|1:25 PM PT2:25 PM MT3:25 PM CT4:25 PM ET21:25 GMT5:25 2:25 PM MST4:25 PM EST3:25 PM CT1:25 UAE (+1)16:25 ETNaN:� , December 17, 2017|
Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Weather: 42°, Overcast Attendance: 68,574
Patriots looking to bounce back vs. Steelers
New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Patriots suffered through an anemic offensive performance in a 27-20 Monday night loss in Miami. New England put up season lows in first downs (14), total yards (248) and rushing yards (25) while failing to convert any of its 11 third-down opportunities. Tom Brady was intercepted twice, limited to 233 yards passing, completed only 55.8 percent of his passes, and did not throw a TD pass until the fourth quarter. NE scored 10 fourth-quarter points to close the deficit to seven points, but failed to recover an onside kickoff, allowing Miami to run out the clock. NE's time of possession of 23:51 was its lowest total in a Brady regular-season start since 2014.
- In a Sunday night game that featured 958 combined yards of total offense, the Steelers squandered a 14-0 lead but scored 19 fourth-quarter points to erase an 11-point deficit and eke out a 39-38 home win over Baltimore. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 506 yards, 228 of them in the fourth quarter, and his 44 completions were the second most in NFL history. Antonio Brown caught 11 passes for 213 yards; his 34-yard reception with less than 70 seconds remaining set up the Steelers' winning points, a 46-yard Chris Boswell field goal with 42 seconds remaining. It was Boswell's third last-minute game-winner in the last three weeks, extended Pittsburgh's winning streak to eight games and wrapped up the NFC North title for the Steelers.
- Including postseason, the Patriots have won four straight meetings in the series and are 11-3 versus the Steelers over the last 20 seasons. In that span, New England has defeated Pittsburgh in three AFC Championship Games, most recently a 36-17 rout in last season's AFC title game in Foxborough. Counting playoff games, the Patriots are 5-2 all-time at Heinz Field; the Steelers 101-37-1 at Heinz against all other opponents.
- Tom Brady has thrown multiple touchdown passes in seven straight starts versus Pittsburgh, including postseason games; he has 22 total TD passes and no interceptions in those seven games. He is 10-2 all-time against the Steelers, including a trio of AFC Championship Game victories. Brady is 55-11 in career starts in the month of December, and has not lost consecutive December starts within the same season since 2002.
- Ben Roethlisberger has thrown multiple TD passes in five consecutive games; this is the longest streak in Steelers history. Roethlisberger has 20 career touchdown passes versus the Patriots, including playoffs -- tied for second most by a New England opponent in Bill Belichick's 18 seasons as Pats head coach. Antonio Brown's next reception will be his 100th of the season and would give him an unprecedented fifth straight year with triple-digit receptions.
- Tom Brady (193) and Ben Roethlisberger (134) rank first and third, respectively, in wins by active quarterbacks. They join Eli Manning as the only active quarterbacks with multiple Super Bowl wins, and the two franchises have combined to win seven of the last 16 Lombardi Trophies.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady made it very clear that Monday night's loss in Miami didn't sit well with him and his New England Patriots teammates.
"I think everyone took this pretty hard," Brady said on his regular weekly radio appearance on WEEI in Boston. "The locker room wasn't in very good spirits and the plane ride home was very quiet. It is also the ability for us to learn from it and move forward, which is what we are going to need to do because I think we have always felt that one loss shouldn't become two and two shouldn't become three because that is when it really turns into bad seasons.
"We have to figure out a way to play a lot better and I am confident we will put out a good plan. There will be lot of urgency. We know what we're up against and we will try to put out our best game of the year."
But here's the thing about the loss -- in a game the Patriots went 0-for-11 on third downs -- it won't matter at all if New England can rebound with a road win against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
With the soft teams dotting their schedule, the Patriots have had Dec. 17 circled for a month or more. They might even have looked past the Dolphins knowing it comes down to this week.
The Steelers, Houdini-like escape artists in winning eight in a row, are 11-2, a game ahead of the Patriots, who had their eight-game winning streak snapped Monday night. So, if New England wins this week -- and the Patriots won the last four and five of the last six against the Steelers -- the teams will be even in the standings and New England will own the tiebreaker for home field throughout the playoffs.
The Patriots finish out the regular season with home games against the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets.
"They've put a lot of big wins together, played a lot of good football at the most critical times of the game when they needed to," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday of the Steelers. "It's a well-balanced team, very explosive on offense, good on defense, good in the kicking game, have a lot of great players, well coached, tough, hard-nosed, physical team. We've had a long history of great competitive games with (them)."
Ben Roethlisberger threw for 506 yards in Sunday night's comeback win for the Steelers over the Baltimore Ravens -- the fourth win in the last five games secured by a last-minute field goal from kicker Chris Boswell.
Now, it's the Patriots -- with plenty on the line.
"They're an elite group," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday. "They need no endorsement from me there. They're in the thick of things as usual. It starts obviously with their leadership -- Coach Belichick, Tom Brady. They've got great continuity from the top down. I think it shows that they've got a winning approach. It's going to be a good football game."
Both teams will be getting players back from suspension -- the Patriots welcoming tight end Rob Gronkowski and the Steelers getting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Both returnees are expected to bolster their team's offense.
Without Gronkowski, Brady led what turned out to be an impotent offense at Miami as the Patriots failed to convert a third down for the first time since 1991.
"You said it. Gronk is not only one of the most dynamic tight ends but just one of the most dynamic players in the NFL," Tomlin said. "Obviously his absence is a significant one and his presence is a significant one."
New England is 10-3 against the Steelers during the Belichick era, 3-0 in the playoffs. Last season, the Patriots defeated Pittsburgh twice, a 36-17 pasting in AFC title game following a New England win at Heinz Field during the regular season.
Pittsburgh is 7-1 in games decided by six points or fewer, prompting Tomlin to say, "We've got some guys that have been in games. We've got some good leadership and I think that's always an element of it.
"Our quarterback is a guy that's been in a lot of those type battles over the years and we've got good leadership. Although our defense is young, guys like Cam Heyward have been around and provide good, steady leadership in those tough moments."
New England made four roster moves Wednesday, signing Kenny Britt for wide receiver depth after he was released by the Cleveland Browns and re-signing defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. At the same time, though, New England placed tackle Marcus Cannon on injured reserve and released Jonathan Freeney, who was re-signed for one game.
Cannon injured his right ankle Oct. 29 and has been in a walking boot since. It is the second straight year he injured the ankle. He was able to play through the injury last season and will now have surgery to get it right for 2018.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, who has missed the last four games with a fractured left fibula, returned to practice but it didn't sound like he would be rushed back. Backup Cody Sensabaugh was also out of practice Wednesday with a shoulder injury suffered Sunday night against Baltimore.
Martavis Bryant missed the Pittsburgh practice to take care of a family matter and will return Thursday and Stephon Tuitt was out because of illness.
Defensive lineman Alan Branch, who suffered a knee injury Monday night, was the only Patriot missing entirely from the team's Wednesday practice.
Updated December 13, 2017