Curran: Steelers loss was a win for New England

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Curran: Steelers loss was a win for New England

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

DALLAS I think we can agree that, when appraising any situation, the only question that demands answering is: What does this mean to meeeeee?

And there were things that occurred in Dallas Sunday night that had relevance to people residing in the Northeast corner of these United States.

Christina Aguilera leaving out her ramparts during the National Anthem? Interesting. Not impactful.

The Pittsburgh Steelers bumbling away a chance at their third Super Bowl win since 2005? Impactful.

I know enough Steelers fans to be aware of their searing hatred for all things New England Patriots. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Danny Woodheads adorable three-legged basset hound? Hate. Hate. And hate.

Its born of their agitation with the Patriots usurping Pittsburgh as the dominant AFC team. From 1975 through 2000, no AFC franchise approached the legacy the Steelers built in the 1970s.

The Broncos kinda did, but even those two Super Bowl wins in 1997 and 1998 didnt erase their four Super Bowl losses (a few by beatdown). And the Bills were despite being the most consistently excellent team of the 1990s - really just lovable losers.

When the Patriots came along and won three Super Bowls in four years, going right through Pittsburgh (at Pittsburgh) in two conference championship games, Steelers and their fanbase lost their identity. Or at least the ability to indisputably claim the Steelers were the most important AFC franchise.

And when the Patriots got caught videotaping defensive signals after being asked (along with the rest of the league) to stop the practice, that relatively minor act (the major act was their defiance of the edict), Steelers fans had their hammer to discredit the Patriots legacy.

Had Pittsburgh won Sunday night, they would have basically matched what New England did from 2001 through 2004 winning three titles in a very short span.

But they didnt. Instead, they spit the bit in a very winnable game. Their very good quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, failed to cross the threshold into all-time greatness. Their amazing and admirable safety, Troy Polamalu, was a liability. The Steelers failed to beat a team that had lost important players on both offense (Donald Driver) and defense (Charles Woodson).

And now their hammer remains Spygate, instead of three rings for Roethlisberger and seven Lombardis for the franchise (including three from 2001-10 . . . same as the Pats).

They will use that hammer. This post-Super Bowl Monday, Ive been fielding irate e-mails from Steelers fans for saying Roethlisberger failed to achieve all-time greatness when the opportunity was laid out in front of him.

And failed in spectacularly inefficient fashion.

This assertion, apparently, is not made in a vacuum because the e-mails Ive gotten have usually included the words Spygate, Brady Cheating and expletive Belichick.

The reason?

Its not just about their Steelers. Its about their Steelers place in history. Same thing as the Patriots and their fans concerns.

And on this particular Monday, nothings changed for the Patriots. Given the alternative if Pittsburgh had won, that probably means a lot.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Antonio Brown posts questionable locker room video after Steelers win

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Antonio Brown posts questionable locker room video after Steelers win

Showing a knee-buckling lack of self-awareness, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown put up 13:35 of footage on Facebook Live after his team’s 18-16 win over Kansas City on Sunday night.

It was a weird betrayal of the team’s privacy by one of its star players. Brown, allowed viewers to see live (and on tape until it’s inevitably taken down) that, while head coach Mike Tomlin was around a bank of lockers addressing what Tomlin presumed was his entire team, Brown was mugging in front of his phone for a growing online audience.

The video starts with Brown and teammates having fun in front of their lockers. As the team is called together for a postgame prayer, Brown keeps the camera rolling. After the prayer, Tomlin made a statement.

“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” said Tomlin. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those a******* a day and a half. They played yesterday. Our game got moved to tonight. We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the f****** morning. So be it. We’ll be ready for that ass. But you ain’t gotta tell them we coming. Because some of us might not like the damn (woofkisses?) The chest pounding.  Keep a low profile.”

While Tomlin was issuing that low-profile request, Brown rolled on. Another Steeler then spoke up saying, “Keep cool on social media, this is about us, nobody else.”

Finally, what sounded like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed the team saying of Foxboro, “That’s a lion’s den we’re going into this week. It’s a lion’s den. I’ve been there, a lot of us have been there. Keep your mouth shut.”

While people might fan themselves over Tomlin calling the Patriots a*******, that’s benign and likely will be matched in private by Patriots coaches this week.

What’s staggering is that a player of Brown’s ability and seeming intelligence would be so self-absorbed as to be agog at putting on a video show for Facebook followers at the expense of his coaches, teammates and franchise.  

Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

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Steelers survive, advance to visit Patriots despite red-zone woes

For the third time in the Belichick-Brady Era, the Patriots will be trying to step over the Steelers to get to a Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh went into Kansas City on Sunday night and outlasted a breathtakingly sluggish Chiefs team 18-16.

If you spent the day stewing about the Patriots adequate-against-Osweiler-but-probably-nobody-else offensive performance Saturday night, maybe Sunday night calmed your nerves.

Despite having a more than 2-to-1 edge in total yards entering the fourth, Pittsburgh had managed just six field goals from kicker Chris Boswell. Their best chance at getting six on the board was squelched when Ben Roethlisberger got picked at the goal line in the first half.

That Kansas City was even in the game with a chance to tie it in the final three minutes has to be humbling for the Steelers. They dominated every statistical category of consequence while the Chiefs played aimlessly behind Alex Smith, who may be a cut above Brock Osweiler but is definitely a cut below every other quarterback in the Divisional Playoff round.  

On this night, Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t much better.

Still, Pittsburgh’s got the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at running back and receiver – LeVeon Bell and Antonio Brown were both at 101 yards after halftime – and New England’s entire defensive game plan will revolve around corralling those two and getting them horizontal.

The Patriots beat a Roethlisberger-less team in October, 27-16. Landry Jones was at quarterback that day.

The Steelers were in the Patriots’ red zone four times. They came away with 10 points. They were inside the Patriots’ 40 six times and finished with 16.

“In an offense like that with a bunch of very explosive players, one slant can turn into a touchdown so you have to be really careful in your coverages,” defensive end Rob Ninkovich told me after that game. "There’s not just one go-to guy. They got a running back that can catch it out of the backfield and make plays (Le’Veon Bell). [Antonio Brown] can catch it anywhere on the field and make plays. You just have to make sure with a guy like [Landry Jones] to have him make the throws. It’s hard in this league to be perfect. So to have him sit back there and try to make all the throws was what we chose and the secondary did a great job.”

Bell and Brown combined for 268 yards from scrimmage against the Patriots.

The Steelers scored one touchdown.

The ever-dawdling Bell, who practically walks to the line of scrimmage then skips around like a little kid with a full bladder before finding a crease to exploit, is where it will start for the Patriots.

If the Patriots are going to go to their seventh Super Bowl since Belichick’s hire, Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Donta Hightower and Elandon Roberts – their two best interior linemen and their two inside linebackers – will be the ones who start the bus. The overwhelming majority of Bell’s runs are between the guards so building a wall and out-patienting him as he probes for a crease is Job One.

The Chiefs weren’t stout enough at the line of scrimmage and Bell brutalized them. It will, of course, fall to more than just those four. Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine and Shea McLellin will also be in focus. Run-support from safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty will be a part of it as well, but that’s where the Steelers become tough to deal with.

Once Bell’s established himself, the Steelers can start to work play-action and get Brown into space. Creep too far and the numbers on the back end could wind up being insufficient to deal with one of the NFL’s fastest players.

That’s why you can expect the Patriots to not overexert themselves with pressures and blitzes against Ben Roethlisberger. They’ll want as many back in coverage as possible to deal with Brown and some of the other Steelers speed merchants.

The Patriots have dealt with Pittsburgh’s defense enough to know where to attack. LeGarrette Blount ran for 127 yards on 24 carries in the first meeting and

Tom Brady went 19 for 26 for 222 with two touchdowns.

The Patriots had Gronk that day and the Steelers didn’t have Roethlisberger. That tips the scales some when measuring the differences. But after watching Pittsburgh kick six field goals and keep afloat an underperforming Chiefs team, the issue that dogged them in October – red zone offense – looks like its still around.

And they are going to visit a team that does that led the NFL in preventing points.