The AFC Championship game is here. 16 teams fought for this, and 2 have come out on top, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots. Two teams with some very rich history in this game, come in on a very hot streak. The Steelers have won 9 straight, dating back to Week 11 of the regular season. Patriots have won 8 straight. These two teams met earlier this season, where the Patriots took the W in a 27-16 victory. That game did not feature the Steelers starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger as he was recovering from a leg injury. So, what do we have in store for us this Sunday? Let’s discuss.
The New England Patriots, it’s almost as if they strike fear in the rest of the league. They are an extremely successful franchise. Tom Brady has been to 11 conference championship games, he is arguably the greatest of all time, and has 4 rings to speak to that. He is the winningest quarterback of all time. Lagarette Blount rushed for 18 TDs this past season. And the Patriots always seem to kill everyone with their short slant game. Their defense was also very good as the year progressed. So, how do you bet against all that?
The Steelers are flying under the radar for whatever reason. The majority of people are already pushing the Patriots ahead to the Super Bowl. The Steelers may have something to say about that. The Steelers offense has seen some fall off this season due to missing some weapons, but don’t get confused the Killer B’s are still alive & well. I don’t even need to discuss what Le’Veon Bell has done, he’s the best back in the league and don’t believe otherwise. AB has had a little run in with the media, but he’s still a top 2 WR in the league at worst. And Big Ben, he’s slacked a little bit but I think we’re in store for a vintage Ben performance. And not to mention the defense has really stepped up lately. The 38 year old James Harrison has been wreaking havoc & is the most disruptive player on the Steelers defense. The young secondary still has a lot of work to do, but they’re getting there.
What are some x-factors in this game? I’d say the Steelers pass rush vs. the Pats OL. This playoff run, Bud Dupree has had his coming out party. If he keeps this level of play up, I could see him racking up a couple of sacks in the big game. The key to beating the Patriots would be to knock Brady off his spot, and a consistent pass rush from the Steelers would surely do that.
For the Patriots, I think it’s Marcellus Bennett. The Steelers have major trouble covering the TE position, and the Patriots really utilize the position, so I could easily see Bennett going off.
Bottom line, this game will put on the best teams in the AFC on the biggest stage in the AFC for the world to see. Tom Brady vs. Big Ben for a Super Bowl bid, its bound to be a fun one.