The Boston Patriots were part of the original AFL when it was formed in 1960. A year after the 1970 merger with the NFL, the team relocated to a new stadium. The Boston organization then decided a name change was needed. They originally decided on the Bay State Patriots, but adverse reaction from fans and the abbreviation to B.S. Patriots, saw the name of New England evolve.
Overall, the Patriots hold a slender edge over the Steelers, winning 17-16, but in Pittsburgh it is the Steelers who lead 12-10.
Before the Patriots drafted Tom Brady in 2000, the Steelers led the series 12-5, but after his arrival the pendulum swung towards the Patriots. The pain to Steeler fans runs deep as their team lost three AFC Championship games to the Patriots in the past twenty years, including two that were played in Pittsburgh.
In 2018 when the Patriots traveled to Pittsburgh for the week 15 game, they had won five straight against the Steelers. It was the game that I had chosen for my annual pilgrimage to Pittsburgh as I wanted to be at the game when my team slayed their nemesis.
Although the Steelers went into the game with a winning record, they were also on a three-game losing streak and still led the AFC North with Baltimore chasing a half game behind.
With a win the Patriots would take their tenth straight AFC East title. Brady’s career figures against the Steelers were 30 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions which saw the Patriots favored by 1.5 points.
I was joined on my adventure by friend Scott who travelled in the opposite direction from Australia for a combined distance of 14,000 miles between us. An international investment of that kind surely didn’t deserve to watch their team lose.
The (7-5-1) Steelers vs the (9-4) Patriots; December 16, 2018
The Steelers won the coin toss and took the ball. It looked a good decision as they moved the chains with Jaylen Samuels leading the way with 39 rushing yards and a completion for 10 yards.
The drive finished with Ben Roethlisberger’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Vance McDonald after a typical Ben fake pump. It was the season when Chris Boswell was faltering, but he added the extra point. The stadium erupted with the Terrible Towels rotating as the Steelers took an early 7-0 lead. It was the first time in six meetings between the teams they had scored first.
The fans’ emotive intensity soon faded after the Patriots took the ball. They watched Chris Hogan carry a completion 63 yards for a touchdown and the contest was tied.
The teams exchanged possessions as the game went into the second quarter when the Steelers received a punt on their own 8-yard line. With no running plays but completions to four different receivers, Roethlisberger moved the chains before finding Antonio Brown over the middle with a 17-touchdown pass. With that score, Brown tied his season record for touchdowns at thirteen.
Eli Rodgers, back from PUP, caught 2 for 12 yards on the drive which was the longest given up by the Patriots to that point in the season. The Patriots were kept scoreless in the second quarter for the first time in 81 games and the Steelers went into the locker room at half time 14-7 ahead.
The second half continued the domination of the Steelers’ defense while Roethlisberger moved his team with ease until he was pressured into an intentional grounding penalty on the Patriots 4. Boswell missed the resulting 32-yard field goal.
T.J. Watt’s sack halted the Patriots’ next drive, but a pass interference call on Joe Haden kept it going to enable them to kick a 33-yard field goal and reduce their deficit.
As the game went into the final period, Roethlisberger threw his second interception. His pass intended for Brown fell into the arms of Patriots’ Duron Harmon. New England took over on their own 41.
Brady completed seven straight passes to give the Patriots a first down on the Steelers’ 5. A hush descended over Heinz Field as Steeler fans around the stadium accepted the inevitable that now appeared to be a certainty. Brady was poised once again to stick the dagger into their football hearts.
A holding penalty on the Patriots saw the noise rejuvenate and the Towels begin to twirl as New England were moved back to the 17. Under pressure on second down, Brady lofted a high pass to the sideline and watched Joe Haden jump high to pluck it from the air. The fans in the stadium erupted and all the gloom and apprehension vanished instantly.
With the ball on their 4, the Steelers turned with great effect to their ground game to get them out of the hole with a drive that would go 66 yards. On a third down, Roethlisberger on the run extended the series with a 20-yard pass to Samuels.
When the Steelers’ impetus stalled, the fans held their breath as Boswell stepped up to attempt a 48-yard field goal. As the ball sailed through the uprights the fans knew it was going to be their day. The energy radiating around Heinz Field was a mixture of relief and elation even if the Patriots had one final chance to send the game into overtime.
Brady moved his team down the field, but the Steelers defense played their part in the Steelers’ win by keeping them out of the end zone. Brady’s final pass fell incomplete and that was the moment the fans could forget all the previous pain and heartache as they celebrated the victory.
The Pittsburgh Steelers 17 vs the New England Patriots 10
The win assured the Steelers of their 15 th consecutive non-losing season, all but the first three came under Coach Tomlin. He became the fifth head coach in NFL history to begin a head coaching tenure with at least 12 consecutive non-losing seasons, joining Marty Schottenheimer (1984-97, 14), Don Shula (1963-75, 13), George Allen (1966-77, 12) and Curly Lambeau (1921-32, 12).
Jaylen Samuel achieved his only 100-yard game rushing game in his short NFL career.
In their review of the game, the Boston Globe wondered if it was the end of the Patriots dynasty? Two months later they went on to win Super Bowl LIII.
The Steelers lost their next game in New Orleans. They finished second in the division to Baltimore thus failing to make the playoffs for the first time in five years, but the memory of that victory over the Patriots would last long into the offseason.