By the end of Sunday's Week 8 matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots, one of the two AFC squads will have extended its three-game winning streak to four and be in outstanding position to make a run towards a potential first round bye in the playoffs. The Steelers (5-2) and Patriots (5-1) are both winners of their past three, but despite playing well recently, Pittsburgh finds itself the early underdog to New England by as many as three points. Perhaps that's because the Patriots have fared so well against Pittsburgh in recent memory. The Pats have won three of the past four meetings, with the lone loss coming in 2008 when Tom Brady was sidelined with an injury. Brady has lost just once to Pittsburgh and has looked utterly unstoppable against Dick LeBeau's typically stingy defenses.
Let's take a look at a few facts, figures and trends for both squads to begin our Week 8 coverage leading to Sunday afternoon's showdown at Heinz Field.
- Aim for 5th consecutive win at Heinz Field.
- QB Ben Roethlisberger (74-31, .705) seeks 75th regular-season win as starter. Has 114.4 passer rating at home in '11, 3rd-best in NFL (Aaron Rodgers , 129.4; Drew Brees, 124.4) & highest among AFC QBs. Roethlisberger has 10 TDs vs. 2 INTs & 94.6 passer rating in 5 regular-season games vs. NE. In past 3 games, Roethlisberger has 9 TDs vs. 1 INT & 117.1 passer rating.
- RB Rashard Mendenhall has 9 rush TDs in past 10 home games..
- WR Mike Wallace tied career-best with 2 TDs in only meeting vs. NE (11/14/10). Wallace has rec. of 40+ yards in 6 straight games, longest streak since Isaac Bruce in 2000.
- WR Antonio Brown had career-best in catches (7) & receiving yards (102) last week..
- Defense allows NFL-low in passing yards per game (171.9) this season..
- LB LaMarr Woodley aims for 3rd consecutive game with at least 2 sacks. Leads AFC w/ 7 sacks.
- S Ryan Clark posted 1st INT of season last week.
- With win, head coach Bill Belichick QB Tom Brady surpass HOFers Dan Marino & Don Shula of Miami for most wins (116) by QB-head coach duo in SB era (since '66)..
- Incl. playoffs, Patriots have won 4 of past 5 vs. Pit.
- Rank 1st in NFL w/ 474.5 yards per game in '11...Have totaled at least 30 pts in 13 of past 14 games.
- Incl. postseason, QB Tom Brady has 6-1 record vs. Pit. & has 14 TDs vs. 3 INTs & 104.8 passer rating. Last game, Brady (277) surpassed Vinny Testaverde (275) for 8th-most TD passes in NFL history.
- Patriots are 18-1 (.947) when RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis has rush TD in game.
- Since '07, WR Wes Welker averages NFL-best 7.2 catches per game (483 rec.). Has totaled 100+ rec. yards in 4 of 6 games this season (160, 217, 158, 124).
- TE Rob Gronkowski had career-high 3 TD catches in last game vs. Pit. TEs Gronkowski (5) & Aaron Hernandez (3) have totaled 8 TD rec. in 1st 6 games of season.
- CB Kyle Arrington leads team with 4 INTs.
- DE Andre Carter had season-high 2 sacks last game