Defensive snaps: Brace leads D-Line

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A look at snaps played by Patriots defenders last Sunday in Cleveland, while analyzing trends that could be a factor in this week's game in Pittsburgh (as charted in press box, small margin for error):

LB Jerod Mayo - 62 of 62

CB Devin McCourty -- 62 of 62

S Brandon Meriweather -- 62 of 62

S James Sanders -- 53 of 62

CB Kyle Arrington -- 52 of 62

ILB Brandon Spikes -- 49 of 62

DL Ron Brace -- 44 of 62

OLB Jermaine Cunningham -- 43 of 62

DL Vince Wilfork -- 43 of 62

OLB/DE Tully Banta-Cain -- 42 of 62

OLB Rob Ninkovich -- 39 of 62

DE Brandon Deaderick -- 29 of 62

DL Myron Pryor -- 23 of 62

DL Mike Wright -- 23 of 62

DL Gerard Warren -- 20 of 62

CB Jonathan Wilhite -- 13 of 62

OLB/DE Shawn Crable -- 10 of 62

LB Gary Guyton -- 8 of 62

S Sergio Brown -- 5 of 62

ANALYSIS: After a week in which they took a pounding in Cleveland, the Patriots have another physical test against the punch-them-in-the-mouth Steelers, so the big guys up front will be key. With Myron Pryor (back) and Mike Wright (groin) both either out or limited in practice this week, more of the D-end/sub-rush playing time figures to fall to Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick and Gerard Warren. Brace's playing time has been on the rise the last two weeks, as he led all linemen in snaps played in Cleveland. Part of that was tied to Vince Wilfork leaving for a stretch in the second half with what looked like an ankle injury. Given the health questions with Pryor and Wright, this could be a week in which rookie defensive lineman Kyle Love is active. ... After a slow start to the season, safety Brandon Meriweather is now an every-down player for the Patriots. Part of that has been based on other circumstances, as injuries to Patrick Chung (knee) and Jarrad Page (calf) has left the Patriots short at safety. ... Linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty remain the other every-down players, as they have been two of the team's most consistent players all season. ... The last two weeks have seen more of a three-way rotation adopted at outside linebacker, with Tully Banta-Cain -- previously more of a sub rusher -- working his way into more base 3-4 plays. ... Cornerback Darius Butler was active, but didn't play a defensive snap. Jonathan Wilhite was the third corner and the Patriots had one base package in which they played with three cornerbacks and one safety, which was a different twist.