The NFL season kicks off tonight with my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the New England Stealers. Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots seem determined to prove Cheaters Always Win.

On the muddy heels of the reversal of Brady’s 2-game suspension for “Deflategate,” ESPN reports that the “Spygate” scandal exposed in 2007 was far dirtier than league officials — most notably Commissioner Roger Goodell — wanted anyone to know. For at least seven years, the Patriots illegally videotaped the coaching signals of other teams, stole playbooks and game plans from opposing locker rooms and generally made a mockery of the ideal of honest competition.

Of special interest to Pittsburgh fans, the report reveals that the Patriots used their illegal videotapes to cheat against the Steelers in the 2002 and 2005 AFC Championship games. If you remember those games, it seemed like the Patriots were in the Steelers’ huddle. Turns out they practically were. Holder of all Steelers receiving records and deserving of enshrinement in Canton, Hines Ward has been saying for years that the Patriots cheated in those games. The ESPN report vindicates him, and I hope he says as much to Bob Costas on tonight’s broadcast.

Read the full report here, especially if you’re a Patriots fan. If anything can crack the God-like worship they lavish on Brady and Belichick, this may be it. Please pay special attention to Belichick’s admission that he ordered the illegal videotaping, but only because he “misinterpreted” the extremely clear rules against it.

Also note that Goodell had all the evidence destroyed. His laughable excuse is that he didn’t want the tapes and notes to be used against other teams in the future. If that was really his goal, he could have simply seized the archives. Call me a cynic (many do), but it’s clear to me and many others that Goodell was doing damage control for a franchise the league has made billions mythologizing.

I hate to say it, but the Steelers will likely lose tonight. Brady wants to make a statement, and Pittsburgh’s defensive secondary is weak at best. The Steelers will also be without star RB Le’veon Bell and deep-threat WR  Martavis Bryant, both serving suspensions for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Both offer living proof that habitual pot-smoking makes you stupid.

Also absent will be All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, who either has the worst luck in the world or osteoporosis. Unfortunately, veteran QB and convicted dog killer Michael Vick will be available if Big Ben gets his bell rung.

Whatever tonight’s outcome, those who believe the New England Stealers are being unfairly vilified should at least to try to understand this: Millions of football fans don’t hate the Patriots because they win, or because they’re good. We hate them because they cheat.

And because they get away with it.