This is what you wanted Steelers Nation? What you dreamed of? What you…even demanded? You really want a piece of this…New England royalty?
The Pittsburgh Steelers are in Foxboro this weekend for the improbable task of defeating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Not too long ago, in a galaxy not too far away, Pittsburgh was in the running to be considered the NFL’s team of the New Millennium.
No longer. After the Green Bay Packers dispatched of the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV Pittsburgh has been in a prolonged “reloading” stage under Coach Mike Tomlin.
Meanwhile it’s been Coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots who have continued to seal their standing as the NFL’s post-Y2K elite squad.
The Patriots, remarkably, have been in the last six AFC Championships and have won half of those. Competitive balance in the NFL Mr. Commissioner? Yeah…right. No wonder you’re in hiding.
New England is 4-1 in Foxborough-hosted conference championships since Belichick and Brady were a dance duo.
In other words, the Steelers have their work cut out for them. In fact, it’s so cut out for them, the scissors are blunt and scraps are piled high.
If that wasn’t foreboding enough, there is that little bulletin board incident where WR Antonio Brown decided to out Coach Mike Tomlin’s potty mouth to the world.
Still have a feeling…Pittsburgh’s going to the…Super Bowl?
Then Mister…you’re a better fan than I.
Yet…despite the mounting odds and the legions of Patriots fans getting their gloat on…the Spin must…move…foreward:
Diva’s Gotta Div
Antonio Brown? Sigh… Antonio? Sigh. His social media faux pas was the most boneheaded pre-Patriots game incident since S Anthony Smith guaranteed a win against the Patriots in 2007. How did that work out young Anthony. Antonio? Sigh…
All Along The Watchtower
But I suppose, what’s the big deal anyway? Everybody knows that Belichick already has video surveillance in the Steelers locker room.
Post Game Patriotism
It’s no surprise the Patriots are playing down Coach Mike Tomlin’s post-game speech as just locker room talk. Who cares about SnapFace, right? It’s the Patriots Way after all. They will wait until AFTER the game to display their poor sportsmanship. When Smith stuck his foot in his mouth years ago, Brady made it sound like all was fair in love and war before the game. But as soon as he got a few touchdowns ahead, Tom and his cohorts were pointing fingers and dancing around like a herd of baboons on angel dust. You do…not…want…to lose to the Patriots.
Ben Don’t Break Offense
The Steelers will be incapable of beating the Patriots with a mediocre performance by QB Ben Roethlisberger. Forget about the Steelers dominant offensive line. Or the surging young defense. Even a great game by two-thirds of the Killer Bees…Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell…won’t be sufficient. Look. The jersey I wear each Sunday is number 7. But the reality is, Big Ben has had an okay season at best this year considering he has the luxury of a pass protecting offensive line and a monster running game. If he wants to change the story line of his year from good to great…Sunday in Foxboro would provide the perfect place to make a statement. NFL hero? Or meh season? This game will decide it for Big Ben.
Hey! Anybody Covering Me?
It was a great day for TE Jesse James against the Kansas City Chiefs, but boy was he open! Can you imagine what kind of damage TE Ladarius Green could have done with that amount of ample territory? Even the great Belichick can’t stop Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, a powerful offensive line AND a dominant tight end. The Kansas City Chiefs tried to shadow Bell with a linebacker, which opened the gate for a tight end to run wild. The Patriots may try a similar…albeit more refined…strategy. If Green is somehow able to play, the scales tip favorably in the Steelers direction.
The Butler Did It
Let’s face it, Coach Keith Butler doesn’t have the appearance of a fear-inducing NFL defensive coordinator. In fact, he looks more like the one millionth customer at Walmart who won the “Be A Steelers DC For A Day Contest.” But, looks can be deceiving. He has performed as much of a turnaround with this young defense as Coach Mike Munchak has done with the offensive line. Still, it’s premature to dump the Gatorade on him quite yet. His recent playoff conquests have been quarterbacks Matt Moore and Alex Smith. As he stares in the eyes of Tom Brady, now’s where the trophy gets polished.
Burns Can Be Burned
The word is out in the NFL. Rookie CB Artie Burns is highly susceptible to the give and go. Look for Brady to throw in front of him early and often in the game as he sets the trap. Someone needs to put an arm around the young man and give him the ol’, “We don’t need a hero” speech. If he needs inspiration, he should replay some of those Anthony Smith lowlights.
How great of a season is LB James Harrison having? It’s gotten to the point again where he is expected to make a big play in the big games. Sack and fumble? Yeah…that’s just James being James…again. Bold prediction. If Harrison gets a sack on Brady…Steelers win. Few things would be more beautiful. Nothing ruffles Brady’s perfect hair more than defensive pressure.
Want to know if the Steelers have a chance early in the game? If Bell and Brown BOTH get off to a good start, it means Belichick’s master plan is failing. He’ll definitely have a shutdown plan for at least one if not both of them. If you see Big Ben having to check down to his third and fourth options, it will be a long day for the Steelers offense as the lock to their safe will have been busted.
If there is anyone who grows more tired of the “Belichick is the undisputed champion of coaches” it’s the rest of the head coaches in the league. None of these guys came into the league without having an extraordinarily competitive streak running through their bloodstream. Coach Tomlin is no exception. If he wants to put a dent in that conversation, it begins with this game. It could be argued without too much difficulty that Tomlin has the better players. Belichick has home field advantage. Can Tomlin out coach Belichick? Especially following Tomlin’s unintentional Facebook Live rant, this is truly the biggest match-up of the game.
And The Winner Is…
This actually will not be a close game. The Steelers and the Patriots have a fairly storied history of blowouts…or at least non-competitive matches. Belichick is all about scheme and conforming his players to fit his philosophy. Tomlin is going to be dependent upon his players getting over the intimidation of the moment, and performing to their highest level of expectation. The winner of the scheme versus mindset battle will be revealed in the first quarter of the game. Which one will win out? Heck…I dunno. Why ya looking at me? The odds are clearly in the favor of the Patriots, if we’re being honest. But, I can’t hide these lyin’ eyes. Steelers 31, Patriots 20 in an upset. Yeah…I got a feeling…Pittsburgh’s going to the Super Bowl. It’s just not a Super strong one.