The Pittsburgh Steelers will play their fourteenth game of the 2018 regular season Sunday afternoon at home against the New England Patriots and they’ll be looking to break a three-game losing streak. Below are five key things that I believe the Steelers will need to do in the game to come away with their fourth home win of the 2018 season Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Goat the Goat – The Steelers defense can’t simply sit back and play mostly zone against the Patriots offense and quarterback Tom Brady as he’ll surely take what’s given him and paper cut his way down the field all throughout the game. Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler really needs to mix up his coverages by halves on Sunday and personnel as well. As much man-coverage as possible is advised and whenever more than five pass rushers are sent after Brady the disguise better be great. Brady doesn’t throw many interceptions and has only tossed two in the last 8 games. Three of those went in and out of the hands of a teammate before being corralled by the opposing defense. Hopefully they can goat the GOAT into making at least one poor decision deep down the field as that’s the most likely place where Brady will throw an interception. Pressuring him right before he throws is a must as he’s not going to make a poor throw from a clean base.
Left turn signal – The Steelers running game hasn’t been great the last several games and odds are good the Patriots defense will dare the Pittsburgh offense to run against them early on. The Patriots defense hasn’t been great when it comes to runs to the right side of their defense. The Steelers offensive line needs to get on the move in this game as that should create bigger running lanes for the likes of Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley. Merely running those same inside zone runs isn’t likely to do the trick. Run to the left early and often and try to get the Patriots defense to have to commit an extra box defender to stopping it.
Don’t get Gronk smashed – Patriots tight end Ron Gronkowski took over the last meeting against the Steelers in the fourth quarter with back-to-back-to-back receptions that totaled 69 yards and all came via passes more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. The big tight end finished with 9 receptions for 168 yards and a repeat of that performance can’t happen Sunday at Heinz Field. The Steelers can’t afford to put an undersized cornerback or inside linebacker on Gronkowski very often so look for a safety to get that job. Keeping Gronkowski well under 100 yards receiving and out of the end zone will be a must.
Don’t force it deep – The Patriots defense has done a great job of defensing deep pass attempts this season and Sunday you can bet that unit’s main goal will be to limit Steelers wide receivers Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster to only underneath completions and nothing over the top or deep. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisbeger will likely only get a few really good opportunities to throw deep to Brown or Smith-Schuster and he must not miss on those throws. 9 of the 14 interceptions register this season by the Patriots defense have come via deep passes and all of those more than 20 yards past the original line of scrimmage.
Become the Stealers – With the Patriots unlikely to turn the football over through the air on Sunday, the Steelers will likely need to find some sort of way to steal two possession to win the game. Block a punt, return a punt or kickoff for a touchdown, recover an onside kick, or force and recover a fumble. Yes, even an interception would be fantastic and that’s something we haven’t seen since Week 10. Merely playing the Patriots to an even turnover and possession number isn’t likely going to be enough to produce a Steelers win.