There will be no Brady-Big Ben showdown this season
Week 7 features a matchup between two AFC powerhouses in the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers. Both teams lead their respective divisions and have Super Bowl aspirations as two of the best squads in the conference.
Unfortunately, this year’s edition of Pats-Steelers won’t give us another Tom Brady-Ben Roethlisberger showdown. Big Ben is sidelined with a knee injury that could force him to miss up to six weeks. In his place, Landry Jones will be under center as he hopes to lead the Steelers to an upset victory.
A win for Pittsburgh would be a huge shock given the circumstances, and I don’t expect it to happen. Here are three reasons the Patriots will win this game, and most likely by a decent margin.
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Pittsburgh doesn’t generate enough pressure
Entering Week 7, the Steelers are tied for 28th with just eight sacks. They’ve forced just 28 lost yards on sacks, the fewest in the NFL. Just last week against the Dolphins, who have one of the worst offensive lines around, the Steelers failed to generate a single sack. All game long, Ryan Tannehill looked really comfortable and was rarely pressured.
They were without leading pass rusher Cam Heyward in that game and they will be again on Sunday. He has three of the team’s eight sacks this season and is really their only reliable source of pressure. The Patriots don’t provide Brady with great protection, but it will be good enough against the Steelers’ lackluster pass rush.
To compound the Steelers’ pass-rushing problems, they’ll be facing a quarterback who loves to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Brady and the Patriots don’t often rely on big plays or deep shots downfield. He makes his living on short crossing patterns, utilizing his running backs in the passing game. Against the Steelers, he’ll have additional time to watch plays develop in front of him, allowing his receivers to get even more open than they would if he were under pressure. Brady will pick apart this defense.
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Tom Brady owns the Steelers
The Steelers are the winningest franchise since the 1970 merger. They’re perennial contenders, but one man always gives them trouble: Tom Brady. In his career, Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers, including two playoff wins. He has 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions in those games, proving to be Pittsburgh’s kryptonite. Brady is of course one of the best quarterbacks the game has ever seen, but he’s especially good against the Steelers.
Since 2007, when Mike Tomlin took over, Brady is 4-1 with 17 touchdowns and not a single interception. Only one team has struggled to stop Brady more than the Steelers have, and that’s the Buffalo Bills.
Given his unworldly play since returning from his four-game suspension, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brady light up the Steelers once again. He has back-to-back games with at least 375 yards and three touchdowns, proving he’s still an MVP candidate despite missing four games. His record at Heinz Field (4-2) isn’t as great as his home record (4-0), but Brady has never struggled to beat the Steelers.
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Ben Roethlisberger is out
The biggest reason Pittsburgh has a slim chance of winning this game is because Ben Roethlisberger is out. Had he been healthy enough to play, the Steelers might have even been favorites with the game at Heinz Field. As badly as the Steelers would love to have him on the field, it’s simply not the case, so they’ll plug along without him
Landry Jones will take over in Big Ben’s place, and let’s face it: He’s no Roethlisberger. He’s started two games in his career – both last season – but has three touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s completed just 57.1 percent of his career attempts and has lost his lone fumble. Overall, it’s not a great situation, and it’s obviously going to hurt the Steelers. Roethlisberger was in the midst of an MVP-caliber season before the knee injury, making his loss even more substantial.
What the Steelers do have going for them is that Antonio Brown was much better with Jones than he was with Michael Vick last season. In Jones’ first start – the only game where he played extensively – Brown caught six passes for 124 yards. Belichick usually has a knack for eliminating a team’s best player, but it’ll be a challenge to take away both Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Still, the Patriots will come away with a win.