This Steelers team is unlike any the New England Patriots have played before, not even like the one they toyed with in November at Heinz Field, and certainly not like the ones they used as steppingstones to a couple Super Bowls in the first half of the previous decade.
People keep asking coach Mike Tomlin and his players what their identity is on offense, and, after seven games, it's pretty clear that they have become a team that will use its best talent. Its best talent is the guy who throws the football and those who catch it.
At age 29, Ben Roethlisberger is in his prime, and he's on a roll. He's second in the AFC with 1,937 passing yards, on pace to shatter his own team record. Mike Wallace is back averaging more than 20 yards a catch, and his 730 yards rank third in the league. He is on pace to shatter the team's receiving record.
They also are getting more production from their second-year receivers, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, and tight end Heath Miller is starting to play a bigger role.
What better opportunity -- or is it necessity -- for the Steelers to lean on their passing game and, perhaps, crank it up more than this Sunday when they play the Patriots?
"Exactly, that's what we're out to prove," said Sanders, who could play a larger role Sunday if Hines Ward's ankle does not respond before then.
"I feel like we can score with any team in the league," Wallace said. "We just have to be on top of our game."
Long gone is any myth that the Steelers have a good running game. They rank in the middle of the pack, No. 14. Rashard Mendenhall, the halfback coordinator Bruce Arians said everything revolves around in the offense, has only 351 yards and is on pace to have his least productive season since his rookie year in 2008.
The Steelers have run the ball just 42.5 percent of the time. That's their second-lowest percentage in at least the past 20 seasons. The only time they ran it less often over an entire season came in 2009, when they did so 42.2 percent, which prompted team president Art Rooney II to urge them to run it better.
Many times over the past decade they have run it more than 50 percent and even hit 61.1 in '04. Those days are gone.
"I think Bruce Arians is doing a great job of understanding the talent that he has," Sanders said. "He's putting in practices, he's putting in plays that go toward our strengths as receivers. Mike is a burner, A.B. is a playmaker, I'm a playmaker. He's putting in plays that are paying off."
They may need those plays and more Sunday.