Tim Benz: Patriots refuse to acknowledge 'mastery' of Steelers - but it's there
We were laughing at them again. Just two weeks ago. That team down the Ohio River.
The Bengals -- in all their Bengal splendor -- managed to come up with yet another creative way to blow a game against the Steelers.
Little brother lost to big brother in maddening fashion once more. And a Terrible Towel waving Lucy van Pelt stood over Charlie Brown in his Bengal stripes as she hysterically pulled the football away for the 100th time.
In today's edition of the comic strip though, Charlie Brown is laying on his back in his black-and-gold outfit and Lucy his mocking him with a harsh New England accent.
After a week of Pittsburgh trying to convince itself this time would be different against the Patriots, well, it was.
Until it wasn't.
New England outlasted the Steelers 27-24 Sunday at Heinz Field. The Patriots are now 11-2 against Pittsburgh with Tom Brady at quarterback.
So add this one to the list: Troy Edwards ran out of bounds and the Patriots blocked a field goal. Big Ben had the rookie jitters. The headsets didn't work. They were filming Dick LeBeau. Plaxico Burress should have caught the ball in the end zone when he was a Steeler, not a Giant. They forgot to cover Gronk ….again. And Chris Hogan on the flea-flicker.
Now make room for the "Replay Robbed Jesse James."
No shortage of puns there.
Oh, and they still didn't cover Gronk. Except this time, they seemed to try.
Most of the time, anyway
Yup. The call to erase James' game-winning touchdown stinks. That interpretation of the rule stinks even more. Eli Rogers was probably interfered with in the end zone a few plays later, to boot.
But the story remains the same. Another game against the New England Patriots. Another "how the heck did it go that way?" loss.
Except this one hurts more. The Steelers showed they were much closer to the Patriots this time around, even without Antonio Brown for most of the game.
This time around, the Steelers blew a lead instead of maniacally attempting to catch up.
This time around, the loss not only dents the team emotionally because of the result itself, but it also saps hopes of getting a rematch at Heinz Field again in the playoffs in January.
Pittsburgh showed depth after Brown went out, as Rogers, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster rose to the occasion. Mike Tomlin's team showed toughness as it rebounded from blowing the fourth-quarter lead to snatch it back before James' score was ripped of the board.
So, how does it keep happening? Are the Patriots themselves cognizant of the hex they hold over the Steelers?
"No one holds anything over the Steelers," said eighth-year New England safety Patrick Chung. "They are a great team. It was a 60-minute game."
Yet, regardless of the manner, no matter the matchups, the Steelers just can't get over the mastery wielded by their AFC nemesis.
"I wouldn't say a mastery," retorted 10-year New England veteran special teamer Matthew Slater. So he's seen his share of Patriot dominance against the local club.
"That's a heck of a football team. They aren't going anywhere. They are going to do some damage in the postseason."
Ok. To that point then, Matthew, was Tomlin onto something a few weeks ago when he said this will probably be "the first of two" between these organizations? Is New England going to do this to the Steelers again in the playoffs?
"First of two? We're just thinking about our 15th game of the season," he replied.
The constant, of course, is Brady. He matched Roethlisberger throw for throw and nearly stat for stat.
The only difference is his interception, while costly, didn't end the game as Roethlisberger's did. Plus, he did it with roughly half the run game support Roethlisberger got.
"It's not like there was anyone running away with it," said Brady. "It was a tight game. We just made one more play than they did."
Brady is right. As opposed to most Steeler losses to this team, it basically was just one more play, not a dozen.
Or in this case, one more call at the goal line.
The fear now is, though, that if the "Patriots versus Steelers" sequel Tomlin is predicting actually does get the green light, it'll be filmed in Foxborough.
Those movies rarely need the dramatic ending we saw to sew up the plot. New England tends to solve the mystery long before the credits roll.
Tim Benz hosts the Steelers pregame show on WDVE and ESPN Pittsburgh. He is a regular host/contributor on KDKA-TV and 105.9 FM.