The New England Patriots face the Pittsburgh Steelers tonight in the season opener, and crucially, Tom Brady will be taking the field. It will be fascinating to see how the deflate-gate saga will have taken it’s toll on the Patriots preparation for their week 1 match-up, and the Steelers major hope is that the Superbowl winning offence led by their main-man Brady will show patches of rust.
However, if there is one quarterback in the entire NFL who has the ability to deal with a scandal and get on with it, it’s Tom Brady. Whilst the off-season media coverage will have been a notch above Brady’s normal celebrity status, it’s tough to imagine him showing any signs of the kind of indecision that might cost the Patriots a season opening win. Brady will be on the same home-ground as he has played throughout his NFL career, reading playbooks edited by the only NFL coach he has ever played under, Bill Belichick, and looking around to find the same receivers that put his newest super-bowl ring on his finger. If anything, the Patriots may be better prepared for disaster, since backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be the most well polished backup in the entire NFL.
The Steelers are unlikely to offer much resistance, either. Make no mistake, they are not a poor team, and with Big Ben Roethlisberger and star receiver Antonio Brown powering a productive offense they have the ability to hurt the Patriots. However, they will be missing the 1,361 regular season yards provided by running back Le’Veon Bell last season due to suspension. Even though many of the running success of the Steelers last season could be attributed to a much-improved offensive line, without Bell they are unlikely to be as productive on the ground as they were last season. They are also missing promising number 2 receiver Martavis Bryant through suspension and potentially key linebacker Lawrence Timmons through injury. This team will be a threat as the season progresses, but add to the suspensions a worrying propensity to concede passing yards in pre-season, and the Steelers are unlikely to be at their best for week one.
After Thursday, deflate-gate will be a distant memory. Brady will produce the kind of polished performance that has become his trademark and star receivers Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski will pick up some serious yards against a helpless Pittsburgh defense that is very much in a period of transition. The Patriots biggest worry will be that the ball boy pumps the footballs up to the regulation pressure…
SCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist from the UK with a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and Baseball. He has previously contributed to publications including Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo