NFL Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers: 5 Players to Watch in Week 9

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5 Players to Watch in Week 9

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When it rains, it pours. After a two-game winning streak, the Pittsburgh Steelers suffered yet another loss in disastrous fashion. To make matters worse, the Steelers had to deal with yet another rash of injuries in Week 8. Now, not only does Pittsburgh have to endure another set of unfortunate circumstances, they will have to do so while facing the 6-2 New England Patriots.

As usual, the performance of every player on the roster will be vital to the success of the Steelers in this Week 9 matchup against the Patriots. In their last six regular-season meetings against New England, Pittsburgh has come away with three wins. In order for it to become four, the Steelers will have to rely heavily on their fourth-ranked overall defense and their second-ranked pass defense to keep them in the game.

Pittsburgh’s offense has hardly done anything to give Steeler Nation any hope, while the special teams has recently been revamped in order to help give the team a breath of fresh air.

The main focus on this week’s game could easily be on marquee players such as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and safety Troy Polamalu, but the performance of other role players will prove to be just as important.

Offensively, voids will have to be filled along the offensive front, while protecting the football and being able to move the chains. On the other side of the ball, simple fundamentals such as tackling and pass coverage will be important. Finally, dictating field position could be the difference in a much-needed win, or another disappointing loss.

Here are the five players that Steeler fans must watch in Week 9.

Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google+

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5. Mat McBriar

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Because of inconsistent punting, Pittsburgh released Zoltan Mesko and signed Mat McBriar. The 10-year veteran hasn’t punted this season, so we can only wait and see what the Steelers’ fifth punter in the past three seasons will do.

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4. Lawrence Timmons

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Linebacker Lawrence Timmons is the team’s leading tackler this season. Hopefully, his skills will benefit Pittsburgh when trying to stop New England’s 12th ranked running game, especially after the Steelers’ horrible display of run defense last week. In addition, the matchup between Timmons and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski on passing plays will be very interesting to watch.

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3. Antonio Brown

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Assuming that Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib will play this week, Antonio Brown will have one of his toughest matchups of the season. The NFL’s leader in receptions will be up against Talib, who is tied for first in the league in interceptions with four.

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2. Le'Veon Bell

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Even with the struggles of Pittsburgh’s running game, the performance of rookie running back Le’Veon Bell will be key. Not only will Bell have to protect the football, but he will have to help move the chains on the ground and in the passing game. His production could help Pittsburgh win the time-of-possession battle, which will keep the ball out of the hands of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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1. Guy Whimper

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The success of Pittsburgh’s ground attack will be dictated by the play of the offensive line. More importantly, the play of Guy Whimper could determine just how successful the O-line is. Whimper will be replacing starting right guard David DeCastro (pictured above), who’s probably the team’s best run blocker.