Team of destiny?
Those are the sorts of words being tossed around the Pittsburgh Steelers, for some reason, as a result of the top team in the AFC mounting recent comeback after comeback over dregs of the league that they should be beating by 28.
Those are the words that seem even more jutting after the New England Patriots, who head to Pittsburgh this weekend for the biggest game of the year, were embarrassed last Monday night in Miami.
On Sunday, the Steelers can claim the No. 1 seed with a win over New England. The Patriots can try and wrestle it back where they believe it belongs.
“But this is even bigger than that,” writes Jarrett Bell in USA Today. “This is about the opportunity to prove that the Patriots’ recent run of dominance in the series won’t continue.”
Tom Brady is 10-2 against Pittsburgh. A week after throwing two against the Dolphins, it’s worthy to note he hasn’t thrown one against the Steelers in 12 years.
Team of destiny?
The one that currently owns the dynasty in the NFL will have something to decide about that.
This week’s picks
Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Steelers 27, Patriots 24. “The Steelers have won eight in a row, averaged 33.3 points in their past four games and have been pointing to this game since the schedule was released in April. The Patriots haven’t lost back to back games since 2015. The No. 1 seed in the AFC is at stake.”
Greg Cote, Miami Herald: Steelers 34, Patriots 31. ““AAAWWWK!” trumpets the Upset Bird. “Time for Steelers to get the monkey off their baaawwwk!” It’s a rare Game of the Week/Upset of the Week dos por uno. The first part came easier. This game likely will determine the AFC’s No. 1 seed. It’s Tom Terrific vs. Big Ben. And both have added weapons with the return of Rob Gronkowski and Juju Smith-Schuster. The GOTW selection committee deliberated about 25 seconds before pounding gavel and retiring to the Quill ‘n Swill Pub to pound beers. The upset part? Now that was a tougher sell. Patriots are 10-3 vs. Pitt under Bill Belichick, including four in a row, and including 3-0 in the postseason. That’s the monkey-on-back reference. And it’s always hard to imagine New England (made to look so shockingly ordinary by the Dolphins Monday night) losing two in a row. I see these two powers as close to even, so the pick tips on a strong home-field advantage for the ‘dogs. “Who let the dogs out!” sings U-Bird in a non-sequitur homage to the Baha Men. “Ben Roethlisbaaawwwk!”
Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Patriots 35, Steelers 31. “This is the game of the week and will go a long way to deciding the top seed in the conference. The Steelers have been winning, but they have had major issues on defense. That’s why Tom Brady and company will put up a big number and win this one. It will be a shootout, fun to watch, but Brady has dominated the Steelers and will do so here.”
CBS Sports staff: Five out of eight pick New England (Pittsburgh +3). Six out of eight pick the Pats straight-up.
David Steele, Sporting News: Steelers 31, Patriots 29. “Speaking of the MVP award, Rob Gronkowski has to be a candidate now, right, seeing how constricted the Patriots offense looked without him against the Dolphins? Of course, in a just world, he’d be suspended for this game, too, after what he did. But he’s not, so that’s a problem for a Steelers defense that struggled to slow down the Ravens. Meanwhile, the Patriots defense that was riding a bend-don’t-break rep into the Dolphins game broke a lot that night. And the Dolphins don’t have Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell.”
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Patriots 33, Steelers 27. “The Patriots didn’t play well Monday night. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were visibly unhappy with what happened in Miami. But that only means they’ll go “on to Pittsburgh” with a clear focus. Nothing related to the Patriots’ bigger goal was lost against the Dolphins. Rob Gronkowski is back to wreak havoc on the Steelers like he always does. The Patriots will have their hands full with Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, but their depth, versatility and diversity will allow them to win an expected shootout, as Brady and Belichick will continue to have Mike Tomlin’s number.”
SB Nation staff: Five out of nine pick the Steelers.
Chris Simms, Bleacher Report: Patriots 31, Steelers 27. “This game is in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers have the firepower to get into a shootout and beat New England. The Patriots have dominated the Steelers so much over the years, though, that I have to see the series swing Pittsburgh’s way before I’ll believe it.”
Jimmy Kempski, Philly Voice: Patriots. “Tom Brady is 7-2 against the Steelers over his career, with 24 TD passes and 3 INTs. In fact, over his career, Brady’s passer rating against the Steelers is 114.2. Only the Falcons have allowed a higher passer rating (116.7) when facing Brady. The Pats just seem to own them.”
Five Thirty Eight: Pittsburgh with a 53 percent chance of winning.
Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times: Steelers. “Helping matters considerably would be a win over the Patriots (10-3), who have a greater than 99 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the Playoff Simulator. Beating New England would give Pittsburgh home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and two meaningless games to help it get players healthy for them.”
Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 30, Steelers 27. “The Patriots lose so rarely that whenever they do some assume they’ll never win again. Ass. U. Me.”
Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk: Patriots 27, Steelers 24. “The Patriots will bounce back from an ugly Monday night loss to win what is the biggest game of the regular season so far.”
ESPN staff: Six out of 11 go New England.
Elliot Harrison, NFL.com: Patriots 30, Steelers 24. “Obviously, this is the second-best game of the weekend, one that everyone has circled on their calendar, right after Texans at Jags. So, we know the Patriots will have Rob Gronkowski, who is on everyone’s $#$# list after the late, late hit he laid in the Bills game. If Tom Brady has time (he was made uncomfortable repeatedly in Miami), he should capitalize on the available windows in the Steelers’ secondary that Joe Flacco couldn’t, or didn’t, take advantage of. That means Ben Roethlisberger will have to keep pace. Remember, though, that Pittsburgh couldn’t feature Le’Veon Bell in last January’s AFC Championship Game due to injury. Perhaps, with the Steelers looking to keep Brady off the field, Sunday’s affair will develop into one of those Lev Bell 35-touch games.”
It says here: Patriots 34, Steelers 23. Steelers can see the Patriots wear AFC East t-shirts in December, maybe AFC champion hats in January. In Foxborough.