What transpired Sunday between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t have been more strange. All signs pointed to the Steelers being in for another beating at the hands of the Patriots. Instead, Pittsburgh finally got the victory over their hated rivals. How they got it is nothing short of incredible. Let’s highlight some the numerous crazy things that transpired:
Turnover battler lost…..again: We’ve pretty much beaten to death the Steelers inability to get turnovers. Another fact we have beaten to death is Ben Roethlisberger’s habit of throwing costly interceptions. Both these things happened, and yet they were still able to come out victorious. Not many teams lose the turnover battle against the Patriots, and still come away with a victory.
Penalties: If you had to choose pre-game which team would shoot themselves in the foot with penalties, you’d pick the Steelers every single time in this matchup. Pittsburgh led the league in penalties for a good portion of the season, while New England sits at the bottom ten in that category. Well low and behold it was the Pats who took 14 costly penalties in the game. Before this game the Steelers had taken 22 more penalties than New England for the season.
Eli Rogers?: It’s been quite a while since we saw Eli Rogers in a Steelers uniform. Rogers got hurt, put on IR, released, re-signed, put back on IR, and now here he is. Not only back, but contributing in his first game of the season. At times, he looked like he had never been gone at all. Just another on the list of improbable things that would take place in this game.
Jaylen Samuels??: When it became clear on Friday that James Conner would be out for Sunday, most believed the running game would be out the window. No one in their right mind could have predicted Jaylen Samuels run total for this game. Samuels channeled his inner Le’Veon, and went off for an astounding 142 yards on the ground. Granted New England’s run defense is sub-par, but this is simply remarkable.
James “freakin” Washington!!: If I had told you that James Washington would lead the team in receiving yards, you’d have thought one of two things. Either you’d think I may need some time in a mental facility, or that AB, JuJu, and the rest of the receivers had missed the bus to the game. James Washington picked one hell of a time to have his breakout game. While it was only three catches for 65 yards, its a great sign that the rookie may finally be ready to make an impact going forward.
Gronk no-show: Rob Gronkowski absolutely feasts on the Pittsburgh Steelers. His last three games against Pittsburgh resulted in 168, 93, and 94 yards receiving. So what happened Sunday when he could only manage two catches for 21 yards? Some say Gronk has lost a step or two, but give credit to the Steelers for finally having a decent plan to stop him as well. After all, Gronkowski was coming off the Miami game where he had 107 yards and a touchdown.
Dominant defense??: That’s not a phrase used to describe the Pittsburgh Steelers in close to ten years now. Full disclosure, I was ready to run Keith Butler out of town after that opening drive. The Chris Hogan touchdown was so reminiscent of every other game between these two lately. The Steelers shut the door on the Patriots offense after that however. This has to be the best performance in the Keith Butler era by far.
Out-coached: No not Mike Tomlin. Not this time. This time it was Bill Belichick scrambling for answers. It was the New England coaching staff that failed to make any worth while halftime adjustments. This time it was the Steelers who had the correct game-plan. Mike Tomlin has taken his share of lumps over the years, particularly when it comes to going up against Bill Belichick. When you think of how bad this team has played over this three game losing streak, its astounding how Tomlin got this team ready to beat New England. He may very well have been coaching for his job in this game. Another loss would have taken the team all the way down to the eighth seed in the AFC standings, with a game in New Orleans looming the following week. Once again however, Tomlin has righted the ship just in time for another playoff run. With the Patriots monkey off his back, there’s no telling how far this team can go.