tom-brady-new-england-patriotsNew England (10-3) and Pittsburgh (11-2) battle for the AFC’s the top seed on Sunday at Heinz Field.

To make their quest to the Super Bowl LII easier the Pats want to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and for that, they must first defeat the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

Since the arrival of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to the Patriots, they have been utterly dominant in the series as they have won 10 of 12 games in which Brady was the quarterback. To make matters worse three of those wins have been in AFC Championship games, including last season’s in which the Pats won 36-17.

Brady usually excels against head coach Mike Tomlin, his defensive schemes and the veteran players of the Steelers. The Steelers have lost four in a row against the Patriots and a big reason for that is due to the fact that they can’t seem to find a way to stop Brady. He owns a spectacular passer rating of 114.2 against the Steelers in the regular season.

In his last seven games against Pittsburgh, Brady has 22 TD passes, zero interceptions, and six wins.

One of the few times that the Steelers defeated Brady was in 2011 when they employed a series of different coverages in their pass defense. For this upcoming matchup, Pittsburgh and Tomlin will try to come up with something similar to confuse, harass and keep in check the future Hall of Famer.

Tomlin knows that the outcome of this matchup could very well decide the location of the AFC Championship game in case these two teams meet again in that instance. He will thus rely on his defense as the Steelers are among the seven best defensive units in points allowed per game (19.3, ranked 7th), yards allowed per game (303.8, ranked 6th) and sacks (41, ranked 2nd).

Meanwhile, the Patriots’ defense is somewhat deceptive. Although they are 29th in the league in yards per game, giving up 374.6 yards per game; they rank sixth in points allowed per game with an average of 19.2.

Ryan Shazier’s back injury left the Steelers with a noticeable absence at the inside linebacker position, but the good news is that there is a good chance that cornerback Joe Haden will return to action in this game.

To rattle Brady the Steelers need to apply constant pressure and sack him as this would prevent him from finding open receivers. If they hurry him, knock him down and manage to constantly collapse his pocket Brady will struggle like he did last week against the Dolphins.

During the last AFC Championship game Pittsburgh wanted to do that to eliminate the Patriots’ big-play potential and planned to control the time of possession with a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell rushes, but the running back got injured and their plan fell apart.

If Bell stays healthy the entire game this time around and their defense lives up to those expectations, perhaps the Steelers can win this game and make sure the AFC’s road to Super Bowl LII goes through Pittsburgh.


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