We all saw the debacle that the Patriots had trying to stop Peyton Hillis last week against the Browns. Hillis ran all over the Patriots for 184 yards on 6.3 yards per carry with two touchdowns. Terrible effort by the Patriots defense. The couldn't set the edge and they didn't have a run-support safety to come up and make plays.
The national media has picked up on this and are running with it. The Patriots can't stop the run, and they way to beat them is to run it down their throats. Now even any casual Patriots fan knows that Sunday's game against the Browns was the exception and not the norm.
The week before, the Minnesota Vikings tried to cram the ball down the throat of the Patriots defense the entire first half, and really, the entire game. And who was their running back? Yeah, it was Adrian Peterson, arguably the best running back in the league who is having a career year. Peterson picked up a solid 92 yards on 25 carries for a pedestrian 3.7 yards per attempt. Even more, Peterson was held to a long of just nine yards. Just nine.
A look at how the Patriots have fared against other teams against the run after the jump!
Lets look back at the opponent's top backs from all the other Patriots games this year:
Week 1, Cedric Benson: 15 carries, 43 yards, 2.8 YPC
Week 2, Shonn Greene: 15 carries, 52 yards, 3.5 YPC
Week 3, Marshawn Lynch: 13 carries, 79 yards, 6.1 YPC (Fred Jackson, 4 for 8)
Week 4, Ronnie Brown: 11 carries, 27 yards, 2.5 YPC
Week 6, Ray Rice: 28 carries, 88 yards, 3.1 YPC (Long 8)
Week 7, Ryan Mathews: 8 carries, 15 yards, 1.9 YPC (Long 5)
Aside from a rough spot against LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshawn Lynch in weeks two and three, the Patriots have been very solid defending the run. Even in games where they have struggled, aside from last week against the Browns, they haven't given up the big plays on the ground. With safety Pat Chung likely coming back from a knee injury this week, expect more of that. Further, with players like Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, and Brandon Spikes, the Patriots base 3-4 is built to defend the run.
Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of problems with this Patriots team and the defense. But the weak part of this defense is not against the wrong. The national media, per usual, is off base on this one. And while the Steelers do have a great running attack headed by Rashard Mendenhall (on pace for over 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns), that will be difficult for the Patriots to stop, don't expect the run defense to roll over and take a beating.