NFL fans know it’s always exciting when the Steelers and Patriots square off, and that’s especially been the case since Bill Belichick took over in New England nearly two decades ago. The two high-powered offenses have gone toe-to-toe a number of times, often in the form of an elimination game in the playoffs, with the stakes as high as they come. This time, the teams face off in the 2019 season opener. This is the third time that the Patriots will begin their title defense with a game against Pittsburgh. In 2002 and 2015, New England defeated the Steelers handily as they celebrated their first and fourth Lombardi Trophies. Fans of both teams are excited and are already heading to online sports books like TopBet to make their wagers on the game.
Tom Brady has had Ben Roethlisberger’s number in these matchups over the years. He’s posted a 8-3 record against the Steelers during the course of his career, finding ways to beat whatever exotic blitz looks they throw at him, and then hitting open receivers for big gains to make his opposition pay. Brady has a number of weapons on offense that can line up all over the formation, in Julian Edelman, Sony Michel and highly-touted first-round draft pick N’Keal Harry, who could develop into the team’s next great receiver for years to come. However, the team has yet to replace tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired after the Patriots’ win over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, and has been Brady’s favorite receiving target over the years.
And while Brady has dominated the Steelers over the years, his formidable foe from the Steel City can never be counted out, especially not with Big Ben under center. Roethlisberger, to his credit, has won two Super Bowl rings as well, and he has one of the strongest arms in the NFL. Most importantly, his ability to scramble around in the pocket and remain upright allows for his receivers to get open downfield for big plays — often making his opponents pay for bringing pressure.
Worth monitoring, though, is what the Steelers offense will look like following the departures of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown — two of the team’s best playmakers on offense in this era. Brown’s departure puts a lot of pressure on young receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who figures to draw a lot more coverage this season, and could see his numbers decline as a result. As for Bell, running back James Conner showed a lot of promise last year when healthy, but it will be interesting to see if he can sustain that and build on it. Lucky for him, he’ll be running behind arguably the top offensive line in the NFL, even with OL coach Mike Munchak having departed, to join the Broncos coaching staff, a few months ago.
Fans should be excited over the fact that an epic matchup of this magnitude is on the Week 1 slate, and given all the history between the two squads, it’s fair to label this contest as an early Game of the Year candidate — so make sure to tune in and watch.