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Steelers Fall Short in AFC Championship Game against Patriots

January 24, 2017
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Steelers Fall Short in AFC Championship Game against Patriots

Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl dream is over for another year. The Steelers came up short against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Championship weekend, losing 36-19 at Gillette Stadium on January 22nd. Mike Tomlin’s side ran riot against the Kansas City Chiefs in their most recent encounter but winning on the road in Foxborough was a step too far for Big Ben and co.

Offensively, the Steelers were adversely affected by the groin injury suffered by star running back Le’Veon Bell in the first quarter. The Pittsburgh man ended with six carries for just 20 yards; an average of 3.3 yards per carry. In recent times, Bell has single-handedly carried the offense through games and Tomlin’s men missed his presence throughout this weekend’s contest.

Bell recorded over 100 scrimmage yards in Pittsburgh’s defeat against New England back in Week 5 and the offense failed to cope without their leading man. While Steelers wide-out Antonio Brown secured seven catches for 77 yards, Ben Roethlisberger and co were unable to carve the Patriots defence open on a regular basis – Pittsburgh were too one dimensional when it mattered most of all.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was outstanding and the Steelers failed to cope with New England’s potent offense. Bill Belichick’s experience at the top level was clear for all to see as the Patriots outsmarted Pittsburgh in all departments. Brady completed 76.4% of his pass attempts for 384 yards; a franchise postseason record, and three touchdowns.

The Steelers pass rush has flourished in recent weeks but the likes of James Harrison and Bud Dupree struggled to get pressure on Brady throughout the duration of Sunday’s clash at Foxborough. Pittsburgh failed to rush the passer in the opening half of the campaign but the front seven stepped up in the latter stages of the regular season; a key reason for their winning run.

Unfortunately, the Patriots offensive line stood tall and offered Brady plenty of protection all night long. Pittsburgh didn’t manage to record a single sack on the 39-year-old and the Steelers allowed far too many third down conversions. Belichick’s side converted 11 of their 17 attempts on third down – a key reason for their triumph. Tomlin’s defensive unit didn’t do anywhere near enough to get Brady off the field.

New England, priced at 8/11 to win the Super Bowl in bet365 NFL betting odds, will now go on to face the Atlanta Falcons in the showpiece event in Houston whilst the Steelers must lick their wounds and bounce back in 2017. With Martavis Bryant set to return after a year out through suspension, Pittsburgh could be set for greater things offensively and the future is bright at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh showed enough quality throughout the second half of the campaign to suggest that they can respond at the first time of asking next year. Mike Tomlin failed to come up with an adequate game plan to slow the Patriots down but it is now time to sit down and reflect on what has been a solid season considering Pittsburgh’s free agency struggles. With their upcoming secondary and potent offense, the Steelers will be even better in 2017.

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