Sep. 09, 2015
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots Preview & Prediction
Football is back tomorrow night, as the New England Patriots start their 2015 campaign against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s an offseason that Pats fans want to forget after Deflategate. But in the end, Tom Brady will start for the Pats after a cloud of doubt surrounding his start for this matchup. It’s a tale of two teams with the Pats not only proving that they have Brady but losing key pieces on defense. Meanwhile, the Steelers are missing key pieces on offense. Which team will have the advantage in this matchup? Well, here is my preview and prediction.
The story with the Steelers is that RB Le’Veon Bell is suspended for the first three games of the season due to a DUI and possession of marijuana last August. How does Pittsburgh establish their running game? Well, there going with an RB by committee in this matchup. Jordan Todman is the first name that’ll be on that list. Todman ran a 49-yard touchdown in a game against the Steelers in the final preseason match. Unfortunately, he was cut by the Carolina Panthers after that game. Todman has played for the San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. His career stats are 111 carries for 450 yards and three touchdowns. Add the 40 receptions and 314 yards to his resume. Todman is a good fit for the Steelers offense, and Todd Haley is a big fan of Todman because it fits his offensive philosophy. Pittsburgh added depth to their defense by adding Caushaud Lyons. I wouldn’t say that Lyons is a great fit for the Steelers defense, as he's a rotation player in need of fresh bodies that could be tired by the end of the game. But the reason for this move is that Stephon Tuitt is dealing with a sore ankle. Speaking of defense, James Harrison could retire at the end of the year. Harrison would want to start off with a bang, as he has sacked Brady just once in his career. That’s a pretty surprising stat for a player that was Defensive Player of the Year. Harrison is going to want to play the leader if this young defense wants to slow down the Pats offense.
In the past two seasons, the Pats have used a three-receiver set. However, with a lack of wide receivers and signing Scott Candler in the offseason, I believe the Pats will go to a 2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB formation. It makes sense to go that route because the Pats know about Rob Gronkowski’s health history. Also, Brandon LaFell is out until the middle of the season with a foot injury. It should be noted that Kenbrell Thompkins is back with the Pats after spending last season with the Oakland Raiders. Even though his career stats in the NFL is 32 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns during his rookie season. The reason to put Thompkins on the practice squad is that the Pats have four wide receivers with the Pats cutting Reggie Wayne and LaFell on the PUP list. It won't surprise me if Thompkins is on the active roster at some point during this season. On defense, there are more questions surrounding the defense, as we head into this season. A new-look secondary will be the topic of discussion during this season. But in this game, Antonio Brown will have a big game against this inexperienced defense. In the interest of fairness, New England will struggle early in the season, as it figures out their defense. Sure, with Bell and Martavis Bryant out of Pittsburgh’s lineup due to suspension gives New England a little bit of advantage. But Pittsburgh still has Markus Wheaton and Heath Miller to frustrate the Pat.
Prediction: The Pittsburgh Steelers may have the advantage in the series history with a 15-12 record (I do include the playoffs in any historical stat). But it was the Pats winning in the last meeting with a 55-31 score. Brady went 23 for 33 with 432 yards passing. Stevan Ridley rushed for 115 yards with two touchdowns. Receiving was big for the Pats on that day with Gronk’s 143 yards on nine receptions with one touchdown. Aaron Dobson with 130 yards and two touchdowns. Lastly, Danny Amendola with 122 yards and one touchdown. The X-factor in this game will be the weather. My CBS affiliate WPRI 12 calls for much-needed rain in the Foxborough area tomorrow night. I’m hopeful it doesn’t take away the Shakespearean drama, especially with both teams missing offensive starters. Brady and Ben Roethlisberger will have big games, especially with the weakness on defense. It’s tough to bet against the Pats at home on what will be an emotional night with the revealing of the Super Bowl 49 banner and the Deflategate nonsense. It will be the Patriots responding on the field, at Gillette Stadium with a 34-31 victory.