Tom Brady and Bill Belichick simply own the Steelers. It doesn’t matter who the supporting cast is around the duo. It doesn’t matter if they were easily beaten by the Cleveland Browns last week. It doesn’t matter if it is 2002 or 2010.
The faces change, but the game plan doesn’t. Brady got rid of almost every pass quickly and accurately and picked the Steelers apart during a 39 to 26 win which was a lot more lopsided than the final score indicated. Anytime the Patriots ran the ball, they were doing Pittsburgh a favor. Brady could have put up 50+ points in this game if they went full-throttle for 60 minutes. This was the most points the Steelers have allowed in a game since the 2004 AFC championship game which was against…New England.
Even if the Steelers had limited Brady, it wouldn’t have mattered. The offensive line was putrid and Ben Roethlisberger was a bit wild with his throws while the game was still within reach. At half, Brady had completed nearly 75 percent of his throws while Roethlisberger was muddling along at 35%. Hines Ward was knocked out of the game early as well with a head/neck injury. When they were able to move the ball, they stalled inside the 10 yard line, a surprise to no one. Jeff Reed even missed a chip shot field goal to pour salt into the wound. The fact that the Steelers were simply outclassed by a team that started 4 rookies on defense and gave up 34 points to the Cleveland Browns last week is pathetic. The Steelers have some serious issues on the offensive line right now and things aren’t likely to get better anytime soon.
Lest I forget the coaching in this one too. Belichick might have cheated earlier in his career, but he clearly outcoached the Steelers in every phase of this game. The Steelers have more talent than the Patriots by a decent margin, but they couldn’t match the intensity that New England had from the opening kickoff and the Steelers adjustments didn’t seem to start working until Heinz Field was 3/4 of the way empty.
Jump the page for 10 other thoughts on the loss…
10 other thoughts….
1. Injuries are killing this team. Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Willie Colon, Chris Kemoeatu, Max Starks, Hines Ward. Every single one of those guys have been key contributors in both of the Steelers recent Super Bowl wins. All of them missed the entire game or most of it. Star LB Lawrence Timmons missed most of the game as well. Those absences are starting to show.
2. When was the last Steelers/Patriots game in Pittsburgh that DIDN’T include an interception returned for a touchdown by New England? 1915?
3. As good as Brady and Belichick’s gameplan was, it’s not too much different from the same type of passing attack that lesser teams like the Bears and Raiders have beaten the Steelers with over the past few seasons. The Steelers simply haven’t figured out how to beat a quick, underneath passing attack.
4. James Harrison was involved in several scraps after the whistle. Other than that, he was invisible most of the night. Tough to get pressure when the ball is coming out of the QB’s hands that quickly.
5. If Jeff Reed gets cut on Monday, I really wouldn’t care. I’ve stuck with him up to this point because he has been the one kicker in the NFL to figure out Heinz Field, but you can throw that out of the window now. Tomlin has to have no confidence in him at this point from any distance.
6. I’ve been waiting all year to write this, but I’d much rather have Santonio Holmes out there right now than a late round draft pick in the back pocket. The Steelers second and third receivers with Ward out were Randle-El and Emmanuel Sanders. Yikes.
7. The defense which was historic during the first three weeks of the season has merely looked ‘good’ since then. Looking back, the Steelers first three opponents were run-heavy teams: Atlanta, Tennessee and Tampa Bay. The Steelers pass defense looked great those weeks, but has been very shaky against QBs who know what they are doing. It is safe to say the secondary is a lot more comparable to the 2009 version not the Super Bowl-winning 2008 one.
8. Aside from an early TD drop, Mike Wallace was very, very good again (if you are looking for something positive.)
9. The Steelers a solid NFL team, but not a great one right now. And that is okay. As we’ve seen so many times, the thing that matters most is what team is playing the best at the end of the season. The Steelers play Oakland, Buffalo, Baltimore, Cincinnati, NY Jets, Carolina, and Cleveland the rest of the way. They should finish that stretch 5-2 or 4-3 at worst and finish the season at 11-5 or 10-6.
10. Lots of talk on Twitter at the end of the game from Steelers fans eager to face the Pats in the playoffs to enact revenge. I wasn’t one of them. The last team I would want to see in the playoffs is New England. I have no reason to believe anything would change.