Patriots

Patriots

Rob Gronkowski is rounding into form at the perfect time of the NFL season for the New England Patriots.

The veteran tight end returned from injury in Week 12 against the New York Jets and tallied his first touchdown reception since Week 1. He followed that up with a below average pass-catching performance against the Minnesota Vikings before causing many issues for the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (except for the game-winning touchdown, of course). 

Gronk torched the Dolphins defense for 107 yards and a touchdown. He caught all eight passes thrown his way, too. 

The Patriots' next opponent is the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team Gronkowski has dominated throughout his career. He has 39 receptions for 664 yards and eight touchdowns in six career games versus the Steelers. His 110.6 yards per game against Pittsburgh is his highest average versus any team he's opposed more than once. His eight touchdown catches against the Steelers are his highest total versus any non-AFC East team. 

Gronkowski played an important role in the Patriots' narrow win over the Steelers last season at Heinz Field, the site of Sunday's Week 15 clash. Gronk caught nine passes for 168 yards on 13 targets.

Even Steelers coach Mike Tomlin admitted Tuesday his team's lack of success defending Gronkowski.

Making matters worse for the Steelers is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's impressive track record against them. Brady, since Tomlin took over as Steelers head coach before the 2007 season, is 7-1 with 23 touchdowns and one interception against Pittsburgh. 

These trends don't bode well for a Steelers team hoping to strengthen its dwindling playoff hopes by avoiding a fourth consecutive loss. 

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