Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe recounts the day, earlier this month, when Ty Law broke the news to his teammate he would not be returning to the field this year. Cafardo also looks ahead at Law's future with the organization.
Cafardo and Alan Greenbergof The Hartford Courant discuss the battle in the trenches that will take place between the Steelers menacing offensive line and the Patriots defensive stalwarts. Last time these two teams hooked up, the Steelers won the battle, rushing for 221 yards. This time, the Pats may be without defensive lineman Richard Seymour, the core of the defensive line who missed last week's tilt with the Colts.
Speaking of Seymour, Greenberg, Michael Felgerof The Boston Herald, and Tom Curranof The Providence Journal report what they know and speculate regarding the possible return of the sidelined big man.
Mark Blaudschun of the Globe is in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers continue to say the right things about the defending champs. The Steelers players and coaches have been quick to acknowledge the Pats as champs-until-proven-otherwise.
Blaudschun also reports the Steelers views on Corey Dillon, the powerful Pats running back who missed the Halloween game with injury. The opposing players are showing Dillon his due respect, and are rather familiar with him from his time with Pittsburgh division opponent, Cincinnati.
Cafardo and Curran both examine the similarities between the game's two quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Brady led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 2001, his second year in the league, but his first as a starter. Similarly, Big Ben has engineered 15 consecutive wins as a rookie since taking over for injured starter Tommy Maddox.
In the Herald, Felger spotlightsthe Steelers Bus, Jerome Bettis. Bettis, fifth all-time on the NFL's rushing list, has enjoyed a renaissance since filling in as starter for Duce Staley, who missed a number of games after mid-season. Both Bettis and Staley will be in the lineup Sunday, but Bettis figures to be the featured back.
Steve Conroyof the Herald and Paul Kenyonof the Journal look at the kickers, Adam Vinatieri and Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed. Much has been made of the difficult kicking conditions in Heinz Field where no one has ever connected from more than 48 yards.
Karen Guregian of the Herald chronicles Brady's less-than-stellar history at Heinz. Three years ago, Brady was injured in the AFC Championship game, setting the stage for Drew Bledsoe's miraculous heroics. In his only other Heinz Field appearance, this year on Halloween, Brady was forced into a fumble and two interceptions in the Pats 34-20 loss.
Jarret Bell of USA Today has a nice feature on Dillon, who he says has become a true Patriot. Dillon has been a rock for the Pats this year, ripping up 1,635 yards on the ground in only 15 games. The one game he missed was the debacle in Pittsburgh, and the Patriots expect big things from him this time around.
Mike Reiss of The MetroWest Daily News contends the two teams vying for a spot in the Super Bowl are here because of the little things. Both New England and Pittsburgh excel at the fundamental aspects of football, and execute very well.
Mike Lowe of The Portland Press Herald details the high praise Bill Belichick had for the Steelers in yesterday's press conference.
Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com dissects the linebacking corps of all four remaining playoff teams, asserting that each group is integral to their respective teams' success.
Michael Smith of ESPN.com agrees, featuring the Patriots linebacking gang. Smith praises the job the LB crew did against Indy last weekend, and describes the unit as one very familiar with its various parts.
On CBS.Sportsline.com, Pete Prisco and Clark Judge debate what makes the Patriots so special in the postseason, and whether Pittsburgh should be concerned about starting a rookie quarterback.
Chuck Finder of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette discusses the Patriots ability to succeed in cold weather games. The current forecast for Sunday is cold and snowy.
Finder also reports from Belichick's press conference, where the Pats coach was effusive in his praise of the beating the Steelers handed New England October 31st.
Ed Bouchette of the Post-Gazette contends the Steelers are out to prove their win over the Pats in the regular season was not a fluke.
Joe Starkey of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gives an outsider's look at Brady, who uses every game as a chance to further prove himself.
Starkey also writes on Pats punter Josh Miller, who punted for the Steelers against the Pats the last time these two teams met for a trip to the Super Bowl.
Also in the Tribune-Review, Kevin Gorman reports All-Pro guard Alan Faneca is expecting some curveballs from Belichick's laboratory, and the Steelers won't mind if the weather conditions are less than ideal.