Joe Starkey: Tomlin, Butler should be embarrassed after latest Brady beating
January 23, 2017 12:30 AM
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin congratulates Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman after winning the AFC Championship.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethisberger shows his disgust after after throwing his second interception of the night against the Patriots during the AFC championship at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Patriots Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown pass to Chris Hogan with LeGarrette Blount as the quarterback picked apart the Steelers defense.
By Joe Starkey / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A trip to the New England Patriots’ locker room after this debacle of an AFC championship game produced a shocking discovery and a not-so-shocking one.
In the latter category, nobody was recording the proceedings on Facebook Live.
Or if they were, I didn’t see it.
“I hope not,” said Patriots guard Joe Thuney. “I really doubt it.”
In the shocking category, there was Hines Ward, of all people, holding a CNN microphone and conducting an excellent interview with Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Unfortunately for Steelers fans, they weren’t discussing fake news.
No, this was very real: A 36-17 beatdown that sends the Patriots to a league-record ninth Super Bowl. Hines asked if there was any special motivation for Blount in beating the Steelers.
“No, it’s not extra special ’cause I still got a lot of guys over there I talk to — AB, Le’Veon, Mike Mitch, Law Dog [Lawrence Timmons],” Blount said. “I still talk them guys.
“I’m not going to say it’s bittersweet, though. It’s always sweet over here.”
Hines followed up with a beauty: “What is the difference in the culture of the Steelers and Patriots? What is it? You guys just always win, man. I’m tired of seeing you guys win. What is it?”
Blount laughed and said: “I mean, we got arguably the best coach to ever coach the game of football. We got arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game.”
He went on to talk about how the Patriots stay disciplined, perhaps distinguishing them from another team we know. He added: “We stick to the game plan. We never sway away from what we know we gotta do to win the game. We stick to it the whole time.”
Good stuff, but let’s go back to the coach and the quarterback, and let’s focus on the quarterback, because Tom Brady will pretty much end the argument for best of all time if he goes on to win a record fifth Super Bowl. Blount might have inadvertently slipped in a prediction talking about that possibility.
“I mean, he’s the best quarterback to ever play the game,” Blount repeated. “So it’s not a coincidence that he’s going to be the first one [to win five].”
What makes him so special?
“He wins a lot more than most,” said Blount, who then laughed out loud.
Listen, there is no shame in losing to Brady. But there is much shame in losing to him the way the Steelers do. They make it easy on him. No pass rush. Busted coverages. Guys running ridiculously open. Mike Tomlin (and Bill Cowher before him) and defensive coordinator Keith Butler (and Dick LeBeau before him) should be mortified at what Brady has done to them.
Last year, with an entire offseason to prepare, the Steelers were disorganized and literally did not cover the Patriots’ top weapon (Rob Gronkowski) on several plays. In this game, Brady sat back there like he always does against the Steelers and lit them up for a franchise postseason record 384 yards. He completed 32 of 42 passes for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
His numbers in Foxborough against the Steelers really do seem like fake news. In six games dating to 2002, Brady has completed 171 of 239 passes for 2,147 yards, 21 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Against Mike Tomlin teams, Brady now has 22 touchdowns and no interceptions.
I am defender of Tomlin, and Ben Roethlisberger is a Hall of Famer. But it’s hard to win when the other coach and other quarterback are so clearly superior.
The Steelers tried blitzing Brady in last year’s opener, to disastrous results. According to ESPN, he was 8 for 10 for 63 yards and four touchdowns against their blitzes.
They backed off during their matchup this season and held him relatively in check but the three-man rush/zone defense did not work Sunday night.
“He is what we thought he was,” said safety Mike Mitchell.
Brady is on a special kind of mission this season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sat him for a quarter of the season, for no good reason. Brady lost Gronkowski for the year. It only fueled his fire (did somebody just pull an alarm?). He just makes stars out of guys like Chris Hogan, who caught nine passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns — the second on flea flicker started by ex-Pitt star Dion Lewis.
The Patriots said they didn’t care about Tomlin insulting them last weekend. This time, it was Brady dropping a naughty word in postgame.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl, man,” Brady said. “[Shoot], you gotta be happy now.”
Somebody asked Tomlin early in the week about the fact that he never had to go through the Patriots to get to a Super Bowl.
“They haven’t had to go through us, either,” he said.
Not until now, anyway, and typical of every other Brady performance against the Steelers in this building, he went through them as if they weren’t even there.
Joe Starkey: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @joestarkey1. Joe Starkey can be heard on the “Starkey and Mueller” show weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
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