PITTSBURGH — It turns out Rob Gronkowski only was back to his old self for one week.
The Patriots tight end caught two passes for 21 yards in New England’s 17-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. This comes one week after Gronkowski caught eight passes for 107 yards with a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins in Week 14.
So, how did the Steelers stop him?
“They were doing double teams, zone defense,” Gronkowski said. “They did a good job and just gotta make more plays on the road in order to get a win like that in a game like this.”
Gronkowski was targeted five times in the game. He also failed to break up a floater from quarterback Tom Brady that ultimately was picked off by Steelers cornerback Joe Haden. Brady targeted Gronkowski on three of the Patriots’ final four plays. All three fell incomplete.
“I think they were conscious of where he was at,” Brady said. “They had doubles on him, some doubles they had on Julian (Edelman). Rob made some big plays for us.”
That might not be true Sunday, but Gronkowski has made big plays against the Steelers in the past. He entered the game with 39 catches for 664 yards with eight touchdowns in six games against the Steelers. So, Sunday’s game was a major departure.
“Gronk a lot of times trips and gets out late,” Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt said Sunday. “So, he can’t be a target if you get to him because he’s getting out later. He was staying in a good amount and blocking. He’s a good overall player. We just had him on lock today.”
The Patriots’ offense struggled overall Sunday, but games like these have become the norm for Gronkowski this season. He’s been limited to under 60 yards in seven of 11 games. He’s only gone over 100 yards twice, and he has just three touchdowns.