Sunday 22 October 2017 / 06:05 PM

PATRIOTS v STEELERS: KEYS TO VICTORY

Well, the table is set, the teams have been chosen, and it’s finally time for the greatest weekend in sports: Championship weekend! And to gear you up, we’ll take a look at the two matchups that will define the weekend, and give you what to watch for from each team, starting with the AFC Championship between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Keys to Victory:

Well, it’s pretty much the same old story for the Patriots: a whole lot of Tom Brady. And playing in Foxboro is a nice advantage. But don’t think that’s going to save you: the Steelers were one of the best road teams in football, and they won’t be intimidated about playing up in Foxboro.

So outside of that, the onus will be on the Patriot’s defense. They’ve played about as well as could be expected, but the secondary is a little disheartening. When they’ve played some of the league’s better offenses and QBs, they’ve struggled to keep receivers in front of them, and with a receiving corps as deep and talented as the Steelers, this could become a huge problem. As long as the backend of the secondary, stays in position, they’ll have a shot.

And that also comes with disrupting the offensive line. Not only do they have to get to Big Ben, they have to push the line back and get to LeVeon Bell. Bell loves to be patient, but the Patriots rush is good enough to get back behind the line and make him make quicker decisions.

And most importantly: they’ll need a big day from Brady and company. That Steelers defense is susceptible, and that’s an understatement. If the Patriots can keep the Steelers offense off the field, they can have some big success behind that racous New England crowd.

X Factor: Dion Lewis

The Pats are unbeaten when Lewis laces up, sitting at 15-0 in games he plays. His success during the game will keep the Steelers off the field, and take some pressure off Tom Brady, who will surely face some from that Steelers line. If they are going to advance, they’ll need Lewis to be the dynamic playmaker he’s been for much of his young career.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Keys to Victory:

The Steelers have a pretty straight path to success over the Patriots: never get behind. As simple as it sounds, it’s been a solid formula in Foxboro, as the Patriots have only lost two games under Tom Brady when leading by more than one score at any point in the postseason.

What that will look like is a whole lot of the LeVeon Bell and Big Ben show. They’ll need a big output from the offense, and one that’s probably going to be a little slower than usual. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has already hinted that the Steelers attack will be a slower pace than normal at times this weekend, and with a strong running game, you know that they’ll try and let Bell keep Brady off the field.

But that’s going to require some output from the receivers. The top guys for the Steelers have had a propensity for disappearing behind Antonio Brown, and you better believe the Patriots will copy the Chiefs approach and put a guy over the top of Brown at all times. That means the rest of the receivers are going to have to show. 18 points may beat KC, but it’s not stopping New England.

And most importantly: the defense just has to be there. Sure, they’ll probably get handled pretty well by the Patriots, but it’s a bend-but-don’t-break approach. The Steelers have to keep the Patriots line disrupted, and that is easier said than done. But with Harrison off the edge, the Steelers have the tools to slow Brady just enough.

X-Factor: Steelers O-Line

Look, LeVeon Bell will only get whatever the line gets him. As good a runner as Bell his, he’s a slow progresser, and very patient. That’s great and all, until it gets him hit for a loss. The Patriots will try and throw Ben and the offense off, and they’ve got no chance if they can’t keep him upright. There’ll be no win in Foxboro without some kind of protection from that line.

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About the author

Austin Albertson

Austin is CBS' senior NFL and NBA analyst, bringing you commentary on everything between the lines and inside the hashes, from the film room to the scoreboard.

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