It’s going to take some pretty serious stones to go against Brady and Belichick in Foxboro. You just don’t do that. Especially this time of year. And especially when they’re on their scorched earth tour as a result of Deflategate.
So the easy thing to do is to just say, these guys don’t lose at home, at night in the playoffs and they’re not going to Sunday either. So let me go the other way; let me try to make the argument for the Steelers. Let’s talk about why they have to do win.
First: it’s a misnomer to say they don’t lose in Foxboro. They do. Not very often but it has happened. And it’s happened in the playoffs. The Ravens, Jets and Giants have all gotten them.
And what did all three of the teams have in common? They were all known for Q.B. abuse. They all got to the q.b.
Even last week against Houston, Brady struggled. That was actually a game still in the fourth quarter? Why? Because the Texans have a great pass rush. And they hit and harassed Brady much of the game.
Now, the Steelers may or may not be as effective as the Texans coming off the edge, but they did have thirty sacks in the second half the season. So you know they can get there; and they’re obviously going to have to, to win this game.
Question is, can they? I don’t know. Denver did last year; they just pin their ears back and came after Brady. And they did, because they could; they had the personnel. And they did because; the Pats weren’t running it as effectively as they are now: they didn’t have to respect the run game the way opponents do now, with both LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis killing it.
No, the Pats still don’t have Gronk but they do have Martellus Bennett and another unsung hero in wide out Chris Hogan and either one or both of those guys have a big game, that’s going to make it awfully tough for Pittsburgh.
But I’d said I’d make an argument for the Steelers, so here it is. Best way to beat the Patriots is to hit Brady. Repeatedly. As Al Davis like to say, “the quarterback must go down. And he must go down hard.”
And the next best way to beat the Patriots is to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. Obviously, in order to do that, put in Le’Veon bell’s hands. This dude is the best back in the league. That goes without saying. But this guy is incredible. The Steelers postseason rushing record stood for 42 years; he broke it twice in two weeks. No one has been able to slow him for weeks. Meanwhile no one has gained more than 90 yards against the Patriots on the ground in more than 20 games. This is a fascinating matchup. And I’d argue, you know exactly what you’re going to get with Bell. But looking at who they’ve played, and the backs they’ve gone up against, I’m still not exactly sure about the Pats run defense. It’s good. But is it good enough to neutralize Bell. I don’t know. I’m not sold. And if he does what he’s been doing all year long, the Steelers are going to win.
Of course, the Hood thrives on taking away the one thing you do best: and the one thing the Steelers do best right now, is run it. But even if the Pats take away that and I’m not sure they can, how are they doing to take away Antonio Brown, who is arguably the best receiver in the game? How are you going to take away both those things? They’re probably not.
And then it comes down to Big Ben.
Fact is, he was solid this year, but all the metrics and numbers would suggest, he was not at his best: not the Big Ben at all: but that’s not to say he can’t get back to that level. He can. And he has to. And really, he has no excuse not to: he has the best running back in the league. He might have the best receiver in the league. Hell, I’d argue right now, he has the best offensive line in the league; at least over the last 8 or so weeks. So he has no excuse. Especially given that the Pats really didn’t even put that much pressure on Brock Osweiler last week.
So, while it’s nearly impossible to go against the Pats in Foxboro, especially this time of year, there’s your argument for Pittsburgh: crack Brady… makes a few key plays defensively… run the hell out of Le’Veon Bell to spin clock and keep the ball out of Brady’s hands, and when the Pats load up on him, trust that Big Ben, will go Big Ben knowing this could be one of his last chances and there’s no way he wants to go 0-4 against the Pats in Foxboro. Tough to say they will do it, but there’s no doubt in my mind, they can do it.