slides: What to Watch For: Patriots at Steelers
Sunday, October 23, 2016
New England Patriots (5-1) visit the (4-2) Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon in a battle of first place teams. The Patriots have a one game lead in the AFC East while the Steelers have a one game lead in the AFC North.
“They've been one of the best for a long time. The history of the Steeler organization with so many great players and teams and championships, you know you're always going to get a dog fight when you play them,” said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in his press conference earlier this week.
The Patriots and Steelers meet for the second straight season, following New England’s season opening win in 2015 at Gillette Stadium.
This will be the first time that the Patriots have played in Pittsburgh since 2011, when they fell 25-17.
See What to Watch for in the Slideshow Below.
Related Slideshow: 5 Things to Watch For: Patriots at Steelers
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out, which means that Landry Jones will be making the start.
So who is he?
Jones was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft out of Oklahoma.
"He's also done a good job of growing and developing his game, so we're excited about watching him do it for us. It won't be the first time that he's done it for us, but it'll be the first time this year. It's reasonable for us to expect to see the growth and maturation that comes with four years being here," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
Jones came in during the second quarter of the Steelers game against Miami and attempted one pass the entire game, the pass was incomplete. How much will Pittsburgh trust him in this game?
In his career, Jones has a record of 1-1 with three touchdowns and four interceptions. His career completion percentage is 57.1.
Dont'a Hightower became the first Patriot since Mike Vrabel to win AFC Defensive Player of the Week following his performance against the Bengals, in which he sacked quarterback Andy Dalton in the end zone for a safety.
"It means a lot. Definitely appreciate the recognition, but I think we all know that one guy doesn't make the team, especially on defense. Definitely have a lot of help with those other 10, 11 guys that help. I was just the only one who was able to get singled out. But I appreciate it," said Hightower in his press conference earlier this week.
On the season, Hightower has seven tackles, one passed defense and 1.5 sacks on the season, missing two games due to injury.
After missing an extra point in last Sunday's game against the Bengals, Gostkowski is now 9-for -12 on field goals and 16-of-17 on extra points. His three field goal misses so far this season are tied for the most that he has had in a season since 2013.
He has missed a total of six kicks going back to last season's playoffs.
The Patriots signed Gostkowski to a four year deal prior to the 2015 season.
Butler vs. Brown Round 2
Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown will meet up for the second time in two years after meeting in last year's season opener.
In that first meeting, Brown caught nine passes for 133 yards and had a late touchdown in a 28-21 Patriots win at Gillette Stadium.
This season, Brown is off to a hot start, pulling in 41 catches for 486 yards and five touchdowns. He averages 12 yards per reception.
However, all those numbers came with Roethlisberger playing quarterback.
How effective will he be with Landry Jones under center?
Pats Run Defense
With Roethlisberger out, the Patriots should expect to see a lot of Pittsburgh's two headed running attack - Le'Veon Bell (pictured) and DeAngelo Williams.
Bell has 48 carries for 263 yards so far this season, while also catching 20 balls for 177 yards.
"He's a tremendous player, great hands, catches the ball, very quick, makes people miss, strong, breaks tackles, excellent balance, tough, doesn't run out of bounds, fights for extra yardage, a great player," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in his press conference earlier this week.
Williams has 74 carries for 275 yards and three touchdowns on the season, while also catching 15 passes for 91 yards.
"I mean he led the league in rushing the two weeks where he played earlier in the year when he had a lot of carries. He's had a tremendous career. Really one of the all-time great careers statistically," said Belichick.
The Patriots defense gives up an average of 92 rushing yards per game, good enough for ninth best in the NFL.
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