A Day of Dynasties and Destiny

The New England Patriots are a team with aspirations to become what the Pittsburgh Steelers have been. With two Lombardi trophies in the last three seasons, and rolling toward a third with a record winning streak, the Patriots are well on their way to reaching their goals, including becoming the first dynasty of the post free-agency era.

As the two teams clash today on Heinz field, their recent histories are more intertwined than many realize. After all, it was the 13-3 Pittsburgh Steelers, the host of the 2001 AFC Championship game, who allowed the upstart New England Patriots to advance to their first Super Bowl. The Patriots were able to win that Super Bowl on a last minute Adam Vinatieri field goal.

What was forgotten in the confetti and Tom Brady's trip to Walt Disney World, is that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the better team that season. Coming into the 2001 AFC Championship game against the Patriots, the Steelers had been steamrolling the NFL – winning 14 of their last 17 games.

The Steelers' good fortunes came to a screeching halt with that 2001 loss to the Patriots. The misery continued with the first game of the 2002 season – also against the Patriots. The 2002 opener was also a landmark game for the Steelers because, on Monday night football, Bill Belichick exposed Pittsburgh's Achilles' heel for the entire nation to see. Belichick's game plan that night can be summed up in one simple word: pass. Suddenly, the Steelers' suffocating run defense was a non-factor, and the Steelers were completely out of synch on both sides of the ball. Belichick's blue print worked so well that the Raiders employed the same game plan the next week in another loss for the Steelers. The Belichick inspired game plan was repeated often against the Steelers in 2002, and it ultimately ended their season.

The 2003 season was more of the same, with the Steelers sinking to new lows during a 6 win season. While the Steelers reached new lows, the Patriots celebrated new highs with their second Super Bowl victory in three seasons. Just as quickly as the Steelers' streak as a dominant NFL team ended, the Patriots' began.

And so, the Patriots return to Pittsburgh for the first time since the 2001 upset. This time, the Patriots are looking for consecutive win number 22, on their way to Super Bowl win number 3. The Steelers meanwhile, have dusted off and reloaded, sporting new speed in the secondary and a new gunslinger at QB. Now the Steelers are the upstart underdog, looking to reclaim the status taken from them by the Patriots.

As for who should end the Patriots' unprecedented winning streak, it only seems fitting that it should be the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team that started it all back in 2001.

The Formula Man™

The Formula Man is a feature inspired by 16th Century prophet Nostradamus. You can catch it right here on every Pittsburgh Steelers game day.

The This is Getting Spooky Formula: The Formula Man has been on a tear recently with dead-on predictions like Colclough fumbles and Burress break out games. But the Formula Man's comments before the Cowboy game may have been the spookiest yet. Before the game, the Formula Man concocted The Vinny Testaverde Formula and told readers to "Watch for a pressured Vinny Testaverde to cough up at least one fumble." Those words turned prophetic, as Vinny fumbled two times including the biggest play of the game which lost it for the Cowboys. Two fumbles? Are you kidding me? Who even has the cajones to make a prediction like that? Many believe that the Formula Man is a clairvoyant. Either way, you have to admit the Formula Man is just plain Spooky.

The 12th Man Formula: Big Game + Late Start + Beer = Fired up Crowd. Everybody knows that the New England Patriots are riding a 21 game win streak. Another important streak the Patriots have going is that they have been the first team to score in each of their last 14 games. The Steelers players will obviously have a lot to say about whether the Patriots' streaks continue. But don't forget about Pittsburgh's ace in the hole: the crowd. With a late kickoff in a football-crazed city that is already slightly giddy over their newly minted star QB, expect some deafening crowd noise to play a role in the game. The fans may actually have something to say about the Patriots' streak of 14 consecutive games being the first team to score. Also, with the game likely to come down to a last minute drive engineered by either Ben Roethlisberger or Tom Brady, the crowd may play a prominent role at the end of the game too.

The Bill v. Bill Formula: NFL's Best Team + 2001 AFC Championship Game Upset + Two Weeks to Prepare = a Cowher Trick or Treat. When the Patriots came to Pittsburgh and upset the heavily favored Steelers in the 2001 AFC championship game, the Steelers were out-coached, plain and simple. With his Steelers now the underdog, and with a chip squarely on his shoulder, expect Cowher to bring his "A" Game. Watch for the sly one to try to outwit his counterpart with new packages on both sides of the ball. Remember that Randle El and Ward can throw, Roethlisberger can punt, and Polamalu can run. Also remember how Cowher beat Houston in his first game as Steelers' head coach. Shhh.

Steel City Insider Top Stories