- Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the New England Patriots:*
Q. The Patriots are 6-2 but they haven't posted any decisive victories. What do you see there?
A. They're making the necessary plays, particularly in situational football that give them the opportunity to win. They're very good at situational football – short yardage, red zone, goal line, backed up, two-minute – those are the areas where they excel, and often those are the things that decide the outcome of football games.
Q. Tom Brady's passer rating is lower than that posted so far this season by Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill, and Chad Henne. Is that a product of Brady not having had his receivers on the field each week this season?
A. There are several things. He has had some usual targets who haven't been there for him. He has been pressured more than he has been pressured in the past from a sack total standpoint – he has been taken down 23 times already this season. Each one of those things show itself in the form of the quarterback rating.
Q. Which of the Patriots receivers have to be a focus of your defense's efforts?
A. It starts with Rob Gronkowski. It really does. I know he's technically a tight end, but he is Brady's No. 1 option. This guy has been back two weeks from injury, and he has been targeted 23 times in two football games, eight times on third down. Obviously he's the No. 1 red zone threat in football. It starts there for us.
Q. Is Julian Edelman the Patriots' new Wes Welker?
A. He is. But Danny Amendola does Wes Welker-like things as well. They have really good versatility with those two, where you can't zero in on one particular guy doing the work in the slot. You'll see both of those guys doing work in the slot.
Q. Logan Mankins is a five-time Pro Bowl guard. What makes him tick?
A. It's his demeanor, no question. He's a guy who plays with an edge. He's not a nice football player inside stadiums, but I'm sure one who is valued by his team and respected by others.
Q. Not too many rookie receivers, especially free agents, can come in and have a sudden impact like Kenbrell Tompkins. How has he done it?
A. He's a guy who has taken advantage of an opportunity. Someone's misfortune is someone else's opportunity, and they have had some misfortune in terms of guys staying healthy and being able to work at that position. Tompkins has answered the bell.
Q. Stevan Ridley is averaging 4.3 yards per carry. What kind of a running back is he?
A. He's a one-cut, downhill, deliberate runner. All of their guys are for that matter. Ridley is over 4.0 per carry, LeGarrette Blount is over 4.0 per carry, Brandon Bolden is over 4.0 per carry. They're all interchangeable, and the Patriots do a good job of using them all.
Q. Defensive end Chandler Jones leads the Patriots with 6.5 sacks. How do you slow him down?
A. We're going to present different surfaces to him – tight ends in the D-gap area, running backs in the chip location – but ultimately the job is going to fall on Kelvin Beachum.
Q. Did the decision to replace punter Zoltan Mesko come down to his inconsistency?
A. It really did. It was black-and-white. We strive for above-the-line consistency, and unfortunately he wasn't giving us that, and so we had to make a change.
Q. What did you like about the punter you decided to sign: Mat McBriar?
A. He's a savvy, seasoned, veteran football player who has been in the National Football League for a long time. He has been in just about every situation that you can put him in. He has a history with Shaun Suisham, which makes that transition a fluid one from a holding standpoint. It just made sense on a lot of levels.
Q. How did the patchwork offensive line fare against the Oakland Raiders?
A. I thought it was serviceable, but we are capable of being better than what we were. Often times when you're playing with five or six as we were at the end of the game it's going to create some circumstances, but they were good enough to give us an opportunity to work the ball down the field several times late in that game. I thought they settled in and gained some traction, and I look for them to take another step today.
Q. With David DeCastro ruled out, what will the rotation up front look like?
A. There will be no rotation. We will insert Guy Whimper and have him play at right guard, and Ramon Foster will stay at left guard, and we'll go down the road.
Q. Has the coaching staff been able to identify the problems in the red zone?
A. Really, it's not something that's not identifiable. We need more detail in our work. Obviously we need a cleaner pass pocket. We need to make solid decisions in terms of route-running. We need to make accurate throws, and then make the catches. It's as simple as that. Football is a fundamental game. We have to be more fundamentally sound than we've been.
Q. What did Shaun Suisham say about his first two missed field goals of the season?
A. Sorry. That's what he said. Shaun is not a guy to overanalyze what he does. We have a great deal of confidence in him, even though those two didn't go through.
Q. What are the keys to the game against the Patriots?
A. Part of us being able to defeat these guys is making ourselves a tough team to beat. And we have to understand and excel in situational football. The Patriots make hay in situational football – third down, goal line, red zone, backed up, two-minute – we have to be at our best in those circumstances.