“… is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.”
We’re all probably somewhat familiar with this quote by now. It’s plastered across social media outlets everywhere by people trying to motivate themselves (and I guess other people) into making positive changes in their lives. Nobody seems to know where it came from, though it’s often attributed to Einstein. He denied it, but if it was him then it must lend credence to the idea that he was a time traveler, because how the hell could he not have been referring to Sunday night’s
AFC Championship game travesty in Foxborough.
The Steelers and Patriots have met 13 times now in the Brady-Belichick era, which is surely how NFL historians will remember the years 2001 to (I’m assuming) 2025. After last night, New England has won 10 of those games, and 6 of them, including last night, weren’t even really all that close.
It would be easy to blame the refs (James Harrison has to have a Clint Eastwood, Hang ‘Em High-style scar from the Patriots tackles repeating neck-wringing), and even easier to blame LeVeon Bell’s untimely groin pull (he might’ve made it closer, but wouldn’t have been enough to win), but to do so would be both insulting to New England and overly generous to Pittsburgh, considering that the Patriots owned us last night in largely the same fashion that they’ve owned us for this entire generation.
When you think about Pittsburgh, you think about defense. You think about the Steel Curtain, the 3-4, and Blitzburgh, but specifically you probably think about our linebackers. The Steelers have a tradition of fantastic backer play going all the way back to the 70s, and maintaining that tradition means drafting and cultivating a certain type of player: your Kevin Greenes, Jason Gildons, Joey Porters, and James Harrisons. These are dudes who get after quarterbacks and wreak havoc in opposing backfields, and the Steelers have lived and died by their ability to do so for the last few decades.
When you think of the Patriots, you think obviously of Brady’s brilliance and Belichick’s genius, but more generally you think of them finding ways to turn your strengths into weaknesses.
When we play each other, it’s fairly obvious what this means. Oh, you want to get after quarterbacks from weird angles and play zone behind it to feast on rushed passes? Have fun with that, cuz we’re going to spread you out, neuter your pass rush with quick throws, use quick little shit receivers that embarrass your prehistoric linebackers in space with option routes, and use tempo to prevent you from making subs/adjustments.
And again, it’s no secret at this point; they do it to us every. damn. time. It’s turned our games in some bizarre, real-world version of the Saw franchise: unwatchable sequels to bad movies that nobody really wanted in the first place. Watching Brady torture us in the same way over and over again has placed us in that classic movie situation where we, the audience, know what’s coming and can only scream helplessly as our valiant protagonists walk unwittingly into another buzzsaw.
However, this time it hurts even worse, because I really did think it’d be different. With AB and LeVeon turning into two of the better players of their generation and a healthy offensive line, we should’ve had the offensive weapons to keep pace with the Pats, regardless of what Brady did when he had the ball. More importantly though, the defense looked different than it had in years past. Gone were the slower, more one-dimensional guys, and in their place were guys like Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, and Sean Davis, versatile dudes with athleticism to burn that had spent the last few months flying around and making plays. This led me believe that we finally had the athletes to man up with the Pats when they inevitably threw that empty tempo garbage at us, which in theory meant it would be far less effective. In hindsight though, I really should’ve known better.
You know what happened by now. Pittsburgh inexplicably came out in the same bullshit zone coverage that Brady’s repeatedly picked apart over these last 15 years, and to the surprise of nobody, he picked it apart again. Kevin Hogan and Julian Edelman proved that there’s more to getting open than being able to run and jump like a gazelle (though it helps, see: Jones, Julio), Belichick proved that there’s a whole lot more to coaching than dominating press conferences and being the coolest dude in the room, and the New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl for a ridiculous 7th time in 16 years.
Going forward, the Steelers have a lot to be excited about in 2017. Those young dudes on D will learn from getting their asses kicked and should be a year better, and Martavis Bryant will be back as the fourth “B” to help alleviate some of the pressure on the other three. That’s no comfort today though, and the fact is that New England is headed to Houston , while the Steelers and their fans are headed into the offseason, wondering how our coaching staff, filled with so many people who have been there for more than one of these beatdowns, could have possibly looked at yesterday’s defensive game plan and thought, “Yes, the same old thing will do.”