Kovacevic: Key vs. Patriots will be youngsters ☕


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Jaylen Samuels at Rooney Complex this week. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

James Washington will be "a better player."

Jaylen Samuels will be "way better."

Or so they've both assured me, and not just in the obvious context of being a year older and a year wiser than they were as rookies in 2018. No, this time I was asking only about beating New England. Which, as some will recall, the Steelers did do in their most recent meeting Dec. 16 at Heinz Field by a 17-10 count.

Everyone does recall this, right?

I wonder sometimes, if only because the Nation as a whole has a collective tendency to blot out anything positive that their favorite team does against the Patriots, and I hardly ever hear anyone cite it. Even this week, with the teams meeting again Sunday night in Foxborough, it's all big-brother this, dominance that, with nary a mention of the immediate precedent.

Well, it did happen. I was there.

So were these two dudes:

[caption id="attachment_882501" align="aligncenter" width="640"] T.J. Watt and a fan, Dec. 16, Heinz Field. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

And so, from what I've heard, were a whole lot of you. Our city and its beloved football franchise did, indeed, have themselves 'a moment,' as I wrote that day. It was beautiful.

After which, with a seeming snap, it was gone. Joe Haden got jobbed in New Orleans, that sordid season-opening tie in Cleveland came back to bite, and the Steelers would wind up 9-6-1 and long-faced witnesses to the playoffs:

[caption id="attachment_750811" align="aligncenter" width="640"] A fan, Dec. 31, Heinz Field. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS[/caption]

But that doesn't erase New England.

Nor should it erase why these Steelers really ought to beat these Patriots again: They've got the better talent. And, in a couple key cases, that talent will be better or even "way better," to borrow Samuels' term, than it was back in December.

Which swings this back, of course, to Washington and Samuels, the Steelers' top receiver and top running back, respectively, that day against New England.

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