4:25 p.m. ET
• Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin came up with an excellent game plan for this game against the Patriots. On defense, he did what New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick generally does to others — take away the opposing team’s first and best option. The Steelers double-teamed New England tight end Rob Gronkowski all game long, and did an excellent job of forcing New England quarterback Tom Brady to rely on wide receivers Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan to win matchups. They didn’t win them often enough, and in one stretch of the game, the Steelers defense forced five consecutive three-and-outs. On offense, the Steelers’ game plan was to play in empty sets for much of the game, and to play more up-tempo than they have in the past. This approach worked well, as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was able to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Additionally, the Steelers did a very good job utilizing backup running back Jaylen Samuels. Samuels rushed for over 100 yards, and did an excellent job in the four-minute offense in the fourth quarter.
• The Patriots typically have clinched a playoff spot by this point in the season, but this is not a typical season and they have yet to do so. One reason is that they are lacking in explosive playmakers on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Patriots have to rely on great scheme and perfect execution in order to free players. Other than rookie running back Sony Michel, the Patriots really don’t have any other weapons that can make a play on their own. On defense, the Patriots have to rely on excellent communication and team play in order to get results. They simply don’t have a “shock” defensive player such as a Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald. The Patriots, obviously, still are a very competitive team, but this particular team will have to rely on almost perfect execution in order to go deep into the playoffs.
• One of the other issues confronting the Patriots is their offensive performance in the red zone. It has been a problem all year long and they still have not figured it out. As long as teams double-team tight end Rob Gronkowski in the scoring area, the Patriots will continue to struggle.
• Too many times this year, the Patriots have been flagged for over 10 penalties in a game. Offensive left tackle Trent Brown has struggled in recent weeks with penalties. Too many times in this game, penalties stalled drives, and we are sure this will be a point of emphasis for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick going forward.
• Steelers kicker Chris Boswell is struggling mightily and the Steelers will have to get their emergency kicker list ready. Boswell’s confidence clearly is shaken, and in this game, he missed a very short field goal attempt.