It's tough to find bright spots in Pittsburgh's 2-5 season.
The Steelers are ranked 23rd in the league for total offense. They're No. 28 in points per game with 17.9. They're 29th in turnover differential, at -9. And they will be limping into Gillette Stadium this weekend after losing to the lowly Raiders.
So where's the challenge? Well, Pittsburgh still has Big Ben.
"Their offense certainly centers around Ben Roethlisberger," Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia noted Tuesday.
The Steelers quarterback has of course changed and evolved over 10 NFL seasons, but one thing has remained the same: that burly 6-5, 241-pound frame.
Last week New England got six sacks on Dolphins signal caller Ryan Tannehill to bring their season tally to 24.0. The number is tied for 8th-best in the NFL. For now. Tackling Roethlisberger in the pocket is nearly impossible. And flushing him out only works so well because he can throw on the run.
"This is a guy who's done a great job of being able to be a tough quarterback in the pocket," Patricia said. "[He's] been able to make the hard throws in difficult situations. And that's certainly something you need to try to stress as you go into the week, that we really do a great job of concentrating on finishing those plays or have the opportunity to get to the quarterback and not take it for granted the ability to get him down because he's a big strong guy. He can really hang in there and shrug off some tacklers."
Despite the praise, there is no ignoring Pittsburgh's record, nor the fact Roethlisberger has thrown just eight touchdown passes to seven interceptions this season.
But the Patriots won't take their chances. Roethlisberger's size aids his stubborn refusal to concede plays. And it's fitting, as Patricia is expecting the Steelers will take their swings every snap.
"It's extremely difficult when facing a quarterback like this that each play is continually going after the whistle," Patricia said. "And we've got to approach it with the fact he's going to be in that pocket. We're taking the approach where he's not going to be able to get out of a tackle and get the ball downfield. So everyone needs to stay alive and stay focused, do their job all the way until the end of the play, when the play is absolutely over, because I actually think that's where Roethlisberger really thrives the most, is where he can make those plays."