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Merrimack Valley

November 1, 2013

Steelers, Pats hope to jump-start subpar seasons

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Either the Pittsburgh Steelers or New England Patriots have been in eight of the last 12 Super Bowls. They’ve won five of them.

Don’t expect them to return this season, especially the Steelers.

Their 2-5 start is the worst in Mike Tomlin’s seven seasons as coach. The Patriots (6-2) lead the AFC East by two games but have played a weak schedule. And Tom Brady is having his worst statistical season since becoming a starter in 2001.

But another potential pushover comes to town Sunday. Yep, the usually powerful Steelers.

“Every game for us right now is a must win and an important, pivotal game,” Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “The standard has been set high here and the start of this season has not been something that we’re used to, so it’s been frustrating,”

The Steelers lost their first four games, but were turning their season around with wins over the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. Then they lost 21-18 to the Oakland Raiders last Sunday when they didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.

“It’s easy to point to one play potentially being the difference in the game,” Tomlin said, “but the reality is there were plenty of opportunities.”

Wasting those opportunities would be more dangerous against Brady and the Patriots, despite their subpar season.

The two-time NFL MVP threw for just 116 yards in last Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins, his fewest in the past four years. His passer rating of 74.9 is a career low and 27th in the league.

“We’ve done a few decent things the last three games with getting points on the board, but it certainly hasn’t been good enough,” Brady said. “Finding the different combinations of people on the field and dependable, consistent players, that’s what good offenses are all about.”

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