It was not long after the dust settled on the Patriots’ loss to the Dolphins that attention began to shift to what’s next: a showdown with the Steelers with the top seed in the AFC on the line.
So to keep you up to speed on the latest storylines from the Pittsburgh side, we’ve partnered with our colleagues at the Post-Gazette to bring you excerpts of their coverage with links to the full versions. (Note: A limited number of free article views are available on the Post-Gazette website, and a four-week subscription is $12).
Here’s Tuesday’s installment:
Can the Patriots stop the Steelers offense? No way.
By Paul Zeise
The Ravens scored at will on the Steelers at times Sunday, which prompted the question: “How many points will Tom Brady score against this awful defense next week?’’
Answer: It doesn’t matter.
The real question is how in the world the Patriots — or any team — will stop the Steelers offense. The Steelers are almost unstoppable. This is the offense we all envisioned — the high-powered offense the Steelers bragged about in the preseason. It doesn’t really matter whether Brady and the Patriots put 40 points on the Steelers defense because the Steelers offense might put up 50.
I know the record and history, but none of that means a thing come Sunday at Heinz Field.
The Steelers and Patriots defenses are moving in opposite directions
By Ray Fittipaldo
Take a glance at NFL statistics, and you might get the idea the Steelers are well-positioned for the game Sunday against the New England Patriots, a contest that likely will decide the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Statistically speaking, the Steelers are one of the top defenses in the league, a top-10 defense in points allowed, total defense, rushing defense and pass defense. In fact, their pass defense is ranked the highest, with a No. 4 overall ranking.
The Patriots will stroll into Heinz Field with one of the lowest-ranked defenses in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. They are currently 26th against the pass and give up 54 more passing yards per game than the Steelers do entering New England’s “Monday Night Football’’ game against the Miami Dolphins.
Sorry, Steelers fans, but it’s a mirage. This is a prime example of how statistics can be misleading.
The Patriots’ ranking is due mostly to their horrid start, not the way they have played lately. Conversely, the Steelers defense started strong but is fading fast. They are allowing an average of 263.5 passing yards over their past four games and have surrendered seven touchdown passes.
All right, NOW it’s time to talk about that Patriots game
By Ed Bouchette
Next up, the elephant in the room.
“And now it’s on to the Patriots. Now it’s here,’’ Steelers offensive guard David DeCastro declared.
Finally, the game of the year in the NFL takes place at 4:25 p.m. Sunday at Heinz Field, three weeks after Mike Tomlin broke the coaches’ unwritten code and began talking about it as possibly “Part 1’’ of a two-part series that inevitably could lead to an AFC championship rematch.
The Steelers put themselves in prime position to earn one of the two top AFC seeds that earn first-round playoff byes, a home game the following week and one win into the AFC title game.
The game Sunday against New England could well decide where that championship is held. It’s something the Steelers have been talking about since the spring and through training camp — earning home playoff games.
The Steelers are primed for a deep playoff run
By Ron Cook
The AFC championship is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. Jan. 21. That isn’t good for the Steelers. That isn’t good at all.
OK, so maybe I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. The Steelers have much work to do before they earn a spot in the game. But if it’s OK for Mike Tomlin to look that far down the road, why can’t I do it? I love the Steelers’ chances of getting there. I love their chances of winning and going to Super Bowl LII as long as they beat the New England Patriots Sunday and get the AFC title game at Heinz Field.
I just wish, for the Steelers’ sake, it was the second of the two conference championships and started at 6:40 p.m.
I’ve been in the business for about 70 years and can’t remember a better streak than the one the Steelers have going in regular-season, prime-time home games. Somehow, they found a way to keep it going with their 39-38 resurrection-from-the-dead win Sunday night against the Baltimore Ravens. They are 25-7 in prime-time home games since Heinz Field opened in 2001.