The home of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the rest of the New England Patriots has been a house of horrors for Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Actually, the Patriots have been the thorn in Mike Tomlin's side that has prevented the Steelers from getting back to the big game, whether on the road or at home.
The Patriots beat the Steelers in the 2016 AFC Championship game in Foxboro. And how could anyone forget the Jesse James game? A win for the Steelers in that game would've given the Steelers home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs; avoiding Jacksonville in the Divisional Playoff. We all remember how that one went.
Pittsburgh has battled with New England 10 times under Mike Tomlin, winning only three of those games. Two of those were at home in 2011 and 2018, and the other was on the road in 2008. The win in Foxboro in 2008 was against a Patriots team sans Tom Brady. Tomlin has never beaten Brady in Foxboro.
That reason alone is only one of the reasons the majority of people will bet against the Steelers on Sunday night. The Patriots are the defending champions, they've still got Brady and brought back most of their team, and still boast a quality defense with a great secondary.
There are also many football experts, along with many fans, that have mixed feeling about the Steelers going into 2019. Pittsburgh lost great talent in Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. The Brown absence has left a larger void since James Conner stepped in for Bell with a Pro Bowl season in 2018. Brown's production at wide receiver is nearly impossible to replicate. They also have some key unknowns on defense.
Another issue to throw on top of the Steelers' losses is the improvements of the Browns. While they already have a stout defense, Cleveland added great talent to their offense as well. They're a much-improved team that many are predicting to win the AFC North. Also consider the Ravens are no slouch either. Competition in the AFC North isn't easy in 2019.
In all honesty, this really is the perfect position for the Steelers to be in.
The Steelers aren't as talented as they were in 2018 on offense, but they are much more improved on defense. The additions of Mark Barron, Steven Nelson, and Devin Bush alone could have huge impacts on the defense. Throw in wildcards like AAF star Kameron Kelly and Bud Dupree in a contract year, and the Steelers' defense might once again be dangerous.
As for the offense, yes, Brown's departure hurts. As does Jesse James leaving for Detroit in free agency. The Steelers still have a deep receiving corps with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, Ryan Switzer, rookie Diontae Johnson, and second-year wideout James Washington. Washington had another stellar preseason and looks way more polished this year. This corps is a bit of an unknown for the Steelers, but the ceiling for this group is high.
In the NFL, you don't have to be the most talented to win. Talent is a wonderful thing to have an abundance of, but noisy teams, especially noisy teams that have toxic players, rarely win in this league.
The Steelers said goodbye to great talent in Bell and Brown, but also said goodbye to the drama and noise they constantly carried with them that ultimately boiled over in 2018. It's really helped the entire team, including the coaches, focus more on the guys that are in the locker room and be focused on what the real goal is: winning the Super Bowl.
Since 2018 as the Steelers' receivers coach, the late Darryl Drake instilled the mantra to his players to "shut out the noise." And since his sudden passing, his players are fully embracing that mentality. Starting their season off in a place that has constantly given them problems is the perfect kind of adversity the Steelers may need right now.
A win in New England, and beating Tom Brady in his own stadium, would be the perfect way to start their quest for a seventh Lombardi. It combines past and present demons that this team struggles with and would catapult them even further on their belief that they can succeed.
Not only would this finally get the money off their back about not winning in New England, but it would also give them that boost of confidence in each other right from the start of the season. It would further cement their belief in one another, meanwhile becoming a better football team.
Yes, the Steelers aren't as talented as they were in 2018, but they are a better football team in 2019. The late great hockey coach Herb Brooks said it best.
"You win with people, not talent."
The same can be said in football. In the ultimate team game, it's all about how the team plays together; not about how talented they are. The Steelers can fully bury the past with a win in New England.