Have you ever heard that former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was very good? Did you ever happen to notice it being mentioned that he frequently played extraordinarily well against the Pittsburgh Steelers in particular? According to Pro Football Focus, there has been no player in the past decade and a half or so who has dominated the Steelers like Gronkowski, labelling him their team-killer.
In an article posted recently, the site sought to list the player over that duration, posting an overall grade of 94.5 in their system when facing Pittsburgh. But of course I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know.
“Gronkowski utterly dominated his matchups with the Steelers”, Ben Linsey wrote. “He was targeted 51 times and brought in 41 of those passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns. No matter which metric you look at Gronk is up near the top but most impressive is his passer rating when targeted – a perfect 158.3. Can’t get any better than that”.
Those numbers included his 2017 performance, during which he caught nine passes on 13 targets for 168 yards in spite of the fact that he didn’t catch a touchdown. He did throw the key block on a game-winning touchdown run, however.
Another high-profile game in that span was in 2013. Gronkowski caught nine of 10 targets for 143 yards and scored three touchdowns, the second time he scored that many times in a game against the Steelers. The first was during his rookie season in 2010. He caught just five passes for 72 yards then, but three ended up as touchdowns.
The future Hall of Famer’s worst performance against the Steelers was easily his last. In 2018, he caught only two of the five passes that were thrown to him for 21 yards and failed to score. It’s the only game against the Steelers in which he didn’t gain at least 94 yards or score, if not both. It was also the only game in which he didn’t average over 10 yards per target.
Pittsburgh did win twice when he played. Other than last season, they also won, 25-17, in the 2011 season, the year they went 12-4 but still lost the division and were Tebowed in the postseason. Gronkowski caught seven passes for 94 yards but did not score. The Patriots lost two of the three games against the Steelers in which he did not score.
Truth be told, if somebody had to be the Steelers’ team-killer, it might as well have been somebody who was truly great, such as Gronkowski. The catches that he made during the Patriots’ game-winning drive in 2017 were really something else. He would have made a great Steeler, to be sure, and you know Mike Tomlin would have signed all his brothers as well, because apparently that’s what he does.