Best and Worst: Patriots 36, Steelers 17
The Patriots, who normally will defer their choice to the second half if they win the coin toss, elected to receive.
Malcolm Mitchell had a third-and-1 throw go through his hands at the end of the Patriots first drive costing the Patriots a shot at a touchdown as they settled for three.
SIMPLEST SECOND GUESS
The Steelers went up top on the first third-and-1 of the game when trailing 3-0. Even though Sammie Coates had a shot at it past Eric Rowe, he seemed to short-arm the ball and it fell incomplete.
On the Patriots second drive, Joe Thuney got discarded and David Andrews snapped the ball too soon on consecutive plays. The result was a three-and-out.
The Patriots came out in an I-formation then split out fullback James Develin and heavy back LeGarrette Blount to opposite boundaries. At the snap, the Steelers fixated on Blount and Chris Hogan was left alone for a first-down catch.
On the Patriots first touchdown, the Steelers neglected to cover Hogan who was left all by his lonesome for an easy touchdown.
With the Steelers facing a third-and-10 on their third drive, tight end Jesse James engaged with safety Patrick Chung and drove him downfield into the path of Logan Ryan and the Steelers picked up a key first down to extend a touchdown drive.
Steelers kicker Chris Boswell, who made six field goals in the Divisional Playoff game against Kansas City, missed an extra point after the Steelers first touchdown.
The Patriots capped their second scoring drive with a well-designed flea flicker in which Dion Lewis took the handoff, pitched it back to Brady and he found Hogan for another score. Malcolm Mitchell was also very open on the play.
Steelers wideout Cobi Hamilton beat Eric Rowe and had a perfectly thrown pass from Ben Roethlisberger slip through his hands, off his stomach and incomplete to blow a would-be touchdown late in the first half.
REPLAY TO THE RESCUE
Steelers tight end Jesse James appeared to have a touchdown just before the half but replay showed that he was hauled down about six inches shy by Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. The Steelers then tried twice to run it in but were stuffed by Donta Hightower and Patrick Chung on first down and Vincent Valentine on third down. Roethlisberger threw wild on third down and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.
There were no penalties in the first half, the first time there was a flag-free half in a playoff game since 2006.
The red flag came out from the Pittsburgh sideline after Tom Brady picked up a third-and-1 and the Steelers attempted to pry the ball out from an apparently fallen Brady. The challenge didn’t work so good.
GET ON MY BACK BOYS
LeGarrette Blount, after getting stood up at the 8-yard line, kept his legs churning as players from both teams joined the scrum and moved everyone down to the 1-yard line. There must have been 15 guys on the pile from both teams when he finally went down.
MAKING SOME VAN NOISE
Kyle Van Noy stripped Eli Rogers to set up a Patriots touchdown drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Brady to Julian Edelman.
SOUNDING A DOWN NOTE
Stephen Gostkowski, who made 37 of his past 38 kicks missed a PAT in the third quarter that would have put the Patriots up 34-9.
WHEN IT RAINS IT POURS
Cobi Hamilton appeared to haul in a short touchdown pass to bring the Steelers within 19 points early in the fourth but he stepped on the back line of the end zone, wiping out the score and losing 5 yards.