With the biggest game of the NFL season about to commence at Heinz Field in Week 15 between the Steelers and Patriots, many are wanting to know what matchups to keep an eye on when these two AFC heavyweights go toe-to-toe.
You can talk Tom Brady vs. any number of Steelers defenders, but the reality of the situation is since Rob Gronkowski has been a member of the Patriots, he has dominated Pittsburgh every time he has stepped on the field against them.
Don’t believe it? Just check out these ridiculous stats he has put up in his career vs. the Steelers:
Yes, Brady is the one throwing him the football, but these are video game numbers in every sense of the word. Only six incompletions have been thrown Gronk’s way...in 5 games.
Think about how ridiculous this number is, and just emphasizes why the Steelers will continue to have a difficult time with Gronkowski in Week 15.
To be honest, covering Gronkowski has the feel of a “you can’t stop him, but only hope to contain him” type of assignment, and the following stats show the Steelers could be up for the challenge on Sunday. Check out this information from Kevin Duffy of MassLive.com:
Opposing tight ends have combined for just 48 receptions against Pittsburgh. That's the third-lowest total in the league. Only the Saints and Panthers have limited tight ends to fewer catches. Pittsburgh leads the league having allowed only two touchdown receptions to opposing tight ends.
The Steelers have been solid against tight ends all season, but will they be able to hang tough against the Patriots? Without Ryan Shazier it will be difficult, but they have options.
When it comes to athleticism, Sean Davis and/or T.J. Watt could certainly run with Gronkowski, but the Steelers’ overall approach will certainly need to be on point when trying to match wits with the Patriots’ offense.
Pittsburgh’s defense has slowed down some great tight ends this season, Travis Kelce, Kyle Rudolph and Delanie Walker, and Gronkowski will be the biggest test for this defense to date, but the overall preparedness of the defense will dictate just how they handle this tall task.
If all the attention goes to Gronkowski, you can expect others to be wide open if players aren’t trusting their teammates, and doing their individual jobs within the defense. Gronkowski is a game-changer, whether he is getting the ball, or causes a defense to over emphasize covering him to open up things for others, and he has been an absolute nightmare for the Steelers.
Will the Steelers be able to slow down Gronk? Only time will tell...