New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers preview: Patriots face Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers

The New England Patriots hit the road to take on the Ben Roethlisberger-less Pittsburgh Steelers.

New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers preview: Patriots face Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers
New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers preview: Patriots face Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers

Big Ben Rothlisberger will miss the Pittsburgh Steelers high profile week seven game in the AFC against the New England Patriots with a torn meniscus.

Two AFC titans clash

These two franchises are arguably the most glamorous in the AFC, with 10 Superbowl championships between them. The Steelers and the Patriots have kept up their winning traditions so far in 2016 as well, with New England leading the AFC East at 5-1 and Pittsburgh atop the AFC North with a 4-2 record.

The two teams come into this game with contrasting fortunes after Pittsburgh fell to a surprising 30-15 defeat at Miami last week, with Rothlisberger going down before half-time. Meanwhile, the Patriots after a slow start, ran, or should  we say passed all over the Cincinnati Bengals to claim a 35-17 win at home.

Brady's back and firing

Tom Brady has been near perfect since returning from his four-game suspension | Source: David Richard - AP Photo
Tom Brady has been near perfect since returning from his four-game suspension | Source: David Richard - AP Photo

While the Steelers future hall of fame quarterback will miss this game and a couple more after it, the Patriots all-star man under center, Tom Brady has come back from "Deflategate" with a bang. Brady has gone 57 of 75 for 782 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions in his first two games of the season, also against AFC North opponents in the form of the Cleveland Browns and the Bengals.

Brady's return has also been boosted by tight end, Rob Gronkowski and his return to full health after a hamstring injury. Both Gronk and fellow tight end, Martellus Bennett had huge games last week, with both going over 100 receiving yards with a touchdown catch and coach Bill Belichick will be looking to exploit the mismatches they cause once more.

Balanced offense against a struggling defense

Another point that will worry Steelers fans going into this game is the fact they have continued their struggles in trying to defend against the passing game, they are the third-worst unit in the league. So with New England rolling into town it could be a long afternoon in Pennsylvania.

Even if the pass somehow doesn't work at Heinz field, New England actually has quite a balanced offense this year, with the rushing offense being at the same rank as what the passing offense is, seventh in the league. LeGarrette Blount has certainly held his own in the backfield for New England, with 439 yards on the ground and six touchdowns this season.

Le'veon Bell (26) will look to ease any pressure that backup quarterback Landry Jones may have or face | Source: Chales Winslow II - VAVEL USA
Le'Veon Bell (26) will look to ease any pressure that backup quarterback Landry Jones may have or face | Source: Charles Winslow II - VAVEL USA

With Landry Jones set to start at quarterback, much will be needed from Le'Veon Bell at running back to ease the pressure on the offense. Bell's pre-match focus has been unfortunately for him all about Blount's release from the Steelers in 2014 after he left the bench during a game. Bell spoke very highly of his fellow running back, though, in a series of respectful comments from the two teams about each other. 

Injury report

In addition to the Rothlisberger injury, coach Mike Tomlin is also without other offensive options such as DeAngelo Williams and Markus Wheaton with shoulder and knee injuries respectively. 

Pittsburgh is also going to be without one of the team captains on defense, Cameron Heyward after he was ruled out till at least their week eight bye with the hamstring injury he picked up against the Dolphins.

The only player officially noted as out for the Patriots is lower depth tight end, Michael Williams with a knee injury. Other than this, there are numerous questionable's for coach Belichick, but it is expected that most of them will play on Sunday. 

Stats

Brady is 6-2 against the Steelers in his career with 22 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

The Steelers are 3-0 at home this season and have won seven games in a row at Heinz Field. 

Antonio Brown has caught a touchdown pass in each of his three meetings against the Patriots.

The Steelers lead the overall regular season series against New England 14-10.