If fans could pick their team’s schedules, I doubt any card-carrying Citizen of The Nation would choose to play the New England Patriots.
There was once a time when the Steelers owned the Pats. Of course, there was once a time when the Steelers won four Super Bowls in six years.
In their last 10 meetings, the Steelers are 3-7 against the Patriots, including two heartbreaking losses in the AFC Championship game, both of which were played in Pittsburgh.
So, it was with not a little trepidation on the part of Citizens of Steelers’ Nation that the Mighty Black and Gold welcomed New England into Pittsburgh, potentially with home-field advantage in the playoffs on the line.
SNAFU – Situation Normal, All F’d UP
Tom Brady has been the bane of The Nations’ existence since he came into the league in 2000. The Steelers have only beaten him once since he became the full time starter in New England.
The beginning of this game was more of the same. In fact, the middle and the end of this game were more of what we have seen in the past from Brady and the Pats.
The Pats possessed the ball for 9:33 of the first quarter and the Steelers’ defense had few answers for them. As the Pats racked up 10 points.
The Steelers’ offense sputtered, not scoring a single point on three possessions, including a three-and-out on their first possession.
The Steelers’ pulled without a touchdown with 5:12 left in the half when Skippy Reed hit a chip-shot field goal from 22 yards. I’m not sure, but I think all that did was make the Patriots mad.
The Pats scored two unanswered touchdowns on a Brady pass to Rob Gronkowski and a Brady 3-yard rush. In between those scores, Skippy managed to miss a field goal from 26 yards.
Two Big Plays Spoil the Day
After spotting Brady and the Patriots a 23-3 lead, the Steelers finally woke up and played football.
Big Ben engineered a 7-play, 71 yard touchdown drive to close the gap to 23-10.
Then he gave up an interception to James Sanders who returned it for a touchdown. That restored the lead to 20 points. The pass was less than Roethlisberger’s best as it was behind ARE and deflected into Sanders’ waiting arms.
After a great return by Manny Sanders to the Steelers’ 47-yard line, the Men of Steel scored quickly, taking only 1:48 to close within 13 points.
In desperation, the Steelers tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by the Pats. I’m sure Coach Tomlin was thinking that the Steelers’ defense would be able to stop the Pats when they needed a three-and-out the most. I’m not sure why he would think that since they had not really stopped Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski the entire game.
Five plays after the kickoff, the Pats had the game iced.
The Play that Changed the Game
On a third and five from the Pittsburgh 25-yard line, Brady found Gronkowski over the top for his third receiving touchdown of the game. Clearly, William Gay is confused on the play and lets Gronkowski get open behind him for an easy score.
It would be a game to remember for the Woodland High School (Churchill, PA) product. He finished with 72 yards on 5 catches and those three TDs.
The Steelers would get another touchdown and would have another chance to stop the Pats, but still allowed a field goal, which put the game out of reach.
With only 1:53 left in the game and a single timeout remaining, there was just too much of a deficit to overcome and the Pats took the win 39-26.
Here, courtesy of youtube, is Gronkowski’s third, back-breaking, touchdown.