So much for that 'old' Steelers defence

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor breaks up a pass intended for Patriots wide receiver Taylor Price at...

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor breaks up a pass intended for Patriots wide receiver Taylor Price at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Penn., Oct. 30, 2011. (JASON COHN/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:08 PM ET

TORONTO - A week into the season the Pittsburgh Steelers were basically written off as yesterday’s news.

Too old, too slow and supposedly no longer possessing the passion to win the kind of physical battles a team needs to win to compete in the NFL, the Steelers were swept aside in a rush to anoint new dynasties elsewhere.

On Sunday, the Steelers served notice that their obituary was a little premature.

As beatable as they looked in the opener against Baltimore, the Steelers looked equally dominant in knocking Tom Brady and the New England Patriots down a peg or two Sunday in a very much one-sided 25-17 win over Bill Belichick’s boys.

All week the talk was of how Brady had the Steelers’ number and how well his skill set matched up against the Steelers defence.

That lifetime 6-1 mark against the Steelers of his got tossed around so often, Dick Lebeau probably made the mere mention of it a fineable offence in the Steelers locker room.

You just know the team’s defensive co-ordinator of the past 10 years and the creator of some of the best defensive schemes the game has ever known had to take every mention of Brady’s success against his Steelers like a personal gut punch.

So Lebeau changed things up a little, putting the onus on his defence to go mano a mano against the Patriots’ offensive weapons jamming them at the line of scrimmage and disrupting their patterns as much as possible.

That, combined with a good deal of pressure generated solely by the defensive front three, gave Brady plenty to think about. He finished the afternoon with just 198 yards passing, the first time this season he has been held under 200 yards and just the third time all year he has been held under 300.

His favourite targets — tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and slot receiver Wes Welker — were held to 94, 9, and 39 yards respectively.

The vast majority of Gronkowski’s yardage came in the final quarter with the Steelers playing a lot of prevent defence.

The only lengthy drive that Brady conducted came in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter when he took the Patriots 67 yards in 10 plays and capped it off with a one-yard touchdown pass to Hernandez.

Suddenly all that talk of the long-in-the-tooth Steelers defence got very quiet.

Offensively, the Steelers initially stole a page out of the Patriots playbook, going to tight end Heath Miller early and often to keep drives alive.

But unlike the Patriots who have Welker and the two tight ends and little else in terms of receiving talent, the Steelers have a wealth of young, speedy receivers who can bust a game open at any time.

Against the worst pass defence in the NFL, it was like an early Christmas for Ben Roethlisberger who could pick and choose from a handful of qualified producers.

The Pats did a pretty good job on Mike Wallace, the best known and most used of the Pittsburgh young guns much of this season so Roethlisberger focussed on the likes of Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders instead.

Brown was particularly effective all afternoon, hauling in a team-high nine passes for 67 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

Wallace, even receiving the lion’s share of the New England defensive focus, still managed a 70-yard afternoon, a yardage number Sanders matched in just five catches, two fewer than Wallace.

All that offence managed to keep Brady on the sidelines for huge chunks of the afternoon.

Even the Steeler’s Achilles heel, it’s ever-changing offensive line, managed to start the same unit from the previous week for the first time all season. Roethlisberger was sacked five times, but many of those were the result of his own refusal to throw the ball away when he had a chance. He was given time to allow his receivers to get downfield and make their breaks and make throws from the pocket as opposed to his normal throwing-on-the-run kind of afternoon.

If there was one rain cloud on an otherwise perfect afternoon for the Steelers, it came when linebacker LaMarr Woodley had to leave the game midway through the third quarter with what was originally called a hamstring injury.

Later reports have downgraded the injury to a cramp.

Losing Woodley for any length of time with both James Farrior and James Harrison already on the limp would be a huge blow to a defence that is finally finding its form.

Woodley, if he does have to miss time, would be a significant loss for the Steelers, who go straight from yesterday’s big win to a chance for some real redemption when they host Baltimore next week.

HITS AND MISSES

Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson has a sack in seven of Carolina’s eight games and 15 sacks in his last 15 games ... Minnesota’s Jared Allen, meanwhile, has a sack in 10 consecutive games ... The Baltimore Ravens all-pro linebacker Ray Lewis missed a few series in the second quarter after injuring his shoulder, but returned to finish the game ... Jags placekicker Josh Scobee had his streak of 15 games with at least one successful field goal snapped in the loss to Houston ... Tough to say who the starter in Seattle is these days. Charlie Whitehurst got the start Sunday against Cincy, but when he fell behind 10-3 he was quickly replaced by Tarvaris Jackson. Neither quarterback was very effective yesterday


Videos

Photos