PITTSBURGH (11-6) at NEW ENGLAND (15-4)
Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC
OPENING LINE - Patriots by 6 1/2
SERIES RECORD - Steelers lead 15-12
LAST MEETING - Patriots beat Steelers, 55-31, Nov. 3, 2013
AP PRO32 RANKING - Patriots No. 3, Steelers No. 8
STEELERS OFFENSE - OVERALL (2), RUSH (16), PASS (2).
STEELERS DEFENSE - OVERALL (18), RUSH (6), PASS (27).
PATRIOTS OFFENSE - OVERALL (11), RUSH (18), PASS (9).
PATRIOTS DEFENSE - OVERALL (13), RUSH (9), PASS (17).
STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - This is the third time the teams have met in the season opener. The last time, the Patriots won 30-14 in the Gillette Stadium opener in 2002. ... The teams played in the AFC title game twice, in 2001 and '04. The Patriots won both. ... Each team won its division last season. ... It's Pittsburgh's third time in the annual kickoff game since the format began in 2002. The Steelers beat Miami in 2006 and Tennessee in 2009. ... While Patriots QB Tom Brady dodged a suspension, Pittsburgh All-Pro RB Le'Veon Bell is suspended for the first two games, and WR Martavis Bryant is out four weeks for violating the league's policy on substance abuse. ... Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey is out until November at the earliest with a left ankle injury. ... Brady is 5-2 against Pittsburgh and 2-0 in the playoffs. ... The Patriots had won 10 straight season openers before losing at Miami last year. ... The start would be Brady's 109th in a row. He already had a streak of 128 straight games - the fifth longest in league history for a quarterback - that was snapped when he injured his knee in 2008. ... The Patriots went 2-2 in the exhibition season. The Steelers were 1-4. ... Look for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to throw even more and put up bigger fantasy points until Bell returns.
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