Patriots-Steelers matchup of the day: Saturday

Posted Nov. 13, 2010 @ 5:06 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Here's a matchup to watch in the Week 10 game between the Patriots and Steelers:

Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall vs. Patriots' front seven

The Patriots' run defense had actually been keeping them in games before last Sunday. The D-line and linebackers forced teams into 3rd-and-longs, taking pressure off a weak secondary. That all changed against Cleveland when RB Peyton Hillis rumbled for 184 yards.

Mendenhall has had a great season, and having QB Ben Roethlisberger back to keep defenses honest makes Mendenhall even better. He is not nearly as big as Hillis, but he is a power runner, and the Patriots struggled to bring Hillis down.

It starts up front with NT Vince Wilfork, who will be double-teamed often. Rookie DLE Brandon Deaderick will need a big game to help Wilfork on the line. Then come the linebackers, starting on the inside with Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo. The Browns took Wilfork and Mayo out of play last week and forced Spikes to bring down Hillis, which he could only do after Hillis had gained a good chunk of yardage.

If the Steelers take a page from the Browns, Spikes, Deaderick and other young guys in the front seven will need big games. The Steelers are without both of their starting tackles but still have solid depth on the O-line and will want to give Mendenhall the rock often enough to set up the deep pass to Mike Wallace.