Here’s a number, 0.5, that is the amount of games that the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the AFC North by. Just half a game. With the New England Patriots coming to town, the Steelers are going to have to find a way to win in order to extend or maintain their half-game lead. Here are all the numbers that will decide Sunday’s big game between the Steelers and Patriots.
6 – Do not let the Patriots’ improving pass defense fall under the radar as the secondary has not allowed 300 yards passing in six consecutive games now. The secondary has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 62.2% of their passes, sixth lowest in the NFL. This will be a bigger challenge than expected for Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has thrown for over 4200 yards, second to only Patrick Mahomes but the Patriots present a difficult situation considering the murkiness surrounding the Steelers’ run game.
9 – By his own standard, Antonio Brown is having a noticeably quiet year. The nine-year veteran has been held under 100 yards receiving in 9/13 games this season. The Patriots will likely use bracket coverage on Brown but if the Steelers want any way to keep their fleeting post season chances alive, Brown is going to have to find a way to make an impact.
100 – If there is a formula to beating the Patriots, running the football seems to be a big part of it. The Patriots have given up 100 or more yards rushing in each of their four losses this season and are 3-4 when giving up triple digit rushing yards. For the Steelers to win, they are going to have to do better than their performance against the Raiders, 19 carries for 40 yards. If the Patriots plan to double the Steelers’ biggest weapon, whether it be Brown or JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Steelers are going to have to find a run game to keep the defense honest.
113.0 – Tom Brady has owned the Steelers over his career, holding an 11-2 record against the black and gold. Brady’s 113.0 passer rating against the Steelers is the highest by any quarterback against one opponent in NFL history (since 1970 merger). While the Steelers have been playing checkers, Brady has been playing chess as he seems to have an answer for whatever Pittsburgh throws at him, throwing for 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions against them.
144.2 – According to a tweet by NFL.com’s Graham Barfield, the Steelers have allowed 144.2 yards per game to receivers aligned in the slot or in tight to the formation. That has to make Keith Butler nervous as his next task awaiting him is Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has run majority of his routes from the slot this season. In fact, Gronk has run 90% of his routes from the slot/tight. There has been no stopping the Patriots’ tight end as he has posted 498 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his last four games against the Steelers.