Thursday, April 17, 2014
If there were any takeaways from the conference calls with Bill Belichick and his two coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, on Tuesday, it's that the New England Patriots have great respect for their next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, despite Pittsburgh's 2-5 start.
The teams play Sunday at Gillette Stadium at 4:25 p.m. on CBS. New England is atop the AFC East with a 6-2 mark. Pittsburgh is last in the AFC North.
Offensive coordinator McDaniels, in particular, spoke about the challenges the Patriots will face with Pittsburgh's defense:
"Their defense is always sound and very aggressive. They have a lot of key veteran players that have been in the system a long time and understand the way that they want to play. They do a great job of getting their guys in the looks that they want to be in. This is always a difficult team to run the football against, it’s always a challenge to protect the passer against their pressures and they have always been a defense that has taken the football away. I think there are challenges we are going to see this week in terms of our preparation.''
Patricia spoke about the obstacle that is Ben Roethlisberger, who has a 3-3 record against New England in the regular season and has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in those games:
"I think it’s extremely difficult when you face a quarterback like this that the play is continually going. I would say even almost until after the whistle is kind of how you’ve got to approach it, with the effect that he’s going to be in that pocket, and if you take the approach where you think the play is over, it’s not. He’s going to be able to get maybe out of a tackle or get the ball downfield, so everyone needs to stay alive, stay focused, do their job all the way through until the end of the play until the play is absolutely over, because I actually think that’s where Roethlisberger really thrives the most, is where he can make those plays, and I think he looks forward to those plays where he can kind of move around in the pocket or get outside the pocket and get the ball downfield or find the open receiver and really create something that may be a little bit more than what’s on paper.''
Some other stuff:
- Belichick said he had not spoken to his medical staff yet concerning the status of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who left Sunday's game with what appeared to be a broken leg.
"That will be something I’ll do later on this afternoon so I’ll find out a little bit more about what his situation is and how Sebastian is coming along,'' he said.
- Belichick said he also hadn't been involved in any possible trade talks. The trade deadline was 4 p.m. Tuesday (Oct. 29). "To be honest with you, I’ve been really, this morning, involved in game planning and trying to get things organized here on Pittsburgh and all that. At some point here, I’ll catch up here with guys in the scouting department and see if there’s anything that’s moving.''
He added that deadline trades are hard to predict. Last year's deadline trade for cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay was a last-minute thing, he noted. " That was one of those transactions that probably got turned in at about 3:59:45. So, you just never know. We’ll see.''
Mike Lowe has covered the New England Patriots since 1999 for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and has had a nice view of their emergence as one of the NFL’s premier franchises.
He’s been at the paper since 1982 and has covered everything from a Little League World Series to the Summer Olympics. He is married to Tracie and they have three children and two grandchildren.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeLowePPH.