Rarely have the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves sporting a more impressive offense than their opponent this season, but that very well could be the case on Thursday night when they face the visiting New England Patriots.
New England (2-10) has been anemic over its past three games, scoring a total of 13 points. It was shut out for the second time this season in a 6-0 home loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Prior to that, the Patriots lost 10-7 to the New York Giants on Nov. 26 after falling 10-6 to the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 12.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, New England is the first team in 85 years to allow no more than 10 points in three straight games while dropping all three.
Bailey Zappe was hoping to help the Patriots turn things around when he made his third career start on Sunday, but he ended up completing just 13 of 25 passes for 141 yards. Zappe was starting in place of Mac Jones, who was benched after throwing for 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions through the first 11 games.
While New England appears to already have enough on its plate, here come the Steelers (7-5) on a short week.
“It’s about rest, recovery, being physically ready to go and mentally. It’s a quick turnaround from (Sunday’s) game to Pittsburgh’s scouting report,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “You know, a couple days of trying to get things covered. We’re pretty far into the season, I don’t think there is a lot of new things. It’s more about adapting to what we do against what they do.”
One of those adaptations New England will have to make is game planning for Mitch Trubisky, who will be taking over behind center for Kenny Pickett.
Pickett sustained an ankle injury during a 24-10 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday and underwent surgery on Monday. Trubisky threw for 117 yards and a TD on 11-for-17 passing against Arizona, but he knows facing the Patriots will be a challenge.
“They’re always very sound,” Trubisky said of the Steelers’ longtime AFC rivals. “I think their guys up front don’t get a lot of credit, but they’re very good players. … Always well coached. They do a good job of mixing it up trying to confuse the quarterback with different looks.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them. It’s gonna be a good challenge for us on Thursday.”
Trubisky will try to provide a spark for a Pittsburgh team averaging the fifth-fewest points per game in the NFL (16.0). New England ranks dead last with 12.3 points per game.
In what is already expected to be a low-scoring matchup, both sides could be without some of their top playmakers, too.
ESPN reported Tuesday that Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson will be out for a few weeks due to a high ankle sprain. He has not practiced this week.
Demario Douglas (concussion) has yet to practice for the Patriots this week as well, while fellow receivers DeVante Parker (knee) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (ankle) were among those limited, along with running back Ezekiel Elliott (thigh).
Running back Najee Harris did not participate in the Steelers’ practice on Tuesday because of a knee injury. Cornerback James Pierre (shoulder) was also out. Star safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (broken hand) practiced in full.