As the Steelers start their 2015 climb up the Stairway to Seven, they do so with several questions on the defensive side of the ball. It doesn’t help that they have to start finding answers to those questions against Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. This looks to be a scary proposition when one thinks about what quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel and Derek Anderson did to the secondary during the preseason, but all is not hopeless. When you consider the turnover on the Patriots’ defense, most notably, their secondary, and the fact that they have to face Ben Roethlisberger and the most explosive offense in the NFL, this is a match up that could actually favor the Steelers. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m an optimist but also a realist and when you look at this match up, on paper at least, the Steelers have a legitimate chance to win.
The return of Lawrence Timmons and Stephon Tuitt should help stabilize the run defense, which was consistently gashed during the preseason. We can forget the preseason when it comes to the defense though, because the starters didn’t see much playing time. As it stands now, the trade for Brandon Boykin looks to be a good one, as his addition to the secondary should help a unit that improved as last season progressed. Against the group of receivers that the Patriots are going to be running out there, I have confidence in the ability of Steelers’ secondary to get the job done. Patriots fans on the other hand should have some real concerns about their retooled secondary having to cover the weapons that the Steelers still have.
Despite not having Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant available due to their suspensions, the Steelers have D’Angelo Williams and Sammie Coates to fill in for them. Both Williams and Coates showed explosiveness and speed during the preseason which is why they were brought in. Williams’ versatility will allow the Steelers to use him much the same way they deploy Bell. Sammie Coates should be able to comfortably fill the role that Bryant was used in last season. What could make Coates the key to a Steelers win is that an overwhelmed Patriots secondary will have their hands full with Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton.
While Brown will see his share of double coverage, they can’t and won’t stop him and in the process he will open things up for everyone else, and Ben will find everyone else. This game is tailor-made for the player that he has evolved into. He can pick that young defense apart with the quick passing game or move around and create big plays downfield like always. Either way, the Patriots have never seen this version of Big Ben Roethlisberger and it should be a long night for their defense. Also, look for Dri Archer to contribute in this game much the same way the Patriots use Julian Edelman.
It’s obvious that the offenses will carry the day in this game, and that favors the Steelers. While everyone is ready to just give this game to New England, it’s not as open and shut when taking a closer look at different match ups. There are other elements that favor the Steelers as well, besides the offense. When it comes to the Steelers’ receivers versus the Patriots’ secondary, the Steelers receivers are far superior. Conversely, when the Steelers’ secondary lines up with the Patriots’ receivers, on paper at least, I’ll give the edge to the Steelers’ secondary. I also believe that the Steelers have a superior group of linebackers as well, assuming that Timmons is close to one hundred percent. His ability to stuff the run will be needed to help make the New England offense one dimensional.