by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Finding themselves atop the NFL power rankings last week, the New England Patriots dropped the britches they’d gotten too big for and took a collective dump in Cleveland. Should they repeat that effort in Pittsburgh, Steelers fans may find themselves in danger of carpal tunnel syndrome from waving their ridiculous little towels.

So, will the Patriots return to form – or at least the form we hoped they’d taken? Or will we see the team that made the Browns look like Super Bowl contenders? One can only hope. And worry…

New Patriots Kicker Shayne "Don't Call Me Shank" Graham

Ain’t It A Shayne: The fact that Wes Welker had to boot an extra point after Stephen Gostkowski’s injury epitomized a frustrating Sunday where Pats fans thought they were watching a different team. With Gostkowski on injured reserve, Shayne Graham has been tabbed as his replacement. While we find Graham’s 10 years of experience comforting, his player page video showing him missing a field goal seems less so.

Up-Tight Ends: Only a 1969 tour director for Lake Cuyahoga could have had a worse day in Ohio than tight end Rob Gronkowski. The rookie offset the efforts of Aaron Hernandez by causing two turnovers. Unlike the lake, we want Gronkowski to catch fire once again, especially with the wide receivers having their problems. This, of course, leads to a perfect segue…

Not So Open-Minded: Um, hey, any receiver not named Welker? Could you, uh, get some space between yourself and a defensive back this week? Because, like, the Steelers are really good at stopping the run and everything, which means that Tom Brady’s going to have to throw the ball. So, ah, try to run crisp routes and stuff.

You know, if you’re not too busy.

Rush Hard Rashard: Holy headaches. If Peyton “Running Up That” Hillis can have a career day vs. New England’s defense, what in the name of missed tackles will Rashard Mendenhall do?We’re not even sure we want to know, but we’d like to avoid watching the Patriots’ D getting sliced up like a sheet cake at an office birthday party.

Ben There, Done That: Despite his time away from the team, Pittsburgh QB/non-rapist Ben Roethlisberger seems back to his old self, throwing deep passes with accuracy and wriggling through onrushing defenders as if they were assault charges. (Yup; it’s there.) Facing a New England pass “rush” that’s better described as a pass “take-your-time,” Roethlisberger could enjoy a stat-padder of a day.

In Heinz Sight: While it’s true that the Patriots have a better record away from home than last year, achieving more than one win on an opponent’s field hardly qualifies them for the Lombardi Trophy. Heaven knows, fans don’t want to go through the late-season misery of 2009 again.

Whether that happens or not seems like it’s up to the Patriots. Maybe the right team will show up this week.

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