PATRIOTS 55, STEELERS 31**
Steelers' record: 2-6
One year ago: 5-3
Series record (including playoffs): Steelers lead, 15-12
MAKING THE POSITION HIS OWN
When the season began, Kelvin Beachum was the football version of a sixth man in basketball. Not a starter along the offensive line, but still a valuable component because he could play any of the five positions in the event of an in-game injury. In fact, Beachum's first playing time this season came at center when Maurkice Pouncey was injured on the first offensive series of the opener vs. Tennessee.
Today at Gillette Stadium, Beachum is no longer a sixth man. He's a starter, the starting left tackle, and in this game against the Patriots he made his fourth straight start at the position. Maybe it's time to start calling left tackle, Beachum's position.
"He's showing the type of growth that makes you comfortable moving forward," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Obviously he's got to continue to do that and earn it every day. We all occupy positions, we don't own positions. You have to be prepared to earn it on a daily basis. The demeanor that he brings to work every day is of that mind-set, and I believe guys with that mind-set do a good job of holding it down."
Mike Tomlin is not the anointing type, but it's becoming clear that Kelvin Beachum is the Steelers' starting left tackle. Today. Next week. The rest of this season. For the foreseeable future.
How that impacts some of the others at offensive tackle – No. 2 picks Mike Adams and Marcus Gilbert in particular – will be revealed over time, but Tomlin said he doesn't allow the potential trickle-down ramifications to get in the way of making the correct decision.
"I don't think any of these decisions are made in a vacuum," said Tomlin. "They're all multi-layered, and I consider all of the possibilities. Each one stands on its own, and I look at the variables surrounding it and it alone."
There are two facts that might appear to contradict each other when it comes to the 2013 New England Patriots. The first is that quarterback Tom Brady's passer rating is 74.9 – behind Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Schaub, and Chad Henne – and the second is that the team's record is 6-2.
"They're making the necessary plays, particularly in situational football that give them the opportunity to win," said Mike Tomlin. "They're very good at situational football – short yardage, red zone, goal line, backed up, two-minute – those are the areas where they excel, and often those are the things that decide the outcome of football games."
But even within that, the Patriots were a contradiction. Their offense was tied for fifth in the NFL in fewest turnovers, but it was a mediocre 18th in red zone efficiency, and a below-the-line 29th in third-down conversion rate. The only defense in the NFL softer vs. the run than New England's was Jacksonville's, and the Patriots also were a below-the-line 23rd in third-down conversions allowed. But New England was averaging three sacks and two takeaways per game, and the unit was the fifth best team in the league at forcing teams to settle for field goals in the red zone.
Through the first half of their 2013 schedule, the Patriots had a team that made itself hard to beat with a plus-7 turnover ratio that was tied for fifth best in the league, a team averaging fewer than five penalties per game.
The Steelers had fought back from a 24-10 deficit to tie the game at 24-24 midway through the third quarter. But on the ensuing possession, New England drove 60 yards in 11 plays for a field goal, and then after a Steelers punt on the next possession was returned 43 yards a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Dobson restored the lead to 10 points.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT I
Regardless of where Tom Brady was ranked among NFL passers coming into the game, he put together an elite performance in a first half that ended with the Patriots holding a 24-10 lead. He was 13-of-18 for 252 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 151.4 A perfect passer rating is 158.3.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT IISome ugly halftime statistics for the Steelers: they were 1-for-6 on third downs; they committed six penalties for 64 yards; they turned the ball over twice and were minus-2 in turnover ratio; and they allowed the Patriots to roll up 16 first downs.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT III
Rob Gronkowski had nine catches with 9:16 left in the game to establish a new career single-game high.
STAT THAT STANDS OUT IV
The 55 points allowed by the Steelers was a franchise high. The previous high was 54 points, scored by Green Bay on Nov. 23, 1941, and then matched by San Diego on Dec. 8, 1985.