Which team will pass the test?

NFL Game of the Week: New England Patriots(6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers(5-1)

Thinking of ways to describe the Patriots winning streak is getting pretty tired. This week they face a surprisingly formidable opponent in the Steelers, a team virtually no one was picking to make any noise this season. Playing in the Steel City is never easy, but the Pats haven’t experienced that many problems anywhere recently. Three keys:

And You Said I Wasn’t Ready

Lost in the shadows of No.1 pick Eli Manning and No. 5 pick Phillip Rivers was Ben Roethlisberger. It was common knowledge that Roethlisberger, while possessing the potential to be a future star, was the least ready to play of the three. Well, heading into week eight, Roethlisberger has led his team to four straight wins, while Manning and Rivers still haven’t sniffed the playing field. Two weeks ago in Dallas, staring down a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit, the rookie calmly led his team to touchdowns on its final two drives, completing his last nine passes, and in the process handed Bill Parcells his first loss when leading after three quarters with Dallas. It is becoming clear that Big Ben is not your normal rookie; he’s already gained the respect of his veteran teammates, something that can be accomplished only by performance. He’ll need to keep his poise on Sunday; you can bet that Bill Belichick is going to throw an array of defenses that the youngster has yet to see.

This Is Why He’s Here

After toiling in relative obscurity and misery for years in Cincinnati, RB Corey Dillon is finally playing for a winner. He’s the reason why many thought the Pats would be even better than last year’s championship team. Last year, New England won despite the lack of a solid running game. Dillon has quickly provided them with a serious threat in the backfield, making an already-potent offense even more terrifying to opposing defenses. Dillon has already run for 637 yards this season, well on his way to topping 1,000. Pittsburgh, who possesses the tenth-ranked rush defense in the NFL, will need to slow down his pace if they want to end the Pats’ win streak. Easier said than done, especially after losing nose tackle Casey Hampton for the season with a knee injury.

Something To Prove

Quick. Name three starters on the Pittsburgh defense. Can’t? Didn’t think so. This is the least-known unit in a long time on a team whose staple has always been big-time defense. Still, the Steelers’ D ranks fourth in the NFL. Pittsburgh hasn’t played a team with an explosive offense yet this season, however, and they will be tested on Sunday by a Patriots’ offense that can both run and pass the ball effectively.

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