NFL Power Rankings: Steelers on top for now, but still must take Patriots down

About a month ago, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't shy away from talking about the New England Patriots, something most coaches never do.

It was still weeks until his team was scheduled to meet the Patriots, a team that has been a constant thorn to his Steelers teams. Yet there was Tomlin talking about how he was already thinking about the Patriots and their meeting this week -- and how his team would play them again in the playoffs.

Some criticized Tomlin for not adhering to the coach-speak manual. I loved it.

Nothing a coach says will ever impact what goes on during a game. Once the ball is snapped, a player gets hit in the mouth, the game is on and the words go out the window.

So why not have a coach who believes in his team like Tomlin does, rather than one who avoids the talk of a potential big game down the road? 

Tomlin didn't do it in a Rex Ryan sort of way, bragging and boasting, but rather in a I-believe-in-my-guys way.

So this week, here come the Patriots, fresh off an upset loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins Monday night. In that game, Tom Brady looked ordinary and the Patriots looked vulnerable.

Now is the time for Tomlin and his team to prove they can beat Brady and Bill Belichick with a No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs on the line. Tomlin is 2-6 against the Patriots in his career, including a loss in the AFC Championship Game last January in Foxboro.

What's even more impressive for New England is Brady's record against the Steelers. He is 7-2 against them in his career in the regular season and 3-0 against Pittsburgh in the playoffs. He has 29 touchdowns and three interceptions in those 12 games.

For a Steelers defense struggling against the pass lately, those re a not good numbers as we ready to watch the two teams ready to face off Sunday in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers take over the top spot in my Power Rankings, with New England dropping down to the second spot after that bad showing in Miami. 

Tomlin wanted the Patriots. Now he has them, and I can't wait.

Just remember, though, his words from late November will not have one bit of an impact on the outcome – win or lose. 

Biggest Movers
7 Bears
4 Vikings
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Steelers They found a way late against the Ravens, but the defense has been bad against the pass the past three games. That won't be a good look against Tom Brady. 113-3-0
2 Patriots The lack of a pass rush showed up against the Dolphins. That can't happen against Ben Roethlisberger. 113-3-0
3 Eagles I will keep them here, even with the news of Carson Wentz going down for the season. But can they win with Nick Foles? 113-3-0
4 Saints That was a tough one last week at Atlanta, with some questionable officiating calls, and now they have to re-group but are still in first place in the division. 211-5-0
5 Panthers Cam Newton came up big in the big moment in a big game against Minnesota. That's what's going to carry this team the rest of the way. 211-5-0
6 Jaguars Don't look now, but Blake Bortles is playing good football. If he can continue that, watch out for this team come playoff time. 310-6-0
7 Vikings Playing three consecutive road games was tough, but going 2-1 in that stretch is impressive. 413-3-0
8 Rams They have to find a way to win the games against the best of the NFC. Now comes a big division game with Seattle. 311-5-0
9 Falcons That might have been a season-saving interception by Deion Jones of Drew Brees late last week. If they win out, they win the division. 110-6-0
10 Seahawks If they beat the Rams this week at home, they are in first place. But they just don't have the same feel about them as they did in recent years. 29-7-0
11 Chargers They are riding high heading into Arrowhead to play the Chiefs. The winner of that game will likely win the division. --9-7-0
12 Cowboys They got a big game from Dak Prescott against the Giants to stay alive. They need more of that down the stretch. 29-7-0
13 Titans Playing close games finally caught up to them at Arizona. They are now in second place in the AFC South playing the chase game. 19-7-0
14 Ravens That loss to the Steelers will sting. But they still control their road to a playoff spot and they have a soft schedule to close out the season. 19-7-0
15 Packers They had to get that comeback victory against the Browns to stay alive. Now they might have Aaron Rodgers back. --7-9-0
16 Lions Matt Stafford toughed it out to win at Tampa Bay, which kept their season alive. The need to win out to have a chance to get into the playoffs. 19-7-0
17 Bills They are alive after that snowy victory over the Colts. Now they have a winnable game against Miami. 19-7-0
18 Chiefs They seemed to get back on track against the Raiders. That was as good as they've looked in a long time. 110-6-0
19 Raiders That loss at Kansas City should be the dagger in their season. Derek Carr hasn't been good enough. 36-10-0
20 Dolphins They looked like a different team against the Patriots. Jay Cutler was really good, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. 46-10-0
21 Cardinals The defense has done some really good things the past month. That has to give them hope for next season. 28-8-0
22 Redskins That was a horror show against the Chargers. They are toast and now have to decide what to do with Kirk Cousins. 27-9-0
23 Bears They have to be thrilled with the way some of their younger players are playing, especially Mitchell Trubisky. That was an impressive win at Cincinnati. 75-11-0
24 Bengals Their season went bad after the loss to the Steelers last Monday night. That showed up in the terrible showing against the Bears. 37-9-0
25 Jets They looked awful losing at Denver and now will be without Josh McCown. Should they play Christian Hackenberg? 35-11-0
26 Broncos Give them credit for breaking the 10-game losing streak. At least they showed up with nothing on the line against the Jets. 15-11-0
27 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo has been special since taking over. They have their guy. 16-10-0
28 Buccaneers Will the losing cost coach Dirk Koetter his job? If so, who takes over next season? Jon Gruden? 35-11-0
29 Texans The injuries have simply caught up with them this season. It was too much to overcome. 34-12-0
30 Colts This season has been over for a while. It looks like it's over for Chuck Pagano as well. 14-12-0
31 Giants Even getting Eli Manning back as the starter didn't matter. They just aren't a very good team - no matter what. --3-13-0
32 Browns They had their chance to get their first victory, but blew a 14-point lead to the Packers. That was so Browns-like. --0-16-0
CBS Sports Senior Writer

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    24/7 Scores, News, Highlights
    FREE ON ALL YOUR DEVICES