The Steelers are coming into Foxborough Sunday with arguable the best wide receiver and the best running back in the NFL, a quarterback and a coach with Super Bowl rings, and a pass rush that has been getting better every week. On the surface, it seems like one of the toughest matchups for an NFL team you could imagine. However, the Steelers inconsistency over the last handful of years with their current group of skilled players tells another story. Despite having this core for quite some time now, this will be the Steelers 1st AFC championship appearance since 2012, and the Patriots 6th.
Despite all that firepower the offense has accumulated for their Super Bowl winning quarterback, the last time the Steelers and Patriots met in the playoffs was 2005. Ever since the Steelers lost their steel curtain defense with Troy Polamalu and Lamarr Woodley, they haven’t been able to consistently win as a football team, and even when they did have those guys, under Mike Tomlin the Steelers have only beaten Tom Brady’s Patriots once. In fact, Brady has historically shredded Tomlin defenses.
On top of all that, Ben Roethlisberger on the road has been an ugly sight for Steelers fans. Even though the Steelers won last week on the road, they didn’t find the end zone even one time in that game, and the blame can mostly fall on the quarterback, who ended his day with no touchdowns and an interception. That type of quarterbacking isn’t gonna beat the Patriots, just ask Brock Osweiler. The stats from last week can be added onto the already abysmal Roethlisberger road numbers.
The numbers bear it out, the Steelers shouldn’t scare you. There’s a reason this is the first time they’ve been in the AFC championship game in 6 seasons. It’s because they don’t win consistently enough, and when they are matched up against high level coaching, Mike Tomlin gets out witted and loses. Just look at the teams they’ve been eliminated by in the last 2 seasons. Last year it was the Super Bowl winning Denver Broncos coaching staff. The year before that it was likely the second best coach in the league in John Harbaugh. When the Steelers are matched up against a team with equal or better talent, they get out coached, because Mike Tomlin is not a coach, he’s a cheerleader. He doesn’t make in-game adjustments, and he doesn’t make personnel decisions, he delegates all those responsibilities off. The smart thing to do this game would be to do what the Texans did and match up their best pass rusher, Bud Dupree, against David Andrews and let him smoke him, but the Steelers probably won’t do that because of Mike Tomlin’s “We do what we do” mantra.
So what’s gonna happen? The Steelers will run their zone defense, and Julian Edelman will just sit in the middle of it and probably end up with something like 11 catches for 78 yards, and the Steelers will struggle with tight ends, like they always do, and if Martellus Bennett plays the way he should he’ll probably end up with 6 catches for 68 yards and a touchdown, and the Steelers will probably be down 28-14 in the 4th and score a late touchdown and the Patriots will win 28-21, just like they did in week 1 of 2015 in Foxborough.
The Steelers are in Foxborough this week and come in with a coach that doesn’t have a clue, a wide receiver that doesn’t know when he probably shouldn’t be using Facebook live, a quarterback who is past his prime, and a running back who already knows what happens when you face Tom Brady.