What did I tell you?
The Steelers just cannot, no matter what beat the Patriots. As long as Tom Brady is behind center and Bil Belichick is on the sideline wearing cut off sweatshirts under unzipped winter coats they cannot beat them. Even when they sliced through the Patriots defense like a hot knife through butter in the final minute, and seemingly scored the game winning touchdown the football Gods struck them with a bolt of reality and took the win away. Absolutely beautiful to watch. FTW ruling that pass incomplete was the right call, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a Patriots fan, I'm also saying it because I hate the Steelers.
But even the biggest of Patriot haters know deep down it was 100% the right call.
The Steelers simply still cannot seal the deal against us. Sure, they lost Antonio Brown in the second quarter. You could make the argument that that impacted the game in the Patriots favor, but I think one could argue it played towards the Steelers favor. Allow me to explain!
Now hear me out, obviously Antonio Brown is how they say "good". He catches the football. and runs with the football very well. Some may even take the leap of faith and call him "the best WR in the NFL", so yeah, he's probably more valuable on the field than in the hospital. Many would agree you'd like to have him on the field at all times. But the Patriots always try to take away your best player, and despite having a defense that makes me want to throw up violently onto the television, the one "strength" of their defense is the secondary, who could've kept Brown in semi-check. Which to me is under 120 yards lol. I've noticed from watching the Steelers this year that Big Ben targets Antonio Brown upwards of 20 times per game, which means all those plays Le'Veon Bell is not getting the ball. I think given how poor as a whole the Patriots front-7 is you beat them by pounding the rock with Le'Veon Bell. No Brown allowed them to feature Bell more. Something the Steelers were doing for much of the second half then sort of just abandoned.
Much like the other 31 teams in the NFL the Steelers made many crucial mistakes in attempts to slay the dragon that is the New England Patriots. We've seen teams outsmart themselves, and pee down their leg time and time again against the Patriots. Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson (who still doesn't get enough of the blame) in the of Super Bowl 49. This year the Falcons were up by as many as 25 points in the Super Bowl and still lost because they didn't run the ball and waste time. So as I try to regain my blogging stripes lets look back at one of the best games of the NFL season and see the biggest mistakes the Steelers made against the Patriots.
5. Not going for 2 in the 3rd quarter
Leading 17-16 late in the 3rd quarter Le'Veon Bell scored a 3 yard touchdown to extend the lead to 23-16. All my math majors out there can tell you that is a 7 point lead. In this situation you have two options: kick the extra point to given yourself an 8 point lead, or roll the dice and go for two to give yourself a 9 point lead, aka make it a two score game.
With a little over 16 minutes remaining in the game, this by no means ices the game but does give the Patriots some added pressure. Knowing they need two scores to take the lead instead of being able to play for overtime. I feel like you have nothing to lose here, because should you fail it's still a 7 point game. Given the circumstances I think this is the right time to go for two.
I say this because historically the Steelers love to go for two. Last season they led the league in two point attempts, going for two nine times in 2016. Granted they were only 3/9 which may have shied them away.
We saw the Seahawks follow this logic against the Patriots last year on Sunday Night Football. After the Seahawks scored a touchdown to go up 7 with 4:24 remaining, Pete Carroll went for the kill and tried the two point play to make it a two score game. While he failed, and ultimately still won the game I personally love the call. As Julian Edelman's dad once said "when you have them down, you break their fucking neck". Given how much Le'Veon Bell was dominating I think they probably would have gotten it, which is a great lead in to my 4th mistake the Steelers made.
4. Punting on 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter
Now this one I'll understand why people disagree but I'm following the same logic that Bill Belichick used in 2009 against the Colts. It didn't matter where Peyton Manning and the Colts got the ball, they were going to score, so he decided to try to keep the ball out of his hands. Mike Tomlin should've followed the same logic. Sadly Bill failing will likely prevent teams for making this decision in the future despite being the right call. The Steelers should've done the same with Tom Brady.
After the Patriots kicked a field goal to make it a 5 point game the Steelers got the ball with 3:52 remaining, had they gotten two first downs they could've ran the clock out. With 2:23 remaining Big Ben took the snap and completed a 3 yard pass to Juju Smith-Schuster to bring up a 4th and 1. Teams always talk about keeping the ball out of Tom Brady's hands but still give him the ball back in these situations instead of believing in the strength of their team, their own offense. The Patriots called time out to stop the clock at 2:16. Now granted the Steelers were on their own 28 yard line, but it's one yard and you have Le'Veon Bell. The New England Patriots have a JV front 7 who were allowing nearly 6 yards per carry to Bell all day. Plus if you do fail since the Patriots have a shorter field, if they do score you'll probably have more time to answer. If you pick up the first down there and the game is effectively over, maybe you're punting with 30 seconds left after the Pats burn their final time outs. But when you punt and you give Tom Brady the ball back with nearly two minutes and two timeouts left everybody knows how that is going to end. I'm not the only person who thought this.
I know as a Patriots fan I'm biased, but the Pats were going to score on that drive. The only question was would they score too quickly (which they did) because of the Steelers next fatal mistake.
#3. Refusing to double-team Gronk
This one was a head scratcher. Gronk was getting a free release throughout the game, and at times running wild like the gazellete-gorilla hybrid that he is. He has historically owned the Steelers, you'd think maybe they'd try to make an adjustment.
Can you say "free-runner"?
You hear Romo say "uncovered".
Last night Gronk was the Patriots offense. 9 receptions on 13 targets for 168 yards and a two point conversion. Apart from one big Brandin Cooks 43 yard grab the Steelers did a great job of keeping the rest of the Patriots pass catchers in check. Yet on the final drive Gronk was almost too open, and they refused to give him the added attention he deserves, and the Steelers paid mightily for it. You gotta focus more on Gronk. If they're gonna beat you make them beat you with Danny Amendola and James White, not a future hall of famer and arguably best tight end of all time.
2. Throwing ball to the middle of the field on 2nd down/Miscommunication between Todd Haley, Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger
Bill Belichick always preaches situational football, something the Steelers could use a little help with here. With the running clock you have no time to waste, everybody needs to be on the same page. If you're gonna throw it, fine, but you better get out of bounds or have a play ready for 3rd down ready to go. This clearly did not happen as it's already come out that Ben wanted to spike the ball, but the coaches said otherwise.
Despite the miscommunication going into 3rd down, the Steelers still could've seemingly sent the game to overtime if it wasn't for their most critical mistake.
1. Forcing a Throw Into Traffic on 3rd and Goal
What the hell was Big Ben thinking? This play just looked doomed from the start, add in the double clutch, then throwing into traffic and you have a recipe for disaster. You cannot force this throw, again, SITUATIONAL FOOTBALL. You don't have anything here, throw it away, kick the field goal and live to fight another play. Don't be a hero.
I absolutely love that Duron Harmon was the one who made the INT. That dude is just nails in the fourth quarter of big games.
And D-Lew called it!!! (kinda)