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Patriots 2023 Week 14 Film Review: The Pittsburgh Steelers Are Unserious

There were an infinite amount of outcomes that this game could have resulted in, and I would have never picked the ways things turned out. A game with one of the lowest O/U's in decades hitting the over in less than 30 minutes, the Patriots picking up an opening drive touchdown for the first time all season, in a game they led wire to wire against a Steelers team that could not afford a loss. A stunning outcome on all fronts, one that likely has some notable consequences for both sides, With the Steelers now on the outside looking in on the playoff hunt and the Patriots now in a two-game hole as it relates to getting the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Two things can be true at once; you can be upset that the Patriots may have cost themselves a shot at the No. 1 pick in the draft on Thursday. On the other hand, you should be happy for the guys on this defense who have been one of the league's best over the last month and a half, finally having their hard work pay off. I'm talking about Jabrill Peppers, Christian Barmore, Jahlani Tavai, Kyle Dugger, and everybody. Not to mention guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Hunter Henry, and Juju Smith-Schuster on the other side of the ball as well who were just as good.

A ton of guys came up big in the 'Burgh, and at least for one more time in 2023, they can celebrate a hard-earned win. Even if the Pittsburgh Steelers are an unserious organization from top to bottom, you can't control the opposition.

Feed Zeke

I don't think it takes an expert to say the Patriots MVP in this one was none other than Zeke Elliott. 29 total touches (22 Carries, 7 Receptions) for 140 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. To find the last time he hit at least 29 total touches and 140 scrimmage yards, you'd have to go all the way back to Week 6 of the 2019 season, where he put up 33 total touches (28 Carries, 5 Receptions) for 153 scrimmage yards against the Sam Darnold-led New York Jets. So yeah, safe to say it's been a minute, but Zeke said he felt good post-game, despite getting a workload he hadn't seen in literal years.

The biggest play Elliott made didn't appear on the stat sheet...well, the offensive stat sheet that is.

If you want to know what a winning play looks like, look no further than right there. That tackle by Elliott kept seven points off the board, which led to the Patriots' defense forcing a turnover on downs in what was a three-point victory. You can do the math there. Playing 92 percent of the snaps (!!!) on a short week and being the kind of playmaker he was is insane. Bill Belichick may have understated how big Zeke was post-game.

Steiner Recliner

It's hard to say where T.J. Watt was at after taking an inadvertent knee to the facemask just plays into the game, but there was a reason you didn't hear about him virtually at all, and his name is Mike Onwneu. Just days after getting dusted by Khalil Mack, he put up his best outing of the season in a road game. Watch him put one of the NFL's best edge rushers in the Steiner Recliner for your viewing pleasure. Of the five snaps shown here, I'd say he definitively wins four of them.

Zappe Hour Darts

Bailey Zappe had an incredible first half, capped off by a trio of touchdowns, none more impressive than his second of two scores to Hunter Henry.

Andrew Callahan had brought this up the night of, but this was a deviation from a play the Patriots ran down in Miami that was ultimately picked off by Jalen Ramsey. Here, the conflict defender is Patrick Peterson, and him driving down on Juju is why Zappe goes downfield to Henry and puts the perfect amount of air underneath this pass for the score. An unreal throw by Zappe if were being real. Not a bad catch by the birthday boy, either. As far as how Zappe did, he wasn't as impressive in the second half, but he was as locked in as he looked in that Cleveland game and then some in that first half, and it showed. (The Miami play in question below)

Game, Blouses

Although the Steelers got a couple of plays to end it, let's talk about the final two plays they ran on the prior drive, why it was so bad, and why it was easy work for the Patriots' defense.

Not that the Patriots played this bad, far from it in fact, but this is one of many horrible throws by Trubisky (if it wasn't already obvious). Because of all the traffic and the look from New England, they get a perfect mismatch in Josh Uche having to stick with George Pickens (not a terrible job by Uche here, all things considered. Coverage ability isn't exactly his forte). The Georgia product might not be wide open, but he has enough catch radius to bring this in. The problem is that Trubisky never even comes close to hitting him. Keion White is fork lifting Broderick Jones back into the pocket and forces a panicky throw from Trubisky.

My issue if I were a Steeler fan here would be the play call itself more so than the result, even though this should have been a chain mover. It's 3rd&2, you have five seconds until the two-minute warning hits, and you go empty. Just a mind-boggling decision. The Steelers' run game struggles have been documented here, but if you couldn't have gotten two yards in this situation, you deserved to lose anyway.

So because you decided to pass it on 3rd&2, you more or less made your bed as far as fourth down options go. So, to make a bad situation worse, Trubisky decides to go for the jugular on the outside with Johnson. Go back to the beginning of the video and watch Allen Robinson (slot on the near side). This play looks like it's a clear out for him on an in-route, Trubisky has him in his line of sight and goes deep anyway. That's an easy first down if he makes what appears to be the proper read. Instead, it's a turnover on downs, thanks to the coverage from Jonathan Jones and the Trubisky overthrow, and the game is unofficially over. Now, had Mike Tomlin not burned a pair of timeouts for no reason, then it's a different story, but the Steelers got what they deserved on Thursday.

Players, coaches, front office staff, hell, even the stadium name in Pittsburgh have changed over the years, but the undeniable fact that the Patriots categorically own the Steelers as a franchise has not. How they continuously lose to teams far below their talent level every year without fail is, without question, the biggest indictment on the resume of Tomlin, who appears to heading toward his seventh consecutive season without a playoff game victory as Steelers Head Coach.

Final Score: New England Patriots 21, Pittsburgh Steelers 18

Gaffney's Three Stars from Patriots-Steelers

3rd Star - Jabrill Peppers (3 Tackles, 1 INT)

2nd Star - Michael Onwenu (Sent T.J. Watt to the Shadow Realm)

1st Star - Ezekiel Elliott (22 Carries for 68 Yards, 7 Catches on 8 Targets for 72 Yards, TD, Tackle to Break Up a Would-Be Pick-6)

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