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Week 1 Patriots vs Steelers: Pittsburgh Poking at Rob Gronkowski

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The New England Patriots are used to having a target on their backs, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are used to saying things they probably shouldn't.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots are opening up their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the deck is already stacked in the reigning Super Bowl Champs favor.

Alec and I have discussed at length that the Steelers offense doesn't have the weapons to expose the Patriots defense due to the suspensions of running back LeVeon Bell and Martavis Bryant. The way teams like the Packers beat the Patriots is by having their fourth or fifth options on offense beat the Patriots fourth or fifth defenders. When Pittsburgh is missing two of their top three players, the odds favor the Patriots.

Factor in the us against the world mentality that New England has been harboring, the fact that the Steelers defense has lost much of its veteran leadership, that Rob Gronkowski is ready for his first healthy season in a long while, and the only way for the Steelers to step in it any more would be to open their mouths and say something they shouldn't say.

Not something like, "I think we can win the game," because every team should have that mentality. But something more similar to the 2007 Steelers' safety Anthony Smith who challenged the greatest offense in the history of football.

"People keep asking me if we're ready for the Patriots," Smith said before the Patriots game. "They should be asking if they're ready for us."

"They've got Walker [sic] and [Randy Moss]," Smith said, getting the last name of Wes Welker incorrect. "But they're not like Cincinnati."

"They say they played their toughest game last week against Baltimore, but I think we play harder than Baltimore," Smith said before his secondary gave up 399 passing yards and four touchdowns. "They're going to be in for it again this week. They're going to have a tough week in front of them."

"We're going to win," Smith said, before the Steelers lost 34-13. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win."

The Steelers will only make the Patriots crowded bulletin board of quotes if they say something that either challenges the fabric of the organization, or is an affront against the skills of one their players.

And just imagine that the player that the Steelers would choose to prod would happen to be the most talented player his position has ever seen.

"You just have to jam [Rob Gronkowski] up a little bit, mess with his timing," linebacker Ryan Shazier said about how the Steelers plan on slowing down the All Pro tight end. "If you mess up their timing, they are really time-oriented. You have to mess up their timing and get in his face with pressure, then I feel we can slow him down a little bit."

"He has success when people don't put their hands on him," safety Mike Mitchell said.

There are a few major issues with these statements from the Steelers.

1) In Gronk's three games against the Steelers, his receiving yards have increased from 72 as a rookie, to 94 in 2011, to 143 in 2013. He has also collected four touchdowns. He dominates Pittsburgh.

2) They just revealed their game plan on how they're expecting to slow the focal point of the Patriots offense. Why would you tip your hand like that? Why would you give Bill Belichick a work week to adjust and counter?

3) Gronkowski isn't selfish. If the Steelers are willing to commit multiple players to watch him every snap, Josh McDaniels will flex Gronkowski to the opposite side of the play to give New England the numbers advantage.

This is why Gronk is so impossible to defend: he doesn't even need the ball to beat you on the play, and if you try to engage him in the open field, he'll just throw you out of the club.

So, Pittsburgh, feel free to continue to reveal your strategy against the Patriots. Feel free to talk about how you have the kryptonite to stop the best tight end in the league. Belichick will take the chatter and make his team better.

And Gronkowski isn't concerned.

"Some games I get jammed the whole game, some games I never get jammed," Gronkowski said in response to the Steelers. "So when we go out there and practice, we practice everything -- getting jammed, not getting jammed, how to get off it, a little move. Whatever comes, I have to be ready, go out and perform."