The New England Patriots are in for a tough showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers in this Sunday’s (Dec. 17) important clash, which will give the winner an edge in the race for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Based on Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s assessment, the Steelers have an edge in terms of offense, due to their so-called “Killer Bs” trio of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell, and wide receiver Antonio Brown. Belichick specifically heaped praises on Bell and Brown, whom he called the two dynamic players who are both very hard to defend and consistent.

“They’re there every week. They make big plays every week. Two thirds of the offense with two guys – that’s a lot of offense,” said Belichick. The Patriots coach has a strong point, as Bell currently leads the NFL with 1,105 rushing yards and is ninth in the league in terms of receptions with 75 catches en route to nine total touchdowns. Brown also leads the NFL with 99 catches for 1,509 yards for nine touchdowns. After struggling early in the season, Roethlisberger has found his groove, throwing for 3,744 yards and 24 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. In their 39-38 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards and two touchdowns as the Steelers improved to 11-2.

Bell or Brown?

Belichick is known for focusing on his opponent’s top weapon on offense, but he will have a dilemma against the Steelers, as he has yet to determine who to cover with Brown or Bell. Bell is averaging 3.9 yards a carry and 7.7 yards per reception, while Brown is fresh from a 200-yard performance against the Ravens and his fourth straight 100-yard receiving game.

Belichick is expected to put Malcolm Butler against Brown, like in their previous matchups. The Steelers’ front seven is also expected to limit Bell’s running game.

Brady to carry Patriots offense

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a 10-2 record against the Steelers in his career. Since 2007, Brady has notched a passer rating of over 100 in seven straight games against the Steelers, recording 22 touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was sorely missed by the Patriots in their loss to the Miami Dolphins due to a one-game suspension, is expected to play a major role against the Steelers' tough defense, which is No. 4 in the league in terms of pass-rushing. The Patriots will play the Steelers without defensive lineman Alan Branch, who is dealing with a knee injury. Listed as questionable are defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise, cornerback Stephon Gilmore, linebacker David Harris, wide receivers Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater, defensive back Brandon King, and offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle.