Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Patriots Aim to Put a Crimp in Steelers' Styles

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Patriots Aim to Put a Crimp in Steelers' Styles

Article excerpt

FOXBOROUGH, Mass -The New England Patriots didn't get off to the start they wanted to Saturday against the Houston Texans, going three-and-out on their first drive. It seemed very unlikely that Brock Osweiler could lead his team to a come-from-behind win but maybe, just maybe, Houston could build momentum with a fast start.

At least for a moment it seemed that way. The Texans got small gains from their first two plays before, on third-and-4, Rob Ninkovich bested Houston tackle Chris Clark one-on-one and sacked Osweiler, dragging him down by the leg, to force a punt.

After missing the first four games because of a suspension for a positive performance-enhancing drug test, Ninkovich accumulated four sacks in his 12 regular-season games and has added his first one of the playoffs.

To go with the sack, Ninkovich forced another Texans punt late in the second quarter, when he batted an Osweiler pass on third down.

The next men up in Ninkovich's way are Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell.

"It's going to be a really big challenge for us," Ninkovich said. "They have a terrific running back who's very explosive and makes a lot of plays for them, so it's got to be up to the front to play well and not let a guy like that be explosive."

The Patriots have played few quarterbacks of Roethlisberger's caliber this season, with Russell Wilson being the only other Super Bowl winner to face them. What Roethlisberger and Wilson share in accomplishments, however, they lack in comparable traits.

Wilson, small and clever, was the best of a string of mobile quarterbacks the Patriots played in the middle of the season while Roethlisberger is a big, traditional pocket passer. Finding a path to an object that is relatively stationary is, obviously, easier in some ways than tracking one that is moving around, but Roethlisberger's size adds an extra layer of challenge to bringing him down. …

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