It was a game Steelers fans will not soon forget, and may never get over. The gut wrenching way in which the Patriots pulled out the victory will be hard to look past. There were many things in this game that Pittsburgh fans should be excited about though.
First and foremost this is the first game in recent memory between these two teams where it didn’t seem like the Steelers were getting out-coached. Finally, Keith Butler has decided that the zones he’s played in the past don’t work against Tom Brady and the Patriots. That’s a lesson that was hammered home after the loss in the AFC Championship game last season. Pittsburgh went with significantly more man coverage this time around, and with some bit of success. Now they are still going to have to come up with some kind of solution for Rob Gronkowski in the future. Gronk seemingly provided all the big plays on the afternoon. That culminated on the last Patriots drive where Sean Davis seemed absolutely helpless in one on one coverage. Overall though the game plan put forth by Keith Butler must be applauded as it kept Tom Brady in check for most of the game. Offensively the game plan was also fantastic. The Patriots defense was on its heels the entire game. With the exception of being a little too conservative at times, Todd Haley called an excellent game.
Speaking of the offense, it’s clear now that Ben Roethlisberger is playing as well as he ever has in his career. Big Ben played a near flawless game right up until the last snap. It can be debated whether Eli Rogers was interfered with, but it’s still a pass Ben would like to have back. He finished the night 22 of 30, with 281 yards passing and 2 touchdowns in the biggest game of the season so far. This without his favorite receiver in Antonio Brown for most of the game. We all know quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. The Steelers have one playing as well as anyone in the league heading into the playoffs.
Sticking with the offense, we may have finally seen the breakout game for Martavis Bryant everyone has been waiting for. His numbers weren’t all that impressive (4/59 1TD), but he had a real impact on the game. This is a player who could make this offense nearly unstoppable if he ever got going consistently. The Steelers were well on their way to giving the Patriots major headaches when it was apparent Stephon Gilmore could not handle Bryant one on one. Doubling AB with one safety, and dropping the other in the box to help against Bell, left New England with no other options. It would have been interesting to see how much more damage Bryant could’ve done had Brown stayed in the game.
At the end of the day a loss is a loss no matter what else transpires during a game. The fact remains though that these two teams are closer than they have been in a very long time. If there is a rematch in the post-season it will undoubtedly be another tight game. Maybe next time there will be no miracle call to help rescue the Patriots. Maybe….