Curran: Ward's comments say it all

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Curran: Ward's comments say it all

When Hines Ward asserted, in essence, that the Patriots didn't need him in order to the beat the Steelers, Tom E. Curran felt that said all that was needed to be said about the leaky New England secondary.

"It's pretty damning when you have one of the receivers from the other team saying, 'You know what? They didn't need me,' " CSNNE.com's Patriots Insider told Mike Giardi on 'SportsNet Central' on Wednesday. " 'I know the Pats were the No. 1 seed in the AFC going into the game, I know it's a game that might determine ultimately which team plays the AFC championship at home, but we had it. We were all set because they had Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams running around out there.'

"That's damning right there . . . and the problem is, it's one thing to be bad in Weeks 1, 2 and 3, but to regress to the point the Patriots' pass defense has in Week 8 is concerning. Because this is the point at which you need to be building to a crescendo. Bill Belichick talks about November and December; right now his pass defense is in such disarray that Ben Roethlisberger's throwing it half-a-hundred times against them.

"The Patriots are going to have to outscore everybody down the stretch, I think."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)