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Steelers' checklist to return to Super Bowl includes motivated Antonio Brown

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Steelers-Pats could come down to Brown-Butler showdown (0:33)

Tedy Bruschi has his eyes on the Malcolm Butler-Antonio Brown matchup in the AFC Championship Game and says this could determine who advances to the Super Bowl. (0:33)

BOSTON -- The on-field product must validate this, but Steelers-Patriots feels like a potential classic.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers are trying to make a ninth Super Bowl appearance, here are nine ways they can make it happen Sunday night in Gillette Stadium.

A championship moment from Antonio Brown: Brown's news conference this week in response to the Facebook Live issue was contrite, but it also dripped of motivation. Brown mentioned his kids having to see him on the TV for the wrong reasons and former players blasting his maturity. He looked and sounded like a man hungry for a legacy game. Brown likes the matchup with the Patriots after averaging 94 yards and 0.75 touchdowns per game in his past four meetings against them.

Stars playing like stars: The Steelers have three of the four best offensive players on the field in Brown, Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell. All three must be fully charged and highly explosive in all areas Sunday. They must find a way to finish drives, which was an issue last Sunday against Kansas City.

Ben Ben I: Win from the pocket: Roethlisberger is at his most dangerous when he's throwing from the pocket or around it, on the move. If the Patriots try to minimize his maneuverability, Roethlisberger must stand tall and deliver.

Big Ben II: Take the fight to the Patriots: Roethlisberger has every reason to be sick of the Patriots, who have won five of the past six regular-season games against Pittsburgh (including in Week 7 this season, when Roethlisberger was out because of a knee injury). Time to exorcise that demon on the biggest stage. The Patriots haven't faced a quarterback like Big Ben all season.

More Bell in the red zone: In Kansas City, Bell carried the ball twice for seven yards from inside the 20-yard line despite several trips into scoring range. That number should be higher. In Bill Belichick's three home playoff losses, the Patriots have allowed six rushing scores. The offensive line wants to push the ball through the teeth of the Patriots near the goal line. Let it.

Win turnover equation: This is an obvious playoff formula, but it's especially crucial against the Patriots, who were third in the NFL with a plus-12 turnover ratio. Brady has 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past six games against Pittsburgh. How long can that trend continue? Linebacker Ryan Shazier has an interception in four straight games and is looking for a fifth.

Get Brady to the ground: If there's a book on Brady, this is it. The Houston Texans showed it with pressure up the middle in the divisional round. Belichick's staff will have adjustments ready for that. But the Steelers prefer to win with a four-man rush anyway, so if James Harrison and Bud Dupree keep rushing off the edge effectively, that could make all the difference. "Anybody can be rattled if you hit them," Harrison said.

Stop the run with nickel coverage: Facing Brady with less than three corners is asking for trouble, but LeGarrette Blount rushed for 79 yards on 10 carries against the Steelers' nickel front in Week 7. That has to improve.

Don't be afraid to use kicker Chris Boswell: At least moderate aggressiveness will be required to win in Gillette Stadium. But Boswell's two 6-for-6 games, both wins, came on the road. Unless the Steelers feel awfully good about a fourth-down call in the red zone, take a few 3s when necessary.