Three months removed from a 27-16 win at Heinz Field, the New England Patriots are set to revisit the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium.
A Super Bowl bid is forthcoming. And several familiar faces will be revisiting their former team in the process of it, as the two sides of the AFC Championship Game include four ex-Patriots and one ex-Steeler.
Here’s a glance back through those roster connections leading up to Sunday’s 6:40 p.m. ET kickoff in Foxborough.
LeGarrette Blount, running back – For 11 games, Blount found himself a Steeler. The 6-foot, 250-pound back signed a two-year deal with Pittsburgh in 2014 after spending 2013 with the Patriots. Though after rushing for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 65 carries behind a first-team All-Pro in Le’Veon Bell – and exiting the field before the final whistle during a win over the Tennessee Titans that November – Blount was waived. He’d return to Foxborough only three days later, and has since collected 2,151 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on 524 carries in regular-season action, as well as a Super Bowl XLIX ring to go with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 55 carries in postseason action. The 30-year-old Blount, who picked up 127 yards and two scores on 22 attempts versus Pittsburgh during the Oct. 22 meeting, amassed a career-high with 1,161 yards to go with a franchise-record 18 touchdowns during the 2016 campaign. Sunday will mark his second game versus the Steelers since rejoining the Patriots.
Xavier Grimble, tight end – Grimble had a cup of coffee with the Patriots in November of 2014, signing to the club’s practice squad only to be released two days later. The former undrafted free agent out of USC has been a member four teams in all over the course of his NFL career, but has stayed around Pittsburgh since arriving on a reserve-futures pact in January of 2016. Grimble appeared in 13 regular-season games for Pittsburgh this go-round, starting two, and catching 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. The 24-year-old snared two passes for 14 yards during the last encounter with New England.
L.J. Fort, linebacker – Fort signed with the Patriots in the midst of the 2015 training camp. The linebacker, special-teamer and onetime fullback hailing from Northern Iowa would be waived two weeks after arriving, however, and finished his short tenure with New England having played 17 snaps in his lone preseason game. Fort, who has also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals, would go on to sign with Pittsburgh just a day after leaving New England. He worked his way up from the practice squad to Pittsburgh’s active roster by year’s end, and proceeded to notch four tackles over 14 games for the Steelers during the 2016 regular season.
Keavon Milton, offensive tackle – Milton signed to the Patriots’ practice squad in November of 2015 and remained there through the end of the season before re-upping on a reserve-futures pact. The converted defensive lineman out of Louisiana-Monroe, who first entered the league as a New Orleans Saints undrafted rookie in 2013, would later be waived by the Patriots in August as the roster was whittled to 53. He spent more than a month on the Dallas Cowboys’ 10-man scout team from there, before agreeing to terms as part of the Steelers’ practice squad in late October. On it Milton still resides.
Brandon Dixon, cornerback – Dixon, who initially broke in as a New York Jets sixth-round pick out of Northwest Missouri State in 2014, also had a stop on the Patriots’ practice squad during the 2015 season. Dixon signed with New England at the start of that October and was released shortly before the calendar flipped to November. Following a subsequent stint with the New Orleans Saints, the 5-foot-11, 203-pound defensive back signed to the Pittsburgh practice squad this December and returned to it soon after his release.