Sunday, January 21, will see the Pittsburgh Steelers face off with the New England Patriots in the #NFL #AFC Championship game to be held at Gillette Stadium. One key figure who won't be taking part in the highly anticipated game is Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The news should come as a relief to the Steelers as he has been a pain in their past two games with the Patriots as Rob Gronkowski was personally responsible for four touchdowns. Unfortunately for the player he sustained a back injury right at the end of last year and needed to undergo surgery.

It was later discovered that the injury was caused by a big hit he got from Seattle Seahawks' safety Earl Thomas during their November 13, 2016 game. He was cleared to get back on the field two weeks later and took part in the New York Jets game on November 27. But, as luck would have it, he was again hit early on in that game too and this time it resulted in significant leg and back pains following which a decision was made that he needed to undergo the surgery. He hasn't played since.

Rob Gronkowski's absence will mean a new playing strategy for Patriots

But, the Steelers shouldn't expect to have it easy on Sunday just because Rob Gronkowski has been put on injured reserve for the foreseeable future of the AFC.

That is because the Patriots look like they have a new game plan and could have even figured a way to overcome their handicap. Players and coaches have been rumored to have prepared well and have all the intentions of winning the game.

According to Pats Pulpit, the Patriots have a new setup with their offence where they have reconfigured it into a "three-receiver" offence instead of their usual two-tight end offence that worked when both Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennet were in the field.

Instead, the duo will be replaced by the triple-threats of rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, wide receiver Julian Edelman, who have both been showing great performances, and running back Dion Lewis who is back after being out for most of the season due to a knee injury. This setup has been quite effective as was proven in their game against the Ravens where 5 different players recorded over 70 yards (and that's excluding Lewis and Mitchell).

So, it might look like Rob Gronkowski's sitting it out has only complicated matters for the Steelers as Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons will have their hands full with Edelman and Lewis while Chris Hogan will focus on Mitchell. Whatever the configuration they decide to go with, the Steelers seem to already have their work cut out for them.