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Steelers-Patriots May Have Lost Its Luster But Not Its Importance

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Go down memory lane with me for a second as we flashback to 2018 when the Pittsburgh Steelers played the New England Patriots at Heinz Field in Week 14 of the season. The Patriots came into Pittsburgh 9-4 with QB Tom Brady leading the charge along with a cast featuring TE Julian Edelman, TE Rob Gronkowski, and many more. The Steelers had QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown, and other core members on defense as Pittsburgh got the win against their arch rival in the AFC, winning 17-10, keeping Pittsburgh’s playoff hopes alive at 8-5-1.

Steelers-Patriots have featured plenty of classics in the past, ranging from battles during the regular season for playoff position in the American Football Conference as well as battles in the playoffs. That includes the Patriots ending Pittsburgh’s magical 2004 season in the AFC Championship, as well as Pittsburgh’s loss to New England in the AFC Championship game. The battles between Brady and Roethlisberger, as well as the matchups between head coaches Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin, have made for some must-see TV over the course of the past two decades.

Heading into Thursday night, however, many NFL fans may think twice before tuning into Thursday Night Football featuring the Steelers and Patriots as both teams are trying to rebuild on the fly to make it back to their heights as perennial contenders in the AFC. The Patriots have struggled mightily this season as they go into Acrisure Stadium with a 2-10 record as their offense has been worse than Pittsburgh’s, which can be hard to believe. QB Mac Jones hasn’t looked like the answer as the team’s replacement for Brady, leaving New England in a position to target a quarterback high in the 2024 NFL Draft, depending on how they finish the season.

Pittsburgh isn’t in as bad of a position as New England, sitting 7-5 while currently holding the top Wildcard spot in the playoffs. Still, they just lost QB Kenny Pickett for the next 2-4 games after undergoing surgery to mend his ankle while dealing with plenty of other injuries to their roster. The team has lacked the offensive firepower they used to have with the Killer B’s, and the defense has been inconsistent as well. They have surrendered plenty of yards to opponents and saw former RB James Conner and the Cardinals run all over them last week.

Still, while both teams may not be at the same caliber they were nearly a decade ago, this latest matchup between Pittsburgh and New England does hold importance for several different reasons. First, this is essentially a must-win game for Pittsburgh as they just lost to a 2-10 Cardinals squad, being a game they should have won. Facing another 2-10 team this week with five games left to go would put Pittsburgh at 8-5 and in a good position to clinch a Wildcard spot down the stretch. A loss likely drops their standing in the AFC playoff race, putting pressure on them to win out the rest of their games.

This game also comes down to pride, as both teams have been the faces of the AFC for years. Both fan bases can’t stand losing to the other, regardless of who may be at quarterback. Both the Steelers and Patriots have boasted stout defenses this season, setting this game up to be an old-fashioned slobberknocker where the tougher team will stand on top. With either squad led by a defense-minded head coach, defeating the other and having the better defensive effort would be a sense of pride that either team would gladly desire.

Thursday night isn’t likely going to be pretty between these two teams. In fact, it’s probably going to be quite ugly, with the lowest projected over/under in some time. Still, Steelers-Patriots hasn’t lost its importance as the Steelers need this win in the worst way while the Patriots would enjoy being the thorn in Pittsburgh’s side yet again in this matchup.



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