Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

PITTSBURGH -- Quick-hit thoughts after the third quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Steelers:

1. The Steelers are in position to deliver the knockout.

2. The Patriots’ pass defense is the story. They just can’t come up with the stops. The Steelers are 9 of 12 on third down in the game.

3. Antwaun Molden, who was playing in place of released Leigh Bodden as the third corner, was replaced by Phillip Adams.

4. The Patriots’ offense went three-and-out to open the third quarter, dashing any hope of building momentum. That is part of the mindset of deferring the choice when winning the opening toss, but the Patriots couldn’t capitalize. The Patriots attempted to establish the run on the drive – using offensive lineman Nate Solder as a third tight end.

5. A third-and-15 play on the Steelers’ first offensive drive was a dagger for the Patriots’ defense. You could see defenders’ shoulders drop after Emmanuel Sanders’ 17-yard catch.

6. Another part of the problem for the Patriots’ defense is tackling. They have been poor in that area.

7. A bright spot for the defense has been in the red zone. They’ve held the Steelers to field goals twice inside the 20 today, keeping them in the game.

8. The Patriots’ second drive got off to a good start with tight end Rob Gronkowski making a 19-yard catch, and then the Patriots getting another 15 yards when safety Ryan Clark was penalized for helmet to helmet contact on Gronkowski out of bounds. Gronkowski has come to play. Also, Aaron Hernandez is delivering some solid work as a blocker, with one example coming on Gronkowski’s 19-yard catch when he crunched safety Ryan Mundy.

9. Stephen Gostkowski's 42-yard missed field goal hurts, because the Patriots have to be near-perfect to have a chance in the final 15 minutes.