An added wrinkle to the generic "Are the Pats gonna stay undefeated?" storyline for Sunday's game has come with a guaranteed victory pledged by receiver-mauling safety Anthony Smith.
As you might expect, ESPN has run wild with this, speculating about how it makes the Pats better. Because everything that happens makes the Pats better. Have to come back against shitty teams two weeks in a row? That just makes them better focused, 'course.
Naturally, the HGH-taking, twice voted league's dirtiest player, Rodney Harrison, has responded by saying he doesn't know who Anthony Smith is and who gotta earn your chops by making dirty hits for a decade before you start talking. Harrison may very well not know who Smith is, but I'm sure the Patriots receivers, if they've watch any tape, have an inkling and possibly a desire to avoid Anthony Smith. And if Hines Ward happens to light up Harrison the way he did to Ed Reed, that'd be cool, too.
The received wisdom coming into this game, or any game, is that any opponent of the Patriots has to catch them flat or not taking a game seriously to have any semblance of a chance. It's hard to believe they've been sleepwalking through three of their last four games, in which they're had to rally from 4th quarter deficits.
Certainly, it doesn't help to give any team added motivation, not that Belichick wasn't already likely feeding his team the usual no-respect bullshit the Pats delude themselves with to great effect, but I'm one of the few who doesn't think Smith's guarantee is an incredibly terrible thing. Emotion seems to be one element that's been largely missing from this Steelers team, what with vocal team leaders having departed in recent years. Smith has been one of the few to visibly show emotion this season, and even if it sometimes manifests itself in stupid penalties, is something they're going to need to get up against formidable opponents on the road.