Steelers @ Patriots: AFC Championship Preview

 

Steelers And Patriots Looking To Represent The AFC In Super Bowl LI

The Pittsburgh Steelers head into Foxborough for an AFC Championship matchup against the New England Patriots. For the Steelers its their first appearance in the championship game for six years, whilst the Patriots appear in their eleventh during the Tom Brady, Bill Belichick era (16 years).

Both quarterbacks had uncharacteristic performances during the Divisional round, Brady completed just 47% of his attempted passes and threw two interceptions before putting the Texans to the sword in the second half, whilst Roethlisberger threw for a lowly 224 yards with zero touchdowns as the boot of kicker Chris Boswell was enough for the Steelers to see off the Chiefs. In terms of the playoffs the two quarterbacks they’ve made 51 starts, thrown for 12717 yards and 82 touchdowns. Brady makes his 33rd start in the playoffs, whilst Ben Roethlisberger makes his 20th.

Mike Tomlin’s thoughts on the game:

It’s going to be a rough and tumble game. It’s going to be physical on both sides. It’s going to be our ability to stand up in the moment and seize the day. It’s going to be a don’t-blink type of game. If guys feel the urge to blink, they need to cut their eyelids off. That’s just how it goes. It’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be good for football. It’s something that’s humbling to be a part of.

 

The key to victory will be boil down to the play of the respective teams secondary. Should Bill Belichick choose to focus on keeping Le’Veon Bell’s (337 yards rushing through two playoff games) impact on the game to a minimum then a key matchup will be that of Malcolm Butler and Antonio Brown (who’s averaged 109.3 yards receiving during his last three games). Opposite Butler, Logan Ryan’s play has improved following a slow start to 2016. Like Ryan key members of the Steelers secondary have improved over the latter part of the campaign, with the rookie duo of cornerback Atrie Burns and safety Sean Davis will need to be at their best to keep Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan quiet, Hogan and Edelman have accounted for 232 of the Patriots 377 total yards.
 
Tom Brady on the weeks preparation:

It will ultimately come down to those three hours Sunday night. You’re right, we’ve done both. We’ve had great weeks and bad games and bad weeks and great games. We’ve had great weeks and great games and vice versa. You’d always feel better going into the game after you’ve had a great week of preparation. I think the team’s done a good job understanding who we’re playing against, how they play, why they win. We’re playing a great football team. It’s going to take our best three hours of the season against our biggest challenge all season. Hopefully we’re up for it.

Another area of intrigue will be how the Steelers lineup when the Patriots split their backs out, both James White and Dion Lewis have proven to be a mismatch for opposing defenses. Steelers Ryan Shazier has become a real game changer in coverage and will be reliant on the ageless talent of James Harrison to disrupt the rhythm of Brady. Harrison has 2.5 sacks, 11 tackles and has played in all but three snaps during the Steelers last two games.
 

Mark Teece

Aspiring NFL writer currently tapping plastic square buttons on a larger plastic rectangle, resulting in this website/blog that covers the wonderful world of pigskin. Former cornerback/safety for the Crewe Railroaders (UK).

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