Did Patriots cheat in 2004 AFC Championship game? Former Steelers stars claim they did

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots knocked off the Pittsburgh Steelers with ease in the 2004 AFC Championship game, setting the stage for their second world championship victory over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Nearly 20 years after suffering a 41-27 beating at the hands of Bill Belichick’s squad, former Steelers star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and running back Jerome Bettis are now claiming the Patriots swiped their signs and cheated to win the game.

During an appearance on the podcast “Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger,” Roethlisberger and Bettis said the Patriots always seemed to know what plays were coming in the biggest moments before they even happened.

“To be fair, the Patriots cheated,” Roethlisberger said. Bettis added, “For sure they did. It’s not even a question in my mind.”

Bettis referenced a crucial 4th-and-1 situation in which he said the Patriots called timeout after noticing the Pittsburgh coaching staff signaling for a counter-run play. Coming out of the timeout, the Patriots stuffed Bettis and the Steelers turned the football over on downs.

“They had our signs and they called a timeout to get them ready for that play because they knew it was coming,” Bettis said. “No question in my mind. I remember vividly.”

Bettis misremembered noseguard Ted Washington being in on the stop, but longtime Patriot defensive lineman Vince Wilfork responded and pointed out that it was actually Keith Traylor.

Jeff Howe of The Athletic challenged Bettis’ recollection of what actually happened in that moment after digging through the official game log.

“Out of curiosity, I just read through the official game book: The Patriots did not call a timeout before their 4th-&-1 stop in the 1Q. Their only first-half timeout came later in the 2Q. The Pats called 2 timeouts in the 2H. The Steelers scored TDs the next play each time,” Howe wrote on X.

The Patriots have been wrapped up in cheating scandals before including “Spygate” and “Deflategate.”

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