If you weren’t aware that the New England Patriots (6-2) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2) have combined to win five of the past nine Super Bowls, or that both Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are “winners,” well, get used to knowing it. Because it will no doubt be permanently drilled into the deepest crevices of your mind by every talking head imaginable prior to the Pats-Steelers showdown this Sunday night...which features two of the winningest quar...I kid, I kid.
What this game isn’t is a “classic battle,” or an “offensive juggernaut versus impenetrable defense” type of game. It also won’t be “in quotation marks” on your television screen come Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there.
While the Steelers have a serviceable offense but put the fear of God (or Allah) into opposing teams on defense, the Patriots, stat-wise at least, are sort of ho-hum on both sides of the ball.
But as Bill Belichick so aptly puts it, “Stats are for losers.”
Well, this loser is about to throw some stats at you anyway:
The Steelers are 28th in the league in total yards per game, and second to last in the league in first downs per game—that’s worse than the Carolina Panthers who are now relying on their second rookie QB to try and generate offense, and the Arizona Cardinals who are currently suffering through their second go-round with QB Derek Anderson, who seems determined to end his career with the worst quarterback rating in league history.
On the flip side, the Steelers have the league’s fourth-best overall defense. They’ve only let up a stifling 123 points in nine weeks, and have only allowed opponents an average of 15.4 points per game, both of which is tops in the league.
But don’t be fooled. The Steelers' intimidating defensive statistics are heavily skewed because their run defense is in an echelon by itself. The 2010 version of the Steel Curtain allows just 58.2 rushing yards per game. To put that in perspective the next closest team, the New York Football Giants, allows 80.9.
Also, “The Big Condiment” Jerod Mayo leads the NFL in tackles. This has no implications on the actual outcome of the game; I just wanted to find a way to use “The Big Condiment” in a sentence.
All of This Means Three Things for the Patriots
A. DanJarvus GreenWoodhead may as well not even suit up on Sunday.
B. Tom Terrific should be able to air it out with relative ease.
C. The Pats defense should (emphasis on the should) be able to keep the Steelers offense in check.
This is, unless the Pats fall behind early like they did in Cleveland, in which case they’re screwed.
Last week, the Browns somehow managed to expose every single weakness this Patriots team had. Maybe Belichick dropped a copy of the playbook and Browns coach Eric Mangini picked it up and was cheating off it all game (sort of like Aaron Hernandez’s brother). Maybe Brady just wanted to get the heck outta Cleveland. Or maybe Peyton Hillis really is the greatest white running back of all time (apologies to Mike Alstott).
Bottom line is the Patriots aren’t what you’d consider an “offensive juggernaut” in the most classical sense of the term. They’re not a great come-from-behind team. They simply outsmart people. But Mike Tomlin’s no fool, and if anyone can match wits with the hoodie it's Omar Epps’ doppelganger. So this game will likely come down to making plays.
What to Expect:
- At least 200 yards, two TDs, one INT and three “running my fingers through my hair on the bench” moments from Mr. Bundchen.
- 150 yards and a score from Rashard “don’t call me Rashad” Mendenhall.
- Logan Mankins and Brady to pull the whole “let him through” bit from Remember the Titans on James Harrison, resulting in Harrison lying on the ground in tears.
- One unnecessary, preachy, soap-box halftime speech from future Reverend Tony Dungy about Roethlisberger’s off-field antics, helmet-to-helmet hits or the benefits of reading your Bible every morning.
- Cris Collinsworth to wear a scarf despite being enclosed in a heated booth.
Final Score: Final scores are for losers.