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Patriots declare two defensive tackles out against the Steelers

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The Patriots will be thin on the defensive line.

The Pittsburgh Steelers will be without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger. #2 and #3 wide receivers Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton are not available, either. You would think the Steelers would have to rely heavily on their rushing attack to slow down the pace of the game and to pull off the upset defeat of the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are going to have a difficult time stopping the run with this latest roster update:

The Patriots have declared both rookie defensive tackles OUT against the Steelers. 3rd rounder Vincent Valentine is battling a back problem, with Woodrow Hamilton is fighting a shoulder injury.

Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, and Anthony Johnson are the only healthy defensive tackles on the roster. Johnson is a light defensive tackle and is a pass rush specialist; less than 30% of his snaps this year have come against the run. Branch and Brown will be the primary defensive tackles.

Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell is going to give the Patriots defensive front all they can handle and it would be reasonable to expect Branch and Brown to be tired at the end of the game. The New England offense will need to generate a big early lead to prevent the Steelers running game from being a factor in the second half.