Patriots (5-1) vs Steelers (4-2)
What was shaping up as one of the marquee matchups of the season lost some of its luster when Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered a torn meniscus last weekend. With Roethlisberger sidelined after undergoing surgery, the Steelers will host the New England Patriots in a matchup of division leaders on Sunday (Enter Contests).
The Patriots weathered a four-game suspension to quarterback Tom Brady, so they realize Pittsburgh still presents an imposing obstacle. They will be playing playing their third consecutive AFC North opponent, having dispatched Cincinnati and Cleveland by a combined 68-30 over the past two weeks. Likewise, the Steelers are facing a third straight team from the AFC East, following a rout of the New York Jets with a 30-15 loss at Miami last weekend.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS
Sitting out the first month had no apparent negative effect on Brady, who has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 76 percent of his passes in the first two games. He’s 6-2 against Pittsburgh with 22 scoring passes and three interceptions. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, hobbled by a hamstring injury that forced him to sit out two games, has come alive with a pair of 100-yard games since the return of Brady. He collected seven receptions for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown in last week’s 35-17 win over Cincinnati. New England’s linebacker corps is riddled with injuries, although Dont’a Hightower was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
ABOUT THE STEELERS
Backup quarterback Landry Jones, who appeared in seven games last season and struggled in a start at Kansas City, will be surrounded by plenty of talent. Among them are star wideout Antonio Brown and do-everything running back Le’Veon Bell. Brown tied for the league lead with 136 receptions last season and has 376 catches from 2013-15, but he has failed to find the end zone in 11 games without Roethlisberger. He possess a touchdown catch in all three career meetings against New England. Bell is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has 20 receptions in his three games since returning from suspension and will likely carry a heavy workload. Pittsburgh’s defense ranks 30th against the pass (293.7 yards per game). The Steelers have won seven in a row at home.