It’s only Wednesday and Mike Tomlin sounds like a kid who can’t wait for Christmas as the Steelers await their long anticipated showdown with the Patriots this weekend.
He likely enjoyed himself Monday night as his hated rivals from New England fell apart on national television in a loss that put the Steelers atop the AFC for this week with the best record in the Conference. That now puts the Patriots in a must-win situation this week, as a victory will tie them with Pittsburgh record-wise at 11-3, but give them the advantage with a head-to-head victory for the tie-breaker for the top seed with two games to play.
Fortunately, unlike back in January when the Patriots ended the Steelers’ run in the AFC Championship Game, Pittsburgh will get to play this one on their home turf. This one still has plenty riding on it, and Tomlin is certainly fired up for it.
“It’s good to be in the kitchen. The kitchen’s in Pittsburgh, PA, this week in the National Football League, and at Heinz Field,” Tomlin said via ESPN. “That’s where you want to be in the middle of December. We don’t take it for granted.”
Had New England beaten Miami, it would have likely put even more hype into one of the biggest match-ups of the season. Up until Monday night, the Patriots and Steelers were the two teams in the AFC who were both playing well and seemed to be the most likely to end up in Minnesota this February. Now, it’s Pittsburgh who has been the team that despite struggling against lesser opponents, they’ve still found a way to win. New England, meanwhile, saw Rob Gronkowski get suspended against the Bills last weekend, leaving the Patriots vulnerable against a Dolphins team who smelled blood and took advantage.
Oddly enough, even as bad as everything went, the Patriots were still very much in the game but just couldn’t quite make enough plays to pull off the victory. To Le’Veon Bell, that’s one of the things he feels should now separate the Steelers and give them the advantage as the Super Bowl favorites.
“I’m obviously going to say yeah, we should be the Super Bowl favorite and we have the talent to back it up,” said Bell via Yahoo! Sports. “I think we haven’t been necessarily playing our best football, but we’ve been getting the job done for the last eight weeks or so that we’ve won. It may not be pretty, we may not win by 25, 30 points or play a style everybody likes, but we find a way to get the job done.”
“I think us beating Baltimore [in Week 14] 39-38 really showed a lot because that’s a divisional rivalry, against a team that’s been playing really good football. Then you see a team like New England [during the same week] they played a division rival and they didn’t get the job done. Some people don’t like the way we win, but at the end of the day we are winning the games. So I’m confident and I think the rest of our team is too.”
As a result, New England’s misery has Pittsburgh riding high heading into Sunday’s game. The Patriots have history on their side since Tom Brady holds the 7-2 regular season advantage, as well as a perfect 3-0 postseason record, but Pittsburgh has the momentum. The good news for Patriots fans is the fact that while Monday night’s game might not have gone the way they hoped, the one thing it likely will do is make the focus a little sharper this week and raise the motivation even a little bit higher as the Patriots try and get back to playing good football.
Either way, this is a pivotal game for both teams, and Tomlin says they’re looking forward to being in the spotlight on National Television for a chance to knock off their nemesis this weekend.
“It’s good to be in big games. It’s better to be in big games than ones nobody’s watching,” he said. “We better be appreciative of this spot and not resistant in any way, but embrace it.”
“This is what we’ve been fighting for since March, to be in these types of games against these types of people. Why would you fight that? It’s an awesome thing.”
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Le'Veon Bell Mike Tomlin New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers Tom Brady