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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,
Julian Edelman clarifies comment on Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video: ‘There was no maliciousness about it’ 01.18.17 at 7:34 pm ET
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Julian Edelman clarified his past comments on the Steelers' Facebook Live video. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Julian Edelman clarified his past comments on the Steelers’ Facebook Live video. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Maybe it wasn’t as big of a deal as some were making it.

On Monday, following Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video from inside the Steelers locker room being posted the night before, Julian Edelman was asked about it on Ordway, Merloni & Fauria.

“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.”

Some took issue with the “how that team is run” line and on a conference call with the Pittsburgh media on Wednesday clarified his thoughts on the Steelers organization.

“Yeah, I mean I think it was taken out of context,” Edelman said. “I have nothing but respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’re an unbelievable franchise. It starts from the top with the Rooney Family, Coach [Mike] Tomlin, I think they just mis[interpreted] – I mean, I don’t know, I may have said it, but I think more of that was that it’s not the way we would do it here. That’s just how that goes. There was no maliciousness about it, but it’s whatever. That’s what the media does, try to make stories.”

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

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Ben Roethlisberger fires back at Julian Edelman: ‘We’ve got our trophies’ at 11:20 am ET
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Ben Roethlisberger fired back at Julian Edelman. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports)

Ben Roethlisberger fired back at Julian Edelman. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO — On Monday, a day after Antonio Brown posted a Facebook Live video from the Steelers’ locker room after their win over the Chiefs, Julian Edelman was asked his thoughts on Ordway Merloni & Fauria.

“Hey, people have different rules,” Edelman 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.”

On Wednesday, speaking to reporters in Pittsburgh, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to respond to Edelman’s comments and he noted how successful the Steelers have been.

“I don’t think I need to speak much,” Roethlisberger said to reporters. “We’ve got our trophies out there. I’ve got owners that I think are the best in the business. They’re family to us, and I’m sure if he talked to his owner, he would say the same thing about the Rooneys. Anybody in here in the football world or the regular world that owns the Rooneys knows what they stand for. It’s a blessing to call them a family.”

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

Read More: Antonio Brown, Ben Roethlisberger, Julian Edelman,
Julian Edelman on OM&F: Antonio Brown Facebook Live video from locker room is ‘how that team is run’ 01.16.17 at 1:35 pm ET
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Julian Edelman said there would never be a Facebook Live video from the Patriots locker room. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Julian Edelman said there would never be a Facebook Live video from the Patriots locker room. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

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.”

TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE JULIAN EDELMAN INTERVIEW, CLICK HERE

Read More: Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, Mike Tomlin,
Scouting Report: What you have to know about Texans-Patriots 01.13.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady will make the 32nd postseason start of his career Saturday against Houston. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest between the Patriots and Texans at Gillette Stadium.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL

This may not be a big component of the game in the early going, but it will be before things are all said and done. LeGarrette Blount (299 carries, 1,161 rushing yards, a league-high 18 rushing touchdowns) was able to run for big yardage when these two teams met back in September (24 carries, 105 yards, 2 TDs), and while it’s dicey to try and compare these two teams now to what happened a few months ago, stats tell us that the Texans are still vulnerable when it comes to rush defense; they finished the year 12th in the NFL against the run, yielding an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. One thing with Blount, as we saw in September? There are few guys in the league better when it comes to executing in a four-minute offense. In the second half of that win over Houston, he had 17 carries for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It’s not so much Blount’s total yards that matter, but when he gets them. One other guy worth watching will be Dion Lewis (64 carries, 283 yards), who got a significant uptick in reps between the tackles over the last month of the season as a changeup offering to the wrecking-ball approach of Blount.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL

If they’re all healthy, we’re an advocate for the idea of dressing all five receivers and giving New England the sort of depth in the passing game that they haven’t had in a playoff game in a long time. Basically, give Tom Brady (67 percent completion rate, 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs) as many options as possible when it comes to the quick hitters; you get the ball out as fast as possible, it minimizes the chances of the Houston pass rush getting after the quarterback. Expect the bulk of the targets to go to Julian Edelman (98 catches, 159 targets, 1,106 yards, 3 TDs), who has been as rock solid as they come over the second half of the season. Martellus Bennett (55 catches, 73 targets, 701 yards, 7 TDs) and Chris Hogan (38 catches, 58 targets, 680 yards, 4 TDs) will also figure into the mix.

Over the course of the season, the Texans were second against the pass (201.6 yards allowed per game), while their 17 takeaways were tied for 26th in the league. Safety Quentin Demps, who has been dogged by a hamstring issue, leads Houston with six interceptions. Per Football Outsiders, the Texans aren’t great at slowing backs in the passing game, which means there could be more chances for Lewis (17 catches) and James White (60 catches) on Saturday. Meanwhile, Whitney Mercilus (7.5 sacks), Jadaveon Clowney (6 sacks) and Benardrick McKinney (5 sacks) lead one of the better pass rush groups in the league. Look for lots of heavy sets with an extra blocker (Cam Fleming) when it comes to helping the tackles keep Brady as clean as possible. For what it’s worth, Brady has gone up against a Romeo Crennel-led defense on three occasions, and has averaged 20-for-32 (63 percent) for 242 yards, just over two touchdowns, no interceptions and two sacks per game.

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Read More: A.J. Bouye, Brock Osweiler, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola
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