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Patriots hand Steelers 36-17 shellacking in AFC Championship

Tom Brady and the Patriots made it look easy as they put away the Steelers in embarrassing fashion.

NFL: AFC Championship-Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think anyone expected the AFC Championship game to play out quite like it did, but man was it fun to watch as a Bengals’ fan. The Steelers season fell one game short of the Super Bowl with a 36-9 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots really came alive in the second half to put it out of reach before the fourth quarter even began.

The first half was one sided. The Patriots moved down the field, scoring with ease while the Steelers struggled their way down the field working for every yard. Still, the score at the half was only 17-9 in favor of New England.

The biggest takeaway from the Patriots’ side was Tom Brady picking apart the Steelers’ secondary, and he used Chris Hogan to do most of the damage. Hogan finished the first half with seven catches for 117 yards and two touchdowns. Again that is just what he had in the FIRST HALF.

The Steelers scrambled to quickly try and adjust after losing Le’Veon Bell to a groin injury. Bell did return from the injury to carry the ball one more time, but he quickly jogged off the field afterward, and it didn’t look good.

DeAngelo Williams scored the Steelers’ only first half touchdown, but Chris Boswell followed it up by missing his first extra point of the season (it feels a little bit like karma for all the Mike Nugent Jokes). The Steelers thought they had another touchdown when Jesse James seemingly took the ball into the end zone, but upon review, the ball was placed at the one foot line. After two negative yardage runs and an overthrown pass, Pittsburgh had to settle for a field goal.

The Patriots put it out of reach late in the third quarter. After a long, methodical drive finished off by a LeGarrette Blount touchdown, the former Steeler running back, the Steelers gave the ball right back to the Patriots via an Eli Rogers fumble at Pittsburgh’s 30-yard line. New England quickly got the ball in the end zone. The Patriots missed the extra point to make it a 33-9 game with a little over two minutes in the fourth quarter.

The Patriots added a field goal after a Ben Roethlisberger interception, and the Steelers added a garbage time touchdown to make it a 36-17 game, but still it was pure domination by the Patriots all night. It was actually former Bengals receiver Cobi Hamilton who scored the final touchdown of the night.

The Patriots and Steelers have had plenty of meaningful matchups in the playoffs in the Tom Brady era, but they have all gone in the Patriots’ favor. This marks Brady’s third win over the Steelers in the postseason. The past two times Brady finished off Pittsburgh in the playoffs, he went on to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers have dropped four in a row to New England, and it seems like this team and Mike Tomlin can’t quite get over the New England roadblock. Many Steelers fans will point to officiating, but aside from a questionable unnecessary roughness call, in which Ryan Shazier did in fact lead with his head, and a missed defensive holding there isn’t much to blame on the refs. The fact is, the Steelers had every chance to keep this game close, but they failed to do so.

Steelers fans may also blame this on Bell going down early, but the Patriots would be quick to point out they almost put up 40 on the Steelers without Rob Gronkowski who is on Injured Reserve. And, the Steelers should have had enough playmakers to overcome Bell’s absence.

This ends AFC North football for the 2016-17 season. Overall it was disappointing for all the teams in the division. The Steelers obviously less so, but Baltimore and Cincinnati failing to reach their playoff expectations probably sticks out the most. And, the Browns going 1-15 hurt a lot, too.

Still all of the AFC North will be spending the Super Bowl the same way, watching from their couches at home. Hope everyone enjoyed this shellacking of the Steelers. At least we can sleep easy knowing the Steelers won’t be fighting for another Super Bowl ring.