It's a rare opportunity for the rest of the NFL -- kicking the Patriots when they're down.
The Steelers didn't have Hines Ward when they knocked off New England in Week 8, and the Pro Bowl wide receiver told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Wednesday that he didn't feel any urgency to push his injured ankle.
According to Ward, the Patriots' inviting, baby-soft pass defense made his return, well, unnecessary.
"I probably could have forced it and played, but we have some great wideouts," Ward told the newspaper, via The Boston Globe. "I wasn't really concerned. And against the Patriots, we felt we could exploit their secondary. That wasn't the same secondary that we played against a year ago without having (James Sanders), (Brandon Meriweather) wasn't back there and they let Leigh Bodden go. We kind of liked our matchups. So there was no need for me to try to force it and go."
New England's defense has tumbled from its glory days of old, ranking 32 out of 32 teams (bad enough to make the old guard mighty cranky). Not well-worn ground for Bill Belichick's boys. Their vulnerability against pass-happy teams looms as a continuing motif as they lean heavy on Tom Brady down the stretch to offset such a glaring weakness.
We have to assume Bill Belichick's drawing up some sinister master plan here, right?
This time, maybe not.