The mystique formerly associated with the New England Patriots is gone. Not only are opponents no longer afraid to play the Patriots, but they’re shooting at them, calling Bill Belichick’s roster “a transitional group.”
“They are [the Patriots] a transitional group like us,” Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said days before his team’s Week 2 encounter with the Patriots. “It’s been a few years since we were at the stadium against them and when you put the tape on you see that. Important players in all three stages and coaches too [are different]. But I know their core values will remain the same. I think when you play a New England team, they always have high ground.”
Tomlin didn’t mean his summary disrespectfully. In fact, the Boston Globe’s Christopher Gasper called Tomlin’s comments simply an “honest assessment” of his upcoming opponent.
How else would a coach describe a team like the Patriots? With Tom Brady leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots missed the playoffs in 2020, crawled into the game 10-7 in 2021, and started 2022 unfavorably with a 20-7 loss en route to the Miami Dolphins in Week 1?
It seems very similar to the situation the Steelers will face this season as they enter the post-Ben-Roethlisberger era. Pittsburgh has Mitchell Trubisky as a starter, but he’s effectively a bridge quarterback until rookie Kenny Pickett is ready to be the No. 1.
It’s almost like the Steelers have their Cam Newton and Mac Jones on the team at the same time.
Unlike the Patriots, Pittsburgh won their Week 1 matchup against a division rival. In what was arguably the wildest game on the week one schedule, the Steelers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 in overtime.
The game was marked by an injury to the Bengals’ long snapper, which likely resulted in a missed field goal and an extra point that cost Cincinnati the game. It will be interesting to see if that divisional loss costs the Bengals a valuable playoff position later this season.
Anyway, the Steelers didn’t look too good when they got their first win. The offense only managed 267 total yards for the game. Trubisky completed a modest 21 of 38 passes for 198 yards and a TD. Needless to say, Steelers vs. Patriots will not be a game expected to be a shootout.
According to Fox Sports, the Patriots-Steelers game has an over/under rating of 40.5. This is the second-lowest over/under matchup on week two’s schedule after a game in which two teams play without their starting quarterbacks, the New York Jets versus the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers will be without edge rusher supreme TJ Watt. He’s suffering from a chest injury, so the Patriots could get a break on that. The Week 2 matchup appears to be the Patriots’ best shot at winning in their first four contests.
Your opponents in Weeks 3 and 4 are the Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers, respectively. Given that they’ve already lost to the Dolphins and losing to the Ravens doesn’t seem impractical, the Patriots may need to beat the Patriots to avoid a 0-3 start overall and against the AFC.