The New England Patriots are good. Real good. They have been nothing short of a dynasty during this decade.
The Patriots have dominated the new millenium with a winning percentage of .720, set the record for most consecutive wins, and were a fluke, one-handed catch away from winning Super Bowl XLII and completing a perfect 19-0 season.
Last season, they lost their best player—maybe the best player in the league—Tom Brady, in the first quarter of the very first game of the year. They still managed to go 11-5 and nearly made the playoffs.
Simply put, the Patriots have the best talent in the league, the best coach in the league, a winning attitude, and unmatched postseason success.
When Brady is healthy, the Patriots win—That's what they do.
With Brady back, New England is once again favored to win the Super Bowl this season. And, they have the Steelers' number.
Actually, they seem to have every teams' number, but they have been a painful thorn in Pittsburgh's side throughout their decade of dominance.
In 2001, in the middle of New England's magical run to its first Super Bowl title, New England upset the heavily favored Steelers—in Pittsburgh, no less—when former starter Drew Bledsoe came off the bench for the injured Brady.
Bledsoe threw a crucial touchdown pass to David Patten right before halftime that put a dagger in Pittsburgh's heart.
With several special team blunders and some awful interceptions from Kordell Stewart, the Patriots beat Pittsburgh 24-17.
In the rematch the following year in New England, Stewart struggled again and the Patriots crushed the Steelers 30-14, proving the championship game the previous year was no fluke.
After the Steelers had ended the Patriots' record winning streak earlier in the season, the two teams faced off again the the 2004 AFC Championship. Brady and company jumped all over Pittsburgh early and the Patriots rolled to a 41-27 win.
The following year during the Steelers' Super Bowl season, New England beat Pittsburgh again 23-20 on a late field goal at Heinz field.
The Patriots are the Steelers' Achilles' heel, no doubt about it.
But, the Redskins were able to sneak up and win three Super Bowls of their own during the 49ers dominance without ever having to face San Francisco in any one of their three Super Bowl seasons.
That's what Pittsburgh has done.
While New England is the most dominant team of this decade, the Steelers are the most opportunistic. They have taken advantage of the Patriots' down years to win two Super Bowls of their own, and each time they were able to avoid playing New England.
I'm not so sure the Steelers would have won either title had they faced their old nemesis New England at their best. Luckily, we will never know.
One thing is certain. There is a very large, very formidable object standing in the way of another Steelers' title. Maybe this is the year Pittsburgh proves they can beat the Patriots, or maybe New England will slip and the Steelers will take advantage again.
One way or another, we will find out. These two teams could be headed for a showdown in the playoffs.
It should be very exciting. I can't wait.
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