The Pittsburgh Steelers have, frankly, a terrible history against the New England Patriots. Tom Brady is 11-2 against them in his career, while Ben Roethlisberger is 2-8 against the Patriots. They find new and exciting ways to get beaten every time they meet up. The Patriots blew the Steelers out of the water when they played in the 2016 AFC Championship Game. Last season, the Steelers instead lost on the controversial non-catch call on a potential game-winning touchdown by Jesse James. It comes in just about every form, but the one constant of the past two decades of Steelers football is that they just can’t beat the Patriots.
So they’ve decided to bring in someone who has. According to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network, the Steelers brought in former New York Giants Linebackers Coach Jim Herrmann to work with their defense this week. If such a thing as a Patriots killer exists in the NFL, it would be Hermann. He started his coaching career at Michigan, working his way up to Defensive Coordinator in 1997… the year before a young Tom Brady became the starting quarterback there. He would have been able to watch Brady’s formative years up close and personal.
He left Michigan in 2005 to become the linebackers coach for the New York Jets under Eric Mangini, a former Patriots assistant who was also quite familiar with Brady. The Jets had a number of personnel issues during that span that prevented them competing for championships in that period, but they acquitted themselves very well against the Patriots in particular. In 2006, they beat the Brady and the Patriots in Foxboro, a feat that the Steelers have never matched. Their only win in Gilette Stadium came in 2008, with Matt Cassel at quarterback. Overall, Hermann’s Jets played the Patriots seven times, beat them twice, and held them to a modest 26 points per game. Mike Tomlin has coached against the Patriots nine times, winning only two, and allowing over 30 points per game with superior talent.
After Mangini’s entire coaching staff was fired after the 2008 season, Herrmann moved across the stadium to the staff of the New York Giants. He coached against the Patriots three times in that span, but two of them were quite memorable. The first was a regular season game won by the Giants 24-20 thanks to a last-second Eli Manning drive. The second was Super Bowl XLVI, which the Giants won 21-17. The Patriots averaged 32.1 points per game that season. The Giants held them to an average of 18.5. They met up again in 2015, the last year of Herrmann’s Giants tenure, and the Patriots won. But they scored only 26 points, down from their 29.1 points per game average that year.
In other words, there is no such thing as a coach capable of completely shutting Brady down. But if there is anyone in the football world equipped to slow him down for one Sunday, it is Herrmann. If nothing else, the Steelers will be well-prepared to take on the Patriots this week. If their defense can keep it close, their offense still has more than enough firepower to seal the deal.