By Danny Cox

For the majority of the season, running back Le’Veon Bell has been the leader of the Steelers and the one who directed the charge into the AFC Championship. On Sunday night, he needed to be at his very best to help the rest of the team be on top of their game, but an early injury took him—and the rest of the team—out of the game.

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After Bell’s groin injury in the first quarter, nothing seemed to work for the Steelers, and it led to a 36-17 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots.

Offense: C

DeAngelo Williams had just 34 yards on 14 carries and after falling behind quickly, the Steelers had to move away from the running game. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 314 yards and one touchdown without being sacked once, but he did throw one interception.

The wide receivers worked hard and there were even three players with seven receptions. But there were some drops as well, and Eli Rogers lost a fumble. Nothing seemed to come together for the Steelers, and the Patriots continued to knock footballs out of the air and get in front of receivers at the last second. It seemed as if the Steelers offense was defeated and deflated before the game was even close to over.

Defense: D+

Even though the Patriots didn’t run the ball well, the offense simply could not be stopped. Yes, it’s true that Tom Brady was sacked twice, but he was on top of his game against the Steelers defense. Brady was able to finish the day with 384 yards passing and three touchdowns while having two receivers with more than 115 yards.

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Julian Edelman had a masterful game with 118 yards on eight receptions and one touchdown, but he was not the star. Pittsburgh had no answer for Chris Hogan, who had 180 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. New England was simply able to do whatever they wanted while playmakers such as James Harrison and Bud Dupree had no effect.

Special Teams: C

The return game didn’t help, even though Sammie Coates had one good kick return of 31 yards. Even then, the offense still couldn’t do much with the decent field position.

After being the star of last week’s victory, kicker Chris Boswell hit his lone field goal attempt of 23 yards and missed his one extra point attempt. Jordan Berry had some success in pinning the Patriots deep in their own territory with his punting, but it didn’t seem to bother New England any.

Coaching: C-

Mike Tomlin could not get anything working for his team. Every time the Pittsburgh Steelers’ sideline was shown, the players had their heads down; they seemed defeated from the first quarter on. That ultimately led to a sloppy game all around and the big loss that took away the Steelers’ Super Bowl chance.

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The Pittsburgh Steelers were able to move past the four-game suspension of Le’Veon Bell. The team was able to overcome numerous injuries, including a big one to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Even with those issues, they moved past a four-game losing streak and pulled it together to land in the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, the Steelers could not rally together to overcome Bell’s injury, and that brought about the end of their season. That said, Pittsburgh has a promising outlook for the future.