You never quite know what you're going to see when the Patriots and Steelers hook up. The two teams have combined to represent the AFC in seven of the last 10 Super Bowls and could be poised to duke it out again this postseason.
In many ways, New England and Pittsburgh battled for AFC supremacy on Sunday. And while the result wasn't what Patriots fans were hoping for, there were plenty of storylines from the game that are particularly interesting.
Ben Roethlisberger is a two-time Super Bowl champion, but he's rarely regarded as one of the game's premier quarterbacks. This season, though, the Steelers QB has really elevated his game.
Roethlisberger threw for five touchdowns against the Titans three weeks ago, and he threw for three last week against the Cardinals. He threw for a season-high 365 yards against the Patriots' secondary on Sunday.
Much of Pittsburgh's success on Sunday came because the Patriots' explosive offense was forced to remain on the sideline — exactly where opponents want to keep it each week. The Steelers owned the time of possession, compiling nearly a 2-to-1 advantage in that department. The Steelers had the ball for 39:22, while the Patriots had it for just 20:38.
When the Patriots' offense was on the field, it was stunning to see Aaron Hernandez fail to get into a groove offensively. The New England tight end was held to just two catches for nine yards — despite one going for a score late in the game. Hernandez's previous season-low was five receptions against the Jets in Week 5.
One of the positive takeaways Patriots fans can fall back on is the performance of running back Kevin Faulk. In his first action this season, Faulk didn't skip a beat, rushing the ball six times for 32 yards and catching five passes for 20 yards.
Those might not be extremely gaudy numbers, but he was heavily involved in the Patriots' offensive attack throughout and was a major safety valve for Tom Brady. In other words, it was a Kevin Faulk-like performance by Kevin Faulk. Considering it was his first week back, though, Pats fans have to be pleased.