Finally…We’re On To New England

Have you heard? It’s Patriots Week. And what a coincidence that it should also fall in Patriots Year. Or so it has seemed around these parts throughout the calendar year of 2017. There have been times when it seemed as though there was more discussion about the New England Patriots than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

But we’re almost there. The pivotal showdown between the two AFC finalists from a season ago are scheduled to square off for a huge Week 15 matchup that will most likely determine who earns the number one seed in the conference.

The Patriots still have to make it out of their Monday night game in Miami, but assuming that they win, both teams will head into the game with 11-2 records and impressive streaks intact. The Patriots started out the season 2-2, but have won eight in a row. The Steelers have now won eight in a row as well after beginning 3-2.

With the Vikings losing yesterday, there are just three teams remaining in the NFL with two or fewer losses, the other being the Eagles, who may have just lost their quarterback for the rest of the season. We may know for sure by the time this publishes, or at least by the time you might read it.

But, really, this is the moment that all of the talk throughout the year has led up to. Or at least, perhaps, the first of two moments, the moment that sets up the bigger moment later on. All throughout the year, the conversation has been, how can the Steelers beat the Patriots? Have they done enough since the AFC Championship game to be able to get past them?

The answer is that they can beat them by scoring more points. Of course the Patriots are beatable. Every team that has ever played has been beatable, even the 1972 Dolphins, whom nobody actually beat. But that doesn’t mean it was impossible to do so. The 16-0 Patriots found out the hard way that you’re always beatable.

The Steelers can win. Of course they can. They might not. But they can.

What has changed since last season? Well, for one thing, Ben Roethlisberger is actually hot. The back half of the 2016 season for him was not all that incredible as the Steelers turned toward the run game. The passing attack this season is more dynamic with JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant supplementing a stellar season from Antonio Brown.

Cameron Heyward is here this time. Ryan Shazier will not be. Joe Haden? He might be out there next week. But we know that Ross Cockrell will not. Nor will Lawrence Timmons. But Vince Williams and his seven sacks will be. T.J. Watt will be.

And an offensive line perhaps finally hitting its stride, including Chris Hubbard, who should be a starting right tackle somewhere in the NFL in 2018, will be out there as well. I don’t know what will happen, but I know it will be fun, and nerve-wracking.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Jaybird

    I am convinced that I will be one of those guys who dies while watching the Steelers. I had such an adrenaline rush during that 4th quarter last night, I felt like my head and heart were going to explode. I need to be sedated for Steeler games . Whew.

  • Doogie

    You mentioning Hubbard makes me wonder how many years does MG have left on contract? Is it possible the Steelers find a way to resign Hubbard? It’s money we’re talking about, do they have enough to keep Hubbard ?

  • Phil Brenneman II

    The funny thing is as Steelers fan we can’t even feel good about beating them in week 15 because then the conversation will turn to “yeah but we still have to beat them in the playoffs which we never do”. Such is the life of guys wearing black and gold.

  • Conserv_58

    Having Sensabaugh playing for Haden, Sean Spence and Arthur Moats attempting to fill in for Shazier, Bud Dupree non existent, Sean Davis running around undisciplined and a penalty waiting to happen, Mike Mitchell nursing a high ankle sprain, McDonald probably out with a shoulder injury, Martavis Bryant returning kicks, against Brady, what’s everybody worried about?

  • I know a heck of a lot of people wish we played NE 16 times a year. But now is the time to talk NE, a lot of people have been waiting for this week…

    The time is now for those little brothers who have been whining in the comment sections the pas 14 weeks.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Thankful that Ben and the offense is hitting stride. When they have some run success they are really good. Bryant is near perfect on intermediate routes, yet they rarely throw those to him. It’s always throw deep or screen passes. Did you ever notice that some other teams look scary when running screens but the Steelers’ WR screens look pathetic?

    Anyway, they respect the long speed of Bryant so much that they really should be throwing intermediate stuff his way, comebacks, outs and back shoulder stuff. If they can get in a rhythm they can still become unstoppable. That will be essential to bringing home the ultimate hardware.

    One major problem is the gaping whole left by Shazier’s absence. It’s difficult to invent stuff at this point of the season but it is necessary. More Hargrave last night seemed like a good plan. Yet the Ravens simply ran right all night long. The CB’s and Dupree could not set the edge and Spence and Moats could not get there quick enough. Vince needs help, but who do you try. Could Fort be the answer or should they scrap all 3 and give an extra safety a chance? Quite the dilemma! I certainly hope they can figure something out.

    If Haden could return this week, it would certainly be a huge bonus. Let’s go, Steelers!

  • falconsaftey43

    Gilbert has 2 years left on his deal. If they cut him post-June1, they’ll save $4.1M and $4.9M in cap space in 2018 and 2019. They’d have $3.25M and $1.73M in dead money in those two years. Would be similar if they traded him.

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    But the reverse is also true! It’s hard to beat the same team 2x in one year. So IF we lose Sunday then its OUR turn in the POs!!!
    😎

  • NinjaMountie

    I’m going to say it again and I know it’s illogical but I hope we lose. I just don’t like this long winning streak going into the playoffs and I don’t think we can beat the Patriots twice in one year.
    Again, I know it’s just superstition but sometimes you just have to roll with the mystical.

  • ryan72384

    Anyone think Wilcox could fill the role of hybrid safety/middle backer moving forward like Troy did in 13′ and 14′? There is no way we can go with Moats and Spence inside with Vince. That is the slowest MLB group in the history of humanity. Everyone blaming the line and Dupree and yes they rightfully deserve blame for the run defense last night but our MLBs just can’t get to the ball on the stretch plays. And I hope Harrison starts with Watt moving forward. The Dupree experiment should be over. Talk about regressing horrible this year. The way he gets pushed around is embarrassing.

  • NinjaMountie

    I ended up with a huge headache last night, lol.

  • FATCAT716

    I will never ever wish we lose ever.. Win as many as often as you can & not worry about any kind of myths

  • FATCAT716

    I think we all do. And I drink so much during these games wake up horse for work from screaming at the T.V

  • NinjaMountie

    I don’t blame you. Not everyone is as superstitious as I am. Funny thing is, I’m only superstitious with sports.

  • FATCAT716

    I was only superstitious during the years I was playing lol very superstitious but I handle when we lose I’m a different person

  • FATCAT716

    Plus the goal is to get home field so if we meet again they come to us

  • The Tony

    Ben 500 yards, AB 200 yards, Bell 3 touchdowns. What do the Pats need to worry about?

  • FATCAT716

    JuJu will be back, we at home, & them a**holes will be on a short week

  • tcirish53@gmail.com

    Dupree has been disappointing. He HAS to step up. Bryant too – don’t know if it’s his ‘style’ but he has to be more combative going for the ball.
    We absolutely need Haden for the POs – we have routinely made so so offenses look good since he went out.

  • pittfan

    I don’t wanna lose, ever, but even if we did that is NOT the end all be all. Sure, the #1 seed would be great, however who is to say the bolts or jagwads dont send the pats packing and we face one of those teams in the AFCC? Who’s to say we cant go to Clamchowderville and knock the pats off? I don’t care about history. Lots of things havent been done until they get done, then you dont hear about it anymore. Broncos never win the Big One til they did, Peyton Manning couldn’t win the Big One till he did.
    It;s all up in the air and NOTHING is settled till it is. “that’s why they play the games”!!

  • Chris92021

    Now that the thrill (of last night) is gone, we can focus on the Patriots. What I am worried about:

    1. is Joe Haden going to be available and how effective he’s going to be. Boy do we need him to cover Brandin Cooks.
    2. will we think outside the box, meaning go to a 5 DB set (Burns-Haden if healthy-Mitchell-Davis-Sutton-Gay) with Gay playing the signal caller. We need a guy on defense who knows what he’s doing at ALL times. New England does not overwhelm teams with speed or physicality (except Gronkowski) but rather with matchups and playcalling. I honestly would rather see us try out Gay or even Wilcox to be there to play the “big nickel” against Burkhead/Lewis/White, especially on those delays, dumpoffs, and screen passes. Remember in 2011, Dick LeBeau went to a man defense, which surprised Brady and the Steelers controlled the entire game, winning 25-17. But we have to think outside the box to beat Brady.
    3. on offense, we need our tight ends to play like they did last night. Without Hightower, the Patriots are vulnerable. Since week 5 or so, the Patriots have done a fantastic job of getting early leads and forcing teams to throw the ball. New England can often trick teams into going into panic mode before they should actually, well, panic. This of course plays right into the Patriots’ hands, which is trying to beat their secondary, which has rounded into form. I want to see McCourty, Butler, Gilmore, and the rest of their secondary trying to tackle McDonald (if healthy), James, and Bell as often as possible.
    4. We must show we can effectively run the ball. I know this is obvious for just about every game but against New England, winning the time of possession is crucial. Their defense is getting better but it is not exponentially better than the bunch that got ran ragged the first 5 weeks. We need to get them thinking and doubting about their own success. No one can do this better Le’Veon Bell. A 30 plus touch game should be a must.

    I think psychologically, we must win this Sunday. Remember outside of Gay, Pouncey, Foster, Gilbert, Big Ben, AB, and Harrison, no one else on the team played on the 2011 team that beat the Patriots. It would be a big psychological boost to the entire team and coaching staff as well as the rest of us fans.

  • pittfan

    I tore up my couch!!!
    pittfan • 11 hours ago
    6 minutes, 2 scores, no problem.

  • The Tony

    All fair points but you can make the argument that we had Moats play a position for the first time in 4 years and Spence a guy we signed off the streets thrown into the game. Hopefully by the playoffs, things will stabilize.

  • Chris92021

    Sorry Ninja but I’ve never subscribed to that theory “getting a loss is a good idea” before the playoffs. Since 2014, we’ve lost only 1 December game and it was against the Ryan Mallett-led Ravens (!!!). Our offense is finally looking like it’s rounding into form, like the offense it was supposed to be back in the offseason. And that is without JuJu, who will be back this week. And I am a firm believer we can beat the Patriots twice this year but I don’t believe we will have to. I believe if we win this Sunday, we will wrap up home field advantage. This current team was constructed with the Patriots in mind, from drafting JuJu, TJ Watt, Sutton, getting Joe Haden, and trading for McDonald (please be healthy for once).

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    Always a blowout. Never competitive. THIS time it will be different because just because

  • PittShawnC

    10-0, 14-0, 14-0, 14-0, 10-0, 14-3 are the leads NE has jumped out to in 6 of last 7 meetings.

    Must, must, must get off to a decent start. Always feels like we’re down multiple scores before doing anything and have no room for error.

  • Dan

    I totally see where you’re coming from. I would rather beat them in January than in December, but still will be hard not to root my butt off on Sunday. If we win against the pats then again at Houston we will have clinched home field, so we can get our loss out of the way with a gift loss against the Browns.

  • Randy

    LOL. You have to learn to control your urges man:) I almost threw my remote on to the TV. But thought about the damage to my pocket book and did not do it

  • Ben Saluri

    Coming from Des Moines with my son for this game. Bought tickets in September, praying this scenario would work out…GO STEELERS!!

  • nutty32

    areyounotentertained.gif

  • nutty32

    cantwait.gif

  • PaeperCup

    I do have concerns about that.

    Steelers have what it takes to beat the Pats, but do they have what it takes to beat them twice?

  • PaeperCup

    If the Steelers did anything well on defense they did Ravens TE’s in check. Wonder if they’ll leave Gronk wide open in the endzone again like they did last time.

  • Chris92021

    The defensive starters I would like to see vs. New England:
    Heyward-Hargrave-Tuitt
    Watt-Williams-Harrison
    Haden (if not healthy enough to go, then Sutton instead of Sensabaugh)-Burns-Mitchell-Davis-Gay (with Gay being the roving nickel)

    I don’t want to see Dupree out there anymore. He is clueless and plays with terrible technique. I would rather see Chickillo out there instead of Dupree. Spence, God bless him but there is a reason why even Indy let him go. He’s a step too slow. Moats is an edge defender, not an ILB.

  • PaeperCup

    Completely agree.

    It’s a catch 22. The best opportunity to beat NE in the playoffs is if we get home field. But we can’t get homefield unless we beat them in the regular season. But if we do that we have to try to repeat that victory, which has proven to be near impossible against the Patriots…..and yes the burden of a win streak. Always.

    I thought about it hard the other night, and here’s what I think could happen. Steelers lose to the Patriots next week, but end up as the 2 seed. The Ravens make the playoffs and make the divisional round vs the Patriots and beat them at NE. We get the Ravens for a 3rd time this season….winning on their way to the Superbowl. And all the “Yeah, but…” guys come out in droves.

  • Jones

    I’d rather beat them once and then worry about the second win than start worrying about the second win before I even get the first.

  • Jones

    It’s like the reverse of the AFCCG last year. We had the short week and had to travel, now they do.

  • heath miller

    hope you are right .. fear you are wrong ..what has changed? if you seen the ravens crappy O put up 38 last night what makes you think the pats will do any less than low 40s to low 50s ?

  • Ken Krampert

    Lets not get ahead of ourselves. How about we just beat them once and see how actually beating them feels. It’s been 6 years since our last win and 13 since our 1st win against Brady. 2 in 17 years against Brady . With this defense, it seems like only a dream.

  • Ken Krampert

    Reality bites…

  • heath miller

    i am as well .. well one other superstition that i believe in that i cant mention ..but mostly sports… and i tooo hate to go into the playoffs or liek a march madness with a long winning streak… i like my team to taste defeat late in the season to get that bad taste in their mouth ..

  • Jaybird

    If that is a Gladiator reference – great movie . My second favorite behind Goodfellas.

  • RangerBrigade

    I am somewhat with you as I am a bit superstitious myself. I also think Belichick and Brady will somewhat revel in the get even scenario if we do beat them. I remember back in the 04 season the Steelers whooped the Pats at home and got them for home field and Brady was quoted as saying “I would like another shot at those guys and proceeded to destroy the Steelers #1 D.

    Also a slight positive of being the number 2 seed is I like their chances based on how the seeding will probably go. If it is #1 NE #2 PGH #3 JAX #4 LAC #5 TEN #6 BAL, I like the Steelers’ chances with who they likely play in the Divisional round. I know JAX creamed the Steelers but I think in a rematch the Steelers are much better prepared – kind of like how they blew out Miami last year in the Wildcard round. Also I would give the Ravens a punchers chance at beating JAX in a rematch and I do not want to face them in the Divisional round because PGH barely won yesterday and I think we are asking a lot to beat them 3x in one year. Also the team I really don’t want face in the first round is the Chargers who seem to really be the 3rd best team in the AFC right now and they have a QB in Rivers who is a border line HOFer – I actually could see them maybe even shocking NE. Even if KC gets the division I would prefer not to play them either as the last two games were extremely close.

    Still if they do win on Sunday and do wind up meeting in the Championship Game it would be far better to play them at Heinz and not in Foxborough – that place is a house of horrors.

  • Jaybird

    Yes! Watching the Steelers pull out these close games makes you drink like a fish. It’s worse than playing those drinking games when I was younger.

  • Derek B

    Anyone who thinks losing to NE now is good because we won’t beat them twice is an idiot. Going to NE in January is a guaranteed loss. They are better than us, so we have to play them at home. Simple. Win.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    I hope Juju comes ready to play. I’m telling you right now, AB won’t see 10 snaps of single coverage in this game. I expect a big game from our D-Line.
    Go Steelers!

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    It’s time, man! Time to leave it all out there! Time to put your life on the line! Don’t give up on your team or down them! To me that’s sucka sh*t! Ride or Die Steeler Nation! I’m all in!

  • Josh

    hey hey HEY everybody – I say jump on my recurring fantasy of Phillip Rivers avenging the Pats in the divisional round.

  • gentry_gee

    If the Steelers manage to beat the Pats this year in the playoffs or next week, it will be the single greatest upset in the history of the NFL. We are their Browns, their Bengals. It will take a monumental effort and luck to overcome them.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Now THIS is the game we need to see Harrison off the edge and often. If there’s any game they’ve been saving Harrison for it is this one otherwise they may as well just sit him the rest of the season. We need as much rotation in the pass rush as possible. And Harrison is hella hard to deal with on the pass rush with the leverage. And if we’re lucky they’ll start to finally begin calling the holds. Harrison’s held literally on every play.

  • Steve Johnson

    You weren’t alone, I couldn’t take it, went to bed after the Ravens went up 38-29.

  • Steve Johnson

    I don’t even feel good about facing them the 1st time.

  • Chris92021

    You are not kidding about the lack of speed. Yikes did Collins look like freaking Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson against us last night.

  • Rotten Sircus

    Our offense is ready for the patriots ! Our defense however will be a snack for Brady !! We’re still giving up BIG Plays to opponents who are lesser than !!! Hopeful but Realistic ….!!!

  • FanInExile

    Man, the memory of Deebo repeatedly turning the corner on Matt Light in the 2008 (non-Brady) game is still fresh. Pull up the highlights from that game and watch ’em again. I hope Deebo does that between his VW Bug deadlift sets. Yeah, no Matt Light this time, but being inspired by your own past performance can be a huge motivator. Sure, he’s older and slower now, but he appears just as strong, he’s fresh as a daisy and hungrier than a Tasmanian devil (the cartoon kind). I’m looking for a two sack (one strip), multi-pressure evening from him.

  • kevin Duffin

    I’d rather have to try to beat them a second time at home, then try to beat them at Foxborough in the playoffs

  • Conserv_58

    IMO, this game will shatter the Neilson Ratings of any regular season game played in a long time, especially in Western PA and NE.

  • Conserv_58

    Not having Ryan last night magnified what a special player he is. The lack of speed between Moats, Spence and Fort allowed the Ravens RB, Collins to shred them on the outside runs. Of course watch him easily escape Moats’ ankle grab was deflating and embarrassing.

  • nd fan

    Absolutely correct need to out coach them, if we line up and run what we have run all year they will kill us again, they know your tendencies you have to suprise them and continue to make adjustments throughout the game.

  • Conserv_58

    Given how many times this team has escaped with last second victories this season the odds are against them to finish the regular season without losing and if it does happen I’d rather it be at the hands of the patriots than it be the winless browns. Speaking of mystical, I’ve been wondering if Mr. Rooney has had his hand on this team this season.

  • Conserv_58

    The pats own the Steelers ever since Brady took over as their QB. It’s certainly not the Steelers defense.

  • Mark

    My simple plan for stopping Brady (saw the Broncos do this to TB12 and it worked)
    1. Line up 6 defenders on the line of scrimmage (LOS)
    2. Each defender is the A – C gaps on both sides of the ball
    3. The A Gap defenders are solely responsible for putting pressure on Tom Brady. Do not worry about runs or screens. Just get pressure on Tom (Cam, Tuitt, Hargrave, AluAlu, and Walton)
    4. The B gap defenders are responsible for runs, screen passes, pass rush, dropping into coverage (Vince, Moats, Spence)
    5. The C gap defenders are responsible for runs, screens passes, and dropping into coverage.

    However, we are only going to rush only 2 or less of the B and C Gap defenders. This will change depending on how the Patriots choose to block this. We must confuse the Patriot linemen on who is coming from the B and C gaps to get to Tom because he releases the ball so quick.

  • Jonathan Bell

    sorry to be a Debbie Downer- I’m a HUGE steelers fan since childhood in late 70’s- but I honestly have a difficult time seeing how the middle of the field will be anything other than wide open target practice for Brady. And even more with- or especially since- Shazier is gone. His speed, intelligence and instincts compensated for/masked a lot of shortcomings and mistakes. Without him their D quickly drops off from very good to very average.
    add to that our pass rush has grown anemic, in particular the disappointing performance of late of B Dupree. Even the push from Tuitt, Hargrave and Heyward appears to have slackened.
    as for Watt, he’s a rookie. unrealistic to hang one’s expectations on a rookie, no matter how much promise.
    add to that the less than solid run defense and middling IL play..
    add to that the continued, well-chronicled unreliability of the secondary.
    It will take, I believe a special, if not brilliant, defensive game plan devised by Butler (of which I am not so confident he is capable), plus a truly inspired sum-is-greater-than-the-parts type defensive cohesion, to keep the game close.
    If kept close, yes, of course the Steelers have a shot.

    But all in all, I don’t really see, at this juncture, a truly meaningful improvement over last year’s defense.
    That said, the cliche still applies: anything’s possible on any given Sunday.
    GO STEELERS!!!!

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Hopefully by Sunday it improves somewhat

  • Darth Blount 47

    Slightly under-reported fact:

    New England has to play us on what will be a short week for them, after having to play tonight. Hey, it might not be much, but if the ‘Phins can beat them up a a little, I’ll take any kind of advantage I can get, no matter how potentially minuscule!

  • blcartwright

    Checking ratings on Football Outsiders…

    Pats and Brady are still the best on offense…the Steelers just shredded the #1 overall defense and #2 pass defense of the Ravens

    The Pats do suck on D this year, but have played better recently, up to #20 vs pass, #32 vs run. Being that bad vs running of Bell & maybe some Conner hopefully allows for the Pats’ D being less able to predict the Steelers’ play calling.

    Pats pass D struggles to a #24 ranking vs #1 WR’s, while average to slightly above vs #2 WR, other WR, TE & RB.

    They are good defending the pass to right or left, but very weak up the middle. Good vs short, but weak vs deep. Strong vs short right & deep left. weak vs short middle & deep middle.

    Pat’s run D is dead last. Avg in power rank, scraping the bottom in stuffed, 2nd level & open field rank.

    My plan would be lots of handing to Bell and passing to Brown up the middle

  • Matt Manzo

    As long as it’s a win, I wouldn’t mind dying. I’d hate to die during a game that we lost!!

  • pittfan

    +1,000,000
    Ride or die! All in!!!

  • PaeperCup

    I’d take that. I’m not a Rivers fan, but if somehow he’s still in the hunt and the Steelers get bounced, I’d root for him to get a title. That would have to make that QB class the second best ever, right?

  • PaeperCup

    Rookie Ben beat a record setting Patriots team on Halloween. I will never forget it. The Pats had won 22 straight games until then. But the Rook couldn’t finish the job in the playoffs.

  • 太阳三联

    I was so trashed for this game. Won a tuiit jersey and a Steelers cooler at a bar 😂😂😂😂

  • pittfan

    chowderheads give up lots of yards but not many points.but you’re right. it’s being overlooked that we hung a 39 burger on a top defense last night. THEY have to stop us as well.

  • Josh

    really interesting question about QB classes. Elway & those guys – as great as they were – lost a lot of Super Bowls…

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    I agree. 2008 was a pre Goodell game when they could actually play defense and get physical. I think Harrison still has that type of dominance. May not be as quick but he’s just explosive enough and certainly powerful enough to get under and out leverage ANY offensive tackle in that league. Butler should throw the sink at this team which includes a heavy dose of Harrison. They’re going to have to sell out against the Patriots on defense with all hands on deck. This is the game. This is it. This determines the easiest route to the Superbowl. They would be crazy not to play Harrison in this game in heavy rotation, especially with no Shazier.