The dominance which has been on display between the two franchises which will meet at Acrisure Stadium this Sunday at 1pm ET is almost unparalleled. Since 2000, either the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers, or both, have been represented in the AFC Playoffs.
Last season, both teams made the postseason, while neither was able to make it out of the AFC Wild Card game.
Two different results, but the national media is wondering if the dominance once on display between these two organizations is coming to an end. It’s a simple question really...will this be the first time since 2000 both teams won’t be in the playoffs?
ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler gave their thoughts on this question. Let’s take a look at what they had to say.
Graziano: Buy. The T.J. Watt injury (Watt is expected to miss about six weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday) is going to be challenging to overcome for a Steelers team that absolutely needs its defense to carry it. QB Mitch Trubisky looked shaky against Cincinnati, RB Najee Harris got hurt, the line still looks terrible ... Pittsburgh already was a fringe playoff team at best and it just lost the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year for a chunk of the season.
The Patriots, meanwhile, looked as lost on offense against Miami as all of the training camp chatter led us to believe they might be. I’m not sure where the improvement comes from here. They don’t have dynamic receivers or running backs, or a quarterback who can help overcome a shaky offensive line with his mobility. I think this is a reset year in New England, and while he’d never say it out loud, I think Bill Belichick thinks it is, too.
Like Graziano, Fowler just doesn’t see a way either team makes the playoffs, even this early in the 2022 regular season.
Fowler: Yeah, I’m going to have to buy, too, though the Steelers still have the makings of a playoff contender — deep defense, plenty of playmakers on offense and a coach who always finds a way. Trubisky rallied late in Sunday’s game. But the AFC is going to keep a lot of good teams out this year.
Small sample, but the Patriots’ Week 1 offense reinforced the concerns many of us had with the lack of a true offensive coordinator supporting Mac Jones in a crucial Year 2. I keep waiting for Belichick to reveal his master plan, but that plan might actually be the reset you mentioned.
Keeping New England’s concerns in New England, the next logical question is surrounding the Steelers. Can the Steelers find a way to scratch and claw their way to not just a winning record, but a playoff berth?
Mike Tomlin nearly did it without Ben Roethlisberger in 2019, but the task ahead is anything but known. Not having T.J. Watt for the next 6, or more, weeks will be difficult, but the lack of offensive production is another concern altogether. Mitch Trubisky is supposed to be the experienced leader on the team, but if things don’t start playing out differently than they did in Week 1, don’t be shocked if Kenny Pickett is the man under center before the end of the regular season.
What say you? Do you see this being the year the streak ends of either the Patriots and/or Steelers in the playoffs? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the team as they prepare for the Patriots this Sunday.