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2022 Home Opener Features Intriguing Matchup Of The Steelers Secondary Versus The Patriots Playmakers

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

2022 Home Opener Features Intriguing Matchup Of The Steelers Secondary Versus The Patriots Playmakers

The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the New England Patriots on Sunday at 1pm ET in the black and gold’s home opener. Outside of the Baltimore Ravens, the last two decades of Steelers history has been defined by this rivalry. The Patriots lead the all-time series 17-16 and the two teams have met in the playoffs five times. Those numbers only tell part of the story.

Steelers Stewart

22 Sep 1997: Kordell Stewart #10 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in action during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Alltell Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport

In the 21st century, the Patriots have dominated the Steelers with a 12-4 record and are 3-0 against them in the playoffs. The only Steelers quarterback to ever beat the Patriots in the playoffs is Kordell Stewart who won a 7-6 thriller in the divisional round of the 1997 season avenging an embarrassing 28-3 defeat in the divisional round a year prior.

Steelers Tomlin

Jordan Schofield/Steeler Nation (Twitter: JSKO_Photos)

Mike Tomlin is 3-7 against Bill Belichick, but this will be the first time the two have matched their wit without their respective Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Patriots are in year three of their post-Tom Brady existence and the Steelers are in year one without Ben Roethlisberger. This game should feature a decidedly defensive flavor with both offenses struggling out of the gate in 2022. One of the big keys to the game will be the Steelers secondary versus the Patriots skill position players in the passing game.


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The Steelers will rely on their secondary, particularly the nickel package that played so well against Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. The Patriots with Tom Brady took the approach of spreading the defense out for decades and with the lack of a true offensive coordinator, they may resort to this tactic at some point on Sunday. If they do, here are the matchups to watch:

 

Ahkello Witherspoon vs Jakobi Meyers

Steelers Witherspoon

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

Last season, Meyers the fourth-year receiver from NC State, led all Patriots wide outs with 83 receptions for 866 yards. Meyers paced all Patriots with six targets last week against the Miami Dolphins. Witherspoon matched up with Ja’Marr Chase most of the game last week and ultimately Chase got the better of the matchup, but he did intercept Burrow and it was not a runaway victory. Witherspoon’s physical play should bother the crafty Meyers. Advantage: Steelers / Witherspoon

 

Cam Sutton vs DeVante Parker

Steelers Cam Sutton

Abigail Dean / Pittsburgh Steelers

Parker is an enigma. He is entering his eighth season in the NFL and during his time in Miami, Parker flashed number one wide receiver potential, but he was inconsistent with his production. He is capable of producing big numbers, but Sutton is the most technically sound Steelers cornerback. Sutton does not possess the physical tools of Witherspoon, but he is rarely caught out of position and did an excellent job against the Bengals, intercepting one pass and nearly getting two others. Advantage: Steelers / Sutton

 

Levi Wallace vs Nelson Agholor

Steelers Levi Wallace

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback, Levi Wallace (#29) practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during the 2022 minicamp on Wednesday, June 8, 2022. (Karl Roser/ Pittsburgh Steelers)

Wallace is battling an ankle injury that kept him off the field late in the game against the Bengals. He is expected to return against the Patriots, but this is worth keeping an eye on as Agholor was second on the Patriots with five targets against the Dolphins. The former first round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles is still capable of big plays, but he has never materialized as a viable number one receiver. If healthy, Wallace matches up well with him outside, which is where he will likely line up when he is in the game. If Wallace cannot go, the Patriots will have an advantage against Arthur Maulet and James Pierre. Advantage: Even (Based on Wallace’s potential availability)

 

Steelers Safeties and Linebackers vs Patriots Tight Ends and Running Backs

Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick

Karl Roser / Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers nickel package was extremely effective against the Bengals. Hayden Hurst did have success against Robert Spillane when they switched to dime packages and the Patriots do run more two tight end sets with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, so Terrell Edmunds, Spillane and Myles Jack will have their hands full. They also do a good job using their running backs in the passing game, so tackling flare passes in the open field will be extremely important to getting off the field on Sunday. The reigning Defensive Player of the Week, Minkah Fitzpatrick tilts this matchup for the black and gold. Advantage: Steelers

This will be the first time this season that Pittsburgh plays without T.J. Watt and when he missed significant time last season, the Steelers were 1-4 without him. The defense will rely on Alex Highsmith, Cam Heyward, and Malik Reed to generate pressure, but this matchup could allow the Steelers to experiment with blitz packages as the Patriots skill position players are not the type of playmakers they will face going forward. They should not be underestimated, but this group should allow Terryl Austin and Brian Flores time to find their footing without last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

 

What do you think, Steeler Nation? Should the defense be aggressive and put pressure on Mac Jones with blitzing schemes that leave them one on one against the Patriots skill position players? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.

I have been rooting for the Steelers actively since 1975. I love the Black and Gold and support them through thick and thin. I am a Navy Veteran, living in Jacksonville, FL and never miss a chance to go to the neutral site games here in Jacksonville. I am new to the Steeler Nation website, but I love discussing Steelers Past, Present and Future.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Michael Marshall

    September 15, 2022 at 9:39 pm

    Another three point win for the Steelers.

  2. Pingback: Steeler Nation Podcast: Talkin' 2022 Patriots with Boston Globe's Christopher Price - SteelerNation.com

  3. Pingback: Alex Highsmith, Steelers Confident In OLB Unit While TJ Watt Sits Out At Least 4 Games - SteelerNation.com

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