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Steelers offer air of truth about Patriots pass defense

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  October 30, 2011 11:07 PM

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PITTSBURGH -- Airing it out was the plan all along for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were going to throw until Ben Roethlisberger's arm fell off or the Patriots stopped them.

Neither happened in Pittsburgh's 25-17 win at Heinz Field on Sunday. Afterwards, Pittsburgh didn't dole out platitudes about the Patriots' pass defense. They provided an air of blunt truth about how they beat the Patriots.

Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace said the Steelers knew they could pass against the Patriots' 32d-ranked pass defense.

"Yeah, those guys were ranked last in defense, in pass defense," he said. "Even though the numbers were not always true because they win so many games by blow out and there are teams catching up, they still were 32d, no matter how you put it. We felt like that was our advantage today, and we took advantage of it.

"We had a great game, but this is another game. Everybody is excited on the outside. Our team knows what it is. We expected to win that football game. There was nothing special we did. We just went out and played our football game. We didn't get over-amped because we're playing Tom Brady."

The Steelers were so confident in their ability to pass that they threw the ball 70.5 percent of the time. Roethlisberger was 36 of 50 for 365 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was also sacked five times, so 55 of the Steelers' 78 offensive plays were called passes, an indication of how vulnerable to the pass they believed the Patriots were.

It was only the second time in Roethlisberger's eight-year career that he attempted 50 or more passes in a game.

The other one was Nov. 5, 2006, when Roethlisberger threw the ball 54 times in a 31-20 loss to the Denver Broncos. In that game he was also sacked four times, so the Steelers called 58 pass plays. The difference in that game was that they trailed the entire time. They were forced to pass. This time it was by design.

Steelers left tackle Max Starks said Pittsburgh knew it could take advantage of the Patriots' secondary and utilize the middle of the field, where tight end Heath Miller had seven catches for 85 yards.

The Steelers were the rare team not afraid to get into a passing contest with Tom Brady and the Patriots.

"Because at the end of the day it's offense vs. defense," said Starks. "We knew that we had something with our offense vs. their defensive personnel. We went out and just tried to execute. It was a pass-heavy game."

The Patriots better hope other teams equipped with quality QBs don't follow Pittsburgh's blueprint.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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