KEYS to Steelers/Patriots:
Steelers want to run/Patriots should want to stop the run:
--The Steelers beat the Patriots in 2011, they were a Jesse James “drop” away from beating them in 2017, and they did beat them last year.
--I think you can make a solid argument that the Steelers looked like the better team in each of the last two meetings.
--Well, what do those three games all have in common? The Steelers ran the ball.
--The fewest yards they rushed for in those games? 98. The Steelers averaged 6.3 yards per carry last year.
--They have averaged roughly five yards per carry in the three games I highlighted.
--The Steelers SHOULD want to run the ball. The Patriots SHOULD want to stop the run.
--When the Pats beat the Steelers in the 2016 AFC Championship Game, the Steelers only ran for 2.7 yards per carry. Bell was hurt early, and the Steelers were effed.
--Keep the Patriots honest. Run the football. And in doing so, you keep the ball away from Brady and company.
Find a secondary target when JuJu is taken away:
--The Pats are going to come in trying to stop the run and trying to take JuJu out of this thing.
--Stephon Gilmore is really freaking good. Does he follow JuJu? Will he go with JuJu into the slot?
--If I’m the Steelers I test the theory early and often. I line JuJu up everywhere.
--I’d imagine it may be Gilmore and a safety over the top.
--In the slot, that’s harder. So it’s a matchup to watch.
--If you want to take something away badly enough, though? You can do it.
--The Patriots are better at it than anybody.
--SO, the KEY here is to find the secondary option besides JuJu.
--Maybe it’s Conner in the passing game? Maybe it’s Moncrief or James Washington?
--Is it Vance McDonald? I like the Patriots linebackers and safeties.
--The Steelers will need to find secondary weapons in order to win this game.
Confuse the Patriots offensive line:
--Isiah Wynn is a talented second year player out of Georgia. He’s the second highest draft pick the Patriots have ever spent on an offensive lineman in the Belichick era.
--He had a torn Achilles last year and didn’t play a snap.
--So you’ve got, effectively, a rookie at left tackle.
--You’ve got something called Ted Karras starting at center. Pro Football Reference tells me that the dude has started five career games.
--So between the left tackle and the center, you’ve got 5 career starts. That’s an advantage for the Steelers defensive front.
--Here’s what I would do if I were the D-coordinator (and I would be for 80K): Bring some A-gap pressure. If Vince is going to play more than I initially thought, he’s a great blitzer. Let him come a few times. Devin Bush is a good A-gap blitzer. Let him come a few times.
--Run some double barrel blitzes. Run the cross fire blitz. Make the game a living hell for Karras.
--Line Hargrave right over his jock strap a couple of times.
--It’s not about confusing Brady. You can’t.
--It’s about confusing the offensive line.
--The strength of the Steelers is their front. Mess with them effers.
--In theory, Bud Dupree also has a good matchup.
--We saw a stunt against the Titans where Dupree came inside. Give me some of that confusion element too.
--No career starts for Wynn. Make him think.
Get pressure on Brady:
--This is obvious, right?
--But not in the way that you’ll hear others talk about it.
--Usually, you hear, “if you get in Brady’s face, you can beat him! You rattle him!”
--Well, I don’t think it rattles him.
--I don’t think it scares him.
--It’s important, though, because it gets him off schedule.
--I’m not saying that you need to sack him five times.
--Get enough pressure to make him get rid of it quicker from time to time.
--Get hands up and make him hold it an extra beat if he’s going to have a quick hitter.
--It’s important to keep him off schedule.
--AND, if you an get him to get rid of it quicker and have to hit the check downs if he’s looking to take a shot…That’s only going to help the Steelers back end. Namely Mike Hilton and/or Kameron Kelly.
Hold the Patriots to field goals:
--Tom Brady has thrown 18 TD’s and 0 INT’s against the Steelers IN New England.
--The Patriots have averaged 36 points per game against the Steelers in the last five games in Foxboro with Tom Brady starting.
--If you’re looking for Brady to turn it over, it ain’t going to happen.
--SO, you need to hold them to field goals in the red zone.
--The Steelers were 7th in the league last year in red zone touchdown percentage against.
--That’s a stat they need to carry over into game one.
You can hear our totally original and innovative segment KEYS TO THE GAME Friday at 4:40 on the Crowley Show.