Steelers vs Patriots Live : Seven months on from winning a sixth Super Bowl in two decades, the New England Patriots begin their title defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
No team has won consecutive Super Bowls since the Patriots went back-to-back in 2003 and 2004, and New England faces an uphill task to replicate the feat.
At the same time, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have routinely proved they can achieve what seems beyond their reach.
Brady turned 42 early last month and is set to continue his personal duel with Father Time for another year. However, he will do so without one of his favorite offensive weapons, after Rob Gronkowski retired.
The Patriots, who are looking to extend their NFL record of 10 consecutive playoff appearances, also waved goodbye to defensive end Trey Flower and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan.
The pair have been replaced by Demaryius Thomas and Cameron Meredith, who join Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett and Josh Gordon in the receiving corps.
Gordon could be an influential figure in Week 1, as he has more receptions and receiving yards against Pittsburgh than any other team.
The Steelers went 9-6-1 last season but missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013, as the off-field drama surrounding Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown threatened to unravel the franchise from the inside.
Bell has since moved to the New York Jets, while Brown has taken his shenanigans to the Oakland Raiders.
The Steelers might have lost two Pro Bowl talents, but coach Mike Tomlin hopes it proves to be a case of addition by subtraction.
Running back James Conner has welcomed the new drama-free version of the Steelers.
“We got talent over here,” he said Wednesday on Good Morning Football.
“We’re gonna put it all together and play for one another and we’ll see what happens.”
Conner ensured Pittsburgh didn’t miss Bell last season, as he accumulated 1,470 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games and finished four games with over 100 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and more than one touchdown—an NFL record.
Aside from Conner, the bulk of the offense will again rest on Ben Roethlisberger’s shoulder. The 37-year-old led the NFL in passing yards last season with 5,129 and needs just three victories to tie Hall of Famer Dan Marino in sixth position in the all-time list of most wins for starting quarterbacks.
It should be a matter of weeks for Roethlisberger, as the Steelers look poised to return to the playoffs and are happy to fly under the radar in an AFC North where most of the attention has focused on the Cleveland Browns.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Sunday.