The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their week 7 match up against the New England Patriots without Ben Roethlisberger, Cameron Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Markus Wheaton and DeAngelo Williams and with Sammie Coates injured. The Patriots have looked unstoppable this season, and the Steelers had just laid a gigantic egg Miami.
- Sounds like a recipe for a blood bath, doesn’t?
As it turns out, there’s a reason why we play games. No one gave the Steelers a chance and, in the end, they in fact lost the game. While this loss will carry consequences for the Steelers, it is entirely possible that the Steelers gained something, or perhaps potentially gained something important, the final score notwithstanding.
It Would Have Had to Have Been Perfect….
No one should kid themselves. There’s a very good reason why the Vegas bookmakers have the Patriots as Super Bowl favorites. As much as we might hate to admit it, the New England Patriots play quality football and they play it consistently. One criteria would have been sufficient to any scenario that would see the Pittsburgh Steelers upset the Patriots with Landry Jones under center:
If the Steelers were going to win this one, they would have had to have been absolutely perfect. No, that doesn’t mean 100% completions of passes, a series of no-hitter 3 and outs on defense, and every run gaining a first down. But it would have meant the Steelers would need to execute at all times – as Jim Wexell titled his pre-game article “Do. Your. Job.”
The truth is that Steelers Nation saw glimpses of that, and that’s why Pittsburgh gave the Patriots a run for their money.
- The Steelers offensive line provided incredible protection for Landry Jones,
- Likewise the line was opening holes, early on, for Le’Veon Bell
- Todd Haley smartly exploited the Patriots playing to stop the run, and got the ball to Antonio Brown
- The Steelers defense held Tom Brady & Co. check, for the game’s first 40 minutes or so
- Greg Warren, of all players, was up field and recovered a fumble
- Jarvis Jones played with gusto, stripping the ball and making several plays behind the line of scrimmage
Those are the types of plays that allowed the Steelers to stay in a game which they had no business winning. Unfortunately, the Steelers couldn’t play consistently enough across the line. The Steelers suffered 10 penalties for 85 yards – 85 yards which the offense needed and/or the defense did NOT need to yield to the Patriots.
- The Steelers also gave back a touchdown because of a penalty
- They also missed two field goals
That´s 13 points left off the board in a game that the Patriots won by 11. The Steelers were also in field goal range when Landry Jones threw his first interception in the end zone. Those are 16 points which never made it to the board for the Steelers.
You simply can’t fail to capitalize on those opportunities when you’re playing the New England Patriots, not matter who your quarterback is, let alone when your second string is starting. But even taking that into consideration, the Steelers STILL could have found a way to beat that Patriots, except for one minor detail.
Steelers Defense Gets Gonked (Again.)
Rob Gronkowski is perhaps one of the biggest difference makers in the NFL and has easily earned a spot alongside the JJ Watt’s and Antonio Brown’s as an undisputed best at his position. Yet for 2 and ahalf quarters, Keith Butler and his defense found away to keep the ball away from Gronkowski.
— Steel Curtain Rising (@SteelCurtainRis) October 23, 2016
In the next series, the Steelers got good pressure on Tom Brady and momentum seemed to have shifted in Pittsburgh’s favor….
It only took Brady 5 plays on the Patriots next poession to find Rob Gronkowski and they made the Steelers pay. The Steelers answered with a field goal, but as soon as the Patriots got the ball back Brady waited three plays before hitting Gronkowski on back to back plays, including a spectacular 37 yarder right through the center of the Steelers defense.
- And that, ladies and gentleman, was the story of the game.
Tom Brady and Rob Grownkowski can do their damage very quickly. To beat the Patriots, you must either find a way to shut them down completely or you have to play flawless football everywhere else.
- Leaving the kind of plays the Steelers left on the field and only stopping them for 3 and a half quarters worth of football simply doesn’t cut it.
The Steelers defense, to their credit, managed to force 3 and outs during the Patriots next two drives. While the Steelers could and did hand the ball to Bell, they were now in a position of needing to scores, and with Antonio Brown out and then back at less than 100% that simply wasn’t going to happen.
(Note to Mike Tomlin, don’t have Robert Golden cover Rob Gronkowski by himself again next time.)
Reminder of Another Game, Played a Long Time Ago
Mike Tomlin, to his credit, doesn’t do “moral victories.” Never has and hopefully never will. But watching this undermanned Steelers team scrap against the almightly New England Patriots brought to mind another game.
Back in 2005, a fully healthy Pittsburgh Steelers team traveled to Indianapolis and played a Colts team that looked even more unstoppable than the 2016 Patriots. And the Steelers hung with this team until the beginning of the 4th quarter.
- The Steelers of course lost that game to the Colts, by the score of 26 to 7.
But when the Steelers broke down the game tape, point by point, they concluded that the difference in that game came down to mental and execution errors, not differences in talent.
- The 2016 Steelers 27-16 loss to the New England Patriots calls to mind the 2005 regular season loss to the Colts.
Hats off to the New England Patriots. They beat the Pittsburgh Steelers fair and square no ifs, ands or buts. Make no mistake about it, this loss will hurt the Steelers, and probably eliminates any chance they have of getting home field advantage over the Patriots, should Pittsburgh make the playoffs.
But if a Steelers team missing four starters and several key backups can offer a serious challenge to the Patriots, then the Pittsburgh has legitimate hope for something more, should they earn the opportunity for a rematch.