The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rich history, and a lot of the recent history always seems to involve the New England Patriots. Whether it is the Patriots beating the Steelers in the playoffs, or Pittsburgh winning it all without having to go through Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the two AFC foes have had their paths intertwined on more than one occasion in the past decade or so.
A player who experienced more than one battle against the Patriots during his career is former cornerback Bryant McFadden. McFadden won a lot of games with the Steelers, and was kind enough to give our own Chris Ward an exclusive one-on-one interview leading up to the Patriots game in Week 1 on Sunday Night Football.
Check out the interview below where McFadden talks about not just how the Steelers can beat Brady and company, but as he reminisces about his playing days and of course, the Super Bowl.
With the Steelers losing two gifted, while also contentious, offensive talents in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and the defense getting younger and faster with the addition of Devin Bush, what are your expectations for the Steelers this year?
McFadden: “I think they have a shot at winning the division, something they were not able to do last year. And of course, if you win your division, you get an automatic seed in the playoffs. I think those are realistic expectations based on what they have returning, even though they lost key players, especially on the offensive side with Bell and Brown. But yet you still have an outstanding quarterback [Ben Roethlisberger] that has a go-to receiver in JuJu. Conner really showed to be a featured back in the backfield filling in for the absent Le’Veon Bell, and then you have an experienced offensive line. So, offensively I think we don’t have that superstar player in Brown that you had last year, but you still have more than capable guys that can get the job done. And then defensively, you are starting to see a different identity on defense. I really liked what I saw throughout the preseason -- Tuitt and Heyward those guys were hell-raisers on the front throughout the preseason. I love Bush, it’s only a matter of time until he’s a starting linebacker. The secondary has really improved. I like the corner play and Edmunds back at safety. So all in all if they stay healthy and dialed in like they seem to be right now, they should be a playoff team.”
What matchups will you be looking for when the Steelers head to Foxborough to take on the Patriots in Week 1 on Sunday Night Football?
McFadden: “Anytime the Patriots and Steelers face-off, the matchup that Steelers fans want to see is the matchup of going against Tom Brady. I mean, Brady has really dominated the Steelers not only from an individual standpoint but the overall team success. So can the defense find a way to neutralize Brady and put pressure on him. Outside of putting pressure on Brady, I believe it’s very, very important for the Steelers to stop the running game for the Patriots. That’s the thing that a lot of people kind of overlook, is how well and efficient they run the football. They’ve always been known to be a very, very balanced team because they can dominate the line of scrimmage, and then you got an outstanding quarterback in Tom Brady, it makes it easy for him to have favorable matchups when they can run the football. The matchup against Brady is always a top matchup to look for, but my 1B would be stopping the Patriots’ running attack. Brady would be 1A, 1B would be stopping the run game of the Patriots.”
The Steelers are 0-5 when playing a Patriots team led by Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. What makes it so hard to play in Foxborough?
McFadden: “They’re just disciplined. They don’t beat themselves. You know, good teams do not beat themselves, and they have really displayed that skill set throughout this dynasty run they’re currently on. So, if you’re playing against a good team that does not beat themselves, you have to try to be as flawless as possible as well to match what they’re bringing to the table. And when you watch them, they’re so calculated in what they do and they don’t beat themselves and they’re always in a position to be successful.”
What’s your prediction for Sunday night’s game?
McFadden: “I’m a Steeler fan. I’m a Steelers die-hard guy, so my prediction will be I’ll say, 23-20, in favor of Pittsburgh.”
Last year you hosted a podcast called “The Season: 2008 Steelers” in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Super Bowl XLIII team. How often do you find yourself watching old games from that season or games during the 2005 Super Bowl run?
McFadden: “Usually if they’re running the games on television, you know, I definitely want to tune in and check them out. It brings back good memories. If the games are not on TV I don’t usually watch them too much, but you know, I still have all the mental notes in my head, it’s something that I’ll never forget.”
What do you remember from that crucial pass breakup you had in the AFC Divisional playoff game in 2005 against the Indianapolis Colts toward the end of the game?
McFadden: “I just remember everything moving in slow motion and not hearing nothing. I didn’t hear anything. Everything was silent, even though the stadium was filled with people of course. Everything was silent and it just was slow motion. That’s what I remember.”
A huge thanks to Chris for getting this interview, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Patriots on Sunday Night Football.