4:15 PM ET, September 25, 2005
New England (1-1) at Pittsburgh (2-0), Sunday 4:15 pm EDT
PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers snapped the New England Patriots' NFL-record 21-game winning streak last October 31. The Patriots avenged that with a win here in the AFC championship game.
On Sunday, the teams meet again with another long winning streak on the line. This one belongs to the Steelers, who have won their last 16 regular season games.
The Patriots hold the NFL record with 18 consecutive regular-season wins. Including playoffs, that streak was extended to 21 games. The Steelers ended it with a 34-20 victory.
But the Patriots got the last laugh in the AFC championship game, handing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger his first loss, and now they get a chance to halt Pittsburgh's regular season winning streak.
Roethlisberger was intercepted three times, one of which was returned 87 yards for a touchdown by safety Rodney Harrison, and Tom Brady passed for 207 yards and a pair of scores as the Patriots posted a 41-27 victory over the Steelers last January en route to their third Super Bowl title in four years.
Deion Branch caught four passes for 116 yards, including a 60-yard TD, and also scored on a 23-yard run for New England.
Branch and running back Corey Dillon did not play due to injuries in the Patriots' 34-20 loss here.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher has endured two of his four home losses here in AFC championship games to the Patriots.
Roethlisberger improved to 15-0 in regular season starts, passing for 254 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-7 win over the Houston Texans last week.
The Steelers took advantage of Houston's poor offensive line, recording eight sacks.
The Patriots are not familiar with Willie Parker, who has rushed for 272 yards in the first two games of the season for Pittsburgh while Duce Staley (knee) and Jerome Bettis (calf) recover from injuries.
Dillon rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown in last season's AFC championship game. He was held to 36 yards on 14 carries in a 27-17 loss at Carolina last week.
Series: Pittsburgh leads, 12-6.
Next week: New England hosts San Diego, October 2 Pittsburgh has its bye
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Pats look vulnerable on offense
The Patriots actually appear vulnerable with QB Tom Brady looking very human last week and their running game mediocre at best. No one wants to exploit those weaknesses more than a Pittsburgh team that has lost two AFC Championship games to New England in the past four years. The Steelers' run defense will look to shut down Patriots RB Corey Dillon and then pressure Brady into making some mistakes. However, don't count Brady and company out just yet. Look for the Patriots to keep Pittsburgh off-balance with their play-calling and formations. If the Steelers play with too much emotion and players try to make too much happen, it will create seams New England's offense is capable of exploiting.
The last time these two teams met, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and fumbled once. He will be eager to prove he can move and still protect the football going up against this defense, but it's important that he stay patient and take what the defense gives him. New England does a good job of masking its coverage and it has the playmakers to turn a Roethlisberger mistake into a costly turnover.
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|Avg Points Allowed||22.3||12.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||NE|
|Rush Yds Allowed||NE|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New England leads 4-1|
|Jan 23, 2005||NE 41, @PIT 27|
|Oct 31, 2004||NE 20, @PIT 34|
|Sep 9, 2002||NE 30, PIT 14|
|Jan 27, 2002||NE 24, @PIT 17|