When the Steelers have the ball: RB Willie Parker is expected to play, but that decision won't be made until game time. If he doesn't play, Mewelde Moore will start for the fifth time in the past eight games. The Steelers will try to isolate Moore out of the backfield and create an early down mismatch with Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi, who is a liability in coverage. Bruschi comes out of the game for that reason in passing situations. DE Richard Seymour leads the Patriots with seven sacks, but they have been unable to generate a lot of quarterback pressure because of injuries to OLBs Adalius Thomas (broken forearm) and Mike Vrabel (shoulder). That has caused problems in the secondary, where RCB Ellis Hobbs is playing hurt and LCB Deltha O'Neal is the latest player to be tried at that position.
When the Patriots have the ball: QB Matt Cassel has the offense performing at the same Tom Brady-like level, attempting 94 passes and throwing for 815 yards and six touchdowns the past two games. His favorite receiver is Wes Welker, who is second in the NFL with 80 catches and does a good job of turning short passes into long gains. Cassel is third among all AFC quarterbacks with 199 yards rushing. The Patriots do not have a running back among the top 20 rushers in the AFC, but they average 131.3 yards rushing per game, seventh in the NFL. LT Matt Light has one of the big chores: Stopping OLB James Harrison (12 sacks).
Keep an eye on ...
Patriots RB Kevin Faulk: Coach Mike Tomlin refers to Faulk as "the Tedy Bruschi of their offense," because he is smart, heady and knows how to get the job done. Faulk leads the Patriots in rushing (372 yards on 62 carries) and is fourth among AFC running backs with 36 catches for 315 yards.
Game: Steelers (8-3) vs. Patriots (7-4).
When: 4:15 p.m.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV/radio: KDKA, WPCW; WDVE-FM (102.5), WBGG-AM (970).
The Patriots have won six of the past seven meetings with the Steelers, including the past four in Foxborough, Mass. The most recent was a 34-13 victory Dec. 9, 2007. However, the Patriots are 5-4 against the AFC this season; the Steelers are 7-1. The Steelers have won their past two games and three of the past four. What's more, they are 4-1 on the road, tied for the second-best road record in the league behind Tennessee (5-0).
To win, the Steelers must ...
1 Hassle Cassel. He has been sacked 34 times this season, but only six times in the past four games.
2 Prevent the toss to Moss. They do not want a repeat of last season when Moss had seven catches and two TDs against them.
3 Stick a fork in Vince. Patriots NT Vince Wilfork is the key to their run defense because he is hard to move and clogs the middle.
To win, the Patriots must ...
1 Get big with the pig. The Steelers lead the league in fewest big pass plays allowed, but they have to prove they can stop the Patriots' deep passes, even without Brady.
2 Keep Ben in the pen. The Patriots always try to prevent Ben Roethlisberger from escaping the pocket and rolling to his right.
3 Have Richard see more of the backfield. The Steelers always seem to have problems blocking Seymour.
Keys to victory