PITTSBURGH -- Based on first instinct, a look at three players whose performance was "up" and three players at the opposite end of the spectrum in the Patriots' 25-17 loss to the Steelers:
Kevin Faulk -- In his first action in more than a year, he is charted on the field for 39 snaps -- easily more than any running back -- and finishes with five receptions for 20 yards and six rushes for 32 yards. He delivers one key block in the red zone, and is also penalized for a chop block.
Rob Gronkowski -- Tight end leads the team with seven receptions for 94 yards and, as usual, is a presence as a run-blocker. He seldom leaves the field, playing in most every personnel grouping.
Red-zone defense -- The Steelers dominated long stretches of the game, but the score is kept close with strong play inside the 20 as the Patriots force three field goals. There is an additional "hold" at the 26, which leads to a missed field goal.
Antwaun Molden/pass defense -- The Steelers control the game by putting it into the air 50 times, beating the Patriots with an unexpected approach of short to intermediate passes. While the secondary has communication breakdowns, there are also problems at the linebacker level. As for Molden, who plays in place of the released Leigh Bodden, he is replaced by Phillip Adams in the third quarter.
Running game -- The Patriots are one-dimensional, only rushing 12 times. Even when putting an extra offensive lineman on the field in hopes of establishing some control of the line of scrimmage, there is little movement. Rookie Stevan Ridley doesn't play, while Danny Woodhead is used sparingly (4 snaps) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis has just five carries for 9 yards. It's not all on the running backs, as there are few openings.
Stephen Gostkowski -- Misses a 42-yard field goal and fails to execute an onside kick late in the fourth quarter when the Patriots still have an outside chance to post an improbable comeback.