The ties? They’re not what they once were.
When the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers crossed paths last December, there were six former Patriots in Pittsburgh’s fold and two former Steelers in New England’s.
But off the 53-man rosters and 10-man practice squads now are the likes of quarterback Brian Hoyer, running backs Stevan Ridley and Ralph Webb, wide receiver Damoun Patterson as well as linebackers Jon Bostic and L.J. Fort.
So, we’ll have to make do with what remains heading into the 2019 season opener Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
Here’s a glance through the one-sided roster connections as the 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff draws near.
Adrian Klemm, assistant offensive line coach – Bill Belichick’s first draft as Patriots head coach saw Klemm arrive in the second round at No. 46 overall. The offensive lineman out of Hawaii would start 10 games for New England, appearing in a total of 26 while earning three Super Bowl rings. Klemm logged his final NFL season with the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Southern Methodist in 2008. Now 42, Klemm coached the Mustangs’ O-line and later the UCLA Bruins’ O-line before joining the Steelers’ staff. And it’s a staff that also includes tenured assistant head coach John Mitchell, who was the defensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns from 1991 through 1993 under Belichick.
Xavier Grimble, tight end – Grimble’s stint with New England came in November 2014. The former USC, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers tight end signed to the Patriots’ practice squad for two days. A stop back in San Francisco followed for Grimble before he agreed to a futures deal with Pittsburgh in early 2016. Grimble, 26, has remained a Steeler en route to catching 22 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. Three of those receptions and 22 of those yards transpired against New England. Grimble has started six games and checked into a total of 44 for Pittsburgh, and was tendered at the right-of-first-refusal restricted level of $2.025 million in March.
Mike Hilton, cornerback – Hilton was a Patriot for eight days in September 2016. An undrafted rookie out of Ole Miss then, Hilton had been waived by the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to signing to the Patriots’ practice squad. The slot corner proceeded to latch onto the Pittsburgh practice squad after his release from New England’s. And since then, 31 games have been in the cards for the 25-year-old Hilton, who was retained by the Steelers on a futures deal before 2017 and signed his $645,000 exclusive-rights tender this July. Hilton has amassed 121 tackles, five sacks, 14 passes defensed, three interceptions and one forced fumble over his stay in the black and gold. He’s started six contests.