|Mike Tomlin ’embarrassed’ at way he dressed down Patriots||01.18.17 at 1:58 pm ET|
With the chance to clarify his untoward comments about the Patriots in his post-game address to his team Sunday night, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he would take those words back if he knew they were going to be public.
“I was embarrassed by the language,” Tomlin told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. “I take my role as a role model and the platform that we have in the National Football League, very seriously. As a parent, I’m just not into public displays of that type of language. So I was more embarrassed about that element of it, not necessarily the content or the message in the video.”
Did those words express true feelings about the Patriots?
“Man, you’ve could’ve applied that sentiment to any opponent,” Tomlin said. “You could’ve made that tape two weeks earlier [against the Dolphins] and applied it to that opponent. It’s not about the nameless, gray faces that we play for us, it’s about our overall readiness and preparation. And that was the sentiment of the message that was I sending to the guys, not necessarily about the New England Patriots. They just happen to be who we’re playing this week.”
In that video posted by Antonio Brown on Facebook, Tomlin made reference to the fact that the Patriots had head start on the Steelers in their preparation for the AFC championship this Sunday, made more difficult by the fact that the Steelers were playing on the road on Sunday night.
Tomlin was asked if the time change last Sunday has been difficult to compensate for this week.
“It’s not necessarily something to make up,” Tomlin said. “I was just trying to instill a sense of urgency in the group regarding our preparation. And I wanted them to understand that we didn’t have a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back, based on the performance of the last game. We needed to transition, and transition quickly and start the preparation process, whether it was actual preparation or just from a mentality standpoint.”
Back in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Tomlin said that he regrets that Brown posted the video and sent a thinly veiled message to his star receiver that that kind of behavior is the kind of thing that can start a trend of moving from team to team, even for a player of Brown’s caliber.
“I think time always tells those stories,” Tomlin said Wednesday.
|Ben Roethlisberger heaps nothing but praise on Bill Belichick, Patriots and the fans||01.18.17 at 11:44 am ET|
FOXBORO — Who says Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have glowing things to say about the Patriots or their fans?
Just hours after responding to Julian Edelman with a “we’ve got our trophies” barb, the Steelers quarterback had nothing but glowing things to say about the Patriots head coach, their fans and the organization.
Asked why the Patriots bring out such a visceral reaction like the one Antonio Brown captured in his Facebook Live video, Roethlisberger would only heap praise.
“They’re the gold standard,” Roethlisberger said in a conference call with reporters in New England. “They’re awesome.”
What makes playing the Patriots so difficult?
“You never know what you’re going to get,” Roethlisberger said. “They out-coach you. Have to make adjustments”
|From James Harrison to Bud Dupree, the Patriots are ready for a new ‘Blitzburgh’||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.
|Patriots know 1-on-1 approach won’t work against Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown||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?
|Bill Belichick better not see any of his players try to pull others off a pile anymore||01.15.17 at 1:48 pm ET|
When cameras caught Bill Belichick berating Eric Rowe for committing a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for pulling Houston’s Ryan Griffin off a pile in the first quarter Saturday, it was pretty obvious that the Patriots coach was not pleased with his defensive back.
That penalty extended the Texans drive and allowed Houston to chew up over eight minutes of the first half clock and helped to keep Tom Brady on the sideline and out of rhythm. The Texans were only able to muster three points but the point was clear: You can’t pull players off a pile in a scrum.
It was a mistake with big consequences Saturday, and Belichick had not completely let the matter go when asked Sunday if there was any gray area because Rowe’s intentions might have been good.
“What’s the right thing? What are you talking about? What’s the right thing?” Belichick said, completely flabbergasted. “You can’t do that. There’s no… you can’t do that. You can’t pull players off a pile. That’s not the right thing. That rule is clear-cut. There’s no question about it. You can’t do that.
“You can’t do things that are defined by the rules as illegal. You can’t do them, period. There’s no right thing to do [by getting involved]. The rule is the rule. You have to play the game by the rules. Obviously, we’ve got to do a better job of coaching it, do a better job of coaching all the rules.”
After the game, Belichick noted several times that he was disappointed in the coaching effort.
“We can’t hold,” Belichick added. “We can’t get personal fouls. We can’t do things that are against the rules, or we get penalized for them. There’s no ‘doing the right thing.’ The right thing is playing within in the rules. Now, football’s football. Sometimes, you’re trying to do the right thing, and you get called for something. Sometimes, stuff happens.
“Vincent got his hands up a little high and pushed the face mask back of the lineman and (was penalized for illegal hands to the face). It was a good call. I don’t think it was intentional but he did it and didn’t get it down quick enough and they called him for it. That’s football. But as a team, we’ve got to make good decisions and play penalty-free. That’s our goal every week. So, the right thing is to play within in the rules – period. It’s black and white.”
|Devin McCourty says ‘angry’ Patriots defense rallied with 3 interceptions||01.15.17 at 3:04 am ET|
FOXBORO — Sometimes you have to give yourself a kick in the backside to get going.
That’s apparently all it took for the Patriots trio of Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon to pick it up after what they felt was a less-than stellar first half Saturday.
Leading just 17-13 at the half, the three Rutgers products each had a second-half interception of Brock Osweiler and helped to shut down the Texans in New England’s 34-16 win Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
What was the key to the turnaround in the second half?
“Really, we were angry with ourselves,” McCourty said. “The first three points they got was a penalty on us that extended a drive on a third-down stop. Then, even in the red area, we held them to three on a sudden change, and then the touchdown, myself and Duron [Harmon], we could have got ourselves in a better defense.
“Going into halftime, we just looked at each other like, ‘We’ve just got to play better. Do what we’re supposed to do and make them earn it.’ We did that, we did a better job of that, but they came and they fought hard. I think they came and tried to play a complete game as a team and we had to battle through some ups and down. But that’s what the playoffs are about, finding a way to win.”
Osweiler was actually quite effective if not spectacular in the first half, completing eight of his first 10 passes before the Patriots pressure started getting to him. He finished the first half 13-of-20 for 83 yards. He was sacked twice but did throw a touchdown – and did not turn it over.
In the second half, the Rutgers trio flipped that script. McCourty had the first pick in the third quarter in front of the Texans sideline on a ball for DeAndre Hopkins.
“That was just a little bit of what we do coverage-wise,” McCourty explained. “I knew I had to get on him tight. He’s a go-to guy in that situation, third or second, I think it was third down. I just tried to stay tight on him and was able to make a play on the ball.”
In the fourth quarter, Ryan picked off an Osweiler pass over the middle and returned it to the Houston 6. Two plays later, Dion Lewis ran it in. And then, with the game in hand, Harmon stepped in front of a pass for tight end Ryan Griffin at the Patriots 3 with three minutes left.
“In the end we were able to take the ball away and play good in the red-area defensively,” Bill Belichick said. “That was helpful, and able to come away with more points. A big day for Rutgers, a big day for Rutgers. They all had interceptions. We love to see that, love to see them for anybody but especially when we get three of them. That was big.”
The Patriots defense may not have faced the stiffest test in the world Saturday but they started to feast on a quarterback that was wilting under their pressure in the second half and they were able to seal the deal late. That’s a good formula in the playoffs.
“Those guys have been getting after the quarterback,” McCourty said of the pressure from Ryan, Malcom Brown and Rob Ninkovich, all of whom recorded sacks. “A lot of people have said how bad we are rushing the passer, so I guess they’ll evaluate this and they’ll probably still say we’re bad at it, but we know what we can do up front, and I think it’s the back end talking to the front end, the front end talking to us, and we just keep everybody going. When they’re able to get after the quarterback and we feel that, we’re getting after it and trying to make good plays in the back end.
“Really, my interception was a ball that was behind, Logan’s was a high ball. That comes from the front. That’s the front causing pressure, making sure the quarterback’s not just back there and feeling comfortable, that’s them. That’s always – when you’re playing good in the secondary and getting interceptions, that’s usually because those front four, the front seven are doing a good job. Complementary football – that’s the way we’ve been winning and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
|In wake of 18-point win, Bill Belichick sounds alarm for his staff: ‘We have to coach better than we did tonight’||01.15.17 at 2:41 am ET|
FOXBORO — In some ways, it was the perfect scenario for Bill Belichick following his team’s 34-16 win over the overmatched Texans Saturday night at Gillette.
The Patriots won to advance to their sixth straight AFC title game and even covered in the process. They got a key part of their offense on track in Dion Lewis. Julian Edelman moved up the ladder among all-time great NFL receivers with eight catches and 137 yards.
But then there were the three turnovers, the inability to score a touchdown before the half from inside the five yard line three times and allowing Tom Brady to get hit time after time by the Texans pass rush. There were – as they say – plenty of teaching points for Belichick to harp on this week as they get ready for the AFC championship at Gillette on Jan. 22.
“We’re going to have to play better, coach better,” Belichick said. “I don’t think the coaching was all that good tonight, either. We have to play better, we have to coach better than we did tonight, or there won’t be much left in our season. Hopefully we can do that and up our level of performance next week. Again, give the Texans credit. They did a good job. Defensively they gave us a lot of problems. We had six first-downs in the first half. We threw up a couple of prayers and came down with them, made a couple of good catches with Chris [Hogan] and Julian. We just didn’t have any consistency at all offensively, couldn’t run it or throw it very well.”
The Patriots were actually reeling before the half, leading just 14-13 and sensing the crowd at Gillette get a bit more nervous than anyone expected coming in. The Patriots were able to get three points to take a 17-13 halftime lead on a 19-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.
“Well, it was good to be able to get the last opportunity there,” Belichick said. “We drove it down. We got the ball to the one-inch line but couldn’t get it in. I might’ve thought about going for it on fourth-down, but when we lost yards there on third-down, the ball was on about the – I don’t know, one, one and a half, whatever it was – instead of on the one-inch line, then I didn’t really think very much about going for it at that point. It’s good to get the three points. We had the ball to start the second half because we deferred to start the game.
“But it would’ve been nice to get seven. We had a couple of good chances. We just didn’t get it done. Again, like a lot of things tonight, if we don’t improve in those situations the next time we play then it’ll probably be the last time we play. We’ve got to take advantage of our opportunities. We’ve got to coach and execute better. Hopefully we’ll be able to get that done this week.
How extraordinary is it to be in the position to go to six straight AFC Championship games?
“I mean it’s great to be playing at this time of year,” Belichick conceded. “You’re one of four teams that’s left after the weekend, but again, I mean I don’t really care about the other five years right now, or however many years it’s been. The only thing that matters is this year, this team, and what we have an opportunity to do, what we need to do to move on to play again.
“We can talk about all of that other stuff some other time. For right now, it’s just this team and getting to the AFC Championship Game and playing our best game next weekend. That’s what we’re going to need to do. We’re going to need to play our best game, better than we played tonight.”
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