Steelers try to regroup after upset loss to Cardinals when they host the reeling Patriots


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OPENING LINE: Steelers by 5 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Patriots 2-10; Steelers 7-5.

SERIES RECORD: Patriots lead 18-16.

LAST MEETING: Patriots beat Steelers 17-14 on Sept. 22, 2022, in Pittsburgh.

LAST WEEK: Patriots lost to Chargers 6-0; Steelers lost to Cardinals 24-10.





TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Patriots minus-9; Steelers plus-10.

PATRIOTS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Hunter Henry. Henry’s numbers have dipped over the past six weeks in conjunction with a nosedive by New England’s offense. There may be a chance for Hunter to get loose against a Steelers defense that is woefully thin at inside linebacker and struggled at times to keep opposing tight ends in check. With QB Bailey Zappe likely to face plenty of pressure, Henry could be pretty busy as a safety valve in the middle of the field.

STEELERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Mitch Trubisky. The veteran will make his first start in nearly a year in place of the injured Kenny Pickett, who is out indefinitely after undergoing right ankle surgery. Given Pickett’s uneven play during his second season, the next month could provide an opportunity for Trubisky to resurrect his career, be it in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

KEY MATCHUP: Pittsburgh’s offensive line against New England’s defensive front. The Steelers believe their identity is built on the running game and in Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris, Pittsburgh has one of the best running back tandems in the league. The Steelers figure to try and establish the ground game early in part to take some of the pressure off Trubisky, who is making his first start in nearly a year. The Patriots are third in the league against the run. If they can force the occasionally mistake-prone Trubisky to pass, there’s a chance Trubisky could throw a 50/50 ball that ends up in the wrong hands.

KEY INJURIES: New England WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle), who began his career with Pittsburgh, is questionable … Patriots DL Christian Barmore (shoulder), T Trent Brown (ankle/hand) and WR DeVante Parker (knee) are also questionable. … New England WR Kayshon Boutte (shoulder), WR Demario Douglas (concussion), OL Reilly Reiff (knee), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) and CB Shaun Wade (illness) are out. … Steelers QB Kenny Pickett will miss the next few weeks with a high right ankle sprain. … Pittsburgh DT Montravius Adams (ankle) expects to play after missing the past three games. … RB Najee Harris (knee), LB Elandon Roberts (groin), C Mason Cole (neck) and G Isaac Seumalo (shoulder) are questionable.

SERIES NOTES: The Patriots have won 9 of 12 meetings with the Steelers since Mike Tomlin arrived in Pittsburgh in 2007. The Steelers are 12-11 all time at home against the Patriots, but are 2-6 in New England’s past eight trips to Acrisure Stadium.

STATS AND STUFF: Expect a low-scoring game between two teams that have had trouble finding the end zone. The Patriots have dropped five straight games and last week became the first team since the 1938 Chicago Cardinals to lose three consecutive contests while allowing 10 points or fewer. … The Steelers are smarting after managing just 10 points while being upset at home by Arizona. Pittsburgh has 16 offensive touchdowns this season, the same total as Miami running back Raheem Mostert. Despite their scoring woes, the Steelers begin December atop the race for the top wild-card spot in the AFC. … New England QB Bailey Zappe is expected to make his second start of the season. Zappe completed 13 of 25 for 141 yards last Sunday in a 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. … Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will coach in his 507th game, moving past George Halas into second place all time behind Don Shula (526). … A defeat would give New England its first 11-loss season since 2000, Belichick’s first year with the Patriots. … The Steelers are 9-2 at home on Thursdays since 1980, including a 20-16 win over Tennessee on Nov. 2. … Pittsburgh is 4-0 after a loss this season and hasn’t dropped consecutive games since the tail end of a 2-6 start to the 2022 season. … The Steelers have 856 yards rushing over their past five games, the second-highest total in a five-game span in Tomlin’s 17-year tenure. The running game will be challenged by the NFL’s third-ranked rushing defense. … Pittsburgh and New England have been two of the best teams in the NFL in December since 2007. The Patriots have an NFL-best 50 wins in December over that span, while the Steelers’ 45 wins rank fourth. … Steelers LB T.J. Watt’s 14 sacks lead the NFL. He is the third player since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to have at least 14 sacks in four of his first seven NFL seasons. Hall of Famer Reggie White and Hall of Fame candidate DeMarcus Ware are the others.

FANTASY TIP: If you’ve got one of these defenses to start, you’re probably in good shape considering points will likely be difficult to come by on both sides. If you’re looking for an offensive player, Steelers WR George Pickens is averaging 17.0 yards per reception and figures to benefit the most from Trubisky’s willingness to stretch the field, a trait that is not a strong suit of Pickett.


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