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Steelers ready to face nemesis Brady

| Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011

The Steelers have reeled in the New England Patriots, who visit Heinz Field on Sunday, just one time with Tom Brady playing quarterback.

Some fans will attach an asterisk to Brady's dominance of the Steelers because of the illegal videotaping the Patriots engaged in during the height of their success.

But since Spygate has been exposed — and its practice presumably halted — Brady has been better than ever.

At least against the Steelers.

In the Patriots' past two games against them, dating to 2007, Brady has completed 70 percent of his passes for 749 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

Brady has been so good against the Steelers that what looks like a good matchup on paper — the NFL's leader in passing offense against the No. 1-ranked pass defense — may in fact be a lopsided one.

That is not a knock on the Steelers' secondary as much as it is a nod to what Brady did last November in New England's 39-26 win here.

The two-time NFL MVP made it look easy against Dick LeBeau's defense, playing pitch and catch at Heinz Field as if he were in his backyard.

The key for the Steelers this time is keeping Brady from entering that same comfort zone.

"We know what we've got in the huddle," Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor said. "We know what we've got in the organization. We know what we have as a secondary."

Actually, the jury is still out on that one, despite the pass defense's lofty ranking.

The best quarterback the Steelers have faced this season is Houston's Matt Schaub, and the Texans were content to run the ball in that game.

Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Steelers' 32-20 win. He easily could have been over 300 yards with another passing touchdown.

Brady won't miss some of the open receivers that Kolb did a couple of days ago. That is one reason why Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that he still doesn't know how good his secondary is.

"We will see here real soon," Tomlin said.

3 players to watch

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB: Mike Wallace's college teammate and good friend had the most rushing yards (87 yards on 18 carries) against the Steelers last season. Green-Ellis is still the No. 1 ball-carrier in New England, even though the Patriots drafted running backs in the second and third rounds in April.

Rob Gronkowski, TE: Fifteen of the Woodland Hills High graduate's 71 career catches have gone for touchdowns. The Steelers haven't forgotten that three of those came against them last season. Neither have the Patriots.

LaMarr Woodley, OLB: Woodley has been on a sack binge since playing arguably his worst game of the season Oct. 2 in Houston. The Steelers have to hope his sacks continue to come in bunches — Woodley leads the AFC with seven — and that he is in Tom Brady's face all game Sunday.

3 questions with veteran nose tackle Chris Hoke:

When you were waiting after training camp had started, did it ever go through your mind that you might be finished playing?

"Of course that crosses your mind because at the age I'm at and the time of my career. But I felt I had at least another year or two to give. (The Steelers) told me that they want me back but there's a priority list they had LaMarr (Woodley) and those guys, they wanted to get the deals done. I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of being patient, which I am not."

What is something people would be surprised to know about you•

"I think people would be surprised to know that I love to call home and talk to my dad and mom every day or every couple of days, talk to my brothers. I'm a big-time family guy. I'm a mama's boy."

You can have dinner with three people past or present. Who is at your table•

"Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln. I'm a religious guy, a man of faith, a Mormon. I find (Lincoln) fascinating. He stood up to a lot of things and was just a good person. I think it would be fascinating to pick his brain a little bit, see what was going through it. There were so many things going on at that time."


4 — Steelers' NFL rank in third-down conversions (49 percent)

32 — Patriots' rank in total defense

878 — Rushing yards Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is on pace for this season

130.8 — Receiving yards New England's Wes Welker is averaging per game, tops in the NFL

423.7 — Yards the Patriots are allowing per game

1,669 — Receiving yards Mike Wallace is on pace for this season


"He has a rare quality. You can't really put your finger on it. He reminds me a lot of Randy Moss when he was in his prime. That's how great Mike can be." — Hines Ward, on fellow wideout Mike Wallace

"We have the desire to get turnovers, no doubt. This is the signature of great defense, but if they aren't coming, we aren't getting the opportunities, we aren't cashing in on it, we still better get off the field. I think we are still capable of making the necessary stops to be a good defense. Of course, it will be a welcome sight when turnovers start coming in bunches." — Coach Mike Tomlin, on the importance of getting an early turnover as the Steelers did in a 32-20 win at Arizona

"He's everywhere, all over the place. Even though we don't play the same position, that's my style as far as I try to be all over the place. I really started noticing him, when I was in high school. He's a just a real humble guy, a real cool dude and, I mean, he plays like a maniac. I tend to think of myself as a nice, welcoming dude. I don't like to think of myself as a jerk or anything like that but I still play hard, I play with a mean streak. " — Steelers outside linebacker Chris Carter, on wearing No. 43 in high school and college in homage to Troy Polamalu

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