The New England Patriots will be on the road for a second straight week when they travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in the newly named Acrisure Stadium. It will be the third time in the Bill Belichick era that the Patriots will start the season with two straight road games. They did so in 2003 and 2014. It will also mark the second time in team history that the Patriots open the season with Miami and Pittsburgh. In 2019, the Patriots began the year at home against the Steelers and then traveled to face the Dolphins.
The Patriots and Steelers will meet for the first time since the opening day of the 2019 season when the Patriots won, 33-3, at Gillette Stadium in a Sunday Night Football Game on Sept. 8. The Patriots will play at Pittsburgh for the first time since dropping a 17-10 decision on Dec. 16, 2018, the team's last loss of the year en route to the Super Bowl LIII title. Over the last six regular season matchups, the Patriots are 5-1.
This week's matchup will mark the 34th meeting overall. Pittsburgh leads the regular season series by a 15-13 margin, while New England leads 4-1 in the postseason.
The teams played in the AFC Championship Game during the 2001, '04 and '16 playoffs, with the Patriots winning each time, en route to Super Bowl titles. The teams also met in the 1996 and '97 Divisional Playoffs. The Patriots defeated Pittsburgh, 28-3, at Foxboro Stadium en route to their Super Bowl XXXI appearance. Pittsburgh beat New England the following season, 7-6, at Three Rivers Stadium.
The Patriots are 8-11 in road games against Pittsburgh in the regular season, including a 4-3 record at newly named Acrisure Stadium. The Patriots are 2-0 against Pittsburgh in the postseason on the road with two AFC Championship wins.
The Patriots first regular season home game at Gillette Stadium was the 2002 season-opening 28-21 win on Sept. 9, 2002 against Pittsburgh.
Overall Record: 17-16
- Home Record: 7-4
- Gillette Stadium: 6-1
- Foxboro Stadium: 1-3
Road Record: 10-12
- Heinz/Acrisure Field: 6-3
- Three Rivers Stadium: 4-9
Bill Belichick vs. Pittsburgh: 15-12 (12-4 with New England)
Mike Tomlin vs. New England: 3-8
SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS
By Paul Perillo
When the Patriots run - Edge: Steelers
The Patriots showed some positive signs early when it came to running the football. Damien Harris and to a lesser extent Rhamondre Stevenson showed flashes of production on the first two drives, but things seemed to bog down from there. Overall New England managed just 78 yards on 22 carries for a subpar 3.5-yard average. Harris had most of that with a respectable 5.3-yard average on his nine carries for 48 yards. Now the task gets even tougher as the Patriots head to Pittsburgh, where the Steelers boast a stout defensive front. Tyson Alualu mans the middle between Larry Ogunjobi and Cameron Heyward to make life difficult on opposing running backs. Cincinnati's Joe Mixon had 82 yards in the opener against the Steelers but needed 27 carries to get there, which translates to just over 3 yards a pop. A big chunk of the damage the Bengals did on the ground came off Joe Burrow scrambles (47 yards), so the Patriots won't be able to rely on that type of production. The turnovers prevented the Patriots from continuing to grind out yards on the ground, but Harris needs more than nine attempts when averaging more than 5 per carry. It won't be easy to get that accomplished in Pittsburgh
When the Patriots pass - Edge: Steelers
Until the Patriots get their offensive line straightened out it's hard to imagine the passing game enjoying many productive games. Mac Jones wasn't sharp in Miami but he also didn't get much help in terms of protection. He was victimized but runaway rushers on a couple of occasions, one leading to a strip sack/touchdown for the Dolphins. The problems appeared to be more related to communication than anything else, so there is at least some hope for improvement. But again, a trip to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers defense that has routinely kept its team in games in recent years isn't exactly the best place to fix all the issues. The Patriots will get a huge break with the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt on the shelf due to a reported torn pectoral muscle. Watt led the league with 22.5 sacks in 2021, and he was making life miserable on Burrow before he left with the injury. The Steelers still have Alex Highsmith, who had three sacks in the opener, and as a team Pittsburgh took down Burrow seven times. Corners Ahkello Witherspoon and Cameron Sutton join a talented safety pair in Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds to give the Steelers a formidable secondary. But it all starts up front, and the Patriots blocking has to be better.
When the Steelers run - Edge: Patriots
One of the few bright spots in the opener for the Patriots was the run defense. The big guys up front didn't need any extra bodies to contain the Dolphins ground game and held Chase Edmunds and Raheem Mostert to 41 yards on 17 carries, effectively limiting both throughout the afternoon. Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise and Christian Barmore were stout up front, allowing Ja'Whaun Bentley & Co. to fill the gaps and make plays. And New England could catch another break as Pittsburgh's stellar second-year back Najee Harris was forced to leave the opener early after aggravating a foot injury he's dealt with most of the summer. Harris was limited to 10 carries for 23 yards before departing, and wide receiver Chase Claypool was forced into action with six carries for 36 yards. Jaylen Warren and Benny Snell are Harris' backups, and Mike Tomlin may need one to pick up the slack if Harris isn't able to go. The Steelers front is working through issues of its own so this is a ground attack that the Patriots should be able to hold in check.
When the Steelers pass - Edge: Patriots
For the first time since 2004 the Steelers will play their home opener without Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. In his place is Mitch Trubisky – at least until rookie Kenny Pickett is deemed to be ready for the job. Until then the former Bears first-round pick will be entrusted to run the Steelers attack, and based off of Week 1 things don't look much different from recent seasons. Trubisky largely managed the game and avoided mistakes but was unable to get the ball into the hands of playmakers Claypool, Diontae Johnson and rookie George Pickens consistently. He did use tight ends Pat Freiermuth and Zach Gentry effectively, particularly during the game-winning drive in overtime. Still, this is a limited offense with pass protection issues that the Patriots should be able to contain. Jonathan Jones will likely see plenty of Johnson, who has emerged in recent seasons as one of the most dangerous slot receivers in the game. Trubisky is also capable of using his legs to make plays so the Patriots linebackers need to be aware of that possibility on Sunday.
Special Teams - Edge: Patriots
This matchup is actually quite even with both sides possessing strong kickers and coverage. Pittsburgh has Chris Boswell (kicker) and Pressley Harvin (punter) while the Patriots counter with Nick Folk and Jake Bailey. All four were solid in the opener with the lone blemish coming when Boswell hit the upright on a 55-yarder in overtime, and even then he redeemed himself by connecting on a 53-yarder at the buzzer to win it. Harvin was busy, punting eight times in Cincinnati but his coverage unit was up to the task, allowing a total of just 31 yards on those returns. Neither side picked up much in the return game with Myles Bryant (punts) and Ty Montgomery (kicks) manning those roles for the Patriots while former Patriot Gunner Olszewski handles both for the Steelers. Both sides have traditionally been strong in the kicking game and that was the case in the opener as well.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2022 REGULAR SEASON||NEW ENGLAND||PITTSBURGH|
|Divisional Standings||2nd (T)||1st (T)|
|Total Yards Gained||271||267|
|Total Offense (Rank)||271.0 (25)||267.0 (26)|
|Rush Offense||78.0 (21)||75.0 (24)|
|Pass Offense||193.0 (22)||192.0 (23)|
|Points Per Game||7 (28t)||23.0 (12t)|
|Total Touchdowns Scored||1||2|
|Total Yards Allowed||307||432|
|Total Defense (Rank)||307.0 (10)||432.0 (27)|
|Rush Defense||65.0 (5)||133.0 (21)|
|Pass Defense||242.0 (19)||299.0 (27)|
|Points Allowed/Game||20.0 (10t)||20.0 (10t)|
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost||28/241||48/380|
|Takeaway/Giveaway Ratio||-3 (28t)||+5 (1)|
- Montravius Adams (Patriots: Player DT 2021; Steelers: Player DT 2021-)
- DeMarvin Leal (Patriots: Player LS 2017; Steelers: Player LS 2020-)
- Gunner Olszewski (Patriots: Player WR 2019-21; Steelers: Player WR 2022)
- Brian Flores (Patriots: LB Coach 2016-18, S Coach 2012-15, Def. Asst. 2011, Off. Asst./ST Coach 2010, Coaching Asst. 2008-09, Pro Scout 2006-07, Scouting Asst. 2004-05-; Steelers: Senior Def. Asst./LB 2022-)
- Brian Hoyer (Patriots: Player QB 2009-11, 2017-18, 2020-; Steelers: Player QB 2012)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS WEEK
- This week's game against Pittsburgh will be the 500th game of the Robert Kraft era. Kraft is the most successful owner since he purchased the team in 1994 in terms of Super Bowl wins (6), overall wins (341), division titles (19), winning percentage (.683), playoff wins (33) and playoff seasons (22).
- QB Mac Jones passed for 213 yards in the season-opener at Miami to move into 8th place on the Patriots all-time passing list with 4,014 passing yards and needs 263 passing yards to move past Hugh Millen (4,276) into 7th place. Jim Plunkett is in 6th place on the list with 9,932 passing yards.
- RB Damien Harris enters the 2022 season with 17 rushing touchdowns and needs three rushing touchdowns to become the 14th Patriots player to reach 20 career rushing touchdowns and six to move into the Top 10 in team history. Harris is the last Patriots player to have three rushing touchdowns in a single game. He had three vs. Buffalo last season on Dec. 26, 2021.
- WR Jakobi Meyers has scored on three two-point plays and needs one more two-point score to tie Julian Edelman and Gino Cappelletti with four for the most in team history.
- LB Matthew Judon is one of five NFL players with at least 90 quarterback hits since 2018. He ranks third overall behind T.J. Watt and Aaron Darnod.
- Judon had a career-high four quarterback hits in the season-opener at Miami. He can join Roosevelt Colvin (3 games in 2006), Andre Carter (2 games in 2011), Chandler Jones (2 in 2015) and Trey Flowers (2 games in 2018) as the only Patriots players with at least four quarterback hits in two games in the same season.
- DB Devin McCourty is tied with Marcus Peters of Baltimore for the most interceptions among all active players with 31 picks and needs one pick this week to take the lead among all active players. McCourty, Peters and Harrison Smith (Minnesota) are the only active players with at least 30 interceptions.
- McCourty is currently tied with Tedy Bruschi for 9th in team history with 189 regular season games played and will move past Bruschi this week against Pittsburgh for sole possession of 9th place on the all-time list.
- K Nick Folk has a streak of 55 straight field goals made under 50 yards, the second-longest streak in NFL history behind the 56 straight field goals from inside 50 yards by Ryan Succop from 2014-2017 while with Tennessee. Folk's last miss from inside the 50-yard line was a 45-yard field goal attempt in the 2020 season-opener vs. Miami on Sept. 13.
TELEVISION: This week's game will be broadcast by CBS and can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Ian Eagle will handle play-by-play duties with Charles Davis as the color analyst. Evan Washburn will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Mark Wolff and directed by Suzanne Smith.
LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network's 33 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.