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Cheat Sheet: Steelers vs. Patriots


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The Steelers are back to work at Acrisure Stadium for their home opener against the New England Patriots.
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The Patriots lead this series, 17-16, but have won six of the last seven and 13 of 17 matchups between these two teams. Both teams have six  Super Bowl titles, the most in NFL history. Of those 33 games played between the Steelers and Patriots, four have been in the playoffs, with the Steelers winning just one of those. The most recent matchup was in Sept., 2019, with the Patriots winning that game in their home stadium 33-3. Most of the Steelers wins over New England occurred before the year 2000. Pittsburgh was 12-5 against the Patriots before the turn of the century.


  • The Patriots were 6-2 on the road last year but did lose in Miami last week. Pittsburgh only lost twice at home (plus a tie) in 2021.
  • New England outscored its opponents by 159 points last year, which was second-best in the AFC. After just one week, the Jets are currently the only AFC team with a worse point differential than the Patriots.
  • In terms of yards per play differential, New England was the fifth-best in the NFL last year. On average, the Patriots outscored their opponent by 9.4 points per game in 2021, third-best in the NFL.
  • After the Patriots' Week 14 bye last season, they won just one more game, a Week 17 blowout win in Jacksonville. The Patriots lost their other three post-bye regular season games, as well as losing by 30 points in Buffalo in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
  • New England beat only two teams last year that finished with a winning record, Tennessee, and the Bills. However, the Titans didn't have Derrick Henry, AJ Brown or Julio Jones in their game, and the Patriots' win over Buffalo came in extreme weather conditions in which New England threw the ball just three times.
  • In terms of 2021 yards per play differential, the Patriots were fifth-best in the league, while Pittsburgh was third-worst.
  • Seven teams finished the year with a better turnover differential than New England.
  • The Patriots were 7-9 in 2020 but won double digit games in every other season since 2003. Since 2001, New England finished third in the AFC East just once, second three times and first the 18 other years with six Super Bowl wins and three Super Bowl losses over that stretch.
  • Not only did the Bengals hold the ball for 43:43 last week compared to 26:17 for Pittsburgh, but Cincinnati ran 33 more plays as well. The Bengals averaged 4.6 yards every time they snapped the ball vs. 4.4 by Pittsburgh's offense. Meanwhile, in Miami, the Patriots ran just 54 plays and possessed the football for only 27:30.
  • Cincinnati produced 32 first downs compared to just 13 by the Steelers, but only five of those first downs for the Bengals were generated by running the football. Against the Dolphins, in a game they lost 20-7 and never held a lead, the Patriots produced 17 first downs against 18 for the Dolphins. Miami did hold the football for a full five minutes longer than the Patriots last week.
  • While the Bengals threw for 107 more passing yards than Pittsburgh, the Steelers averaged 4.9 yards per completion against a 5.0 average from Cincinnati.
  • The Steelers were plus-5 in turnover differential, as well as plus-6 in sack differential last week. Such numbers are extreme rarities in today's NFL. The Patriots were minus-3 in turnover differential in Miami last week, while the Dolphins sacked Mac Jones three times compared to the two sacks New England managed.
  • Last week, 92.3 percent of the Steelers pass plays came out of 11 Personnel. Only the Rams, 49ers and Bengals had a higher percentage. On the flip side, 56.3 percent of New England's pass attempts came when it had 11 Personnel on the field, which was near the bottom of the league.
  • Last week was Mitch Trubisky's fourth start against an AFC North opponent. He is now 4-0 in those games.


  • The Panthers, Texans and Giants were the only offenses that averaged fewer than the Steelers' 4.8 yards per play in 2021. Meanwhile, only the Bills and Browns allowed fewer than the 5.1 yards per play given up by New England last year. 
  • The Patriots defense forced a turnover on 17.9 percent of their opponents' drives last year, the highest percentage in the NFL.
  • Their 30 turnovers created was only behind the Cowboys and Colts. Only the Bills allowed fewer points per game than New England and the Patriots were third-best in the league in points allowed. 
  • New England's 2021 opponents targeted their tight ends just 16 percent of the time. That was the lowest percentage in the NFL. The only defenses that gave up fewer passing yards per game in 2021 than New England were the Bills, Bears and Panthers. 
  • New England's defense allowed a measly 5.1 yards per target against opposing tight ends. That was best in the league. They were also best in receptions allowed, yards allowed, as well as catch rate to the tight end position. Last week, the Patriots gave up just two receptions for 15 yards to tight ends.
  • Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth were targeted a combined 22 times last week. Those two combined for a 59.4 percent target share against Cincinnati. 
  • In Johnson's last 18 games, he has received at least a 30 percent target share nine times. 
  • George Pickens was only targeted three times last week, but he did run a route on 39 of Trubisky's 43 drop backs. At that high pace, the targets will come. Chase Claypool aligned in the slot for 89 percent of his snaps. 
  • Against the Patriots, Miami targeted Tyreek Hill on 38.7 percent of their drop backs, and Tua Tagovailoa's average depth of target was 8.33 yards downfield, which was higher than all but four of his 2021 games. Of Tagovailoa's passes, 75 percent were between the numbers against the Patriots. 
  • New England's defense allowed 9.1 yards per target to the Dolphins wide receivers. 
  • Freiermuth ran a route on 31 different plays in Week 1, compared to five total routes run by Zach Gentry, who was only on the field for 19 total snaps against the Bengals. Freiermuth played 56 snaps. 
  • Jaylen Warren played every offensive snap in overtime for the Steelers last week. Harris was in the game for 77 percent of the snaps before leaving the game. 
  • The Patriots defense was in the bottom five last year in giving up receiving yards and yards per reception to running backs. 
  • New England also allowed 4.6 yards per rushing attempt in 2021. Just three defenses were worse. However, last week Miami generated just 2.8 yards per rush against the Patriots. 
  • Claypool led the Steelers in rushing. On his six carries, Claypool ran for 36 yards. Harris, Trubisky, and Warren combined for 39 rushing yards on their combined 16 carries. 
  • Despite holding a 17-0 halftime lead, the Dolphins ran the ball 23 times (compared to 33 pass attempts) against the Patriots. 
  • The Patriots were in their nickel package with five defensive backs on the field for 66 percent of their snaps last year. 
  • Trubisky produced just 5.1 yards per attempt in Week 1. Against the Patriots, Tagovailoa averaged 8.2 yards per attempt. 
  • When throwing in the middle of the field last week, Trubisky completed five of his seven passes. Outside the numbers, he was 16 of 30. Tagovailoa was nine of 11 when targeting the middle of the field last week against New England. 
  • No team in the league brought just three pass-rushers a higher percentage of the time than the Patriots defense in 2021. That was the second straight season they led the league. However, last week, New England brought five or more pass-rushers on 54 percent of the Dolphins offensive plays. 
  • New England gave up just 4.7 points per game in the fourth quarter last year. That was the best in the league, and they were the only team under five. However, only four teams gave up more points on average in the first quarter of games. 
  • On a per drive basis, the Steelers produced the 28th-most yards in the league last year and New England's defense was eighth-best. 
  • Combining the 2021 and 2020 seasons, only Tampa Bay threw more passes than the Steelers. Pittsburgh ran the ball on 36 percent of its offensive snaps in Cincinnati. 
  • Defining "Explosive Plays" as runs over 10 yards and pass plays over 20 yards, the Steelers offense in 2021 ranked 25th in explosive runs and 30th in explosive pass plays. 
  • Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Claypool reached a speed of 21.46 mph last week. That was their fastest recorded time for any NFL player during the entire week of games. 
  • Avoiding snapping the ball on third downs is key in the NFL. 17.4 percent of the Steelers' first- and second-down plays resulted in gaining a first down or scoring a touchdown in Cincinnati. Only four offenses were worse in Week 1. And just 19.7 percent of the plays the Steelers ran resulted in a first down or touchdown. Only Dallas was worse in Week 1. As a result, Pittsburgh punted on a league-high percentage of their possessions. The Steelers gained just 20 yards per possession.


  • The Patriots scored 281 points at home and 198 points on the road, having played nine games home and away including their playoff loss in Buffalo. 
  • The Patriots were one of the most explosive offenses in the league last year. In rushes of 10 yards or longer, New England's offense was fourth-best. In pass plays resulting in a gain of 20 yards or more, the Patriots were third. The 49ers were the only offense that produced explosive pass plays on a higher percentage of their drop backs. The Steelers defense was the worst in the league last year giving up explosive runs. 
  • In 2021, New England ran 23 percent of its offensive snaps out of 21 Personnel (2 RB/1 TE) with a fullback on the field alongside a running back. The Patriots no longer have a fullback on their roster. 
  • The Patriots were one of only two offenses to use just two personnel groupings last week. New England was in 11 Personnel for 28 plays and 12 Personnel for the other 26 snaps. The 48 percent usage of 12 Personnel was the second-most in the league last week. 
  • The Patriots only targeted the wide receiver position 56 percent of the time last season, 26th in the league. That was true even with Jakobi Meyers accounting for a 23.6 percent target share. Jones targeted Meyers 50 more times than any other Patriots receiver. Meyers has been targeted 207 times over the past two years but has only found the end zone twice.  
  • Kendrick Bourne's 1.99 yards per route run was best on his team, even though his average depth of target was only 8.5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Meyer's average target came at 9.8 yards, and he produced 1.58 yards per route run. Nelson Agholor produced 1.09 yards every time he ran a route and was targeted on average 14.8 yards downfield. DaVante Parker was at 1.43 last year with Miami. Parker's average target came at 12.4 yards.
  • Parker never left the field last week, participating in every one of New England's offensive snaps against his former team. Meyers was the next highest participant with 49 snaps played, and Agholor was on the field for 33 of a possible 56 plays in Miami. Bourne ran just two routes in Week 1 but had the second most receiving yards on the team. 
  • Ja'Marr Chase was targeted 16 times against the Steelers last week. He caught 10 of those passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. But no other Bengals wide receiver finished the game with more than 33 receiving yards. 
  • After spending big money on tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, these two were only on the field together for 190 snaps in 2021. Amongst NFL tight ends last year, Henry was 22nd in targets per game and 26th in receptions per game. But Henry did convert 47.1 percent of his red zone targets into touchdowns, the best percentage of players at his position with at least double-digit red zone targets. Smith only missed one game last year, but still saw the field on only 51 percent of the Patriots' offensive snaps. But Smith was targeted on 27.2 percent of his routes, an extremely high percentage for a tight end. Last week, Henry and Smith combined for seven targets and Henry ran a route on 82.9 percent of Jones' drop backs. 
  • Henry played 42 snaps last week, compared to 39 by Smith. This indicates New England will play more double tight end sets in 2022 compared to last season. 
  • Collectively, the Patriots receivers dropped just 14 passes last season. That was third-best in the league.
  • Jones led all rookies last year with 22 touchdown passes and his 7.3 yards per pass attempt. Since 2000, 61 rookie quarterbacks have attempted 250 passes or more. Of those 61, Jones finished second in completion rate, seventh best in passer rating and 18th in yards per game. 
  • Jones threw 30 passes against the Dolphins. None of his pass catchers was targeted more than six times, yet eight receivers were targeted on multiple occasions. 
  • No offense in the league used play action at a lower rate (5.7 percent) than New England in Week 1. Last year, they used it the eighth-highest rate (29 percent). 
  • Just 10 of Jones' passes traveled 10 yards or further past the line of scrimmage in Miami. He completed four of those attempts, resulting in 89 yards and an interception. Against the Steelers, Joe Burrow attempted five passes of 20-plus air yards, completing just one. Chase was not targeted 20 yards downfield or deeper the entire game. 
  • Damien Harris has caught just 25 passes in his three NFL seasons and over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Harris went out for a pass on a third down a total of just seven times. Last year, Harris ran for 790 yards in his final 12 games. Jones' 2.51 seconds to throw was the fourth-quickest of all quarterbacks in Week 1. 
  • Rhamondre Stevenson averaged more yards (3.4 vs. 2.8) yards after initial contact than Harris. 
  • Harris and Stevenson split the workload in Week 1 with Harris carrying the football nine times against eight for Stevenson. But off those combined 17 carries, Harris and Stevenson produced just 73 rushing yards in Miami. And more worrisome, 33 percent of the Patriots' carries failed to gain any yardage, the worst percentage in the league last week..
  • In Cincinnati last week, Joe Mixon was targeted nine times and Samaje Perine was thrown to on five occasions. That was good for a 26 percent target share for the Bengals running backs in Week 1 against the Steelers. 
  • The combination of Henry and Harris scored 24 of the Patriots 35 offensive touchdowns last year. 
  • The Bills and Colts were the only offenses that began their drives with better average starting field position than New England last year. 
  • On a per drive basis, the Patriots produced the ninth-most yards in the league last year, but Pittsburgh's defense was 10th-best. 
  • While Robert Spillane was only on the field for 29 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps against the Bengals, he was used for 52.4 percent of the third- and fourth-down plays. Myles Jack played 87 percent of all the defensive snaps. 
  • There are not many safeties in the league asked to do what Pittsburgh asks of Terrell Edmunds. Against Cincinnati, Edmunds aligned between 28 percent and 32 percent of his snaps in each of the three positions: in the slot, in the box and as a deep safety.
  • Arthur Maulet aligned in the slot for 91.7 percent of the snaps he played. 
  • The Patriots have made five selections in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2018. All five have been used to acquire an offensive player. 
  • In Cincinnati, the Steelers defense blitzed Burrow on just 12.3 percent of his dropbacks. 
  • The Steelers defense allowed just 4.6 yards per play in the snaps in which TJ Watt was not on the field last week.


  • Chris Boswell has gone three straight years of making at least 90 percent of his field goal attempts. He has achieved that in five of his seven NFL seasons.
  • The Patriots' opponents only made 22 of a possible 33 field goal attempts last year and three of those misses came within 40 yards. New England's opponents also missed three extra points in 2021. There wasn't one placekicker that made 66 percent of his kicks or worse that lasted five games in the league last year.
  • Nick Folk made 92 percent of his field goal attempts in 2021.

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January 27th, 2002: Patriots 24, Steelers 17, AFC Championship Game

This was the Steelers' first matchup against Tom Brady, who was just 25 years old when this game occurred. Brady's squad was a huge underdog coming to Pittsburgh to play the top seed in the AFC. The Steelers had only lost three games all year. Brady was an unknown, and this was his 16th career start. New England had just snuck past the Raiders the previous week in what is now referred to as "The Tuck Game." Troy Brown scored one New England touchdown on a punt return. Brady had to leave the game late in the second quarter and was replaced by Drew Bledsoe, who ignited the Patriots offense, ending the half with a touchdown pass to David Patten. The Steelers rallied late with Kordell Stewart at the controls, but it wasn't enough. New England went on to pull off another upset against "The Greatest Show On Turf" Rams beginning an amazing legacy for Brady, Belichick and the Patriots of the 2000s.


  • Mitch Trubisky has 12 career QB wins in games his team scored fewer than 24 points (2nd-most in NFL since 2017 behind Ben Roethlisberger)
  • 2nd-year TE Pat Freiermuth had a career-high 75 rec yds in Wk 1 (led team)
  • PIT: 5-0 in his career when Freiermuth has had more than 40 rec yards
  • Chase Claypool led the Steelers with 36 rush yards (on 6 carries) in Week 1
  • Claypool also had 4 receptions & 18 rec yards in Week 1
  • Claypool: 800+ rec yards in both 2020 and 2021 seasons
  • Diontae Johnson led the Steelers with 7 receptions in Week 1 (55 rec yards)
  • 2021: 107 rec, 1,161 rec yards, 8 rec TD (all led team, career highs)
  • Johnson has 114 receptions since 2021 (5th-most in NFL)

Patriots LT Trent Brown vs. Steelers OLB Alex Highsmith - Highsmith is coming off a three-sack performance in Cincinnati, but he won't have the advantage of having Watt on his opposite side for this game against the Patriots. Brown is a simply massive human being, even by NFL offensive tackle standards, and when he gets his hands on his opponent, it is usually over. But Highsmith won against the Bengals' Jonah Williams with his get-off and speed, which might work quite well against Brown as well in Week 2.

Steelers Interior OL vs. Patriots DT Christian Barmore - Along with Kyle Dugger, Barmore is really a player to watch on New England's defense. He is a star in the making with great length, power, quickness, explosion and agility. And Barmore is really starting to improve his technique. The Patriots will likely align their young star across the interior of Pittsburgh's offensive line to try to find the best matchup. James Daniels, Mason Cole, and Kevin Dotson better be prepared to handle Barmore's impressive physical gifts.