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Patriots vs. Steelers: What we’ll be watching

Three things to watch as the Patriots face the Steelers.

1. Enjoyed the bye week? Now, get to work.

There’s been a total of 12 teams who have played games after their bye weeks and — up to this point — the results haven’t been kind.

Out of those 12, nine have lost the following week. Will that trend continue Sunday afternoon?

It’s important that vacation mode is over heading into Pittsburgh. Rob Gronkowski had three touchdowns against the Steelers last year, and by now we’re all aware of what he was up to on his bye week. He should certainly be good to go!

2. Choose the right condiment.

With all this talk about Heinz Field, it makes sense that ketchup’s biggest rival might have a big say in this one.

That’s where Jerod Mayo comes in. Mayo’s been out since Week 4 with an MCL injury. The Pats defense has actually performed well since he left, but it will be a huge boost to a defense that has to stop Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall. Plus, a mobile quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger makes the linebackers that much more important in the open field.

3. Score early, score often.

It’s important that the Patriots jump out early.

The Heinz Field crowd is about as opposite as the Gillette Stadium crowd as you can get. It will be loud and it will be rowdy.

The Patriots jumped ahead 10-0 in the first quarter last season in Pittsburgh, and led 23-3 after three quarters. That took the crowd out of the game early on, and enabled the Patriots to play the game the way they wanted to.

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