5 AFC Championship X-Factors for the Steelers and Patriots
Despite the Steelers' two Super Bowls during the Ben Roethlisberger era, they've yet to win one while beating the Patriots in the playoffs. In 2006 -- the postseason where Mike Vanderjagt missed a field goal to give Pittsburgh a huge divisional round upset -- New England lost to Denver in that same round. When the Steelers lifted the Lombardi three years later, New England wasn't even dancing -- they missed the playoffs after an 11-5 season with Matt Cassel under center.
Since the turn of the century, the Patriots have faced the Steelers twice in the playoffs. They've won both times. And since 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger entered the league, New England's bested Pittsburgh in 7 of 10 matchups, one of those losses coming with the aforementioned Cassel under center.
Needless to say, New England has owned Pittsburgh over the last decade and a half.
But Sunday marks a new chapter in the great rivalry. As we've come to learn with the National Football League, anything can happen on any given Sunday. That's no different here, especially if one of these teams can win the small, individual matchups throughout the game.
Here are five of them -- the five most important x-factors of this big AFC showdown.