The Steelers open the 2019 season against the New England Patriots on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, and the Patriots have plenty of respect for the black and gold.
“Good football team. I have a lot of respect for the organization,” said Coach Bill Belichick. “Coach (Mike) Tomlin, the coaching staff, the players, team, they compete hard, they're tough. They're a good football team, they're strong in all three phases of the game. They challenge you pretty much on every play, so we'll have to be ready to go 60 minutes, go all the way, go toe-to-toe with them. It'll be good to get started, but these guys do a good job. They're a tough team to prepare for, a tough team to play against.”
The Patriots weighed in more on the Steelers, including Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Devin Bush.
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Patriots Coach Bill Belichick on the Steelers defense:
“They have a lot of good players. The addition of (Mark) Barron and (Devin) Bush gives them a lot of speed and athleticism at the inside linebacker spot. You have (Terrell) Edmunds with a year under his belt. He continues to get better. It’s a solid group. They led the league in sacks last year. They have a lot of good pass rushers. They have improved their speed and athleticism at inside linebacker. The secondary continues to get better.
“It’s basically the same group we saw last year. Playing together another year and adding a couple of key pieces to the linebacker position will just improve them. We couldn’t score on them last year so obviously it’s a big challenge for us.”
Bill Belichick on the Steelers offense:
“The Steelers are a little bit of a game plan offense. They have their core system. They don’t always do the same thing. We have seen multiple versions of their offense. They do a good job of that. Coach (Randy) Fichtner is very experienced. They have a very experienced quarterback. Probably the most experienced offensive line in the league. We’ll see what they come up with.”
Quarterback Tom Brady on the Steelers:
“They are a great football team. They are always well-prepared, well coached. They have had great continuity over the years. Their schemes are always similar defensively. They have carried on the tradition of great Steelers defenses.
“Offensively with what Big Ben (Roethlisberger) has done and that offensive attack presents a big challenge. We’re going to have to play a really clean game. They are a team that challenges you in a lot of different areas. We have to go out there and play a great game. That is what it takes against a great football team, and they are one of the best in the league.”
Bill Belichick on the challenge the running attack causes:
“They've got a good line, they've got good backs, a good tight end. They do a good job schematically, they tie it in with their passing game well so it's hard to just zero in on one thing. They do a lot to keep you off-balance with some misdirection plays and RPO's, things like that. So they're well-balanced.”
Bill Belichick on JuJu Smith-Schuster:
“He's a good player. He's instinctive, catches the ball well. He's got good size, smart. They move him around.”
Secondary/Safeties coach Steve Belichick on the challenges of going up against the Steelers offense and the importance of communication since they often line up empty:
“I think that they just have a lot of good players and they can get into different formations, they move guys around, their players are very versatile, they can play different spots, they can all do different things. So, in terms of communication – how we’re going to handle guys being in different spots, what we’re going to do when players line up differently. Obviously, it’s a new year. They’ve got a different roster than they did last year, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
Bill Belichick on the Steelers-Patriots rivalry and if there is anything special about playing them:
“I have a ton of respect for the Steelers, Coach (Mike) Tomlin and his staff, their players, the way they compete. We've had a lot of very competitive games with this organization through the years. It's always tough. We know it'll be tough on Sunday night.”
Tom Brady on Steelers defense:
“This team challenges you with their defensive front, their speed at linebacker. They drafted a great player from Michigan, Devin Bush. I've watched a lot of him over the years. They've got a good secondary, a lot of interceptors in the secondary so you have to play a really clean game.”
Bill Belichick on the Steelers continuity:
“They have a pretty broad system. They're able to do a lot of different things. They don't do them all every week. They pick out the ones that they feel like match up best against their opponents and go from there. They played us a little bit differently, so we know they're capable of adjusting what they do to fit the needs that they perceive they need to address.”