The Patriots/Steelers rivalry that isn’t
As it seems to happen during every New England Patriots season, it’s time once again for another game between the Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Get ready for a week of Tom Brady vs. Ben Rothlisberger stories, questions over who really was the best team of the decade and analysts and talking heads everywhere wondering whether Tom Brady and the high-powered New England Patriots offense will be ready to break through the highly vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Which also means it’s that time of the year for me to say “Give me a break”.
Perhaps it’s due to the fact that both teams are arguably the two most successful franchises over the past ten or so years has fueled it, but there are people out there that like to think that the Steelers and the Patriots have some kind of rivalry. I guess at times it has reached somewhat of a feverish pace. There were those times that the Patriots and the Steelers met in the AFC title game (actually two times) then there was that time where the Steelers ended the New England Patriots record winning streak and the time that the Steelers tried to get in the Patriots heads and trash talk a team heading towards a 16-0 regular season. I guess there were some rivalry-esque moments.
However, this isn’t a rivalry because the New England Patriots absolutely have dominated the recent series. The stats don’t lie. Since the Belichick era started in New England, the Patriots have won six games while the Steelers have won only two times. Fun facts about those games:
- In six victories for the New England Patriots the average margin of victory is 12. While the average margin of victory for the Steelers in their two wins has been 18, let’s just remember that in the world of statistics those two results might as well be outliers. One of those victories was Ben Rothlisberger’s first start against the Patriots and the other one was during the Matt Cassell 2008 season when the Patriots didn’t win any big games. Also, two of those Patriots wins were in AFC championship games and both of those were in Pittsburgh so…yeah. Point Patriots.
- Tom Brady against the super star Pittsburgh defense in the regular season is only 4-1 with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions and is averaging 334 yards passing. This doesn’t even include the AFC title game in 2004 where he completed 66.7 percent of his passes, and threw for 271 yards and 2 touchdown. Rothlisberger is only 2-3 but to my surprise somehow has 10 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Then again, that doesn’t include the 2004 AFC title game where he threw 3 interceptions and also includes that stupid 2008 outlier. To end my Brady/Rothlisberger talk, I’ll just throw in the fact that Brady has been Super Bowl MVP in two of his three wins and Rothlisberger’s receivers have been his MVP’s. Point Brady.
- Best team of the decade? This isn’t even a debate. From 2001-2010 the Patriots won three Super Bowls and the Steelers won two but if we want to go deeper than that we can. The Patriots record (including playoffs) is 135-44 while the Steelers sit at 118-59 including 1 .500 season and 1 losing season. The Patriots haven’t finished worse than 9-7 and are also one of only two 11-5 teams in history to not make the playoffs. The Steelers have also had two different head coaches and had the largest exhale in America when the Patriots lost to the Jets in the Divisional playoff last year. Again, point Patriots.
Not that this weekends game doesn’t have the opportunity to be a great game. After a slow start, the Pittsburgh Steelers sit at 5-2 and have an excellent opportunity to reestablish themselves as a Super Bowl contender with a win against the Patriots. The Patriots are coming off their bye week which means they have been given an extra week to prepare to play the Steelers and are probably a little pissed that their offense played poorly against the Dallas Cowboys. The Steelers offense has been better than they were at the start of the year and the Patriots defense has also been greatly improved in their past two weeks. But let’s not make this into something it isn’t. This isn’t a battle over who was better for the last decade. That’s clearly the Patriots. The Patriots have gone through the Steelers to get to the promised land while the Steelers go around the Patriots in order to reach their Super Bowls. Sunday could take a step to change that, but I don’t feel like it will.