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Michael Lombardi on D&C: Patriots are ‘the kind of team that gives Pittsburgh the most trouble’

10.27.11 at 10:39 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi made his weekly appearance on the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to discuss Sunday’s Patriots game against the Steelers and the latest news around the NFL.

New England quarterback Tom Brady has always performed well against the Steelers, running a 6-1 record against Pittsburgh while throwing for 2,008 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions, earning a 104.8 quarterback rating. Lombardi said Brady’s success against Pittsburgh is no surprise given Brady’s understanding of the Pittsburgh defense.

“Tom has a really good understanding of what Pittsburgh’s trying to accomplish with their defense,” Lombardi said. “Tom and the New England Patriots always have a game plan that’s set up to attack the checks and the adjustments within the Steelers’ defense so therefore, they’re able to get the right play off that attacks the weakness within the scheme. I think that’s really been the success.

“They have the kind of team that gives Pittsburgh the most trouble. When you can spread Pittsburgh out and you can make them defend the width of the field as opposed to trying to go in there and run the football on them, that gives them the most trouble. It puts their skill players, their corners, their safeties in a very tenuous position.”

The Steelers lead the AFC North with a 5-2 record, but Lombardi said those numbers are misleading. Pittsburgh has played just one team (Baltimore) with a winning record, and the Steelers lost that game 35-7. Lombardi said one of his greatest doubts about the Steelers is their defense against a strong offense.

“The only team they’ve played offensively that has any semblance of a passing game is Houston,” Lombardi said. “So they haven’t really faced anyone who attacks. Jacksonville obviously can’t do those things. Tennessee’s passing game is really sporadic at times, especially without Kenny Britt. I think this is going to be a true test of Pittsburgh.”

Following are more highlights of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

On why the New England offense works well against the Pittsburgh defense: “What people don’t understand about Pittsburgh and it’s really never brought out very often, is Pittsburgh’s defense is built to stop the run, not cover the pass. They are determined, their corners, their safeties must tackle first before they’re going to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. So coverage becomes a little secondary and that’s why they’re able to attack them so well, because they’re not as great coverage-wise if you defend up front.”

On why he suspects they will not play well against a good offense: “When I watch them, they don’t play run defense. This could be equated to the fact of the way we practice, but their pad level is too high than it’s ever been in the past. They don’t play run defense like they have. Aaron Smith‘s out on IR again this year. Their defensive front isn’t as stout. Ziggy Hood really hasn’t been the player they hoped he’d become, especially on first-and-10.

“Teams have run the ball effectively on Pittsburgh and I mean run the ball. I don’t mean just get three yards and hope we can get another three-yard gain. They’ve run the ball effectively on them.
I think you can see some of the warts on their team defense. Their lack of team speed does show up. But again. You’ve only see them against really one explosive offense, that being the Houston Texans. Can they create it against New England? I think that’s going to be a lesson well learned.”

On who the Dolphins should hire if they fire head coach Tony Sparano: “If I were that guy, I would do exactly what Robert Kraft did back in 2000 when he hired [Bill] Belichick. I would build an organization. I think these names are wonderful, and I think they’ve been successful and they’ve been great, but I think if I’m [Dolphins owner] Stephen Ross, you build yourself an organization from top to bottom. And you make sure that you have the ability to withstand the test of time and not come in with a quick fix or a magic wand and think it’s going to turn around. That’s what you just did when you hired Bill Parcells. You wanted to have a quick fix and try to get the fans back in there then all of the sudden, things crept away from you.

“Stephen Ross made billion of dollars in business. He’s always thought about being a sustainable business. Now we’ll find out if he’s a solution-based business in Miami or if he’s going to take his business model and make it a sustainable one. That’s what Robert Kraft did and you tip your hat to him.”

On whether the Colts are capable of winning games: “Indianapolis on the other hand, I don’t know how they win. Tell me how they win a game. Their offensive line is soft. They have no power. The quarterback is going to struggle. They can make a play or two, but they also give up too many plays.

“The quarterback rating against the Indianapolis Colts is over 110. That’s the opposing quarterback rating against the Indianapolis Colts. The play the same defense as if Peyton was going to come in. Watch Jim Caldwell. He almost looks like Perry White looking for Superman to fly into his office. But Superman’s not coming. Peyton [Manning]’s not coming back any time soon. You have to find a way to come up with other solutions for your problems.”

On if the Colts would draft Andrew Luck if they get the first overall pick: “We talked about it on showtime last night. [Phil] Simms was really emphatic about it. I’m not putting words into his mouth because he said it on TV. He thinks Peyton would have a really hard time digesting Andrew Luck coming into the organization. I think he’s probably right. I brought up the point, well what happens if Andrew Luck gets the same agent that Peyton Manning has. There will be some intrigue going on behind the scenes. Me personally, if I was the Indianapolis Colts and I had the first pick in the draft, I would take the quarterback because I think the franchise deserves to have longevity, not to make the player happy in the short term.”

Read More: Andrew Luck, Michael Lombardi, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tom Brady
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