It could not have the identical weight and a spotlight it as soon as did, however Thursday’s sport between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots stays a giant sport on Thursday Night time Soccer in Week 14.
Gone are the times of Tom Brady vs. Ben Roethlisberger and different Corridor of Fame names like Troy Polamalu, Rob Gronkowski, Richard Seymour, James Harrison and extra. Of their place, guys like TJ Watt, Cameron Heyward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Kyle Dugger, Lawrence Man and others have stepped up in hopes of continuous the custom of rivalry.
Nevertheless, it seems that the 2 groups are heading in reverse instructions this season. The Patriots are available at 2-10 and have a worse offense than the Steelers, which appeared unfathomable. The Steelers are 7-5 and within the thick of the AFC playoff race.
Each groups are in numerous turmoil heading into the Week 14 matchup, so do not count on an easy-on-the-eyes sport. It’ll be ugly soccer, which fits each head coaches, Mike Tomlin and Invoice Belichick, simply effective. Inside that ugly soccer will likely be a handful of necessary matchups.
Beneath are my prime 4 matchups to observe on Thursday night time.
DL Larry Ogunjobi of the Steelers vs. RG Sidy Sow of the Patriots
If there was ever a time for Larry Ogunjobi to essentially get to work within the trenches for the Steelers, the matchup in opposition to Patriots’ rookie proper guard Sidy Sow – particularly in sub-package soccer – can be the time.
Getting into Thursday’s sport, Sow is rated 67.5 general by Professional Soccer Focus, together with a 69.9 as a run blocker and simply 57.6 in go safety. He has been charged with 13 pressures and two sacks allowed this season. He’s enhancing a lot better within the run sport and has had points in opposition to extra athletic, explosive defensive linemen in latest weeks.
That is the place Ogunjobi can come into play.
It hasn’t been a nasty 12 months for the veteran defensive deal with. He simply hasn’t had the impression many had hoped. The stretch run right here is a superb time to make that impression, beginning on Thursday night. Ogunjobi has 21 pressures and two sacks this season, however he has only a 54.5 general grade from PFF for the 12 months, together with a 49.5 in opposition to the run and a 55.2 speeding the passer.
Left guard Cole Unusual and middle David Andrews can have their fingers full with Cameron Heyward and rookie Keeanu Benton. Ogunjobi ought to benefit from a positive matchup domestically. It is time.
Steelers’ IOL vs. Patriots DL Christian Barmore
The Patriots like to maneuver their defensive linemen right into a four-man entrance, so there is no telling how Thursday night time’s video games will go abruptly. That being stated, it’s paramount that the Steelers have a deal with on Christian Barmore each second of the night time.
Thus far in 498 snaps, Barmore is rated 76.1 by PFF. That features a 61.3 in opposition to the run and a powerful 82.6 as a go rusher. Barmore has 32 pressures this season, together with eight within the final three weeks. He has 4 sacks this season.
At 6-foot-4 and 315 kilos, Barmore strikes extraordinarily nicely for his measurement. He additionally has nice athleticism and explosion and might maintain the run with good energy, however actually will get after the passer when requested to hurry. He’s an actual weapon for the Patriots on the inside, permitting them to do quite a few issues defensively on sure fronts.
With Steelers left guard Isaac Seumalo questionable Thursday night time, middle Mason Cole struggling to hit the ball nicely, and proper guard James Daniels doing his job quietly and persistently, the Steelers will want the inside of the offensive line to step up. particularly in opposition to Barmore. If Seumalo cannot go, Nate Herbig is the subsequent man up.
Pittsburgh’s inside might want to shortly set the tone within the run sport and enhance in go safety. That begins in opposition to Barmore.
Patriots WR JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Steelers DBs
It is a homecoming for JuJu Smith-Schuster on Thursday night time and it may very well be an ideal alternative for him.
The Patriots’ offense has been a catastrophe this season, and it has hampered Smith-Schuster’s manufacturing in his first season of a three-year, $33 million contract. That might change Thursday night time, particularly with Pop Douglas dominated out, which may result in extra alternatives within the slot for Smith-Schuster.
New England is not going to broaden the sphere with Smith-Schuster, however there is a chance to get some motion after the catch in opposition to a Steelers secondary that has struggled to deal with this season. Of the 107 tackles the Steelers have missed this season, defensive backs like Damontae Kazee, Patrick Peterson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Joey Porter Jr., Levi Wallace and Trenton Thompson have recorded 39 of these misses.
They did not precisely do an ideal job, particularly in house.
Though Smith-Schuster has solely 65 yards after the catch this season and hasn’t pressured a single missed deal with this 12 months, he’s very able to making performs after the catch. He’s a tricky, bodily runner with the soccer in his fingers, and he will likely be excited upon his return to Pittsburgh. The Steelers’ secondary cannot make any effort to deal with him on Thursday night time.
Steelers TE Pat Freiermuth vs. Patriots MOF defenders
When the Steelers’ offense obtained going within the Week 12 sport in opposition to the Cincinnati Bengals, only a few days after offensive coordinator Matt Canada was fired, tight finish Pat Freiermuth was a giant a part of that. Freiermuth had 9 catches for a career-high 120 yards within the win over the Bengals. Then, final week in opposition to the Cardinals, he was largely invisible.
Freiermuth had simply three catches for 29 yards within the loss, and his first contact did not come till underneath eight minutes into the second quarter.
That is not potential on Thursday night.
The Patriots have been fairly stable in opposition to tight ends this season. Final week, Los Angeles Chargers tight ends had simply six receptions for 56 yards on ten targets. The 2 weeks prior, the Patriots allowed simply three whole receptions in losses to the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants.
The truth is, the Patriots have allowed simply 50 receptions on 70 targets all season, for 490 yards and only one landing. That landing got here all the way in which again in week 5 in opposition to the New Orleans Saints. A lot of the Patriots’ nice work in the midst of the sphere in opposition to tight ends is because of safeties Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger, and linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai.
Tavai has the best protection grade on the Patriots protection at 83.3 this season, permitting simply 15 receptions for 122 yards with one interception and three passes defensed on the 12 months. Bentley has allowed simply 25 receptions for 292 yards and a landing this season, with a protection ranking of 64.8.