Well, Patriots Nation, football season is finally here. We can stop talking about deflated footballs and taping practices from 10 years ago and actually focus on defending our Super Bowl Championship.
The Patriots have a relatively decent task at hand tonight in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Even without Le'Veon Bell (suspended), Martavias Bryant (suspended), and Maurkice Pouncey (injured), the Steelers have one of the better offenses in the NFL, however. Ben Roethlisberger had a career year in 2014 and will only get better this season. Expect a lot of passes towards Antonio Brown (129 catches, 1698 yards, 13 TDs last year) and Heath Miller (66 catches, 761 yards 3 TDs last year). It will be interesting to see how the Patriots secondary approaches this daunting task. Will they have Malcolm Butler cover him with help over the top or leave Butler on his more-dominant left side? The possibilities are endless, but everyone needs to remember it is just one receiver.
Along with the previously mentioned receivers and running backs being out, Maurkice Pouncey is arguable the best center in the National Football League and will miss some serious time with a lower leg injury. With him being out, expect Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown, and whoever else is lining up in the middle to provide consistent pressure to the quarterback. This could prove to be the deciding factor in this game.
However, Pittsburgh has a couple problems of their own on defense. Veteran defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau left, and Steeler legends Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Brett Keisel have all drifted off into the sunset. A new age of defense is being assembled in Pittsburgh and the Patriots could/should expose it early and often.
Even though Brandon LaFell (injured) and LeGarrette Blount (suspended) will not be featured in this game, expect Tom Brady to air the football out and carve apart this terrible Steelers secondary. According to James C. Wexell, in 4 preseason first halves, the Steelers have allowed opposing QBs to complete 80% of their passes for 0 INTs and a 122.3 QBR. Expect to see a lot of slant routes to get Julian Edelman warmed up early and quite a few 2 TE sets in the redzone (Chandler and Gronk are going to be incredible).
Look for the Patriots to win big as they raise banner #4.
By Pete Packowski @Pete_BBS