Spotted seven points on a short field, the Patriots could nothing against the Steelers. They couldn't stop lengthy Pitsburgh drives, they could only hope for drops. They couldn't throw the ball, they could only hope for shotgun draws being sprung for long gains.
Randy Moss, who complained last week of the disrespect showed him by the Dolphins by single-covering him, dropped vital pass after vital pass. Not that the Steelers receivers didn't find opportunities to flub passes. There were plenty of drops to go around. But Pittsburgh found ways to persevere, to allow the defense to dominate while mostly granting the offense safe throws.
Bruce Arians, naturally, did what he did to stifle offensive progress, forcing the offense into 2nd and short five-wideout empty sets when the run had been working. The team looked very stiff early on, with Carey Davis nearly coughing up the opening kickoff and Roethlisberger serving up an opening drive interception.
The use of Willie Parker was bizarre, as he picked up an early first down, then was all but abandoned until midway through the second half, when he came back looking impressive once again. Perhaps that was an intentional move to save a limited back for a crucial moment in a big game, but Willie looked much better than he did against Cincinnati.
If there's any doubt that James Harrison belongs in the mix for NFL MVP, let it be gone after this game. Silverback blew away the best member of the Pats O-line for two strip-sacks for turnovers. Woodley got a sack at the end for good measure, but Harrison owned the pass rush once the Steelers got the lead in the second half and turned the rush loose. With the three sacks notched between Woodley and Harrison, they set a new record for a Steelers tandem, like we all expected they might.
This win was the most dominant since the blowout victory over the Texans in Week 1, against a team that has dogged Pittsburgh for the entire decade. On a day where the Jets where looked inept, the Steelers took a big step toward a first-round bye. Next week against a rebounding Dallas will be huge, with a looming Ravens rematch following on its heels.