“They Put The 6 On The Map”


Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots

Steelers: Interesting isn’t even the word to describe the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers. The organization and Le’Veon Bell couldn’t come to an agreement so he sits out for the entire season, there were rumors that Mike Tomlin lost the locker room and how could I forget to bring up the Antonio Brown soap opera? Now, a new chapter of Steelers football begins. Juju Smith-Schuster is now the number one wide receiver which I think he’s ready to embrace, James Conner is back as the starting running back and I still think the Steelers will be a competitive team because they still have Ben Roethlisberger as their quarterback and when he’s healthy, they will win games. The offense may look different in the beginning because everything was built around AB, so I expect a lot of James to get his touches. What I’m still concerned about is their defense. I don’t get that intimidation from them as I did in previous years. They were always considered one of the best defensive units in the league. Last year, they had weeks when they gave up big plays down the field, applied no pressure on the quarterback and they couldn’t shut down the run which showed you how much they miss Ryan Shazier. Every defense has that “quarterback” on that side of the football, and he was theirs. He was their man in the middle that called the plays, knew the looks the offense would run and it’s hard to replace a guy like that. This off-season, they addressed the defensive issues. First, they signed Mark Barron which I really liked because he’s exactly the type of football player they need. He’s a versatile player that can play in the box as a linebacker and in the back end as a safety. Of course, we know about Devin Bush who will be the guy in the middle for the defense and one name I want you all to remember is defensive end, Tuzar Skipper. I’m reminded of Aldon Smith when I watch him play. On paper, this looks to be one of their better, yet faster units. This Sunday night, they kick off their season against a team they know very well.

Patriots: Just when you think the dynasty is coming to an end, they make you eat your words. That’s what has made the New England Patriots so great because they don’t worry about the outside noise. They focus on the task at hand, stay true to one another in the locker room and when game time comes around, you see the laser focus as Tom is always preaching on the sidelines. Six Super Bowl titles since the 2001 season, what a run it’s been. Each year, they are always penciled in as one of the favorites to of course win their division (who else would?), lock up one of the two first-round byes in the AFC Playoffs, get to the AFC title game and win the Super Bowl. The Patriots offense will continue to be one of the best in the league no matter who they have on the field because of who’s operating things. I think I’m going to start referring to Brady as “Surgical T” because of how he picks apart defenses. His best moment last season was in the AFC title game against the Chiefs. When he knew he had to make big throws, he answered the call and connected. I like the Pats offense coming into this year. They’ll have a healthy Julian Edelman; James White returns as does Sony Michel who was big in his rookie season. If all pans out, Demaryius Thomas and rookie N’Keal Harry will each be huge additions for their passing game because they would each be that outside threat. The best thing to happen to New England is the return of Josh Gordon. I’m really pulling for this guy and I hope he can stay on the right path this year. I also give the Patriots credit for not turning their backs on him. You don’t continue to knock a man down when he’s already struggling. Belichick will get the best out of his defense this year. They may start slowly, but they’ll get it into rhythm when they know they need too. I’m excited to see their defense with Michael Bennett, Kyle Van Noy and the return of Jamie Collins which will be a big move for them. Their secondary is also stacked with the McCourty twins and Stephon Gilmore who happens to be the best cornerback in the league at the moment. They enter the year without a defensive coordinator after the sudden departure of Greg Schiano and Brian Flores who coached the defense last season is now a head coach. Belichick has operated without a defensive coordinator in the past and if he can’t find a guy, he’ll do it himself which I see happening. They will get to raise another banner on Sunday night against one of their biggest rivals on the primetime stage.

Steelers Player To Watch: Jon Bostic– For the Steelers defense to be successful this year, he must be consistent. I think he has what it takes to be just that. He’s been an excellent fill in piece for the Steelers. He’s excellent in stopping the run, he attacks the line of scrimmage, he’s in on tackles for loss, drops back in coverage to defend the flat along with rushing the passer.

Patriots Player To Watch: Demaryius ThomasHe’s played with one legendary quarterback and he’s gets set to play with another. The Patriots were counting on N’Keal Harry to start the season but he’s hurt and should return sometime this year. DT gives the Patriots another outside threat alongside Josh Gordon. He’s a possession guy who will be targeted frequently in the redzone.

Final Analysis: This is a great way to start up a season. The best rivalry in the NFL is always fun to watch. The last two matchups were classics. There’s the infamous overturn of Jesse James’ touchdown in 2017 and a play later, Ben throws an interception, the Patriots lock up the top seed in the AFC playoffs that year. Last season, the Steelers finally snapped their losing streak against the Patriots. It’s key for the Steelers to play with the same intensity they did last year when they played New England. Man coverage across the board, disguising your looks in the front seven and making Brady hold onto the ball longer than he wants too. Even if you can’t hit him, you can still collapse the pocket enough to the point where he makes a bad throw which can still affect him. This Steelers defense is quick in every phase which could give the defending champs some trouble. For the Patriots, I’m establishing the running game. Feed Sony Michel the ball, control the line of scrimmage and mix it up with your receivers since there’s no Gronkowski which you can use to your advantage because the Steelers won’t know who to really zoom in on. What type of impact will Josh Gordon have on this game?

Prediction: Patriots 27 Steelers 23