Thursday, October 27, 2011

Patriots QB Brady may or may not like ketchup, but he certainly loves Heinz

Throughout his career, Tom Brady has had little trouble taking care of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The New England Patriots quarterback, who heads into Sunday’s game against the Steelers as the leading AFC passer (despite a bye week last week), will be expected to do work against the Steelers again this weekend, when the Pats head to Heinz Field for a 4:15 p.m. showdown in Pittsburgh.

Both squads are familiar with one another and know what is at stake. For the Steelers, after a slow start to the season that has picked up steadily and gained plenty of momentum in the process, beating the Patriots would solidify them as one of — if not the — top team in the AFC. For the Patriots, a chance to come into Heinz Field for a second straight year and take care of Pittsburgh means, not just boosting morale, but a better chance at home-field advantage in the postseason.

Last year, in a much-hyped, Sunday-night game, the Patriots traveled into Pittsburgh and handled the Steelers, 39-26, much to the credit of Brady’s play. Then an 11-year pro, Brady was 30-for-43 with 350 yards, three TDs and no INTs. He also avoided being sacked even once by a vicious defense.

“They lead the league in defense every year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the media Wednesday.

But that’s just what Brady does at Heinz. No other visiting quarterback plays as well as Brady does there, and the key is his consistency. He’s only lost there once -- in 2004 on Halloween, when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was a rookie. The Steelers gave the Patriots their first loss of the season in that game before eventually losing to the Pats in the AFC title game.

“It was a tough day for us,” Brady recalled Wednesday in a conference call with the media. “That was a rough day. They were going crazy; the towels were waving and the fans were really into it. It’s a great stadium. It’s very loud. It’s a very imposing stadium.”

He won’t ever forget that game. Brady seemed inexperienced and startled, tossing two interceptions and losing a fumble. It’s no surprise the Pats lost with a performance like that from Brady, but it’s rare, too. He’s done nothing but win since. And he’s looking to keep that streak in order this weekend.

The Pats are 2.5-point favorites.

Follow Sam @SammySports