The Steelers have a very tall task beating the Patriots without star running back James Conner, but it’s not impossible.
Don’t assume that the Patriots are a sure-thing to beat the Steelers on Sunday, even without James Conner.
It’s been a bad stretch for the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last few weeks, as the once very hot team is now riding a three-game losing streak heading into its highly anticipated Week 15 showdown with the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.
Needing a win to avoid potentially surrendering the AFC North lead to the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers must find a way to defeat New England — a team that has historically owned them during the era of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh will have to do it without James Conner, the young running back who has emerged as a star this season in the absence of Le’Veon Bell.
Conner has missed the last two games for the Steelers, and they clearly aren’t the same team without him. Before going down in Week 12, Conner had accumulated 909 yards on the ground with 12 touchdowns, while also pulling in 52 receptions and 467 receiving yards.
Having already lost three straight and missing such a big part of their offense, do the Steelers stand a chance against the Patriots?
Luckily for them, there are a few factors that could help Pittsburgh pull out a win. For one thing, you never know what to expect from New England on the road. All four of their losses this season have happened away from Gillette Stadium, and they lost to below average teams like Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee. Additionally, just last week they were humiliated by the Miami Miracle, which was one of the most flabbergasting moments of Belichick’s tenure as head coach for the Pats.
Another interesting factor: running back Stevan Ridley is playing for revenge in this game, as he felt the Patriots did him wrong by not wanting to bring him back in 2015 after an injury. He even said himself that winning this game against his former team means everything to him.
“I’m very open and I have to be real: I want this game more than any other game,” Ridley said, via NFL.com.
Continuing on, he added: “I was trashed after an injury. I’m just going to put it that way. I’m not going to say specifically, but to be a starter for (the Patriots) for four years, to tear my ACL and never get a call back, that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
If Ridley can channel that determination into a great game on Sunday, he could help the Steelers do damage against a vulnerable Patriots defense. In doing so, a win against New England would keep Pittsburgh ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North, and the Steelers are expected to get Conner back next week.
This will undoubtedly be a tough test for the Steelers, but these are the games that separate contenders from pretenders.