Pats look human for one night

PITTSBURGH — If you watched the Monday night NFL game, you saw that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are capable of a bad game.

Are they capable of two bad ones in a row?

That’s the question as the Patriots head to Heinz Field late Sunday afternoon for their heavyweight battle against the Steelers.

Let’s keep one thing in mind from the Miami Dolphins’ victory over New England on Monday — the Patriots were without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who sat out his one-game NFL suspension.

He makes a big difference in their offense, especially in a season where the depth of their receiving corps has been challenged.

The Steelers have their own problems, specifically the absence of Ryan Shazier, who suffered a serious spinal injury two weeks ago. Mike Tomlin admitted the obvious at Tuesday’s news conference when he said the Steelers don’t have a player capable of replacing Shazier.

They’ll continue with what they did Sunday night against Baltimore and alternate players depending on their performance and game situations. It’s trial and error, and there was a lot of error on Sunday.

Can any of Miami’s strategy be translated?

The answer is yes, but it’s hardly a secret. Get after Brady. The Dolphins only registered two sacks, but their pressure was consistent. Brady is 40. The only time he looks that age is when he’s picking himself up off the turf.

Getting pressure on him isn’t as easy it sounds. The Steelers have tried blitz schemes against Brady in the past. The Patriots have blocked effectively and burned the Steelers on them.

The Steelers have played a bunch of prime-time games lately and they’ve talked about being in the spotlight across the NFL.

This one kicks off at 4:25, but it’s just as much as must-see as the games they’ve played after dark.

Shopping list

The MLB Winter Meetings are being held this week in Florida.

It’s a baseball convention, a chance for all the teams to gather and talk about possible trades.

Free agency has taken some trading out of the game, but there’s still a market.

The Pirates’ No. 1 need is a third baseman. It appears as though Jung Ho Kang’s immigration status hasn’t changed and that he will again be barred from entering North America to work.

The Pirates have a possible in-house solution. They could move Josh Harrison to third, then turn Harrison’s spot at second over to a committee headed by Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and Max Moroff.

Playing David Freese at third a lot is not an option. He turns 35 in April and at this point he shouldn’t be counted on to make more than about a third of the starts.

Harrison is the Pirates’ most marketable player. He would be a great fit on a contender because of his versatility and his talent. He can play second and third and both corner outfield spots at an acceptable major league level.

This could be the ideal time to deal Harrison for maximum return. He turns 31 next season and his salary jumps by about $3 million to $10.25 million this season.

The Pirates hold two options on him beyond that, for $10.5 million and $11.5 million.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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