Joe Burris of The Boston Globe leads off with a look at David Patten, who has shined thus far this season, holding up the injury-riddled receiving corps. "On a team where opportunity is scarcely guaranteed -- and optimum performance when opportunity does come is a prerequisite -- Patriots eight-year veteran wide receiver David Patten is on pace for his most productive season," writes Burris.
In his notebook, Burris updates the progress of rookie running back Cedric Cobbs, who recently came off the Physically Unable to Perform list. "Patriots rookie running back Cedric Cobbs, who practiced Wednesday for the first time this season, said yesterday he is gradually becoming acclimated to the Patriots' regimen," Burris writes. Burris also checks in on the injury list, as well as on former UMass football coach Mark Whipple, who is in his first year as quarterbacks coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Michael Felger of The Boston Herald examines the impact Corey Dillon is having on the Patriots, pointing specifically to the final minutes of the Jets game, when the Pats were able to run Dillon for a first down, sealing the game. "In the past, this situation presented problems for the Pats," writes Felger. "More often than not, offensive coordinator Charlie Weis would bypass an Antowain Smith run in favor of a Tom Brady pass to pick up that crucial first down. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it gave the opponent new life."
In his notebook, Felger reports on some bulletin board material coming from the Steelers locker room. "If you say something to challenge the Patriots, especially in print, you have to realize they are going to use it to their advantage," writes Felger. "Apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't gotten the memo." Felger also discusses the latest fine for Rodney Harrison.
Paul Kenyon of The Providence Journal also spotlights Patten, who heard the whispers around training camp this season that he might be the odd man out with such a deep projected group of receivers. "Fortunately for the Patriots, Patten is not one to give in simply because others say his career might be finished," writes Kenyon. "He has been an overachiever throughout, and he's not about to stop now."
In his notebook, Kenyon highlights Cobbs, the Steelers toughness, and provides some composite numbers from the team's 21-game winning streak.
Alan Greenberg of The Hartford Courant adds to the praise for Dillon, who has given the Patriots offense a dimension it has not had since Drew Bledsoe was handing off to Curtis Martin. "If Dillon, 30, stays healthy, he is on pace to rush for 1,696 yards this season. That would be a career year for him - he rushed for 1,435 with the 2000 Bengals - and for any Patriots running back," writes Greenberg.
The Standard Times runs an AP article by Alan Robinson regarding the talk coming from the Steelers. "Steelers wide receiver Plaxico Burress suggests there are two sets of pass coverage rules in the NFL these days -- one for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, another for the rest of the league," writes Robinson.
In his notebook, Ian Clark of The Union Leader looks at the balance that the Patriots offense has achieved with Dillon carrying the ball. "Thanks to Dillon's production, the Patriots are on pace (albeit by a thin margin) to run more rushing plays than passing plays for the first time since 1988," writes Clark.
Michael Parente of The Woonsocket Call discusses the praise Bill Belichick has for Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is 4-0 as a starter. "Obviously, no one has gotten under Roethlisberger's skin yet, because not only is he the second-rated passer in the AFC, he's also No. 1 in the league in fourth-quarter and third-down efficiency," writes Parente.
For the third consecutive week (Seahawks, Jets, Steelers), ESPN.com has chosen the Patriots game as their Game of the Week. In previewing this game, Michael Smith notes the futility in blitzing Tom Brady, while Merril Hoge suggests the Steelers may have what it takes to end the streak. Also, their selected focal point is Steelers running back Duce Staley vs. the Patriots Defense, and John Clayton discusses how Belichick will approach Roethlisberger.