Final

Patriots 17

(5-2, 2-2 away)

Steelers 25

(6-2, 4-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:15 PM ET, October 30, 2011

Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA 

1 2 3 4 T
NE 0 10 0 717
PIT 7 10 3 525

Top Performers

Passing: B. Roethlisberger (PIT) - 365 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: R. Mendenhall (PIT) - 13 CAR, 70 YDS

Receiving: R. Gronkowski (NE) - 7 REC, 94 YDS

Patriots-Steelers Preview

STATS LLC

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have made themselves at home in previous visits to Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to change that while proving they're worthy of being among the elite in the AFC.

Emerging from their bye week, the Patriots look to re-establish their top-ranked offense and beat the Steelers for a fifth consecutive meeting with Brady under center as the divisional leaders face off Sunday.

Including the playoffs, Pittsburgh (5-2) has won 16 of 21 home games, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.3 points in those victories.

That hasn't been the case against New England (5-1), which has won five of its last six games in Pittsburgh with Brady primarily responsible for that stunning success in one of the most intimidating environments in the NFL.

The Patriots are 6-1 overall against the Steelers when Brady starts, and he's guided them to four wins in five visits to Heinz Field and most notably, two conference championships. Brady completed 30 of 43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns while scampering for another score in a 39-26 victory at Pittsburgh last November.

He has a 114.9 rating with nine passing TDs and one interception in four straight victories over the Steelers, including the AFC title game following the 2004 season.

"The Steelers are tough to beat at home," Brady said. "The times that we beat them we've had to play very, very good games. I think that's what I'm probably most proud of. Some of our greatest games that we've ever played have been against them.

"It's just execution. It's guys getting open and us completing (passes). I don't think there's (any) special thing we do. There's no magic dust we put in our cereal in the morning."

There's no other team in the league executing as well as the Patriots are offensively.

New England ranks first in overall and passing offense with averages of 474.5 yards and 350.5, respectively. Brady leads the conference with 2,163 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and a 104.8 rating, while Wes Welker -- his top target -- is atop the NFL with 51 receptions. Welker's 785 yards and six TD grabs also rank second.

They have those gaudy numbers in only six games following a 20-16 win over Dallas on Oct. 16, during which Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for an 8-yard score with 22 seconds left in regulation.

The Steelers, however, seem prepared to deal with Brady and the high-octane Patriots. They have the No. 2 pass defense, allowing an average of 171.9 yards while yielding 279.0 overall to rank third.

"They're a good football team. They give everybody problems," coach Bill Belichick said. "They utilize a lot of different personnel groups and different people within those groups so they give you a lot of different looks and they have a lot of good players. They have different skills but they're all good. Some guys do some things a little more or better than others but then other guys come in with different matchup problems. They get a lot of mileage out of everybody."

Another win over the Steelers will give Belichick and Brady their 117th as a tandem, moving ahead of Don Shula and Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins for the most by any coach-quarterback combination.

Pittsburgh, though, is looking to prove its belongs among the best teams in the conference after winning 32-20 at Arizona last week following a stretch of uneven play against seemingly overmatched opponents that created more questions than praise.

"Oh gosh, it's October," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're just trying to win week to week and keep pace with the elite."

The Steelers can change that perception in the next two games. After facing the Patriots, they host Baltimore next week and those two clubs have combined for nine wins -- two more than the total number of the five teams they've beaten.

"We are not satisfied with where we are at," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We feel like we can still improve and that's good. We need to have that mentality."

Roethlisberger is trying to build on one of his best performances this season, completing 26 of 39 passes for 361 yards with three touchdowns. He's tossed nine TDs with one pick during the Steelers' three-game winning streak.

Despite his 2-4 overall record against the Patriots, Roethlisberger has thrown 10 scoring passes with two INTs in five regular season matchups.

He could be in for another big day against New England's defense, which ranks last in the NFL and gives up an average of 322.2 passing yards, 33.3 more than the next team.

"That is a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front," Tomlin said. "So if you come in and you think they are the 32nd best defense in football you are kidding yourself. They are whacking people pretty good. People are throwing the ball every down and they accumulate some yards, it is insignificant."

Patriots second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski was at the center of some controversy during the bye, as a photo of him shirtless with an adult actress donning his jersey was posted on Twitter.

"I didn't intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots or on behalf of (owner) Robert Kraft," Gronkowski said after meeting with Kraft. "It was just a simple picture and that's all."

Gronkowski hauled in all three of Brady's scoring passes at Pittsburgh last year.

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Passing Leaders

New EnglandCMP%YDSTDINT
T. Brady67.43865276
B. Hoyer100.03700
PittsburghCMP%YDSTDINT
B. Roethlisberger63.337442413
R. Golden100.04400

Rushing Leaders

New EnglandCARYDSAVGTD
D. Lewis1176075.23
M. Gillislee983553.64
PittsburghCARYDSAVGTD
L. Bell28311053.97
J. Conner291314.50

Receiving Leaders

New EnglandRECYDSAVGTD
B. Cooks5492417.15
R. Gronkowski5584915.47
PittsburghRECYDSAVGTD
A. Brown99150915.29
J. Smith-Schuster3758515.85

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsNE
 
 428
PIT
 
 372
Yards PassingNE
 
 318
PIT
 
 253
Yards RushingNE
 
 110
PIT
 
 119
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedNE
 
 411
PIT
 
 272
Pass Yds AllowedNE
 
 294
PIT
 
 172
Rush Yds AllowedNE
 
 117
PIT
 
 100

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

New England leads 6-3
Nov 14, 2010NE 39, @PIT 26
Nov 30, 2008NE 10, PIT 33
Dec 9, 2007NE 34, PIT 13
Sep 25, 2005NE 23, @PIT 20
Jan 23, 2005NE 41, @PIT 27
Oct 31, 2004NE 20, @PIT 34
Sep 9, 2002NE 30, PIT 14
Jan 27, 2002NE 24, @PIT 17

Research Notes

When the Steelers and Patriots meet at Heinz Field on Sunday, It'll mark only the 6th time in the Super Bowl era that two quarterbacks that won multiple Super Bowls face off against each other. Brady and Big Ben played each other last season with the Patriots coming out on top.
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