NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots Preview
Welcome to the NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about the Steelers and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Preview, the Steeler’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Fantasy Football Impact, Game Information, Individual Stats, Team Stats, the latest Injury Report, down to the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!
Steelers Look To Secure Home Field Advantage and Avenge Losses to the Patriots
They say the only way to fight fire is with fire.
Everyone knows how Tom Brady and the New England Patriots can light up a scoreboard.
Thankfully, so can the Pittsburgh Steelers, who boast a bevy of offensive talent.
It’s a nice problem to have when you have a lot of guys that can make plays,” Ben Roethlisberger said. “When they’re going to take one or two guys away, other guys need to step up, and that’s going to be the key to the game.
“We have a good group of guys here now that can do different things. We have guys that can stretch the field. We have guys that can be physical and get open. Does that mean we’re going to win the game or they’re going to win their matchups? Not necessarily, but I like the direction we’re headed. We need to beat what we see.”
Roethlisberger knows the Patriots have been a thorn in the side of the Steelers for years but he is still focused on winning just one week at a time instead of gaining revenge for past futility against New England.
“They’re one of the better teams of my generation, with one of the best coaches and best players,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve often said not only do their players beat you but their coaches out-coach you. They’ve been a team that not only has had our number, they’ve had most teams in the league’s number.
“You’ve heard me say it, that every game is the biggest game of the season and that’s the reason this game is. That’s no disrespect to New England, it’s this week’s game. That’s why it’s the biggest game of the season for me.”
“There’s obviously a lot at stake, but there’s more at stake in the championship game — obviously, a chance to go to the Super Bowl, which they did and we didn’t,” Roethlisberger continued. “It’s still a big game, but it is a regular-season game. It’s one that’s got some implications moving forward.”
Coming off a 506-yard passing performance against the Ravens, and now 2nd in the league in passing behind only Tom Brady, Big Ben, and the Steeler offense is peaking at the right time.
Since week six, Roethlisberger has completed 64.5 percent for an average of 298.1 yards a game, with 18 touchdowns and just six interceptions.
“I think he already had his mind-set up that he was going to try to have a great year,” center Maurkice Pouncey said, “and push this team to the championship.”
While the offense will be looking to put as many points up on the board as possible, the Steeler defense is looking to return to early season form where they were dominant both against the pass and the run.
Too many broken coverages, poor tackling, and injuries have allowed this defense to be scorched time and time again for the past 4-5 weeks.
To disrupt the New England offense, you have to be physical with their players and keep Tom Brady under pressure.
Corner Artie Burns definitely took notice of how Miami played the Patriots last Monday when they defeated New England 27-20.
“They definitely got hands on him,” Burns said. “If you watch the corners, the linebacker, they had hands on them down the line, down the field on the route, that kept the disruption on the timing of the route between Brady and the receiver. That’s something we looked at on tape and are gonna take it into our game.”
In the past, the Steelers have repeatedly used a Zone against Brady, who tore through it like a hot knife through butter.
“To get through this championship round, we have to play physical ball, man to man,” Burns said. “It’s best to play man against Tom Brady. That’s what we’ve seen on film.”
The Steelers and safety Mike Mitchell will also use a committee approach in trying to contain the league’s best tight end in Rob Gronkowski.
“We’ve got several guys we’re going to try to throw (at him),” Mitchell said. “It’s going to require coaches calling the right calls, it’s going be us executing everything they call to a T. There’s no real one real answer.”
One thing is for sure. Both teams love being in this type of game and atmosphere. Especially Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
“I love it,” said Tomlin. “It’s good to be in big games. It’s better to be in big games than ones nobody is watching.”
“We better be appreciative of this spot, and not resist it in any way, but embrace it. This is what we’ve been fighting for since March. To be in these types of games, it’s an awesome thing.”
Steelers Keys To Victory
- Utilize Le’Veon Bell Everywhere! Bell is a match-up nightmare. Line him up all over the field and keep the Patriots guessing.
- Secure the Ball! The last thing you want to do is give Tom Brady and the Patriots extra chances.
- Ball Control! Brady and the Patriots can’t score if they don’t have the ball…
- Be Physical! Other than Gronkowski, most of the Patriots are little guys who are susceptible to physical play. Hit em hard and often and knock them off their routes.
- Attack Brady! If the Steelers go to a Zone, they need their collective heads examined. Pressure Brady, especially on inside blitzes where he is weakest at picking up.
It’s the game of the year in the NFL, and Home Field Advantage is on the table throughout the playoffs for the winner of this one.
Heinz Field will be rocking in anticipation of the Steelers finally getting the best of Tom Brady and the Patriots.
If the Steelers have been paying attention, the best way to get to Brady is to disguise blitzes from the inside. They need to pressure Brady and knock him around unlike in past meetings. Physical play against the Patriot’s small, but speedy and agile receivers is a must.
You can’t help but love what you see out of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steeler offense the past month. Big Ben has taken this team on his shoulders and has led by example.
This will likely be the first of two meetings between these two combatants, and this one will likely decide where the next one will be played. If there is one place the Steelers players and their fans love, it’s January football inside the confines of Heinz Field.
“We’re ready for the challenge,” defensive lineman Javon Hargrave said. “We know it’s a big week. It’s kind of what everyone has been waiting for. Everyone is hype about this game. We’re really up for the challenge and trying to disrupt some things.”
Steelers 34 Patriots 30
NFL Week 15
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2) vs New England Patriots (10-2)
Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.
Game-time: Sunday, December 17th, 4:25 pm
TV: CBS (KDKA-TV) | Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play) Tony Romo (analyst) | Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 102.5 WDVE-FM | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Tunch Ilkin (analyst) | Craig Wolfley (sideline)
National Radio: ESPN Radio | Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play) Bill Polian (analyst) | Sal Paolantonio (sideline)
Weather at Kickoff: 42 and cloudy. 25% chance of rain.
Vegas Line: New England -2.5
- Series History: Series began in 1972.
- The Steelers are 14-11 in the overall Regular Season series against the Patriots.
- Steelers are 10-7 playing at home vs the Patriots.
- Streak: Patriots won previous three meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 23, 2016, in Pittsburgh – New England Patriots 27 Pittsburgh Steelers 16
- Steelers are 1-4 in the Post-Season vs the Patriots.
- Last Post-Season Meeting: Jan. 22, 2017 – Foxborough, Mass.- New England Patriots 36 Pittsburgh Steelers 17 (AFC Championship)
- New England asst. ST coach Ray Ventrone was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., and is a graduate of Chartiers Valley High School.
- New England RB Dion Lewis rushed for the Pitt Panthers for two years (2009-10).
- The Pittsburgh Steelers look to extend their current win streak to nine with a win on Sunday evening.
- Ben Roethlisberger with a win, would improve to 4-5 vs. New England in the regular season as a starter and to 3-2 at home vs. the Patriots.
- Antonio Brown needs one touchdown to break a tie with John Stallworth (64) for sole possession of the fourth-most total touchdowns by a Steeler in team history (rushing+receiving+returning).
- Brown, with 100 catches in 2017, will become the first player in NFL history to record 100 or more receptions in five consecutive years.
- Le’Veon Bell is 229 rushing yards from surpassing Willie Parker (5,378) for the third most in Steelers history.
- James Harrison is 2.5 sacks from 85 in his career with the Steelers.
- Chris Boswell is three field goals shy of setting a new single-season team record (Norm Johnson, 1995, 34).
- Cam Heyward will extend his single-season career-high in sacks with his next quarterback takedown (9.0 in 2017).
A look at the Pittsburgh Steelers!
Overall Record: 11-2
Head Coach: Mike Tomlin (11th Season with Steelers)
Overall Regular Season Record: 114-59 (.659)
Playoff Record: 8-6 (Qualified for playoffs 7 times)
Last Game: Steelers 39 Ravens 38
Scouting the Steelers
Quarterback – Ben Roethlisberger leads a vastly underperforming offense that has the ability to beat you via the ground or the air. Big Ben has normally been outstanding at home but has struggled to put up the same numbers on the road the past few seasons.
Running Backs – Le’Veon Bell is considered to be one of the best all-around backs in the NFL, if not thee best. Bell can kill you on the ground with his speed and elusiveness. He is patient, often delaying a second to find the hole to burst through. Bell is also dangerous out of the backfield as a pass catcher. James Conner will spell Bell from time to time.
Wide Receivers – Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. You can count on five catches for at least 50 yards every week at a minimum. This wideout group is extremely deep and talented. Martavis Bryant is a deep threat on every play with his size and speed. Eli Rogers is excellent from the slot. Justin Hunter has superior speed and is also a deep threat. Rookie Juju Smith-Schuster is looking to make his mark in the NFL in his first season and is already becoming a reliable Roethlisberger target. Darrius Heyward-Bey is mainly used on special teams but is a dependable player when called upon in the passing game.
Tight Ends – Jesse James is the starter and becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets around the end zone. Vance McDonald is a big target that can make splash plays for Roethlisberger across the middle and inside the red zone. Xavier Grimble is also a nice option for Ben inside the 10-yard line.
Defense – The Steeler defense is primed for an awakening in 2017. On the 3-4 defensive line, it’s Cam Heyward, Javon Hargrave, and Stephon Tuitt. Daniel McCullers will rotate with Hargrave. Should Tuitt or Heyward go down, Tyson Alualu or L.T. Walton would step in.
At linebacker, rookie TJ Watt starts at OLB, with Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams in the middle. Bud Dupree stands opposite of Watt. Both can get at the quarterback and disrupt the opposing team’s passing game. Shazier was a stud in the middle and his speed makes him a nightmare for any QB who makes a mistake across the middle. With Shazier out, Arthur Moats, Tyler Matakevich, and Sean Spence will make the best of a bad situation. Don’t count out James Harrison, who will rotate in to spell Watt or Dupree. Anthony Chickillo will also step in for injuries to Watt or Dupree on the outside and is making a name for himself every time he steps on the field.
The secondary has been revamped with the addition of Joe Haden at corner. He won’t have to guard the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver on every down, as that job falls to Artie Burns. Coty Sensabaugh is the backup corner. Mike Mitchell lines up at free safety, with J.J. Wilcox or Robert Golden backing him up if injured. Sean Davis is getting better by the game at strong safety. Mike Hilton and Will Gay will be in at slot corner positions when called upon.
Ben Roethlisberger (3,744 yards passing | 24 TD passes | 13 interceptions | 19 sacks | 38 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Le’Veon Bell (1,105 yards rushing | 7 rushing TD’s | 75 receptions | 579 yards receiving | 2 receiving TD’s)
James Conner (131 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Antonio Brown (99 receptions | 1,509 receiving yards | 9 receiving TD’s)
Juju Smith-Schuster (37 receptions | 585 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Martavis Bryant (37 receptions | 419 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Eli Rogers (15 receptions | 124 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Justin Hunter (3 receptions | 18 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Darrius Heyward-Bey (1 receptions | 44 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Jesse James (39 receptions | 356 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
Vance McDonald (9 receptions | 131 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Xavier Grimble (3 receptions | 22 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
Chris Boswell (Extra Point: 26-28 | FG: 32-35 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 10-10 | 30-39: 10-12 | 40-49: 9-10 | 50+: 3-3 | Long: 53)
A look at the New England Patriots!
Overall Record: 10-3
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (18th Season with Patriots)
Overall Regular Season Record: 247-118 (.677) | 211-74 (.740) with Patriots
Playoff Record: 26-10 (Qualified for playoffs 15 times)
Last Week: Dolphins 27 Patriots 20
Scouting the Patriots
Quarterback- It’s Tom Brady. ‘Nuff said.
Running Backs – The Patriots use their backs in various ways. Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White are all dual threats. Mike Gillislee has been in Belichick’s doghouse.
Wide Receivers – Not dominant. Brandin Cooks is very talented. Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan fit the Patriots scheme of fast little receivers. Kenny Britt was just signed.
Tight Ends – Rob Gronkowski is the league’s best tight end.
Defense – They’ve been an average unit for most of the year. Prone to some good games against lesser offenses.
Tom Brady (3,865 yards passing | 27 TD passes | 6 interceptions | 29 sacks | 24 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
Dion Lewis (607 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 20 receptions | 137 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
Mike Gillislee (355 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
Rex Burkhead (252 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 29 receptions | 242 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
James White 171 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 54 receptions | 421 yards receiving | 3 receiving TD’s)
Brandon Cooks (54 receptions | 924 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Danny Amendola (52 receptions | 565 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Chris Hogan (34 receptions | 439 receiving yards | 5 receiving TD’s)
Kenny Britt (18 receptions | 233 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
Rob Gronkowski (55 receptions | 849 receiving yards | 7 receiving TD’s)
Martellus Bennett (6 receptions | 53 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
Stephon Gostkowski (Extra Point: 37-38 | FG: 31-34 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 14-14 | 30-39: 7-7 | 40-49: 6-9 | 50+: 4-4 | Long: 62)
Fantasy Football Impact
Start: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, RB Le’Veon Bell, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Sleeper: TE Jesse James
Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell are always going to be in your starting line-up if you are lucky enough to have them. Ben Roethlisberger is on fire and only trails Brady in passing yards. This will most likely be a shootout, so JuJu Smith-Schuster and Jesse James should see plenty of passes their way.
New England Patriots
Start: QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Rex Burkhead
Sleeper: WR Brandon Cooks
One never sits Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski. Rex Burkhead could be a problem out of the backfield for the Steelers.
Steelers-Patriots: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Steelers Offense: Steelers average 391.1 | Patriots allow 374.6 YPG
Rushing: Steelers average 99.7 YPG | Patriots allow 120.7 YPG
Passing: Steelers average 291.4 YPG | Patriots allow 253.9 YPG
Scoring: Steelers average 24.6 PPG | Patriots allow 19.2 PPG
Steelers Defense: Steelers allow 303.8 YPG | Patriots average 413.4 YPG
Rushing: Steelers allow 102.9 YPG | Patriots average 113.2 YPG
Passing: Steelers allow 200.8 YPG | Patriots average 300.2 YPG
Scoring: Steelers allow 19.3 PPG | Patriots average 28.3 PPG
Injury Report (12/9/2017)
Out: LB Ryan Shazier (Back), TE Vance McDonald (Shoulder)
Questionable: CB Joe Haden (Fibula), CB Coty Sensabaugh (Shoulder), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (Hamstring)
New England Patriots
Out: DL Alan Branch (Knee)
Questionable: DL Trey Flowers (Rib), CB Stephon Gilmore (Ankle), LB David Harris (Ankle), WR Chris Hogan (Shoulder), DB Brandon King (Hamstring), DL Eric Lee (Ankle), WR Matthew Slater (Hamstring), LB Kyle Van Noy (Calf), OT LaAdrian Waddle (Ankle), DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (Foot)
Pittsburgh Steelers 2017 Schedule
Friday, Aug. 11 @ New York Giants W, 20-12 (KDKA)
Sunday, Aug. 20 ATLANTA W, 17-13 (KDKA)
Saturday, Aug. 26 INDIANAPOLIS L, 19-15 (KDKA)
Thursday, Aug. 31 @ Carolina W, 17-14 (KDKA)
REGULAR SEASON (11-2)
Sunday, Sept. 10 @ Cleveland 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 21-18
Sunday, Sept. 17 MINNESOTA 1 p.m. (FOX), W – 26-9
Sunday, Sept. 24 @ Chicago 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 17-23
Sunday, Oct. 1 @ Baltimore 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 26-9
Sunday, Oct. 8 JACKSONVILLE 1 p.m. (CBS), L – 9-30
Sunday, Oct. 15 @ Kansas City 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 19-13
Sunday, Oct. 22 CINCINNATI 4:25 p.m. (CBS), W – 29-14
Sunday, Oct. 29 @ Detroit* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W – 20-15
Sunday, Nov. 5 BYE WEEK
Sunday, Nov. 12 @ Indianapolis* 1 p.m. (CBS), W – 20-17
Thursday, Nov. 16 TENNESSEE 8:25 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon), W – 40-17
Sunday, Nov. 26 GREEN BAY* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W – 31-28
Monday, Dec. 4 @ Cincinnati 8:30 p.m. (ESPN), W – 23-20
Sunday, Dec. 10 BALTIMORE* 8:30 p.m. (NBC), W – 39-38
Sunday, Dec. 17 NEW ENGLAND* 4:25 p.m. (CBS)
Monday, Dec. 25 @ Houston 4:30 p.m. (NBC/ NFL Network/Amazon)
Sunday, Dec. 31 CLEVELAND* 1 p.m. (CBS)
* – Times may change due to ﬂexible scheduling
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 6-7 Wild Card Weekend
Sat.-Sun., Jan. 13-14 Divisional Playoﬀ Games
Sunday, Jan. 21 Conference Championships
Sunday, Jan. 28 Pro Bowl (Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, Feb. 4 Super Bowl LII (Minneapolis, Minn.)