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The BTSC Delorean: Looking back at the most memorable Steelers vs. Patriots contests

BTSC takes a look at the very best games in the history of the Steelers and the Patriots.

1997 AFC Divisional Playoff - New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers - January 3, 1998 Photo by Greg Crisp/Getty Images

Do the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers have a long and storied history? They do now. The rivalry dates back to 1972, and the series includes 33 games. No matter the record of either team, they both always seem to put on a fantastic show with great storylines attached. The Steelers hold an advantage in the regular season with a record of 15-13, but a 1-4 record in the playoffs gives the Pats a 17-16 lead in the series. The Steelers had a huge 12-5 lead until the Belichick arrived. But then, the Pats have gone 12-4 against the Steelers, including beating the Men of Steel six of the previous seven. There have been so many great games in the history of the two franchises that the AFC Championships of 2004, 2016, the 1997 Divisional Playoffs and a tremendous 1974 December contest did.t make the list.

Here’s a brief tale of the tape:

Points: Patriots 752, Steelers 695

Wins: Patriots 17, Steelers 16

Home Record: Steelers 12-10, Patriots 7-4

Shutouts: 1 - Patriots 34, Steelers 0 (10/19/1986)

Biggest Win Margin: 10/19/1986 - Patriots 34, Steelers 0

Closest Game: 01/03/1998 - Steelers 7, Patriots6 (1997 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)

Overtime Games: 3 - Steelers 3, Patriots 0

Postseason Record: Patriots 4, Steelers 1


September 3, 1979 - Steelers 16, Patriots 13 (OT)

The defending champion Steelers had a tough task against a playoff team on the road in New England to start the quest for an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl-winning season. Terry Bradshaw threw for 221 yards and a touchdown and John Stallworth caught five passes for 95 yards. But it was Sidney Thornton, who scored on the ground and in the air, who ended up starring for the visitors. No. 38’s 21-yard catch from Bradshaw in the fourth sent the game into overtime, Where rookie Matt Bahr avenged his missed extra point earlier with a field goal to win it.


January 5, 1997 - Patriots 28, Steelers 3 (1996 AFC Divisional Playoff Game)

This first ever playoff game between New England and Pittsburgh was hard to watch in a number of ways. Not only were the Steelers outplayed and embarrassed on the field, but the fog in Foxboro was so thick, making visibility pea-soup poor. The Patriots scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions, while the Steelers offense never got out of the starting blocks. Pitt’s Curtis Martin found the end zone three times, while the Steelers found the Pats, not themselves repeating, as the AFC representatives in the Super Bowl.


December 13, 1997 - Steelers 24, Patriots 21

This was absolutely one of this author’s favorite games of all time played in the regular season. In a crucial Saturday contest to determine seeding and even playoff contention in Week 16 between the Steelers and the Curtis Martin-less Pats, Kordell Stewart got the visitors from Pittsburgh got off to a rocky start going 0 for ten with two interceptions that led to New England touchdowns and a 14-point deficit in the Second Quarter. When Kordell Stewart followed a long Jerome Bettis run with a touchdown and two Norm Johnson field goals got the Steelers within one point in the final quarter, disaster seemed to strike for the visiting Men of Steel. David Meggett “intercepted” a pass intended for a teammate from his own quarterback for a 49-yard score and a 21-13 lead with 10:31 remaining. The Steelers offense sputtered and Drew Bledsoe was in position to run out the clock after forcing the Steelers to burn their timeouts. On a 3rd-and-7 with 2:10 remaining, Bledsoe erred when he didn’t notice Kevin Henry moving into the picture of a wide open Meggett. The Pats veteran QB threw it right to the Steelers defensive end and the big man was off. His lateral to Orpheus Roye for the touchdown was called off, but the Steelers had the ball deep in enemy territory. After a clutch fourth down catch by Yancey Thigpen, Stewart found Mark Breuner for the score and Thigpen again for the two-points to send the game into overtime. There, Norm Johnson won the game with a field goal. This game was crucial, because it forced New England to travel to Pittsburgh a few weeks later in divisional play, where they fell 7-6 in Three Rivers.


January 27, 2002 - Patriots 24, Steelers 17 (2001 AFC Championship Game)

The Steelers finished the 2001 regular season at 13-3 and, after a thorough beating of Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game, were home at Heinz Field as the No. 1 seed against visiting New England. Special Teams were a big issue for the Men of Steel, as Troy Brown’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and Antwan Harris’ 49-yard blocked field goal return for another score put the Steelers in a huge hole. Losing Tom Brady early in the game didn’t hurt the visiting Patriots too much, as Drew Bledsoe found David Patten in the corner of the end zone right before the half for an 11-yard score. The Steelers made a game of it in the second half after being down 21-3, but Kordell Stewart’s three interceptions were debilitating and it almost seemed like the New England defense knew the Steelers’ every move on offense. With this being during the heart of Spygate, they actually did.


October 31, 2004 - Steelers 34, Patriots 20

The New England Patriots had a historic 21-game winning streak coming into this game on All Hallows Eve in 2004 and a rookie playing in only his fifth NFL contest snapped it. Without Corey Dillon and Deion Branch, Tom Brady struggled to get his offense going, as his pick-six to Pittsburgh corner Deshea Townsend gave the Steelers a 21-3 second quarter lead after Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes to Plaxico Burress in the first. Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley led the rushing attack with a combined 190 yards (Duce 125, Bus 65 and a TD), while Joey Porter led the defensive onslaught with three sacks. Unfortunately, the rematch in the AFC Championship less than three months later was memorable for the wrong reasons. The Patriots ended the Steelers and Big Ben’s season of magic with a 41-27 defeat of the Steelers in Heinz Field.


November 30, 2008 - Steelers 33, Patriots 10

It didn’t matter that Tom Brady was knocked out in the 2008 season opener, a win in Massachusetts is a huge deal. Facing backup quarterback Matt Cassel, the Steelers fell behind 10-3 in the second quarter. But the smothering Steelers defense dominated the home team by forcing five turnovers, recording 5 sacks (two by eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison), shutting out the Pats in the final 36 minutes and Ryan Clark’s knockout of Wes Welker. Santonio Holmes caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Roethlisberger right before Halftime. Then an 11-yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward, three Jeff Reed field goals and a touchdown run by Gary Russell made the difference as the Steelers defeated the Pats in rainy New England to help keep them out of a playoff tournament in which the black and gold emerged Super Bowl Champions.


December 17, 2017 - Patriots 27, Steelers 24

Jesse James caught that ball! Grapes are sour. Enough said.


December 16, 2018 - Steelers 17, Patriots 10

This was a very satisfying win for Steeler Nation, as it would be Ben Roethlisberger’s final win over Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the Patriots. It wasn’t a perfect game for No. 7, as Ben threw for 235 yards, two scoring passes and two interceptions to Vance McDonald and Antonio Brown. But he did utilize the legs of rookie Jaylen Samuels, who ran the ball 19 times for 142 yards. The game is best known for Joe Haden picking Brady off with 7:43 remaining and a chance for the serial tormentor to take the lead. Then the Steelers stopped another flourish with :33 seconds left to seal the victory.