FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick almost never has a negative word to say about his team’s upcoming opponent. More often than not, he overdoes it, heaping praise on teams that typically are far inferior to his.
Belichick went through that same weekly spiel Wednesday, going on and on about how talented New England’s Week 15 foe is at running back, and at wide receiver, and under center, and up front on defense.
This time, though, that praise is deserved.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, who will host the Patriots on Sunday in a battle for AFC supremacy, are an immensely talented team, boasting arguably the NFL’s best running back/wideout/QB combo and a defense that, while flawed, ranks second in the NFL in sacks this season.
Pittsburgh currently sits atop the AFC at 11-2, one game ahead of the Patriots, who fell to 10-3 after their loss to the Miami Dolphins on Monday.
Here’s a sampling of what Belichick had to say about the Steelers in his Wednesday morning news conference:
On what makes Antonio Brown, a legitimate MVP candidate who has averaged 156.8 receiving yards per game over the past four weeks and leads all NFL receivers in catches and yards by a wide margin, a special talent: “Everything. Just make a list. He’s on all of them.”
On Le’Veon Bell, the league leader in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage: “He’s really good. He’s a tremendous player. He leads the league in yards from scrimmage, and that’s about really all you need to know. He’s a receiver when he’s out of the backfield. He can run any run you want — inside, outside, runs with power, runs with a lot of skill and quickness in the open field. He’s an excellent receiver in the passing game. A big guy, blitz pickup, matches up well against linebackers and (defensive backs) that he has to block. He’s a tremendous player.”
On two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger: “He can do whatever he needs to do. He’s a great player. He’s got a lot of experience, has a lot of weapons, so he can beat you with deep balls, intermediate balls, quick throws, standing in the pocket throws, use the check downs, screens, underneath routes. He has good vision. He can extend plays. He doesn’t need to extend plays. He’s got a great arm. … He just steps up and fires the ball in there into tight windows with his arm strength and his accuracy. He’s a great player.”
More on Bell: “He does whatever he needs to do. If you want to see him run hard, run over people, run downhill then you can find plenty of plays of that. You can see him with his vision finding space in the defense. There’s plays on that. Catching the ball — plenty of plays on that. The guy doesn’t lead the league in yards from scrimmage by doing one thing, doing it a little bit. He does everything. He does it well, does whatever he needs to do. You give him an opening, wherever it is, and he’s going to make you pay for it.”
On Bell and Brown together: “Those two guys are both fabulous players on the same team, very hard to defend — Brown and Bell — just dynamic players that have the ability to do so many things, do them so well consistently. They’re there every week. They make big plays every week. Two-thirds of the offense with two guys — that’s a lot of offense.”
On the overall depth of the Steelers’ offense: “They can do it all. They have great skill players. They can run the ball. They can throw it, throw it long, throw it short, run after the catch, extend plays. Everybody is involved — tight ends, receivers, backs, multiple receivers, a very experienced offensive line, big offensive line. Just keep going. We’ll be here all day. There’s no real weakness on that offensive unit. They can’t come all on the field at the same time. Whichever ones they put out there are good. Whichever ones they take off and put out there the next play, they’re good, too.”
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images