Jan. 21, 2017
Steelers Preview vs New England (AFC Championship)
After an up and down season, the Pittsburgh Steelers find themselves in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots. The Steelers have not faced the Patriots in the playoffs since 2004 although it seems like they have played in more meaningful games together. The Patriots are coming off a season in which their leader, Tom Brady missed the first 4 games due to suspension. Since Brady has come back, his stats are quite impressive. Brady has recorded 28 TD passes to only 2 INTs, which is the lowest INT mark of his career. With these two teams on long win streaks, it should set up for a great matchup with Super Bowl intentions on the line.
For the Steelers, they are coming off a 18-16 win in Kansas City where they were not able to register a TD for only the second game all year. With only 18 points on the board, you would think the Steelers offense was anemic but that was not the case last Sunday. The Steelers were able to rack up 390 yards of offense with LeVeon Bell rushing for 170 yards and Antonio Brown registering over 100 yards on receptions. The main problem was inside the 30 for the Steelers as they had to settle for field goals every time they were in scoring position. In order to beat NE, they will need to turn those FG's into TD's. In terms of redzone offense, the Steelers received good news at practice today with the news that Ladarius Green was able to practice even though it was in a limited role. Having him back just adds another big play receiver to this core and will help the redzone offense.
Looking ahead to the game, it will be important for Ben Roethlisberger to have one of his best games of the year. Anytime you play Tom Brady and the Patriots, you can expect a shootout. Look for LeVeon Bell to get the ball around 30 times as he's bee the best and most consistent player on this team over this current win streak but the Steelers will still need big plays from Antonio Brown as well. On the defensive front, the pass rushers for the Steelers will be a crucial part in making Brady uncomfortable. James Harrison and Bud Dupree have done a superb job of getting pressure and even causing turnovers in the playoffs so far. The Texans defense proved you can get after Brady and cause turnovers that could change the momentum of the game.
If the Steelers are able to limit big plays from Tom Brady and create some turnovers, I believe they have a good shot in this game. They are finally healthy throughout a playoff run and this is the perfect game to be at full strength. Besides limiting Brady, the redzone offense will be the other key part to this game as NE allows the least amount of PPG of any team in the NFL. The game will take place on Sunday at 6:40pm on CBS. Respond with your predictions for the game and who the key player will be in determining that outcome.