By Jeremy Hritz
I’d like to say that the battles that would occur between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots during the Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger era were competitive and thrilling, and in a few cases they were. Unfortunately, to the dismay of Steelers fans, Brady owned the defense, and took advantage of it nearly every time they played to the tune of 300+ yards and 3+ touchdowns.
Thankfully, that era is over, and it’s all about Mitch vs. Mac.
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?
Tomorrow, the Patriots will travel to Acrisure Stadium for the Steelers home opener, seeking a win, and looking to their defense to lead them to victory over the conservative Mitch Trubisky-led offense. While their offense is about as average as the Steelers offense is right now, their defense is solid, and the contest will assuredly be a low-scoring slog that will come down to a field goal (again).
Last week against the Dolphins, the Pats defense was able to keep the offensive stars for the Dolphins somewhat in check (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle), and it was long, sustained drives that were ultimately the teams undoing. The defense only gave up 242 passing yards to Tug Tagovailoa and his receivers, and only 65 yards rushing. Translation for the Steelers? They are going to have a steep hill to climb offensively.
Defensively, the Steelers will have an opportunity to put together another pressure-filled day and take advantage of a weak Patriots offensive line. While Jones was only sacked twice, the Dolphins while a good defense, don’t have the rushers that the Steelers do. Look for lots of pressure on Jones, who is nursing a sore back and is getting over an illness, which could engender mistakes and turnovers.
It’s also worthy of noting that Senior Defensive Assistant for the Steelers Brian Flores had success against the Patriots during his tenure as the Dolphins head coach due to his knowledge and understanding of the organization. From my perspective, this is an advantage that cannot be overstated.
Overall, I foresee a low-scoring affair, with both offenses struggling to get anything going, and the outcome will come down to who protects the football best. With the type of pressure and ball-hawking players on the Steelers defensive unit, the advantage goes to the black and gold.
Steelers win, 24-16.