There’s no confusing what the Steelers are up against, for openers.
“You get on Twitter, type in ‘Tom Brady,’ it’ll say ‘greatest of all-time,’” cornerback Steven Nelson maintained.
There’s likewise no misunderstanding what it’ll take to beat the greatest.
“It all comes down to discipline,” inside linebacker Mark Barron insisted. “There’s no tricking Tom Brady. It’s all a matter of discipline and making the plays that you’re supposed to make and being where you’re supposed to be.
“There’s not really any tricking him. You just have to be aware of what they like to do and be disciplined with what you have to do.”
Barron speaks from recent experience.
He started for the Rams against Brady and the Patriots on Super Bowl LIII.
New England won the game, 13-3, but the Rams allowed just one touchdown.
And that one wasn’t scored until midway through the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t win, but we did play a good game defensively,” Barron said. “That’s really all you can do, try to go out and play good, disciplined football for four quarters.”
Defensive tackle Cam Heyward and the Steelers’ defense also played well against Brady and the Patriots in a 17-10 victory last Dec. 17 at Heinz Field.
The only sacked Brady once, but they finished with seven quarterback hits.
New England’s final two possessions ended with an interception by cornerback Joe Haden at the Steelers’ 4-yard line and with three straight incompletions from the Steelers’ 21 in the final 33 seconds.
“Early on we got some heat on him,” Heyward remembered. “And then when he threw that one to Joe and he was trying to get it out of bounds, he wasn’t able to step up through it.
“After that, he couldn’t really set his feet.”
By then it had become a game of attrition as well as discipline.
Outside linebacker T.J. Watt remembered being “gassed” late in the fourth quarter, and digging deep to find the energy for the next pass rush.
“It’s everything that you put into this game in the offseason,” Watt said. “And I think it’s just, I know it’s so cliched, but how bad do you really want it?
“At some point you break football down to just how people think about life, ‘I’m tired, I don’t want to play right now.’ And you gotta be the guy that doesn’t have that mindset. You just have to absolutely grind through it.
“I just feel like we were clicking as a unit tat night. Any time you’re flying around as a defense and kinda disguising coverages and also getting after him up front and being able to be sticky on the back end with the coverage you’re gonna have a great night, and I think that’s what happened.”