by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

After a Sunday without Patriots football (spent rooting against the Jets, to no avail), it’s back to the grind for your Fightin’ Foxboroites. The gang travels to Pittsburgh, where they’ve had some success in recent years.

This and other thoughts before the game…

The Tom Before The Storm: Could be a big day for quarterback Tom Brady, who typically beats the Steelers’ defense like a birthday piñata. With the improved health of tight end Aaron Hernandez and their most robust running game in a while, the Patriots have a chance to put up solid numbers at Heinz Field.

Chad Eat-your-ginko: Maybe receiver Chad Ochocinco is just forgetting his routes and responsibilities. Maybe he needs some brain food to help him remember, like ginko boloba, or salmon, or blueberries. (I don’t know. I just bought a pound of Swedish fish on sale. I’m not exactly a nutritionist.)

At this point, it’s hard to care anymore.

Deaderick On Arrival? Interesting to see whether or not defensive tackles Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace get summoned off the Player Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Both have made small contributions in the past, each working with the ol’ “potential” label. Will both make the roster this year? Does this have any impact on current defensive linemen?

Speaking of the PUP list…

Faulk In “A” Condition: Running back and Pete-Carroll-era relic Kevin Faulk has said that he’s 100 percent, maybe not the best thing to announce if there’s a chance your team will put you on IR. Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen have taken on the third-down role; however, Faulk is the most experienced, best pass-blocking back the Patriots have, so that should be worth something.

Marcus Oh Really Yes: All hail the potential return of offensive lineman/monolith Marcus Cannon, in uniform after battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier this year. The 358-pounder adds depth to the O-line. He played tackle in college and could rotate at right guard with veteran Brian Waters.

A great story no matter what, but an even better story if we get to see him pound the living dung out of opposing linebackers.

Up Against The Wallace: Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace (drafted one spot after the Pats picked Brandon Tate? Oy) can stretch the field for the Steelers and cause New England’s defensive backfield serious problems. Have recent games pointed the way to defensive improvement, or have NE’s DBs just gotten lucky? This will be a good game to find out.

The Side Of Mayo: While many fans have said that the defense seems more dynamic without linebacker Jerod Mayo, it’s hard to ignore his production and his ability to stay on the field every down. If he returns, look for him to partner with Brandon Spikes, allowing Spikes to wreak more havoc.

Really, Mayo returning can’t be a bad thing. Can it?

Malcolm In The Mid-Term: Happy to see rookie Malcolm Williams back in Foxboro on the practice squad halfway through the season. For a closer look at the seventh-rounder, here’s a link to our exclusive PD interview with him back in May.

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