It’s a night of celebration at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, as the New England Patriots reveal their LIII Super Bowl banner. The banner will join five others after the Pats notched their sixth Super Bowl in team history last season. There’s also a football game taking place Sunday night between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Patriots.
I think a lot of people wanted the Chiefs and Patriots here, but the Steelers and Pats work as well. We’ll have to wait until December for the rematch game. Late in the season, that game figures to impact playoff positioning. Both teams will likely be fighting for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The Steelers are sitting there thinking, wait, what about us? For all of the talk about the Cleveland Browns in the AFC North, the Steelers are being passed over in favor of the Browns. The Steelers are currently around +185 to win the division, while the Browns lead the way at +120. The departure of Antonio Brown hurts the offense, or does it?
Talent wise it doesn’t help to watch Brown play for the Raiders in Oakland. However, the locker room will be drama free without him around. The tension between Ben Roethlisberger and Brown was getting too much for the Steelers to handle. And without even playing a down for the Raiders, there’s been nothing but drama in Oakland. The Le’Veon Bell drama is out of the locker room as well.
The roster isn’t deprived of talent, though. JuJu Smith-Schuster moves up to the No. 1 stop for Roethlisberger in the passing game. Smith-Schuster is a burner who should be able to handle his new role well. Along with Smith-Schuster, look for a big season out of second-year wide receiver, James Washington.
Washington only hauled in 16 balls for 217 yards and a score, but without Brown and a year under his belt, he’s expected to play a big role in the offense. The Patriots are going to counter with a deep secondary Sunday night. They can go to their second-team cornerbacks and still perform at a productive level of play. It’s going to be a test on the road in a hostile environment for the Steelers’ offense. Head below for our free Steelers vs. Patriots pick on Sunday Night Football in NFL Week 1.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots NFL Week 1 Betting Odds:
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Steelers vs. Patriots Pick:
Public perception suggests that the Browns are stacked offensively with the arrival of Odell Beckham. Conversely, the Steelers lost talent in the offseason, so they’re no longer a hot item. If James Washington can have a breakout season, then the Steelers are going to be just fine. We don’t know yet if that’s going to happen, but I am confident in JuJu Smith-Schuster filling in as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart nicely. That doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Steelers’ offense are going to have a nice night at the office, though. They open the season with a brutal matchup against a talented Patriots’ secondary.
Without Brown in the receiver core, that frees up All-Star corner, Stephon Gilmore, to be able to shadow Smith-Schuster. Gilmore can play shutdown football at corner as one of the best in the NFL. His presence in the Super Bowl was probably the most underrated part of their win over the Rams. He was determined to allow absolutely nothing through the air by Jared Goff. If Gilmore puts a lock on Smith-Schuster, Washington is going to be forced to have to step up, or the Steelers are going to be going nowhere here.
The Patriots have had one of the most underrated defenses in the NFL for a while now. They might give up yards, but the Pats are the best in the league at bending and not breaking. New England were 7th in the NFL with 20.3 points allowed per game. I think they can do something similar against the Steelers here.
This likely isn’t going to be a massive shootout like many people are predicting. Look for the Pats to dictate this game with their defense and put Roethlisberger in tough 3rd and longs often. Other than Roethlisberger, this is a very young offense. Belichick should be able to exploit that. Rob Gronkowski has retired, but they’re going to get Josh Gordon back to pair with Julian Edelman in the passing game. Parlay them with Sony Michel, who is ready to build on a productive season in the backfield, and the Pats’ offense will be fine without Gronk. With energy on their side from celebrating a Super Bowl, the Pats pull away late for a win by a touchdown or 10 points on Sunday Night Football.