A look back at the Steelers' 28-21 loss at New England via the magic of the DVR:
WHAT WORKED:** The Steelers' running game was effective despite not having RB Le'Veon Bell and C Maurkice Pouncey available. RB DeAngelo Williams bolted for 127 yards on 21 carries and averaged 6.0 yards per attempt.
"I was just a product of great blocking from the offensive line," Williams said. "They just told me, 'You got to make that first guy miss that tackle or not let one guy bring you down.' That was my whole mindset going out there."
It worked both ways.
Williams made defenders miss. He was also brought down on first contact 11 times (he also ran out of bounds once). But that first contact didn't occur until well past the line of scrimmage on a number of instances (an 11-yard gain on Williams' third carry of the night being one of them).
Williams was quick, decisive, powerful and tough to bring down.
But the blocking in front of him repeatedly set the table for success.
WHAT DIDN'T: Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was targeted eight times and finished with five catches for 94 yards at three TD receptions.
"Obviously, it wasn't successful," head coach Mike Tomlin said of the Steelers' approach vs. Gronkowski. "He's a really talented player and a dominant player, particularly in situational ball. He delivered for them big. I don't want to take anything away from him and his efforts."
If nothing else, the Steelers confirmed that allowing Gronkowski an unimpeded release from the line of scrimmage is asking for trouble.
Gronkowski benefitted from a free release on catches good for 16, 16 (TD), 6 (TD), 52 and 1 (TD) yards.
New England QB Tom Brady had this to say regarding Gronkowski's first TD: "It looked like they had some problems getting aligned. So any time they don't cover 'Gronk,' (he) usually gets it."
Gronkowski also caught balls after clean releases but wasn't credited with receptions after running out of bounds and failing to re-establish on the field of play, after coming down out of bounds in the back of the end zone and after a defensive penalty was enforced.
SAME APPROACH, DIFFERENT RESULT:** The Patriots shifted DT Malcom Brown, DE Geneo Grissom and DE Chandler Jones with the Steelers at the line of scrimmage on third-and-goal from the New England 1-yard line with 6:48 left in the third quarter. The offensive line held its ground and RB Will Johnson rumbled for a touchdown that, coupled with a two-point conversion, brought the Steelers to within 21-11.
The Patriots shifted Brown, Grissom and Jones with the Steelers at the line of scrimmage on third-and-goal from the New England 1 with 12:49 left in the fourth quarter. This time, LT Kelvin Beachum and TE Alejandro Villanueva jumped (Beachum was called for a false start) and the Steelers eventually settled for a field goal that cut their deficit to 21-14.
STATISTICAL ODDITY: The Patriots averaged 6.2 yards per offensive play but gained just 3 on a pass from Brady to WR Julian Edelman against a defense aligned with 10 players in the second quarter.
The Steelers substituted NT Steve McClendon for DE Stephon Tuitt after Brady gained 2 yards on a third-and-1 sneak from the Steelers' 11 on the previous play.
CB Cortez Allen also came off the field but wasn't replaced.
SAME APPROACH, DIFFERENT RESULT PART II: The Patriots threw a play-action pass out of a run formation that included four tight ends on second-and-goal from the Steelers' 6 in the second quarter. Gronkowski got behind Steelers S Will Allen and Steelers S Mike Mitchell in the end zone and hauled in a touchdown pass.
The Steelers threw a play-action pass out of a run formation that included three tight ends (Villanueva was eligible) and FB Roosevelt Nix on first-and-goal from the New England 1 in the fourth quarter. TE Heath Miller was sandwiched in the end zone by Patriots LB Jamie Collins and S Patriots Devin McCourty and QB Ben Roethlisberger wound up throwing the ball away.