Former Steelers receiver Hines Ward was in Pittsburgh this week interviewing Antonio Brown for NBC's Steelers-Patriots pregame show. Before sitting down with Brown, Ward talked with me about his three keys to the Steelers winning at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night.
Key Number One: Play mistake free football
"You can't have any mistakes," said Ward. "You have to play mistake free football when you are playing the Patriots, in all three phases – special teams, offense and defense. You have to play mistake free football."
Key Number Two: Make splash plays on offense
"You've got to have a couple of big plays, especially on the offensive side," said Ward. "You don't have (Le'Veon) Bell, you don't have (Martavis) Bryant, and you lose your quarterback on the line in Maurkice Pouncey. In order for the Steelers to win this game Antonio Brown has to touch the ball at least 20 times. He is that firepower they need. He can make something happen, something spectacular happen.
"Offensively the pressure is on Ben (Roethlisberger) more than anyone. They have to score more than they are used to. You don't have Bell. You don't have Bryant. Those guys were a majority of the offense as far as making plays. Who steps up? Is it Markus Wheaton? You still have Heath Miller who is the guy I look at as a solid guy in the offense, always reliable, going to convert on third downs and is always open in the red zone."
Key Number Three: Don't give up big plays
"The defense can't get beat for the big plays," said Ward. "Playing Tom Brady you have to make him methodically take the football down the field. You can't make it easy for him. A mental error, mistake, blown assignment or missed coverage can hurt. When you get to him with pressure, you have to tackle him. You have to make him feel a little bit uneasy sitting in the pocket. Applying pressure to him, not letting him sit in his spot and pick you to death, but also not giving up big plays. Make him go the distance.
"For the Steelers it's about playing smart ball, mistake free offensively, can't give up any big plays defensively, and you have to find a way to make big plays within the course of the game. That usually determines the outcome of the game. If they do that, they will be fine."