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How the Steelers CAN but still WON’T beat New England

bradyI’ve been saying since the NFL schedule was released that “There’s no way the Steelers will beat the Patriots in the Thursday opener if the courts overturn Tom Brady’s suspension.”

Well, of course there’s always “a way.” In fact, when it comes to beating New England, there are a number of ways the Steelers COULD do it. I just don’t see enough of them happening…maybe ANY of them happening…so that the Steelers actually will do so.

Here’s a look at the remote prospects that could come together to help the Steelers pull off what I would consider to be the biggest road upset in the Mike Tomlin era.

1)Brady is too fired up: If you’ve seen the Patriots at all over the years you know that Tom Brady can…what’s a nice way to put this…”run a little hot?” You’ve seen him get into it with Bill O’Brien. He chased after refs following bad calls at the end of games. He’s gotten frustrated with teammates. And he’s even had the occasional anxious exchange with Bill Belichick.

In this case though Brady might be so amped up that his excitement works against himself. Steeler fans, let’s be blunt. Your defense stinks. Brady has, and can again, pick it apart nine yards at a time down the field without breaking a sweat.

But if he’s looking to run up the score early and tries to turn this into a personal “show me” game vs Roger Goodell, he might force a throw or two. Like, ya know, a 70 yard bomb right up Goodell’s backside. That being said, I’m anticipating that the Steeler DB’s would never actually be able to hold onto the ball for an interception. But at least perhaps a punt or two may ensue.

2) The Steeler defense will be better when the first teamers play the whole game: Well, sure. That’ll help. But you tend to think New England’s offense will be better than the Jacksonville and Buffalo machines that chewed up the Steelers in the pre season as well right?

And it’s not like the team sat a ton of starters against the first units of Buffalo and Green Bay either. And are Timmons, Tuitt, and Mitchell really at 100%?

Oh, wait. I forgot. I’m supposed to be making a case FOR the Steelers here.

3) New England’s secondary is even worse than Pittsburgh’s: Now we are getting warmer. You lose Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington and replace them with…well, not much besides Malcolm Butler’s potential, and you’ve got yourself a “work in progress” to say the least.”

I put “work in progress” in quotes because that’s been a phrase commonly used around Pittsburgh’s secondary as well to make it appear to be less than the dumpster fire it really is.

That being said, Devin McCourty is better than any safety the Steelers have by a healthy margin. And Butler would easily start here as well. So, don’t put a lot of stock in this notion either.

4) THE STEELERS ARE GOING TO WORK CLOCK AND KEEP NEW ENGLAND’S OFFENSE ON THE SIDELINE: This I buy. Normally I hate the: “Let’s protect our crappy defense by making our good offense score slower” theory.

If you are unfamiliar with that concept, listen to any callers from Steeler post game shows in 2002 or 2009.

But in this case, it’s sound. The Steelers wouldn’t really be reigning in the offense. With Maurkice Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant out the offense is flat out weaker. So maybe a keep-it-simple approach of running the football with DeAngelo Williams and high percentage quick passes to the likes of Brown, Wheaton, and Miller are the way to go anyway.

New England was a top 10 run defense a year ago. But some wonder how that unit will look against opposing ground games with the departure of Vince Wilfork. And anything that winds time off the clock while Tom Brady is watching from the sidelines is a good thing.

Guard Ramon Foster called controlling the possession time and scoring efficiently “the key” to winning Thursday. Heath Miller grinned and deflected game plan questions to the coaches. But he also pointed out how much of a “good thing” it was to keep Brady off the field.

So maybe that same conversation has already occurred between Todd Haley and his troops about taking the air out of the footba…damnit! Walked right into that one.

5) A Force Majeure: Yes, perhaps an “Act of God” could come into play. Or at least an act of the court. Roger Goodell could get a judge drunk enough to throw a last minute injunction on the table to keep Tom Brady sidelined. Brady could get a nasty paper cut picking up those divorce papers from Gisele that the gossip magazines keep telling us are on the way. Or maybe a flood in the bowels of Gillette Stadium will prevent the Pats’ film crew from breaking into the Steeler locker room to swipe their play sheets again.

Short of this stuff happening all together though, I think it is going to be a long night for the Steelers in Foxboro. I’ll call 41-29 Patriots.

About The Author

Tim Benz

TIOPS Columnist

Tim Benz can be heard on the Pittsburgh Steelers Radio Network post game show and M-F 10-1 on TribLive Radio

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