Few teams have had the sort of success against a strong opponent in recent years than the New England Patriots have had over the Pittsburgh Steelers under Head Coach Bill Belichick. With The Hoodie patrolling the sidelines, New England has gone 11-3 against Pittsburgh, and he is 7-2 going head-to-head against Mike Tomlin. One of those wins was with Tom Brady on injured reserve.
Does any of that mean anything to Belichick heading into tomorrow’s game? Of course not. When he was asked pretty much exactly that question, he said, “nope. Zero”. So we know where he stands as it pertains to the Patriots’ dominance over the Steelers. But Pittsburgh knows that they have had their number for a long time.
Of course, the last meeting between the two teams ended up being so controversial that it resulted in a change being made to one of the most essential rules of football, which is defining what a catch is. Given that a comfortable majority of plays result in a pass being thrown, it’s a pretty big deal to know a catch when you see one.
Everybody knows what I’m referring to, and the decision to overturn Jesse James’ would-be go-ahead touchdown with under a minute to play was instrumental in the Steelers falling to 2-7 against the Patriots under Tomlin. But of course they still had the opportunity to score again after that play. And we know what happened then.
In what has become an expanded theme this season, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ended up throwing an interception in the end zone. He has four red zone interceptions so far this year, including one at the goal line on the final play in the Steelers’ loss to the Denver Broncos, which kicked off their current three-game losing streak.
Now Pittsburgh comes in limping into this one with Roethlisberger nursing a rib injury and James Conner very questionable to play, having already missed one game due to an ankle injury. Even their potential number three receiver, Ryan Switzer, is on the injury report. Meanwhile, the Patriots appear to have a clean bill of health.
Should the Patriots win tomorrow, they will secure their 10th consecutive division title. If the Steelers win, they will really help themselves in their own division race, but it would also ensure a 12th consecutive non-losing season for the franchise since Tomlin took over as head coach.
Obviously the Steelers have higher ambitions than avoiding losing seasons, and their aspiration for 2018 remains to go to and win the Super Bowl. In order to do so, they will have to prove that they are capable of defeating teams such as the Patriots and the New Orleans Saints, no matter what the history of the matchup tells them their odds are.