|01.16.17 at 9:37 pm ET|
The Patriots aren’t going up against the Steel Curtain Sunday in their mission to get to a record ninth Super Bowl. They are going up against a different type of Steeler defense – a type that’s been around for the better part of three decades.
And it’s a defense that’s been getting better and more aggressive as the season has progressed.
No team had more sacks in the second half of the season than the Steelers, who recorded 30 in the final nine games of the regular season. Their eight sacks against the Browns kicked off a seven-game winning streak to end the season. They continued it in the wild card round against the Dolphins with five sacks of Matt Moore.
They had just one against the Chiefs Sunday night but it was one by the ageless James Harrison. The Texans had the top-ranked defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed but the way the Steelers are attacking the quarterback, they might be the most fearsome defense left in the playoffs.
“Yes, most players are playing at a very high level right now, and seem to get better as the year goes on,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Monday.
The Patriots kept Tom Brady clean in their Oct. 23 meeting in Pittsburgh, as the quarterback was not sacked.
“They’ve always had an element of those experienced veteran players really helping those younger players come along, and learn the system, and learn what it means to play the way they play in their scheme and their system,” McDaniels continued. “I think those are two good examples right there of guys that [are] much different in terms of their age and experience, but both physical guys, both very difficult to handle in the running game, set the edge in the running game and they do a good job of trying to knock people back.”
The Steelers are also generating turnovers so far in the playoffs. They created three against Miami and two Sunday against Kansas City. If ball security was a weakness Saturday against the Texans, with two interceptions and two fumbles, the Patriots know they have to be on guard this weekend.
“And then [they] can create pressure on the quarterback, whether it’s with speed or power, and they do it both,” McDaniels said. “So, they fit into their scheme nicely, they’ve always done a great job of integrating young players into their scheme, because they know very specifically what they’re looking for. I think those two guys are a good example of what they’ve had for a long time and how they develop these young guys to play really well and integrate them into their system and into their defense.”
When the Steelers added Kevin Greene to the likes of Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Jason Gildon and Chad Brown in the mid-90s under Bill Cowher, “Blitzburgh” was born. In the 2000s, there was Joey Porter, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, Larry Foote and a young James Harrison out of Kent State.
Now, the Steelers have bookended the 38-year-old Harrison (in his second stint in Pittsburgh) with 23-year-old Bud Dupree, the 6-foot-4 beast out of Kentucky that laid out Moore with that devastating hit to the jaw in the wild card round. Throw in Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons, and you have a group that is just as imposing as the group in the mid-90s.
“They have a lot of guys that can do different things,” McDaniels said. “Their down guys are not just run stoppers. [Stephon] Tuitt is a very active guy, and he’s created a lot of pressure on the quarterback from the spots that he plays. They’ll pressure people with pressures, so with linebacker blitzes, so guys like Timmons and Shazier and those types of guys, they all have sacks, they all have quarterback pressures. And then the edge rushers, the Harrison’s and the Dupree’s, those guys, I mean they’re constantly involved in the rush as well. It’s not just one guy; that’s the biggest thing.
|01.16.17 at 9:31 pm ET|
As usual, Patriots.com gave an inside look at the Patriots locker room following the win over the Texans.
Dion Lewis led the way with three touchdowns and owner Robert Kraft went up to the running back and noted they both aren’t very tall.
“This is for all of the medium height guys,” Kraft said when giving him a hug.
Bill Belichick addressed the team, noting they have to play better next week to win, but did give a shoutout to Rutgers, as all three defensive players from the school had an interception (Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon).
“Big day for Rutgers,” Belichick said with a smile.
EXCLUSIVE: #Patriots locker room celebration following the win over the Texans
— Patriots.com (@PATRIOTSdotCOM) January 16, 2017
|01.16.17 at 5:40 pm ET|
On Monday, Tom Brady took time to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on social media.
The quarterback posted a video both to his Facebook and Instagram with the caption: Find your blueprint and follow it.
|01.16.17 at 5:35 pm ET|
Although Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video has been deleted, the damage is already done.
Following the Steelers’ win over the Chiefs, Brown posted a video from the locker room lasting well over 17 minutes. Within the video coach Mike Tomlin calls the Patriots a-holes.
It drew the attention of the Patriots, most notably Julian Edelman, who said it shows how the Steelers are run.
Bill Belichick also responded and responded in typical Belichick fashion.
“Yeah, as you know I’m not on SnapFace and all that, I don’t really get those,” he said on Dale & Holley with Rich Keefe. “I’m just really worried about getting our team ready to go. I’m not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat, or whatever it is.”
Not only did it get the attention of the Patriots, it also may get the attention of the league.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brown violated the league’s social media policy, as it prohibits players from posting messages on any social media platform 90 minutes before kickoff through postgame interviews. As a result, Brown may be fined for what happened.
The Steelers will travel to New England for the AFC title game this Sunday night.
For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.
|01.16.17 at 4:46 pm ET|
Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley with Rich Keefe on Monday to look ahead to the AFC championship game against the Steelers. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
After their win over the Chiefs Sunday night, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown posted a Facebook Live video, which has since been deleted, inside the locker room where coach Mike Tomlin was captured calling the Patriots a-holes.
Belichick was asked for his thoughts and responded in typical Belichick fashion.
“Yeah, as you know I’m not on SnapFace and all that, I don’t really get those,” he said. “I’m just really worried about getting our team ready to go. I’m not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat, or whatever it is.”
The coach was asked if the Patriots have any rules on social media in the locker room, but he remained focused on Sunday’s game.
“We’re really just focused on trying to play well and win this week. The AFC championship game is really what it is about,” Belichick said.
As for the Patriots getting a head start on game planning by way of playing Saturday night, Belichick didn’t offer much on that, either.
“When the games are scheduled we show up and play them,” he said. “We don’t have anything to do with the schedule. When we’re supposed to be there, that is when we’re there.”
New England will be facing a confident Steelers team, as they have won nine games in a row. They are led by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Le’Veon Bell and Brown.
Belichick knows the Patriots defense will have its hands full.
“Well, Roethlisberger looks good,” he said. “He’s as healthy as I’d say we’ve seen him all year. He didn’t play in our game, but going into that game he wasn’t quite the same. Last night he had a play, first I thought was a quarterback draw, but it wasn’t. He just missed a hand off, but took the ball and ran it up the middle with what looked like a draw play he turned it into a quarterback draw. His ability to move around is good. Not sure that’s been like that in other games we’ve played him. He certainly looks mobile and can extend plays. That’s always a bad thing for the opponents.
“Bell is a special guy. He is really hard to tackle. Great runner. Good vision. Very patient. Has a real good burst through the hole. Brown is a top receiver in the league. Great punt returner. Big play guy in the passing game, but as a catch and run player he is equally dangerous like we saw in the Miami game — take a slip screen, take an under route, catch a ball two or three yards down field and turn it into a 60-yard touchdown. Those three are elite players. They can hurt you in a lot of different ways.
“They have a good receiving group. They have good tight ends. The offensive line is big, physical and they do a great job in the running game. They do a great job protecting Roethlisberger, so it’s a very high-powered offense. Very explosive. They can do a lot of damage in different ways.”
|01.16.17 at 1:35 pm ET|
Julian Edelman joined Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday to preview Sunday’s AFC title game against the Steelers, while also addressing the Facebook Live video surfaced from their locker room after the game. To hear the interview, go to the Ordway, Merloni & Fauria audio on demand page.
Following taking down the Chiefs on Sunday night, Antonio Brown posted a long Facebook Live video from the locker room (it has since been deleted). The video captures head coach Mike Tomlin calling the Patriots a-holes when saying they will have more time to prepare for the game.
Edelman said he caught clips of the video.
“Hey, people have different rules,” he said. “That’s how that team is run. I personally don’t think that would be something that would happen in our locker room, but hey whatever. Some people like red and some people like blue. Some people like tulips and some people like roses, whatever.”
Added Edelman: “Hey man, I wouldn’t do that so I personally — I wouldn’t do that. Let’s just say that and I’d be more worried about just trying to celebrate with my teammates and keeping it internal.”
The receiver understands why Tomlin would say what he said given the teams will be meeting in a huge game Sunday to decide who goes to the Super Bowl.
“Hey, we’re one of their competitors,” Edelman said. “We’re about to be stacked up against each other. I mean when you were a kid and you were playing against another kid he wasn’t your friend, so like I said it is what it is. I am not going to be worried about what they are saying, I am going to be worried about what they are doing. I am going to be worried about my week of prep and what I have to do to out and contribute for this team.”
As for the game itself, the Steelers have won nine straight games. Many believe their defense is weak, but the fact of the matter is they have allowed 16.5 points per game over the nine-game win streak.
“Their defense is good,” Edelman said. “Let’s call a spade a spade here. They have a lot of speed, athleticism, they are young. Coach Tomlin is going to have them with their eyes pinned back trying to come out — they swarm, they play a lot of different stuff. They have some veterans in key positions that know football, been in the situations, been in this atmosphere. They’ve won on the road in the playoffs so they have confidence. Any time you have stuff like that man, it’s going to be a battle.”
|01.16.17 at 1:04 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Patience, patience, patience.
That’s all you need to know about Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell and his approach to running the football. It’s been on full display all season. The back will wait behind the line of scrimmage for his offensive line to do its work and then pick a spot and go.
On Sunday night, in an 18-16 win over the Chiefs, he had 170 yards on 30 carries employing that approach. He is widely considered the most dangerous back in the game.
“He’s good all of the time. He’s really a hard guy to tackle. He’s got good vision, great patience, and he does a good job,” Bill Belichick said Monday in his conference call.
The Patriots’ coaching staff Monday acknowledged that the counter to Bell’s patience must be team discipline this Sunday. That, and not trying to do it all yourself.
“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined,” Belichick said. “You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon [Bell] has a great burst through the hole. He doesn’t really need long to get through there, runs with good pad level. He’s hard to tackle so if you don’t get a full body on him then he’ll run right through those arm tackles.
“[He] really forces everybody to be sound in their gaps. Getting off and jumping around blocks or trying to get to the hole too quickly just opens up cut-back lanes or stays in the front somewhere and he does a great job of finding it. I mean team defense is the only way to stop it. There’s no one guy that can stop him. You’re going to have to have everybody doing a good job in a number of different areas all the way across the front and then do a good job of tackling.”
Just how important will tackling be?
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