Patriots-Steelers matchup of the day: Thursday

Posted Oct. 27, 2011 @ 2:03 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

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

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Patriots defense

Big Ben has a 2-4 career record against the Patriots (counting the 2004 AFC championship game), but he has a stellar 12-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio in those games. He will be looking to air it out deep, and as discussed in Wednesday's matchup involving Mike Wallace, the Patriots' defensive backs will have to stay true to their obligations if and when Roethlisberger scrambles.

That is where Roethlisberger is so dangerous — on the move. He is not fast, but he can escape pressure and throw on the run. It's one thing to put pressure on Roethlisberger, it's another to bring the 6-5, 241-pound signalcaller to the turf.

In last season's meeting, the Patriots blitzed Roethlisberger often, sacking him five times in a 39-26 win. It was one of the only games last year in which New England's defense brought a lot of pressure on a quarterback. This season, the Steelers' offensive line has had to deal with injuries and changes, but getting veteran Max Starks back at left tackle has helped.

Big Ben was sacked 14 times in the team's first four games, but only six times in the past three games. The Patriots are ranked near the bottom of the league with only 10 sacks of opposing QBs this season.

DE Andre Carter has picked up his pass rushing of late, but he will need some help opposite him from Shaun Ellis. The two D-ends will have to keep Roethlisberger from getting outside the pocket to extend the play.

OLB Rob Ninkovich is one of the Patriots' top edge rushers. Look for him to apply some pressure to Roethlisberger. The team also might use DE Mark Anderson more often. Anderson has a couple sacks this season coming in garbage time. The situational pass rusher could get more time vs. Pittsburgh.

The more time that Roethlisberger has, the more likely he will burn the Patriots' secondary with one of his many talented receivers. The front seven will need to keep him in the pocket and when they get to Big Ben, they need to bring him down.