The Steelers and Patriots will meet in the AFC Championship Game in Foxborough on Sunday. Though on paper this is rematch of Week 7, when the Steelers, sans quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, lost at home to the Patriots, Round 2 will not be the same as Round 1.
Here are five things to know about this 13-5 Pittsburgh team:
1. The Steelers haven’t lost since Week 10. Going into Sunday, they outscored their previous eight opponents 215-133, about a 10-point average margin of victory, and put up at least 24 points in each of those contests.
2. Le’Veon Bell averaged 180.7 yards from scrimmage over his last seven games entering Sunday. Bell, the patient and shifty running back, has carried the ball no less than 20 times in each of those games, averaging 5.3 yards per rush. He totalled 1,002 yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 190 carries in that stretch.
3. The Steelers entered Sunday with a plus-6 turnover differential since Week 11. Despite the offense’s 10 turnovers from Week 11 through the wild-card round, the defense forced 16 turnovers over that stretch, including 10 interceptions and six forced fumbles. The Steelers finished the regular season with 13 interceptions, and nine of them came over the final seven weeks of the season.
4. There’s Antonio Brown, and then all the other Steelers receivers. Brown’s 1,284 receiving yards in the regular season were fifth-most in the league and more than double the next Steelers player, who is not a wideout. Bell finished with 616 receiving yards, followed by rookie receiver Eli Rogers (594), and Sammie Coates (435), who broke his finger in Week 5 and has two catches for 14 yards since. Ben Roethlisberger’s completion percentage to Brown? 69.2. Brown caught 99 passes on 143 targets from Roethlisberger for 1,117 yards, 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Roethlisberger’s completion percentage to everyone else? 62.6. The rest of the Steelers pass catchers accounted for 2,642 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions.
5. The Steelers’ oldest player led them in sacks. But the pass rush is getting a boost from its younger players. James Harrison, 38, recorded five sacks in the regular season. He tallied one and a half more in the wild-card round. And while he’s in the twilight of his career, he’s had second-year man Bud Dupree, 23, alongside him. Dupree had 4.5 sacks in the regular season, and has 2.5 in his last three games, including the wild-card round.
Follow Rachel G. Bowers on Twitter @RachelGBowers.