Score early, score often is the key

One of the best ways to contain Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is to keep him off the field and that challenge doesn't just fall on the defense, but also the offense.

Sustaining long drives and winning the time of possession battle will be a key, but those things have to result in putting points on the board and not letting opportunities slip away will be vital.

"Our goal is to score as much as we can," said quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. "If I sit here and say I feel like we have to score every time that means I don't think our defense is going to do a good job. I think our defense is going to do a great job. But if you look at just the numbers, they put up a lot of points. Therefore we need to put up a lot of points because that's what we want to do and need to do as an offense. Every time we get the ball we want to put points on the board.

"We want to score as many points as we can. If you are going to have to score points and score often you want to be able to do it in multiple ways. We feel like we can do that running the ball and passing the ball."

While the Steelers are a threat either way, lately the team has been leaning more toward passing the ball than running it.

"We have some pretty good weapons on the outside, two 100 yard receivers (last week)," said Roethlisberger. "Obviously Heath Miller is Heath Miller, I think one of the best. We have to utilize those guys. As long we get our backs touches, and I think at least one of our backs caught a ball last week. We'll run the ball plenty I am sure to even it out."

There is no hiding the stat, no making it sound good. It's a stat that has been mentioned time and time again this week and will continue to be talked about until the Steelers and Patriots kickoff at Heinz Field on Sunday at 4:15.

Brady owns an impressive 6-1 record against the Steelers.

"He is just a winner," said safety Ryan Clark. "He is a guy that competes. He is a football player. He isn't one of those quarterbacks that wants to separate himself from the team. I think that leads to leadership, guys believing in you and that shows on the field.

"Also the physical attributes of being able to make every throw and being intelligent enough to read the defense and know where the ball is supposed to go. You get a bunch of guys around him, he has never had the 'stud receivers' but has put up great numbers."

Last year Brady completed 30 passes for 387 yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots defeated the Steelers, 39-26, at Heinz Field.

"He is a smart, elite quarterback," said cornerback William Gay. "Everybody on his team is on one accord with him. He is an accurate quarterback. You just have to defend the best way you can and know you have to battle each and every play."

Brady is 4-1 against the Steelers in the regular season, completing 147 passes for 1,686 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions, two of those occurring in a 34-20 Steelers win in 2004. In the last three meetings he has thrown for over 350 yards in each game.

Nose tackle Casey Hampton was asked why the Patriots have had such success against the Steelers, a question he wishes he knew the answer to.

"If I knew that they would have stopped having success a long time ago," said Hampton. "They play good against us. They are the type of team you can't make mistakes on. They really capitalize on them. We have to minimize our mistakes, be physical and play our game. A lot of people get involved in doing too much against them instead of just doing what you do. You have to do what you do well."

Hampton returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury.

"It's frustrating, but it's part of it," said Hampton of the injury. "I don't get mad at anything I don't have control over. I don't have control over when I come back. Whenever I am healthy, that is when I come back."

Hampton said the plan is for him to play on Sunday full speed ahead.

"If I am out there, I am playing," said Hampton. "There will be no limitations."

Five players didn't practice on Wednesday, including LB James Harrison (eye), NT Chris Hoke (neck), G Doug Legursky (toe), WR Hines Ward (ankle), and LB Jason Worilds (quadriceps). Linebacker James Farrior (calf) was limited in practice.

Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb) didn't practice, while seven players were limited in practice, including S Josh Barrett (thumb), CB Leigh Bodden (thumb), CB Ras-I Dowling (hip), RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (toe), DE Albert Haynesworth (back), LB Jerod Mayo (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back).

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