Sports Illustrated did a great profile on the Pittsburgh Steelers defense and how they’ve dedicated the rest of their season to teammate Ryan Shazier, who suffered a terrible back injury late in the season. Shazier is a rising star and we all hope that he makes a quick and full recovery.
That said, the profile had a weird shadow of the New England Patriots cast over the entire article as it seems like the Steelers had just two goals in 2017: 1) Beat the Patriots; 2) Win Super Bowl LII, according to SI’s Greg Bishop, “and they remain unchanged.”
Just ask Steelers safety Mike Mitchell, who previously spoke about the Patriots dominance on the NFL Network over the summer.
When Mitchell addressed his nephew’s high school basketball team last March, he told them, “I still don’t sleep well, thinking about Tom Brady.” And, back in the hallway, he said that hadn’t changed. “I’d be lying now if I said otherwise,” he said. “Look, the Patriots are the benchmark. That’s the team we’re going to have to knock off if we want to win the Super Bowl.”
Or ask defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who was unable to play against the Patriots in the 2016-17 AFC Championship Game due to an injury.
“The [defense’s] unit’s improvement—No. 4 in yards allowed over the last seven games of 2016—alternately depressed and motivated Heyward, who poured over so much of his old film, holed up, lights dimmed, that “I looked like Tom Hanks in Cast Away,” he says. Later, “watching them make that playoff run, watching them lose [to New England], it ate me up inside.”
Most think the Patriots and Steelers are on a collision course for the 2017-18 AFC Championship Game. Even Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that the results of the regular season game “would set up the second one,” in reference to confidence that both teams would meet in the postseason.
And since the Patriots won the regular season game, “the second one” will take place in New England, where Tom Brady and the Patriots are 5-0 against Pittsburgh (the Steelers beat Matt Cassel in 2008). Mitchell believes that the Steelers have what it takes to win wherever the game is played.
“We’re going to play [the Patriots] again,” Mitchell promises. “We can play them in hell, we can play them in Haiti, we can play them in New England. . . . We’re gonna win.”
We’ll see about that, Mike.