With the season winding down the Steelers find themselves in a familiar place as the main threat in the AFC to knock off the Patriots:

Photo credit: Icon Sportswire

Author: Jon Kuzma

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Last year the Pittsburgh Steelers couldnā€™t match up with the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship losing 36-17. However it feels like this Steelers team has a much better chance than last yearā€™s team to knock off the defending champs. One major reason why is because the Steelers have more playmakers on the defensive side of the ball now. In 2016 Pittsburghā€™s defense was ranked 12th in the league surrendering 342 yards per game. While this season the Steelers have improved to the 4th best defense in the league letting up just 287 yards per contest. That eight spot jump has really helped this team become a better squad than they were in 2016 which has to be a concern for Bill Belichick. Especially since the Patriots defense has tanked this season ranking dead last defensively allowing over 400 yards each week. Itā€™s pretty clear that players like Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams have been instrumental for the 2017 version of the Steel Curtain. Shazier leads the team with 79 tackles, Williams is second best with 54 stops. Getting Cameron Heyward back has also been a huge boost for this group Heyward has been a pass rushing force compiling 7 sacks. Then you have the young guys this team has drafted the last couple of seasons to infuse some youthfulness into the situation. Players like TJ Watt, Sean Davis, and Artie Burns who are all a part of the core of this team at such a young age. Itā€™s obvious Kevin Colbert has done his job as General Manger and that goes without mentioning that Pittsburgh is better on offense too with the addition of JuJu Smith-Schuster. This team is primed to conquer the AFC with the playoffs quickly approaching and New England is weaker than they were when they won the Super Bowl a year ago.

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