On to the Steel City

Between 1972 and 1998 – pre Bill Belichick – the Patriots were 5-12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, including 4-9 at Three Rivers Stadium. Since Bill Belichick took over in 2000, those tables have flipped. New England is 12-4 against the Steelers under Belichick with identical 6-2 records both home and away.

While the heat was the big road X-factor in Miami last week, it will be crowd noise at Acrisure Stadium (formerly Heinz Field). Raucous Steelers fans can certainly generate the type of noise that makes things challenging for an offense. Sunday is Pittsburgh’s home opener and, well, it’s probably safe to say that those folks don’t like the Patriots.

Steelers fans have watched the Patriots hoist the Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy in their building on two occasions – the 2001 and 2004 AFC Championship Games. Sandwiched between those two visits; however, was the 2004 regular season trip to Western, PA., in which the Steelers ended the Patriots NFL record 21-game winning streak on Halloween.

Those conference championships were nothing short of exciting. The 2001 Patriots were 10-point underdogs and rode two special teams touchdowns and a pair of late interceptions to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans. Three seasons later, they avenged the 2004 regular season loss with a convincing 41-27 win to advance to Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville.

The 2017 matchup in the Steel City featured an exciting finish. The Patriots only secured the 27-24 victory when Duron Harmon intercepted a tipped pass in the end zone in the game’s final seconds.

This is the first time in the Belichick era that neither Ben Roethlisberger nor Tom Brady will start in this once-heated rivalry. Brady obviously missed the 2008 matchup with a torn ACL, but there hasn’t been a game between the two in this century that didn’t feature one of those two quarterbacks.

This week’s quarterback matchup figures to pit Mitch Trubisky against Mac Jones. So the hype may not be typical, but one can guess these teams will get after each other. The Patriots have won six of the last seven meetings with two of those wins coming in Pittsburgh.

One of the biggest wins the Patriots enjoyed in Pittsburgh came all the way back in 1976. The Steelers were the defending back-to-back Super Bowl champions when the Patriots visited in Week Three. Both teams were 1-1 through two games and Pittsburgh led, 20-9, in the third quarter. But Steve Grogan tossed three second-half touchdown passes, and the Patriots went on to win, 30-27. The Patriots rode that wave into the playoffs where it lost a controversial game to the eventual Super Bowl champion Oakland Raiders. The Steelers rolled into its playoff game against the Raiders riding a 10-game winning streak but lost in Oakland. They would; however, go on to win two more championships in the 1970s while the Patriots never reached that glory until much later.

The Steelers and Patriots have had to keep an eye on one other for nearly three decades as the battle for AFC supremacy often included both teams. They have met in the playoffs five times since 1996 with New England holding a 4-1 record in those games, which included three AFC Championships.

Of note… the Steelers won the first ever meeting between the teams, 33-3, in 1972. The last meeting came in 2019, and the Patriots won that game, 33-3.


The series:

  • New England leads the all-time series, 17-16
  • The Patriots longest winning streak against Pittsburgh is five games (2013-2017)
  • The Steelers longest winning streak against New England is five games (1989-1995)
  • The Patriots are 10-12 on the road and 7-4 at home in the series
  • There have been three overtime games in the series and New England is 0-3 in those games
  • New England has won the six of the last seven meetings
  • The series dates back to Oct. 22, 1972 (a 33-3 Pittsburgh home win)
  • The Patriots largest margin of victory is 34 (34-0 win in Pittsburgh on Oct. 19, 1986)
  • The Steelers largest margin of victory is 30 (33-3 win in Pittsburgh on Oct. 22, 1972)