The Steelers have been in the news for all the wrong reasons this week. We’ve had Antonio Brown welcome us into the post-game locker room (complete with a teammate’s bare buttocks and Coach Tomlin’s profanity) and a week’s worth of excoriating the rise of social media culture (please ignore the fact that this story will be promoted on two social media platforms for now).
But, early morning fire alarm prank notwithstanding, this team will be ready for tonight’s game in Foxborough against the Patriots. These are two teams that just don’t like one another and have had plenty of chances over the past decade to renew that mutual loathing. Both teams are competing for their ninth Super Bowl appearance (though the Steelers have won six of eight appearances, compared to four of eight for New England). Super Bowl LI will have the Steelers or Patriots representing the AFC for the tenth time since 2000.
Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger are first and second for postseason victories among quarterbacks still playing at 23 and 13 wins, respectively. Neither of these teams has lost since Week 10. The Patriots haven’t trailed in a game since Week 12. The keys to beating these teams have been demonstrated, though.
Brady, as we saw last week, doesn’t like contact, so it’s vital that James Harrison and the rest of the Steelers hit him early, hit him hard, and hit him often (because, as Texans fans, we like seeing Tom Brady on the turf). Against the Texans, who manhandled Brady eight times, Brady turned in his worst performance of 2016. However, Brady has repeatedly handled Tomlin’s defense before, posting 19 touchdowns to zero interceptions and earning a 127.5 passer rating against Tomlin’s Steelers.
The Steelers’ offense, directed by Todd Haley, will have to incorporate more players than it has previously. Le’Veon Bell is wonderful and ball-control offense is fine against the Dolphins and Chiefs, but Bill Belicheck is going to require more offensive output to defeat than six field goals. Antonio Brown has remained reliable (social media aside), but Darrius Heyward-Bey, Demarcus Ayers, and Cobi Hamilton will have to step up because Darth Hoodie will seek to neutralize Bell and Brown.
This should be an amazing game to watch, and tonight, we all wear Black and Yellow. Talk about the game here.