The last two teams standing in the AFC will meet on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game when the Steelers travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the No. 1 seed New England Patriots.
The Patriots beat the Steelers earlier this season, 27-16, but were without Ben Roethlisberger that day, a player Patriots Coach Bill Belichick likes what he sees from.
“He looks good,” said Belichick. “He looks as healthy as we have seen him all year. He didn’t play in our game. (Against Kansas City) he had a play at first I thought was a quarterback draw, but wasn’t. He just missed the handoff. But he took the ball and ran up the middle on what looked like a draw play. I think his ability to run and move around is good. I am not sure it’s been like that in games that we played him. He looks mobile and can extend plays and that is always a bad thing for opponents.”
More from the Patriots:
Coach Bill Belichick on Le’Veon Bell:
“(Le’Veon) Bell is a special guy. He is really hard to tackle. Great runner, good vision, very patient, and he has a real good burst through the hole.”
Belichick on Antonio Brown:
“He is the top receiver in the league. Big play guy in the passing game. As a catch and run player he is equally dangerous.”
Belichick on stopping Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown:
“It’s tough. The Steelers have a great offensive system. They have a lot of great players. Those three guys are good, but they have a lot of good players.”
Quarterback Tom Brady (on his weekly radio show) on William Gay:
“He has had an incredible career. He has been an underdog his whole life. His whole story. He is still playing at an incredibly high level. He works his tail off. I have followed his career for a while. He has been a great player for the Steelers. Kind of the heart and soul of that defense. He has had a great season.”
Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on the Steelers’ offense:
“Pittsburgh’s offense is very dangerous, a very explosive offense. This will be difficult for us with Ben (Roethlisberger) being back. They run a very consistent offense. They have very explosive guys at all the skill positions. Le’Veon Bell is a very dangerous player, a guy that really does a great job in the run game and pass game. He is very dynamic in making people miss in open space. A very patient runner, it’s a different style of running game.
“The offensive line, the guys are big and long and strong. They do a great job of getting into their blocks. With the speed and burst of Bell it’s hard to get a good hit on him. He can break those. You see smooth runs that may hit for 5, 7, 9 yards and then break one for 26 yards. It’s a dynamic run game for them.”
Running back LeGarrette Blount on Bell:
“Le’Veon is playing amazing. Better than any back in this league."
Belichick on the Steelers offense overall:
“Those three (Bell, Brown and Roethlisberger) are elite players that can hurt you in a lot of different ways. They have a good receiving group, good tight ends.
“The offensive line is big, physical. They do a great job in the running game. They do a great job protecting Roethlisberger. It’s a very high-powered offense. They are explosive. They can do a lot of damage in different ways.
“They’re really good. They’re a tremendous offense. Kansas City was able to make some plays in the red-area, but I mean they could’ve easily been up in the 40s. They do a lot of things well; can run it, can throw it. Brown’s the main guy, but all of the receivers, tight ends, backs, they’re all a problem. Roethlisberger is really good, can make all of the throws. It looks like his mobility is good. They’re doing a great job. They’re a good offense.”
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel on the Steelers’ defense:
“It seems like each time we prepare for them some of the players change, and they plug some different people in there, add some young guys to their group, but the bottom line is they are very difficult to plan for. They do a lot of things that challenge you in terms of their blitz packages. They rush the passer well with their linebackers. They continue to get better as the year progresses, which to me is a great sign of how well they are coached. They don’t give up many big plays. Typical Steelers team, tough physical, disciplined, will pressure you and create issues throughout the game.”
Belichick on the Steelers’ defense:
“Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh. They have been like that for a while. They have really fast linebackers, (Lawrence) Timmons and (Ryan) Shazier. Good edge rushers. They have (Bud) Dupree back, he didn’t play against us. (James) Harrison on the other side has done a really good job. They have good edge rushers. (Stephon) Tuitt is a force inside. He is very good interior player. (Javon) Hargrave has come along and done a good job for them. They put a couple of rookies in their secondary that got some playing time in our game, or prior to our game, they have kind of taken over now with (Sean) Davis and (Artie) Burns at corner. They have added some youth to the team, they have added some speed. They are a fast team that makes plays from behind, plays in pursuit. They are hard to outrun and they are aggressive. They do a good job.”
Belichick on how to stop Bell:
“I think defensively he really forces you to be disciplined. You jump out of there too quickly then you open up gaps and open up space. Le’Veon 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. Like I said, 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. 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.”
Receiver Julian Edelman on the Steelers’ defense:
“They have a lot of speed, athleticism, they are young. Coach (Mike) Tomlin is going to have them with their ears pinned back to come out. They swarm. They play a lot of different stuff. They have some veterans in key positions that know football, been in this situation, been in this atmosphere that have won. They have won on the road in the playoffs. Any time you have stuff like that, it’s going to be a battle. They are fast, versatile, strong, and athletic.”
McDaniel on James Harrison and Bud Dupree :
“Both players are playing at a very high level right now. They seem to get better as the year goes on. They have always had an element of those veteran players who help the younger players come along and learn the system. Those are two good examples of two guys different in terms of experience, but both physical guys, difficult to handle in the running game, set the edge in the running game, do a good job of knocking people back. Then can create pressure on the quarterback whether it’s with speed or power. They do both.”
Patricia on Bell:
“He’s going to be able to get into that open space pretty quickly so you can’t really sit there and guess. I don’t think you really want to sit there and try to play that game with them.”