|Pittsburgh will be without veterans Ward and Farrior when the Steelers face the Patriots Sunday. (US PRESSWIRE)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
After being listed as questionable heading into the weekend, Pittsburgh will be without veteran wide receiver Hines Ward and inside linebacker James Farrior Sunday afternoon when the Steelers host the Patriots.
In previous years, the loss of Ward would be a concern, but the Steelers have one of the deepest wide receiver corps in the league, and Mike Wallace has redefined what it means to be a deep threat in his two-and-a-half-year NFL career. In addition to Wallace, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has emerging talents in Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown, and free-agent acquisition Jerricho Cotchery can handle Ward's role of underneath zone buster. Then there's tight end Heath Miller, who is as good a receiver as he is a blocker.
Farrior's absence, however, is troubling. Partly because he sets the defense from play to play, but also because the Steelers are already without James Harrison and his backup, Jason Worilds. Lawrence Timmons, for the fourth straight week, will replace Harrison on the outside. Farrior will be replaced by second-year linebacker, Stevenson Sylvester, who has made a name for himself on special teams but has very little NFL experience at inside linebacker. Practice squad linebacker Mortty Ivy has been signed to the 53-man roster to add depth.
But the Steelers may try to game-plan around Sylvester. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could chose to play more nickel and dime schemes to limit Sylvester's snaps, but more importantly, to encourage the Patriots to run the ball.
Ultimately, Pittsburgh's best chance to win rests with their offense. Not just Roethlisberger, who needs to play well, but also the running game. If Rashard Mendenhall can get going, that means longer drives and fewer snaps for Brady.
Fun starts at 4:00 p.m. ET.
The New England Patriots will travel to Heinz Field to square off against Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan to preview this intense showdown. Watch the game on CBS at 4:15 PM ET.
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