On Sunday, the New England Patriots will be making a sixth straight appearance in the AFC Championship Game. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, 2017 marks their first appearance in the game in six years. So today let’s take a lot at the biggest questions these teams will face as they enter their biggest game of the year…
Will Facebook Live have an effect on this game? Directly? No, it won’t. The biggest question here is Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and whether he has control of his team. Former Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw was destroyed in the media for saying Tomlin was just a cheerleader, but could he be right?
To have a player go live on Facebook and put his coach on with post-game comments is stupid at very least. I think it shows a lack of respect for your head coach, for as the saying goes, “What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.” Does anybody here think a Patriots player would even consider doing something like this?
The Steelers have a history of personal foul calls, even coaches engaging opposing players on the sideline and, in the case of Coach Joey Porter, it even spilled out onto the field in last year’s Wild Card game in Cincinnati. Why does Tomlin continue to allow this stuff to happen?
Can the Patriots stop Le’Veon Bell (or at least keep him under control)? Bell is a very patient runner who carefully chooses where he runs. The advantage is huge when he faces a one-gap defensive team that attacks: Bell simply uses his patience against these attacking team. The Patriots have a shot to at least contain him because of the defensive scheme they use.
The Steelers like to play a two-gap system, letting the linebackers scrape and make the tackles. This means their defensive lineman are more into controlling the offensive guy in front of them instead of just trying to shoot up the field and get to the ball carrier. This in turn will make it harder for Bell to patiently wait for a hole to open up.
Don’t get me wrong: The Patriots will still have a hard time with Bell, but the way they play defense will make it more possible to at least slow him down a bit.
Can the Steelers pressure Brady enough to slow him down? I expect the Steelers to do what the Texans did last week. The Texans showed multiple defensive fronts and even brought their edge rusher down over the center to get to Brady, and it did work. If they Steelers replicate this in New England, it could force the Patriots to keep two backs in the backfield to protect Brady. With this style, the Steelers eliminate one of Brady’s receiver threats.
The problem the Steelers face is the weakest part of the defense for them: the secondary. If the front seven don’t get to Brady, they will have a very long day.
Come back to the Grueling Truth on Saturday, when our prediction for the AFC Championship Game will be posted!