Saturday, October 29, 2011

Steelers provide tough test for Pats' D

Statistically, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has fared just fine against the Pittsburgh Steelers, regardless of what stadium the game is played in.

And, as we all know, he has a habit of doing that against most opponents.

But a big question mark heading into Sunday’s 4:15 p.m. game at Heinz Field — and throughout the first half of the season — is the Patriots’ defensive unit. There’s undoubtedly a tough task awaiting in Pittsburgh, namely escape-artist quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who repeatedly finds his way out of would-be sacks and high-pressure situations behind the line of scrimmage and turns them into high-production plays, and his growing arsenal of weapons around him.

In addition to veteran receiver and leader Hines Ward (who is listed as questionable with an ankle injury) and lethal running back Rashard Mendenhall, receivers Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emanuel Sanders have emerged as offensive forces that cannot be overlooked.

Wallace being a factor is hardly news. In his third season, he has become the go-to guy for Roethlisberger and is on pace to top his 1,200-plus-yard season from last year. He also has five touchdowns this year after racking up 10 last season.

Brown, the Steelers' kick returner, has yet to find the end zone this season, but it’s on the verge of happening. He’s coming off his best game to date — seven catches for 102 yards last week vs. the Arizona Cardinals — and a big game against the Patriots is just what his team needs from him.

Sanders, who scored last week for the second time this season, is also a legitimate threat as a third receiver.

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