As if nothing has changed since last season and nothing has happened in the offseason, the New England Patriots, with Tom Brady pulling them forward, looked like the defending champions they happen to be with a 28-21 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Brady didn’t look like a player who spent most of the offseason worrying about getting suspended or not. The Patriots take more flak than anyone else, deservedly or not, and are the more prepared to handle pressure than has nothing to do with the game, and isolate the outside distractions, not letting it harm their preparations.
Brady threw four touchdowns passes (completed 25-of-32 for 288 yards) and no interceptions; three of them to Rob Gronkowski. Dion Lewis was the running back of choice for Bill Belichick, and he ran for 69 yards, looking like the next unknown who is going to be quite useful for the Patriots.
On the other end, it wasn’t the best of games for Ben Roethlisberger, throwing one interception and one touchdown pass, although his TD throw to Antonio Brown came with two seconds left in the game, and with no way of influencing the final score. The Patriots had a 21-3 going for them midway through the third quarter, and looked like they’re outclassing the Steelers on every corner of the field. Brady threw a touchdown to the other tight end, Scott Chandler, completing his four-touchdown performance with a passer rating of 143.8.
Meanwhile, for the Steelers, it was a frustrating game, in which they needed a long time to get going. Le’Veon Bell and Mike Pouncey didn’t play, which meant two All-Pros out of the picture. Not having Martavis Bryant at wide receiver didn’t help either, even if Antonio Brown finished with 133 yards and a touchdown while three more players had 50 receiving yards or more. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 127 yards.
The defense, always the cause of worry for the Steelers heading into this season, found it almost impossible to cover Gronkowski. As Brady said after the game – whenever someone leaves him open, it’s not going to be difficult for him to find him. But that wasn’t the only thing the Steelers were frustrated with.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was furious about the communication problems in the helmets for part of the game, as the Steelers were picking up the Patriots’ radio frequency at times. The Patriots later said they had similar problems, and the league, who supplies the communications equipment, said it had something to do with the weather. This isn’t the first time visiting teams have complained about headset problems in Gillette Stadium.
Maybe it would have all been different had the first drive gone well for the Steelers. After a decisive, aggressive start, a trick play gone wrong got Antonio Brown sacked, and then Josh Scobee missed a 44-yard field goal. The Patriots didn’t need another invitation to take over the game, and from there, the Steelers were the ones doing the chasing, although it took them forever to actually catch up. Brady finding Gronkowski for the touchdown in the fourth quarter with 9:20 left in the game to put the Patriots up by 14 clinched their victory.