The upcoming National Football League playoff game that sees the Pittsburgh Steelers head to Massachusetts to face the New England Patriots is much more than just one more step to the Super Bowl. For the Steelers, who were embarrassed in front of their own fans by the Patriots, a win this weekend will go a long way to avenging that game and also push the Steelers that much closer to their seventh Super Bowl.
The '3 Bs' are what makes the Steelers tick
The first thing that should be mentioned about this playoff game and differentiating it from the previous meeting of these two teams, is the presence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The game at Heinz Field saw Landry Jones under center, and while Jones is a capable backup, against a team like the Patriots, the Steelers were already at a disadvantage before the whistle blew for the start of the game. For the Patriots, Roethlisberger is a completely different prospect and one that they have to prepare thoroughly for. Although 'Big Ben' has been more inconsistent than in previous seasons, he is still a threat and his 29 touchdowns an average quarterback rating of 95.4 shows that he is still dangerous in the pocket. This is also aided by his experience in the league and in playoff situations as he has been there and done that, so to speak.
The next thing to look at within the Steelers offense is running back Le'Veon Bell. As shown in the two previous playoff games, Bell can lead the offense and win games on his play alone. In the two previous games, bell has racked up 337 rushing yards and two touchdowns. His patient running style has allowed the Steelers to control the clock and keep the other team's offense off the field for large portions of the game. During the regular season Bell was just as potent. In 12 games, he rushed for 1,268 yards and scored seven touchdowns, two of those in passing situations. Whether it's on the ground or in the air, Bell is a true threat for every defense and teams have to plan specifically for him if they want to find a way to stop the Steelers and to get to the quarterback.
The last of the '3 Bs', Antonio Brown, continues to prove why he is regarded as one of the best wide receivers in the game. Just like Bell, Brown is a game-winner in his own right. Again both the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs, Brown totaled 232 yards and two touchdowns. His touchdown count is not high but Brown's ability to make unbelievable catches in vital moments for the Steelers, no matter what kind of marking scheme is around him, makes him a great target for Roethlisberger. Brown's numbers during the regular season were once again impressive and earned him a call to the Pro Bowl should the Steelers not make it to the Super Bowl. Any of the three above mentioned players can keep the Patriots offense on the sideline and thus, prevent them from getting too many scoring opportunities.
The Steel Curtain is slowly making a comeback
Pittsburgh has always been known for having a top defense and although they have seemingly departed from that, the last few weeks have shown that this young Steelers defense could be the next version of the 'Steel Curtain' in due time. Led by veteran linebacker James Harrison, who leads the team in sacks even at 38 years old, the Steelers have been making some noise during the second half of the season and the playoffs. Harrison is aided by the youthful Bud Dupree who has 4.5 sacks in seven games this season, and Anthony Chickillo who has 2.5 sacks so far this season.
The secondary, which features many young players such as rookie corner Artie Burns and rookie safety Sean Davis may make rookie mistakes but their overall play has improved the Steelers much-maligned secondary. The rookies have been backed up by the play of the more experienced William Gay and Mike Mitchell who have put in toms big hits and big plays to keep offenses from breaching them down the field too often. Notably, defensive coordinator Keith Butler will ensure that his defense does not let the Patriots march down the field easily this time around.