FOXBORO, Mass. — The Pittsburgh Steelers won’t have Ben Roethlisberger when they host the New England Patriots this Sunday, but they will have Le’Veon Bell.
And Antonio Brown. And Sammie Coates. And DeAngelo Williams. And beyond them, even guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jesse James.
Get the picture?
Even with their franchise quarterback sidelined and unspectacular backup Landry Jones set to start in his place, the Steelers have enough offensive weapons to compete with any team — even one as formidable as the 5-1 Patriots.
The key for Jones, who will be making just his third NFL start, is getting the ball in his playmakers’ hands and staying out of his own way.
“(The Steelers) have great depth at every position,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday morning. “I mean, when you watch Landry Jones play, he’s a good player. Roethlisberger’s a good player. And again, they have great players so when they get the ball to Bell, Brown, Coates, Heyward-Bey, James — it doesn’t matter who it is — Williams. I mean, you’ve got to stop all of those guys, too.”
Belichick was particularly complimentary of Bell and Brown, and for good reason. Both are among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions (running back and wide receiver) and surely will be focal points of the Patriots’ defense as it prepares for Sunday.
Brown is tied for the NFL lead in receiving touchdowns with five, and Bell ranks third in the league in yards per carry (5.5) since returning from his three-game suspension three weeks ago.
“(A good quarterback) gets the ball to his skill players, and they do the damage, really,” Belichick said. “I think we’ve seen their quarterbacks be able to do that, whether it’s Ben or Landry or whoever it is, and then you’ve got to stop all of those guys.
“I don’t think Roethlisberger’s going to run for 100 yards. I don’t think Landry Jones is going to run for 100 yards. But I think they’re going to get the ball to guys that can move the ball quickly and score points in a hurry, and we’re going to have to defend all of that.”
Jones, who was handed the reins after Roethlisberger underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn meniscus, has been with the Steelers since they drafted him in the fourth round in 2013. The 27-year-old Oklahoma product has appeared in 10 regular-season games and one playoff game, completing 34 of 61 passes for 524 yards and three touchdowns with five interceptions.
“(He’s) athletic, good arm, quick release, doesn’t hold the ball,” Belichick said. “I thought he played well last year when he played in Arizona and Kansas City. (He had) some shots in the preseason. Another good player, experienced player, knows their system. They have a lot of experienced players in their system.”
Thumbnail photo via Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports Images