4:15 PM ET, October 30, 2011
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
The Pittsburgh Steelers are looking to change that while proving they're worthy of being among the elite in the AFC.
Emerging from their bye week, the Patriots look to re-establish their top-ranked offense and beat the Steelers for a fifth consecutive meeting with Brady under center as the divisional leaders face off Sunday.
Including the playoffs, Pittsburgh (5-2) has won 16 of 21 home games, outscoring opponents by an average of 12.3 points in those victories.
That hasn't been the case against New England (5-1), which has won five of its last six games in Pittsburgh with Brady primarily responsible for that stunning success in one of the most intimidating environments in the NFL.
The Patriots are 6-1 overall against the Steelers when Brady starts, and he's guided them to four wins in five visits to Heinz Field and most notably, two conference championships. Brady completed 30 of 43 passes for 350 yards and three touchdowns while scampering for another score in a 39-26 victory at Pittsburgh last November.
He has a 114.9 rating with nine passing TDs and one interception in four straight victories over the Steelers, including the AFC title game following the 2004 season.
"The Steelers are tough to beat at home," Brady said. "The times that we beat them we've had to play very, very good games. I think that's what I'm probably most proud of. Some of our greatest games that we've ever played have been against them.
"It's just execution. It's guys getting open and us completing (passes). I don't think there's (any) special thing we do. There's no magic dust we put in our cereal in the morning."
There's no other team in the league executing as well as the Patriots are offensively.
New England ranks first in overall and passing offense with averages of 474.5 yards and 350.5, respectively. Brady leads the conference with 2,163 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and a 104.8 rating, while Wes Welker -- his top target -- is atop the NFL with 51 receptions. Welker's 785 yards and six TD grabs also rank second.
They have those gaudy numbers in only six games following a 20-16 win over Dallas on Oct. 16, during which Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for an 8-yard score with 22 seconds left in regulation.
The Steelers, however, seem prepared to deal with Brady and the high-octane Patriots. They have the No. 2 pass defense, allowing an average of 171.9 yards while yielding 279.0 overall to rank third.
"They're a good football team. They give everybody problems," coach Bill Belichick said. "They utilize a lot of different personnel groups and different people within those groups so they give you a lot of different looks and they have a lot of good players. They have different skills but they're all good. Some guys do some things a little more or better than others but then other guys come in with different matchup problems. They get a lot of mileage out of everybody."
Pittsburgh, though, is looking to prove its belongs among the best teams in the conference after winning 32-20 at Arizona last week following a stretch of uneven play against seemingly overmatched opponents that created more questions than praise.
"Oh gosh, it's October," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're just trying to win week to week and keep pace with the elite."
The Steelers can change that perception in the next two games. After facing the Patriots, they host Baltimore next week and those two clubs have combined for nine wins -- two more than the total number of the five teams they've beaten.
"We are not satisfied with where we are at," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We feel like we can still improve and that's good. We need to have that mentality."
Roethlisberger is trying to build on one of his best performances this season, completing 26 of 39 passes for 361 yards with three touchdowns. He's tossed nine TDs with one pick during the Steelers' three-game winning streak.
Despite his 2-4 overall record against the Patriots, Roethlisberger has thrown 10 scoring passes with two INTs in five regular season matchups.
He could be in for another big day against New England's defense, which ranks last in the NFL and gives up an average of 322.2 passing yards, 33.3 more than the next team.
"That is a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front," Tomlin said. "So if you come in and you think they are the 32nd best defense in football you are kidding yourself. They are whacking people pretty good. People are throwing the ball every down and they accumulate some yards, it is insignificant."
Patriots second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski was at the center of some controversy during the bye, as a photo of him shirtless with an adult actress donning his jersey was posted on Twitter.
"I didn't intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots or on behalf of (owner) Robert Kraft," Gronkowski said after meeting with Kraft. "It was just a simple picture and that's all."
Gronkowski hauled in all three of Brady's scoring passes at Pittsburgh last year.
More from ESPN.com
Broncos, WR Sanders agree to 3-year deal
The Denver Broncos have agreed with wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders on a three-year contract, the team announced on Twitter.
Source: Pats, LaFell agree on 3-year deal
The New England Patriots have reached agreement on a three-year deal with wide receiver Brandon LaFell, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Sources: Broncos expected to add Sanders
The Denver Broncos are expected to sign wide receiver Emmauel Sanders this weekend, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Edelman agrees to re-sign with Patriots
Julian Edelman agreed to return to the New England Patriots on Saturday after testing the open market.
Patriots-Steelers: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Patriots-Steelers matchup.
1. New England needs to have a balanced offensive approach: The Patriots have done a nice job of mixing the run and pass, which makes them tough to defend. The second-ranked Pittsburgh defense is very stingy defending the pass, giving up just 172 yards a contest. Offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien needs to be mindful of his offensive balance to keep Tom Brady out of long-yardage conversions.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||22.9||17.4|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NE|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NE|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New England leads 6-3|
|Nov 14, 2010||NE 39, @PIT 26|
|Nov 30, 2008||NE 10, PIT 33|
|Dec 9, 2007||NE 34, PIT 13|
|Sep 25, 2005||NE 23, @PIT 20|
|Jan 23, 2005||NE 41, @PIT 27|
|Oct 31, 2004||NE 20, @PIT 34|
|Sep 9, 2002||NE 30, PIT 14|
|Jan 27, 2002||NE 24, @PIT 17|
When the Steelers and Patriots meet at Heinz Field on Sunday, It'll mark only the 6th time in the Super Bowl era that two quarterbacks that won multiple Super Bowls face off against each other. Brady and Big Ben played each other last season with the Patriots coming out on top.[+]
Multiple Super Bowl Winning QB - Facing Each Other (Regular Season)
ESPN Stats & Information