This game will be a tough matchup because in some ways it is a must win game for the Steelers. The Steelers likely must win either this week or next week at New Orleans to make it to the playoffs. Lose both games and the Steelers might miss the playoffs. This week is likely their better shot against a Pats defense that is struggling.
The Steelers are short at running back - particularly if James Connor does not play. Connor practiced for the first time this week on Friday and is questionable for Sunday's game. That means the Pats might play a lot of nickel (five defensive backs) and dime (six defensive back packages) packages to get speed on the field and prevent any big plays.
Josh Gordon said Friday the quick slant with Tom Brady has clicked and said "if teams can't stop it we are going to keep going to it." Gordon has a great body type and he has great balance so he can catch the ball quickly and run. Tom Brady to Josh Gordon at times reminds one of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice with the quick slant. Disclaimer, Maven is not at all comparing Rice to Gordon. Gordon, though, plays with a certain grace and has excellent footwork that would make the late Bill Walsh proud.
Little time has been spent discussing the Steelers defense this week. They blitz a lot and lead the league in sacks. Tom Brady will play a lot of mind games with the Steelers linebackers to draw them in so he can hit Gordon on quick slants and Edelman on deep crossing routes. This will likely force Steelers defenders closer to the line of scrimmage and will allow Brady to hit Rob Gronkowski late in the game.
There is just something beautiful about Patriots Steelers. It's what makes the NFL great. Two franchises that have won a combined 11 Super Bowls. The Steelers are the model of stability. They have had only three coaches sine 1969 (Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin). By contrast, Raiders QB Derek Carr has had four coaches since he was drafted in 2014.