Ben Roethlisberger is a future Hall of Famer, he’s won two Super Bowls, and he’s led the Pittsburgh Steelers to nine straight wins.
The Patriots, however, always seem to get the best of him. Big Ben will look to change that this Sunday in the AFC Championship.
“I think the Patriots defense always has a really good game plan against Ben,” Boston Globe Patriots writer Jim McBride said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “They make him hold on to the ball a little bit longer than he wants to, even though he’s exceptional at moving around in the pocket for a guy his size. But they always seem to force him into a couple of bad throws and a couple of times in the red zone they’ve gotten them. They’ve always had their number for the last 10 years or so.”
The Patriots were third in the league in scoring this season (27.6 points per game), while the Steelers were tenth (24.9) despite being without Roethlisberger and Le’Veon Bell for several games. Thus, there’s reason to believe the AFC Championship could be a high-scoring affair.
McBride doesn’t think it will be.
“I think (the Patriots) reach 28, 26, somewhere around there,” he said. “I’d be surprised if it ends up being a shootout. I think both teams are going to rely on the ground game a lot. Bell might be the best back in the NFL, and the Patriots have a three-headed monster with Blount, Dion Lewis and James White. So I think both teams are going to try to establish the run and set up the big play off of that.”
Sunday marks the 11th AFC Championship game of the Brady era. The Patriots have played in this game six straight years.
“That’s just a stunning fact,” McBride said. “Brady’s played in 32 playoff games. That’s the equivalent of two extra seasons. It’s amazing. Their run of success, it’s been like no other.”
In the end, Bill Belichick could be the difference Sunday.
“His encyclopedic knowledge, his game-planning, his clock management, I think, are superior,” McBride said. “That’s no shot at Tomlin. I think he’s a good coach, too. I think the reports that he’s just a cheerleader were unfair. I think he’s a good coach and he has a good command of that locker room, despite the Antonio Brown Facebook fiasco from earlier this week. I think his players love him, and I think he gets too much negativity about being a cheerleader. This guy’s a good coach.”
Kickoff is at 6:40 p.m. ET.