The Steelers-Patriots tilt at Heinz Field will be the biggest game to date in the 2017 season. The winner holds the key to unlocking home-field advantage in the playoffs. A win by Pittsburgh coupled with a Jacksonville loss Sunday would wrap up the AFC with two weeks left.
Coach Mike Tomlin has been talking about the Patriots for three weeks. He'll keep embracing the hype surrounding the big game.
"Man, I love it," he said Tuesday, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's good to be in big games. It's better to be in big games than ones nobody is watching, you know?
"We better be appreciative of this spot and not resist it in any way but embrace it. Because this is what we've been fighting for since March."
Tomlin added that his team would be ready to cook under the spotlight, using a metaphor that was likely a nod to the 'if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen' adage.
"We're excited about being in the kitchen, if you will," Tomlin said. "It's good to be in the kitchen, the kitchen's in Pittsburgh, P-A, this week in the National Football League and at Heinz Field, and that's where you want to be in the middle of December."
The heat will be on Sunday for the Steelers.
Tom Brady is 10-2 in his career versus the Steelers, including playoffs. Since Tomlin took over in 2007, Brady is 6-1 versus Pittsburgh with a 72.0 completion percentage, 324.7 passing yards per game, 22 TDs, zero interceptions and a 127.5 passer rating.
Brady, however, is coming off his worst game of the season in Miami. Steelers All-World receiver Antonio Brown, on the other hand, has been unstoppable. Sunday's tilt could turn the tide not only of the AFC's top seed but the MVP race as well.
With everything on the line, Tomlin isn't shying away from the stage.
"We don't take it for granted," he said. "As competitors, we're excited about it, but as professionals, we know that preparation is going to be required."