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Ben Roethlisberger: Steelers are like Patriots’ ‘little brother’ 02.03.17 at 2:50 pm ET
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HOUSTON — Speaking on a podcast with Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari this week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said there’s no real rivalry between the Patriots and Pittsburgh. Instead, it’s like New England is the big brother and Roethlisberger’s Steelers are the little brother.

“I’d say there’s more respect than a hatred,” Roethlisberger said of their relationship with the Patriots. “There’s divisional hatred, Baltimore and us, Cincinnati and us, but I don’t think there’s a hatred there. We’ve played them now twice in my 13 years in the championship game, my rookie year and this year. Obviously, they’ve gotten the better of us twice in the championship game and kind of had our number. So we’re like the little bother trying to keep up with the big brother in a sense.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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Could loss to Patriots in AFC championship have been Ben Roethlisberger’s last game? 01.24.17 at 11:56 am ET
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Ben Roethlisberger hinted he could be retiring. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

Ben Roethlisberger hinted he could be retiring. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

There’s a chance Ben Roethlisberger played his last game of his NFL career Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

After the Patriots beat the Steelers 36-17 in the AFC championship, Roethlisberger appeared on 93-7 “The Fan” in Pittsburgh for his weekly radio interview on Tuesday and hinted there’s a chance he could retire.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season.”

Added Roethlisberger: “I’m going to take some time and evaluate with my family and just do a lot of praying about it and make sure it’s the right thing for me and my family.”

The Steelers quarterback has dealt with injuries each of the last two seasons. He missed two games this season with a shoulder injury and missed four last year with a sprained MCL and a bone bruise.

Roethlisberger just finished his 13th year in the league and will turn 35 years old in March.

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Scouting Report: What you need to know about Steelers-Patriots 01.21.17 at 4:37 pm ET
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Julian Edelman has had 20 catches on 22 targets the last two games the Patriots have met the Steelers. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Julian Edelman has had 20 catches on 22 targets the last two games the Patriots have met the Steelers. (James Lang/USA Today Sports)

Here’s everything you need to know for Sunday’s AFC title game between the Patriots and Steelers in Foxboro.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

It appears that LeGarrette Blount (299 carries 1,161 yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) is over whatever illness that dogged him last week. When he spoke with us earlier in the week, he appeared to be in a bit of a Nyquil-induced haze, but you should still expect him to get the bulk of the between-the-tackles carries this time around against the Steelers. The Pittsburgh run defense has been spotty over the course of the 2016 season, having allowed an average of 100 rushing yards per game (13th in the league). That includes 24 carries for 127 yards and a pair of touchdowns from Blount in the September showdown between the two teams. (That was a season-high in terms of yardage for the veteran back.) The wild card here is Dion Lewis, who has seen a steady increase in his rushing workload down the stretch and into the postseason; he’s averaged 15 carries and 59 yards over the last three games of the regular season and first one of the postseason. The Joe Morris clone, who didn’t play in the first game between these two teams earlier in the year, could provide a nice changeup option for the Patriots against a Pittsburgh defense geared to stop the hammer strength of someone like Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

This is the biggest advantage that the Patriots have. While the Steelers’ front seven has made great strides over the second half of the season, the back end of the Pittsburgh defense is vulnerable and exploitable by the likes of Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs in 12 regular-season games). We’ll have more of Brady’s recent run against Mike Tomlin-defenses, but this time around, look for Brady to zero in on the usual suspects. Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs) has 20 catches on 22 targets in the last two Patriots-Steelers game, basically taking what Pittsburgh’s zone defenses offer up. Also look for Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) to get some action, despite the fact that he’s a bit hobbled at this point.

The Steelers’ pass defense splits are really astounding — according to this chart from Football Outsiders, Pittsburgh is the worst team in the league at slowing opposing No. 1 receivers, but one of the best when it comes to No. 2 and other receivers. Basically, Edelman should be in for a massive day. The other area worth watching? Lewis and James White. The two backs will be essential to the Patriots’ passing attack, as the Steelers have also had trouble against pass-catching running backs and White and Lewis (77 catches in the regular season) are two of the best in the league. The Steelers were 16th in the league in pass defense this past season, allowing an average of 243 yards per game through the air.

Look for Pittsburgh to continue to pressure Brady from any and all spots. They could try and get some push up the middle (more on that in a second), and with that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see what they try and do with someone like Bud Dupree. Regardless, the Steelers have done a good job this year keeping quarterbacks on their toes. 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. James Harrison (5 sacks), Dupree (4.5 sacks) and Stephon Tuitt (4 sacks) lead the team. In addition, Ryan Shazier and Artie Burns have three interceptions each, best on the team, and Pittsburgh’s 23 takeaways were tied with New England for 14th in the league.

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Read More: Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Bud Dupree
Fun Facts: 20 things to know heading into Patriots-Steelers at 1:32 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could be going to another Super Bowl. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick could be going to another Super Bowl. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

After the Packers and Falcons meet in the NFC championship, it will be the Patriots and Steelers facing off at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship. The two teams already met once this year in Week 7 with the Patriots coming out on top in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers were without Ben Roethlisberger. These were the two teams many expected to see in the AFC title game, and here we are.

Since it is the playoffs, here are 20 things to know heading into the matchup.

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these from this week’€™€™€™€™€™s media guide.)

1. With a win, the Patriots will reach the Super Bowl for a ninth time, which would break a tie with Dallas, Denver and Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl berths in NFL history.

2. Also with a win, Bill Belichick will pass Don Shula (6) for most Super Bowl appearances of all-time.

3. Tom Brady has owned the Steelers at home. In four games he is 4-0, 109-for-154 (71 percent) passing for 1,413 yards with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.

4. The Patriots have faced seven running backs who were in the top 10 in rushing this season and didn’t allow any of them to rush for over 100 yards. Overall, they haven’t allowed a rusher to gain 90 or more yards in any of their past 24 games. When allowing a 100-yard rusher in the postseason the Patriots are 4-5 in their history.

5. On the other side of the field, over the course of Le’Veon Bell’s career the Steelers are 18-2 when he goes over 90 yards, including a perfect 9-0 this season.

6. Since 2013 including the playoffs, the Patriots are 33-4 when Julian Edelman goes over 70 yards receiving. (He has in nine straight games.)

7. With 34 yards receiving Edelman will pass Deion Branch (852) for the most receiving yards in Patriots playoff history.

8. In the last two games against the Steelers, Brady is 20-for-22 with 157 yards when throwing to Edelman.

9. Since 2004 including the playoffs, Brady has had consecutive games of multiple interceptions only twice.

10. The Steelers are 42-6 since the beginning of 2014 when scoring 18 or more points, which includes the playoffs.

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Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Bill Belichick, Julian Edelman, Le'Veon Bell
Julian Edelman has message for Gillette Stadium crowd Sunday night 01.19.17 at 3:38 pm ET
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Julian Edelman wants the Gillette Stadium crowd to be fired up Sunday night. (WEEI.com)

Julian Edelman wants the Gillette Stadium crowd to be fired up Sunday night. (WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Julian Edelman has played a lot of games over the course of his career, and a lot of big ones at that.

The receiver thrives being the villain on the road, but he also spoke to how he and the team can thrive off the crowd at home.

Edelman had a message for the fans coming to the game Sunday night when speaking at Gillette Stadium Thursday afternoon.

“At home, it’s home. The louder they get, the more fired up you get and you live off the crowd,” Edelman said. “All the people out there in Foxboro, get ready. We need you. We need you.”

As for the game itself, it will feature two of the best quarterbacks in the league who have been the best quarterbacks in the league for a long time. Edelman went to Kent State (Steelers country), so he knows what Ben Roethlisberger is all about.

He has a lot of respect for both he and Tom Brady.

“Studs,” Edelman said. “I mean, Big Ben, he’s a MAC guy. I have a lot of respect for him too and his journey. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s just a gritty, big ole dude that just gets it done. He’s fun to watch. And TB is TB. It’s one thing to be good in this league, but it’s one thing to be very good for a long period of time and that is what those guys have both done.”

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, Julian Edelman, Tom Brady,
Tom Brady doesn’t know why some people don’t like the Patriots 01.18.17 at 2:07 pm ET
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Tom Brady has gotten under the skin of some of his opponents. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has gotten under the skin of some of his opponents. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Mike Tomlin was caught on camera disparaging the Patriots after Pittsburgh’s divisional playoff win over the Chiefs. Former Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie used the same language about Tom Brady in 2011 before a playoff showdown with New York.

Asked why this has happened on multiple occasions Wednesday, the Patriots quarterback shrugged.

“I don’t know,” he said.

Admittedly, the incidents are few and far between. Prior to Brady’s Wednesday press conference, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he had nothing but respect for Brady and the Patriots.

“They’re the gold standard,” Roethlisberger said on a conference call with the New England media. “They’re the best. They’re awesome. A lot of teams try and look at their blueprint and their recipe for success, and I think try and do what they do.”
Roethlisberger was asked if he believed there was some resentment around the league toward the Patriots.

“Nope,” he said. “Not at all.”

For what it’s worth, Brady was equally complimentary toward Roethlisberger.

“Ben [Roethlisberger] is an incredible player, and he’s been that way since 2004 when he came into the league. I’ve always loved the way he plays, very tough, hard-nosed,” Brady said. “He’s just been a great player. I think the respect is very mutual. To play at his level for as long as he has and with his style of play has been remarkable.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: antonio cromartie, Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, Tom Brady
Ben Roethlisberger heaps nothing but praise on Bill Belichick, Patriots and the fans at 11:44 am ET
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Jan 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Roethlisberger (7) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports)

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”

Read More: Ben Roethlisberger, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers,
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