So, what objective highlights Sunday’s game plan this week as the Patriots prepare to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in Sunday’s AFC Championship game? Try and limit the Steelers to only five field goals?
As ill-prepared and mistake-prone as the No. 1-seeded Patriots might have looked during their 34-16 win over the Houston Texans in Saturday’s divisional round playoff game, the proceedings of Sunday’s night’s playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs didn’t exactly build any added level of concern. Pittsburgh’s 18-16 win, buoyed by a six-pack of field goals by Chris Boswell, may have displayed the sheer, offensive power of stud running back Le’Veon Bell (30 carries, 170 yards rushing) and wide receiver Antonio Brown (six catches, 108 yards receiving), but it did little to sway from the potential that the Patriots’ “bend, don’t break” defense won’t have a field day on Sunday evening.
“It was not good,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after throwing for 224 yards and an interception. “But it was enough.”
For one night it was.
But there’s a major difference when it comes to the Steelers surviving the dooming mistakes that the Chiefs made Sunday night (the game would have gone into overtime if not for a holding penalty on Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher that wiped out a successful two-point conversion) and those that the Patriots managed to make (three turnovers, including two interceptions by Tom Brady, who threw two during the entire regular season) on Saturday night. The Patriots can overcome those blunders behind the best quarterback of all time and an opportunistic defense that took the spotlight at a pivotal juncture against the Texans.
The Steelers should have survived their game in Kansas City, particularly with the efficient way they moved the ball all night. The fact that they managed to get by on the benefit of a flag shouldn’t brew too much gusto as they prepare to travel to Foxborough.
Somebody tell that to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Shortly after the Steelers hit the locker room Sunday night, Brown recorded a Facebook Live video during which Tomlin can be heard off camera calling the Patriots “a******.”
“When you get to this point in the journey, men, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin is overheard saying off-camera. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s just start our preparations. We spotted those a****** a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We’re going to touch down at 4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (inaudible) and s—. It’s the chest pounding, right? Keep a low profile and let’s get ready to ball out again in a few days and be right back at it. Hey, man, that’s our story.”
Right after Tomlin finished speaking to the team, a Steelers player – also off-camera – urged the team to “keep it cool on social media.”
Well, this thing is over.
It’s no secret how the Patriots use these sorts of comments behind closed doors. Remember when Pittsburgh safety Anthony Smith guaranteed a victory over the Patriots a decade ago, only to watch Brady jaw at him while he torched him on the field? You don’t have to have as long a memory to recall the last time the Steelers played at Gillette Stadium, a portion of the loss was blamed on poor sideline communication. “That’s always the case here,” Tomlin said after complaining about having to hear Bob Socci and Scott Zolak for a period of time in the team’s headsets. The Patriots used the Steelers making plans for New Orleans prior to their AFC title bout in 2002 as one of the first “no respect” motivations under the Belichick regime.
There’s also this: Brady vs. Tomlin’s defenses over the past 10 years; Six games (5-1), 71.2 completion percentage, 315 yards per game, 118 quarterback rating.
Tom Brady career vs Mike Tomlin's defenses:
6 games (5-1 record)
71.2 completion %
— Michael Dyer (@Mike_Dyer13) January 16, 2017
Oh, Brady has also thrown 19 touchdowns against the Steelers over the past decade. Zero interceptions.
That’s pretty good.
“There are a lot of things we have to do to be successful against them,’’ Roethlisberger said Sunday night. “They are the best in the world for a reason. Not an easy test coming up. Obviously possessing the ball, we have to score points. Can’t turn the ball over. There is a lot of things we are going to have to figure out to do to beat them.”
The Steelers have never beaten the Patriots with Brady at quarterback in Foxborough.
Good luck seeing it happen on Sunday.
Hey, man. That’s our own story.