Pressure Sunday Should Be On Steelers Defense Against Patriots, Not Landry Jones

The Pittsburgh Steelers will host the New England Patriots Sunday at Heinz Field and while most of the focus this week has been on backup quarterback Landry Jones and how there’s pressure for him to perform in this Week 7 game, that really shouldn’t be the case. Instead, the focus and pressure should be on the Steelers defense this week as that unit will give the team their best shot at winning if they can limit the production of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady comes to Pittsburgh Sunday with a very impressive career regular season record of 174-51-0 as a starter. Only 51 losses over essentially 14 seasons probably doesn’t surprise many of you. It’s an impressive number. I have broken down Brady’s passing numbers in all of his starts and especially the 51 games he’s lost and while generic, there are a few telling stats.

For starters, Brady has only lost 16 games that he’s started when he’s thrown for 275 or more yards. In those 16 losses, Brady’s Patriots averaged 26.9 points scored. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s foolish to expect Jones and the Steelers offense to score 27 points on the Patriots Sunday. It’s just too much to ask. In case you’re curious, the Patriots averaged 22.6 points in those 16 losses. Also in those 16 games, Brady was sacked on average 1.44 times and averaged 1.56 interceptions.

Let’s now look at what Brady’s average passing numbers look like in the total 51 regular season games that he’s lost so far during his career.

AVG 22 38 57.9% 238 6.26 1 1 2 13 74.2

These are all probably numbers the Steelers defense probably needs to aim for Sunday at Heinz Field and while not included in the table above, the Patriots averaged 18 points in those 51 losses. In the 13 games that Brady has started in which he was sacked at least once, threw at least two interceptions and threw for 240 yards or less, he is 5-8.

In the two regular season games in which the Steelers have beaten Brady, both happened in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field and both times the Patriots scored 20 or less points. While Brady did throw for 271 yards in the 2004 game that he lost to the Steelers, he was intercepted twice and sacked a total of 4 times.

2011 8 30-Oct @ PIT L 17-25 24 35 68.6 198 5.7 2 0 3 28
2004 8 31-Oct @ PIT L 20-34 25 43 58.1 271 6.3 2 2 4 28

During his Tuesday press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin smartly indicated that his team can’t get into a shootout Sunday with the Patriots and he’s exactly right. While he didn’t say it, the Steelers defense will need to hold the Patriots to at least 20 points in order to win the game. Ideally, 18 points or less.

Sure, there’s pressure on Jones this week to play well Sunday against the Patriots as he will certainly have to finish a few offensive possessions with touchdowns in addition to not turning the football over. Even so, there should be more pressure on the Steelers defense this week than on Jones because if they let the Patriots and Brady move the football through the air on Sunday and don’t register any sacks or interceptions in the process, it probably won’t matter how good of game Jones does or doesn’t have.

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