7 Reasons Why I Think Steelers Will Beat Pats Next Time
The Steelers have been unable to beat New England in their last five outings. But there are plenty of good reasons why that streak could be broken next time around.
photo by pittsburgh steelers|karl roser
The ending was as agonizing as it’s ever been.
And given that the Patriots have now beaten the Steelers five times in a row and 12 times in the last 15 tries –– not to mention on three consecutive occasions in the AFC Championship Game –– the sense of inevitability regarding what would happen should these two teams get together again is as recognizable as a New England fog.
But all of that said, you still ought to be encouraged by Patriots 27, Steelers 24.
That’s not to suggest the Steelers would be the favorites should the two teams hook up again in late January in a battle for the AFC championship, or that the Steelers would win the game.
But based on what we saw on Sunday afternoon/evening at Heinz Field, the gap is closing.
photo by pittsburgh steelers|dave arrigo
And the elephant in the room ought to at least be a little uncomfortable if not downright claustrophobic.
- The Steelers played without Marcus Gilbert, Joe Haden, Vance McDonald and Ryan Shazier, among others. But there’s reason to believe Gilbert, Haden and McDonald all might be available the next time. The Patriots’ inactives included Marcus Cannon, Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, and all three of those guys are on the reserve/injured list.
- Martavis Bryant had his best game of the season in terms of making combative, clutch catches and JuJu Smith-Schuster proved the Patriots stage isn’t too big for him. You need complementary guys to beat New England even if you have Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown healthy, and the Steelers seemingly have them in Bell, Brown and McDonald.
- Bell gained 118 of his 165 yards from scrimmage after Brown had been knocked out of the game three plays into the second quarter. Bell’s a matchup problem for New England, as he is for everyone else, regardless of what else the Steelers have to throw at the Pats.
- They rushed four, for the most part, as the Steelers are maniacally committed to doing, and they made Tom Brady uncomfortable, even intercepted him once. That said, they were ultimately unable to prevent the five-play, 77-yard drive late that ultimately won the game, mostly because the Steelers remain unable to cover Rob Gronkowski. But this was still a quantum leap from how the Steelers had defended against Brady in last season’s AFC Championship Game.
- They’re figuring out how to play without Shazier, especially as it relates to stopping the run when there are at least five defensive backs on the field (the game-winning touchdown run notwithstanding). That was never going to be a standard next-man-up progression given all Shazier meant to the Steelers’ defense. And it might yet prove to be a deal-breaker as far as the Super Bowl is concerned. But the Steelers are at least coming to grips with not having Shazier the rest of the way, and they still have two regular-season weeks to continue to tinker with possible alternatives in games they should win easily (at Houston, Cleveland) even without Shazier.
- They’ve stared into the elephant’s eyes and lived to tell about it. No, they didn’t win the game. But the suspicion in the immediate aftermath was the way Patriots 27, Steelers 24 played out, especially the way it ended only served to strengthen the Steelers’ resolve. The Steelers respect the Patriots, but they aren’t overly impressed.
And, last but not least:
- Ben Roethlisberger can make that throw to Eli Rogers with the game on the line. Roethlisberger didn’t this time. That doesn’t mean he won’t the next time.
Roethlisberger knows it.
So, presumably, does New England.