A Message To Steelers Fans After Loss To Patriots
A message to Pittsburgh Steelers fans everywhere: Relax! The Steelers lost to the New England Patriots 27-24 without the likes of Ryan Shazier, Joe Haden and Antonio Brown. And, although there is an L next to the game, the Steelers now know that they can not only compete with but beat Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Pats in January.
Forget about Jesse James’ catch that wasn’t really a catch. Look at the positives. After that game, the Patriots don’t want to see the Steelers in January. When these teams play again in the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers will be the ones heading to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII. Here’s why:
The New England Defense Can’t Handle the Firepower that is the Pittsburgh Offense
Le’Veon Bell had the Patriots looking like chickens running around with their heads cut off. Bell seemed to touch the ball every third play and made something positive happen almost every time. The Patriots were missing DT Alan Branch this time around, but the Pats are going to find it hard to handle Bell’s versatility in a rematch.
The Pats also had trouble with Steelers wide receivers not named Brown. A healthy Brown in the playoffs partnered with Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, and Eli Rogers is a problem that the Patriots don’t want to deal with.
The Defensive Line Can Pressure Brady
Rarely rushing more than four guys, the Steelers defensive line forced Brady into uncomfortable situations. More uncomfortable than he has ever been against the Steelers causing him to throw his first interception against the Steelers since 2005.
Keith Butler and the Steelers defense played aggressively and it would be great to see them take an even bigger step moving forward. Brady has the capability to pick apart any defense that only drops back 5 or 6 guys, blitzing more could force him into making mistakes.
Teams are hesitant to draw up heavy blitzes against him because he will make a throw in the smallest window to any receiver who slips open. Butler needs to trust his defensive backs to stay close for a second or two while the others get after Brady.
Welcome Back Joe Haden
Haden has never played in the postseason. He is getting closer and closer to a return and looks to be ready to go. This opens up many possibilities for Pittsburgh and adds a veteran presence that has been lacking.
Haden’s return also takes a less talented guy, such as Artie Burns, William Gay or Mike Hilton, out of the lineup. Getting Haden back is going to be a huge boost towards beating the Pats come January.
The Offensive Line
The Steelers have three Pro Bowl offensive linemen. Alejandro Villanueva, David DeCastro, and Maurkice Pouncey have manhandled defenders this year. Villanueva’s costly penalties against the Patriots this past Sunday won’t happen in the playoffs.
Offensive Line Coach, Mike Munchak has developed this line into one of the NFL’s best. They have all adapted to Bell’s style of running and the pass blocking has been terrific allowing only 21 sacks on the season. This group will be one of the Steelers most important units come playoff time and a Patriots rematch.
So, this message to Pittsburgh fans is a simple one. Relax. You’re in the playoffs and now know your team can beat the Patriots. For now, enjoy the Steelers beatdowns of the Texans and Browns the next two weeks and gear up for the big rematch.