Say what you want about New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but there is no denying his ability as a football coach. Sure, the team, and Belichick, have been caught in several scandals during his time with the team, but the winning he has done with Tom Brady is undeniable.
As the team approaches yet another AFC Championship game, Belichick has a unique challenge this week preparing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That challenge is stopping the Steelers’ ‘Killer Bs’ in Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
So, Belichick and company are preparing to try and stop Pittsburgh’s offense, and he gave a glimpse into what that might entail when he met with media this week leading up to the game.
See what Belichick, and his coaching staff, had to say about Pittsburgh’s lethal offense.
Q: How dangerous are Pittsburgh’s weapons such as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell when Ben Roethlisberger is playing at such a high level?
BB: Yeah, 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 40’s last night. They do a lot of things well; can run it, can throw it. [Antonio] Brown’s the main guy, but all of the receivers, tight ends, backs, I mean they’re all a problem. [Ben] 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.
Q: Would it be accurate to say Le’Veon Bell often gets stronger and has more production as the game goes on?
BB: He’s good all of the time. He’s really a hard guy to tackle. He’s got good vision, great patience, and he does a good job.
Q: What challenge does Le’Veon Bell’s patience present when he is determining where the hole is and what gap he is trying to exploit? Are there any comparable players from the past that he reminds you of?
BB: Well, 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 [Bell] 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. I mean 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.
Matt Patricia (Defensive Coordinator)
Q: What kind of stress does the Steelers offense put on the defense?
MP: Yeah, I mean obviously Pittsburgh’s offense [is a] very dangerous, very explosive offense. This will be different for us than obviously the first time with Ben [Roethlisberger] being back. They run a very consistent offense, let me put it that way, with Todd Haley. He does a great job of scheming things up and getting the ball to his go-to players. They have very explosive guys at all the skill positions. The running back, Le’Veon Bell, is obviously a very dangerous player. [He’s] a guy that really does a great job in the run game and the pass game. [He’s] a guy that’s a great space player. [He’s] really very dynamic in his ability to make people miss in open space from a tackling standpoint. [He’s a] very patient runner. It’s kind of a different style of running game where he kind of gets to the line of scrimmage and really just finds that hole or that seam and he has this incredible burst to be able to get through. I think the offensive line – these guys are big and long and strong and they just cover you up. They really do a great job of getting into their blocks and making it very difficult for the defensive line to get off. And then with the speed of Bell and the burst of Bell through the line of scrimmage it’s very difficult to get a good hit on him, so it’s a lot of arm tackles, which he can break those and his very strong lower body so he can get through those and get some positive yardage. You just kind of see these smooth runs that may hit for like five yards, seven yards, nine yards, 12 yards then it’s like 26 yards. And they do a great complement of different scheme runs to get him the ball in different areas of the offense. So it’s inside, it’s outside, it’s counters coming back. So [it’s] kind of a wide variety there. I mean really just in their run game consistently, we’ve seen [DeAngelo] Williams a couple of times, too. It has just been a dynamic run game for them and obviously you can see that here in the last couple of weeks, which at this time of the year running the ball is critically important to success in the playoffs, so they’re doing a great job of being consistent with that. I think in the passing game when you look at what they’re being able to do is push the ball both vertically and horizontally. Antonio Brown is obviously a great wide receiver and a huge threat to get the ball, once it’s in his hands to make people miss and turn small plays into big plays. But I think the other receivers, because there is so much attention that goes to Brown even though he does get open anyways, those guys really kind of stepped up – you know, [Eli] Rogers – you’re going to see all those guys kind of in there playing their part and included with that would be the tight end position. Jesse James had a great game and does a great job of finding space and Roethlisberger is just so calm in the pocket where he can really just wait and those guys do a good job of reading coverage or getting off coverage and the offensive line is doing a great job of protecting him. So then they just kind of get open or work themselves into space and he’s got an incredibly strong arm so he can just get the ball to them once they kind of uncover. Obviously, the deep threat which is a big play possibility, the catch and run, which you’ve seen them do here especially in the last couple weeks with explosive-type plays, and then combine that with the running game, it really stresses a defense both in the front to make sure that the run game is handled and then in the deep part of the field. And they’re really doing a great job of taking advantage of, we’ll call it, intermediate and horizontal part of the field where there is a lot of space now and they get the ball to those guys in space and they’ll catch and run and make a lot of big plays. That’s a long answer. Sorry about that.
Q: How unpredictable can Ben Roethlisberger be and how much do you have to be ready for everything inside the 20-yard line when you’re defending Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Jesse James?
MP: I think you hit it right on the head right there. As far in the red area, once you get down into that part of the field, they do a great job and Coach [Todd] Haley does a great job of putting those guys in different positions. There’s some misdirection plays, there’s some catch and run plays, there’s some deep balls that they try to throw into the end zone and take advantage of their speed downfield, and their playmaking ability downfield, and plus Ben [Roethlisberger] [and] his ability to get the ball downfield. One of the things that happens a lot in the red area that you always have to defend are kind of those plays that take a little bit longer or get extended. For the most part in the red area it’s kind of some timing plays down in there, but if those plays can get extended or prolonged, that’s when it becomes really difficult and I think Roethlisberger right now is very mobile, very healthy. [He’s] a guy that showed even again last night that just slight bit of movement or a slight bit of ability to maybe evade the rush or stand in there just a little bit longer gives his guys enough time to get open in those situations and certainly the red area is a big part of that.
Q: How absolutely vital is the concept of tackling going to be, specifically against Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown?
MP: Yeah, that’s a huge part of the game; it’s going to have to be. It’s a team type of concept. So for these guys I don’t really think you want to just have them out in space with a one-on-one tackle. Our guys need to be hustling and getting to the ball and making sure we’re doing a good job of wrapping up. I think their short space quickness, and if you look at both of them [and] their ability to just give you a little bit of maybe a head and shoulder fake or an explosive jump cut in either direction, can allow you just to miss. These guys are extremely quick and fast. When you’re coming in full speed and you’re trying to make sure you break down and take proper angles and leverage these guys, they’re extremely quick. So combine that quickness with the speed that they have and now it becomes very dangerous. So once they kind of get into that short space and they kind of give you a little bit of a shake and little bit of a jump cut or a hard stiff-arm or something like that, then you’ve really got to be disciplined to take good angles and make sure that you wrap them up and tackle. So both of them I have multiple examples of just big-play ability where they make that first guy miss and they can just outrun everybody else. There’s just too much space in the defense where then they can just turn on their speed and use their ability to get by you, so that will be a big point of emphasis for us.