Time Of Possession Will Be Key Against New England

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The team that has historically had the Steelers number over the last decade plus heads into town next Sunday, and Pittsburgh will be entering the game without Ben Roethlisberger. Given the position this team is in, with numerous injuries and a tough schedule ahead, one message should ring true: keep the football out of Tom Brady’s hands.

It’s become somewhat a theme over the past several article, but time of possession is paramount in today’s league, largely when facing a talent as revered as Brady. The Steelers were out possessed by the Dolphins by over ten minutes yesterday, and that was almost entirely due to their effectiveness running the football. And they did it with Jay Ayaji. Not that he’s a poor running back, but he’s certainly no Le’Veon Bell. So the Steelers would be smart to take some notes and utilize the running attack as much as possible versus New England.

On paper, the Patriots seem to be pretty solid against the run so far this year, and they have definitely had some games where they shut it down. But in those games, which are really only 2 this year that are significant outliers, the teams were already facing a large deficit and had to abandon the run early on to come back through the air. Here is the breakdown of how they have done against the run in 2016.

Patriots Run Defense

Week 1 @AZ: 18 carries 92 yards (5.1 avg)


Week 2 vs MIA: 11 carries 49 yards (4.5 avg)

Week 3 vs HOU: 27 carries 109 yards (4.0 avg)

Week 4 vs BUF: 32 carries 134 yards (4.1 avg)

Week 5 @CLE: 22 carries 27 yards (1.2 avg)

Week 6 vs CIN: 32 carries 120 yards (3.8 avg)

The average in the Miami game is obviously not very important as they only ran 11 times, six of which came from the quarterback position. The Dolphins were down three scores in the blink of an eye, having to battle back from being down 24-3 at the half.

The other outlier, the game in Cleveland, can almost go unexplained. But they too were down early and forced to throw. Their highest yardage allowed came against Buffalo in what remains New England’s only loss of the season. In that game, the Bills managed the clock extremely well, and ran the ball a heck of a lot. They ended up out-possessing the Patriots by  just under 13 minutes.

And without those two aforementioned games, the Patriots have shown they can be gashed with the run, so why not go for it? The Steelers are 12th in the league with 638 yards rushing, and are averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

On top of that they’ve been dominant scoring touchdowns in the red zone and according to teamrankings.com, New England has the fourth worst red zone defense when it comes to touchdown efficiency. This is a prime opportunity for the Steelers to make the best out of a tough situation, and with game-defining playmakers in the backfield, they should be able to execute. As always, though, they will need excellent production out of the offensive line which has shown to be reliable.

Short, quick passes on various dig routes and slants, sprinkled with consistent runs from Deangelo Williams and Bell should hopefully be enough to march Pittsburgh downfield while draining time and avoiding higher risks of turnovers. This isn’t the time to test Landry Jones’ big play ability, even though it won’t be expected. If the Steelers can systematically manage the game flow, they have a much better chance of coming away with a win.

  • WeWantDaTruth

    Bellicheat looks to take away your #1 weapon I’m offense, so AB will likely be doubled. The Oline needs to be the dominant unit that we thought they could be. Need to stay ahead of the chains…seems like we were in several 3rd and longs in Miami, allowing their Dline to tee off.

  • RickM

    I can’t see any way the N.E. D will just sit there and let Jones throw a bunch of successful short passes, and combine them with runs, to win the TOP battle. N.E will be crowding the box to take away runs and they’ll expect a short passing game. I know that’s a logical strategy for us to have. I just think Belichick will take it away. I think they’ll dare Jones to beat them down the field, and they’ll throw all sorts of different blitzes at him.

  • dougchase

    Steelers need to score points. The Pats
    may put up 30. Pats D is vulnerable to mid range passing….3rd down defense not so good, but they dont give up many points and can score in a hurry.

    They can gang up on the run if Steelers over play it, even with mixing in short passes
    I dont think possession will help if Pats put up 30 no matter how long you try to possess the ball. Cinncinati had the ball for 5 minutes more than the Patriots and lost by 18.

    Steelers Defense needs to cause turnovers and give the Steeler O a short field. That’s the best scenario.
    Running a lot…meh…without hittingid range passes or some downfield shots? I think in that case the Pats make the Steeler run game ineffective.

    .

  • PaeperCup

    I think our #1 weapon is Bell. AB is great…he’s the best, but he’s a non factor without Ben. Bell will have to carry this team, I’m going to assume Bellicheat knows this.

  • gdeuce

    Why would they take away AB, Bell is more of a threat because he can catch swing passes if the pats get pressure on him

  • William Weaver

    i would have Landry jones playing WR about 1/3 of offensive snaps. Put this game on the line and Bell to fight us out a W. If Gilbert is back at right tackle I might play BJ Finney and Hubbard at TE along with Grimble and Nix at FB. Bring Landry in motion behind Bell to get ball for a throw if you want. Let Grimble, Nix, Bell and AV go out for passes at times. AV can be tackle eligible. Throw out conventional thinking and pull out all stops to win.

  • steelersfan

    As Dave mentioned in the podcast, if the Steelers want to do anything in this game and control the clock they will have to be successful with Landry throwing on third down. I just don’t see it happening. This could get ugly before we know what hit us- meaning blink for a second and it’s 21-0 pats. Hope I’m wrong but this team hasn’t shown me anything that would change my mind. Forget the offense for a second and think about how teams don’t beat the patriots unless they put pressure on the QB. It’s been seen time and time again. We have the worst pass rush I’ve seen in black and gold in like over 15 years.

  • David Paul

    Dominating on the ground is really their only shot in this game, which is why I fully expect Haley to try to outsmart himself and put the game in Landry Jones’ hands.