A weekly examination of the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback play.
Rewind: Ben Roethlisberger threw for 275 yards and a touchdown this past Sunday in a 21-18 loss to the Raiders, and he was lucky to leave Oakland with all of his body parts intact. Roethlisberger spent much of the afternoon running for his life, and the Raiders sacked him five times after injuries forced the Steelers to re-shuffle their offensive line. The Raiders picked off Roethlisberger twice but his second interception was on wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Fast-forward: The New England Patriots are No. 5 in the NFL in passing defense (215.5 yards per game) and their secondary has held up despite the absence of top cornerback Aqib Talib the past two games. Talib is nursing a hip injury and his status for Sunday is uncertain. The Patriots are among the top 10 in the NFL with 24 sacks, and they will no doubt try to take advantage of an offensive line that has had trouble protecting Roethlisberger and could be without right guard David DeCastro (ankle).
A little help: Roethlisberger needs to get more help from his supporting cast if the Steelers are to beat Tom Brady for the first time in New England. A beat-up line and an early deficit didn’t allow the Steelers to establish the run at Oakland, and Roethlisberger’s receivers didn’t do him many favors. Brown and tight end Heath Miller were each guilty of drops, and Brown bobbled a pass in the fourth quarter that resulted in an interception.
Prediction: Roethlisberger has traditionally given the Patriots all they can handle as he has thrown 14 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in six regular-season games against New England. The Steelers don’t want Roethlisberger throwing as much as he did in their two most recent meetings with the Patriots -- he attempted a combined 99 passes in 2010 and 2011 -- and he should have a good game if the Steelers can establish some semblance of a running attack. That is a big if, though, at this point.