Carucci: Steelers state strong claim in AFC

(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Matt Cassel was under consistent pressure from James Harrison. (Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Vic Carucci reports from the Steelers-Patriots game. Check back later for his complete column.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A couple of thoughts floated through my mind as I watched the steady downpour saturate New England’s Gillette Stadium and the Steelers rip this game away from the Patriots in the second half on their way to a 33-10 victory.

For one, a lot of us (my hand is raised) were way too quick to anoint the Jets as the best team in the AFC after they handed the Titans their first loss of the season last week.

Two, a lot of us (my hand is raised again) were way too quick to anoint Matt Cassel as a top-level NFL starter after he threw for 400 yards in each of his previous two games.

Even if none of their players said so publicly, you had to believe the Steelers might have gotten a little tired of hearing all of the discussion about the Jets’ supremacy in their conference on the theory that the Titans had been the best … and the presumption that the Steelers weren’t.

Maybe some of us should be rethinking that, especially after the Jets were down big to the Broncos.

The Steelers imposed their will on the Pats, scoring 30 unanswered points after New England built a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. The once-stout Patriots defense has allowed 28 or more points in each of their last three games.

As for Cassel, Pittsburgh never allowed him to find the comfort zone he had in the previous two weeks against the Dolphins and Jets. He wound up fumbling twice — on hits from linebacker James Harrison, who blew past tackle Matt Light both times — and throwing two interceptions. Cassel should have thrown another interception, but it was dropped.

So let’s hold off on any further talk of the dilemma the Patriots could face after the season when they have to choose between retaining a healthy Tom Brady or losing Cassel in free agency.

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