AFC Championship: A Rematch 12 Years In The Making

AFCThe Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots square off at Gillete Stadium on  Sunday for the AFC Championship game that will feature two future hall-of-fame quarterbacks looking for one more chance at Super Bowl glory.

The Steelers earned their place in this conference final after defeating the Miami Dolphins in the Wild Card round at Heinz Field 30-12 and then beating the Chiefs at Arrowhead 18-16 without scoring a single touchdown in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.

The Patriots, on the other hand, as the top seed in the conference, rested during the Wild Card round and then proceeded to take care of the Houston Texans in the other AFC Divisional Playoff game 34-16.

The Steelers arrive at Foxborough without fears, trying to pull an upset against a favored Patriots team that has won eight straight games and is playing in the AFC Championship game for the sixth season in a row, a span in which they are 2-3.

Both the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and the Patriots’ Tom Brady have been here before and know what is at stake as they have metalready met once in the AFC Championship game since they took the reins of their respective teams.

Although Brady has not been as dominant in the conference finals as in other instances (12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions), he owns a superb 9-2 record against the Steelers.

Brady has two victories in the postseason against Pittsburgh, one of them being the 2005 AFC Championship game at Heinz Field where the Patriots clinched a ticket to Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles.

That was Roethlisberger’s rookie year and the second of many battles between these two elite quarterbacks (the first one was a regular season game in Pittsburgh won by the Steelers 34-20), but surprisingly this will be only the second time they will meet in the postseason.

Since Brady became the Patriots field general he has faced the Steelers twice in the playoffs, but the first time he did, in 2002, the opposing quarterback was Kordell Stewart.

Despite his two previous victories against the Steelers in the playoffs, this is the first time that Brady will enjoy the benefit of playing them at Gillete Stadium.

In order to offset that the Steelers will have to rely on their Big Three (Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell) and an offensive line that so far has performed superbly opening holes for Bell and protecting “Big Ben.”

That trend must continue if they want to earn a ticket to Super Bowl LI, as the Patriots own one of the best rushing defenses of the league as they only allowed six touchdowns on the ground and no running back was able to rush for more than 90 yards in the regular season. On the flip side, the Patriots will have to find a way to contain Brown, who has 310 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the previous three games against New England.

The Patriots offense is fourth in the league scoring 27.94 points per game and will be facing a stout Steelers defense that finished eighth in the league and allows 19.72 points per game.

When: January 22, 6:40 p.m.
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA.

Game lines:

Spread: Patriots -6
Total: 50.5

Patriots -250
Steelers +210

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