There were stories from Pittsburgh over the offseason about how the Steelers wanted to play more man coverage so they could contend with teams like the New England Patriots, but quarterback Tom Brady doesn’t think the Steelers have changed much at all.
“Within their zones, there’s always man elements,” Brady explained about the Steelers defense. “So, it looks like the Steelers to me. I mean, they’ve had the same defense for a long time. Whatever they decide to do, we’ll be prepared for. I mean, we prepare for everything. We’ll go out there and cut it loose on Sunday.”
The Steelers defense has always incorporated man coverage into their zone, where the defenders “effectively play man coverage on the first receiver to threaten their zone, and then have to peel back to take any secondary threat.”
The Patriots love taking advantage of this scheme by flooding zones with multiple receivers, or using combination routes to create favorable match-ups with the second player that enters the zone. The Steelers haven’t changed that part of their defensive scheme and Brady doesn’t expect them to change it up on Sunday.
“I think at this point in the year, it’s not like you’re going to go reinvent your whole defense in Week 15,” Brady said. “They’re ranked pretty high. They do a lot of things well. I’m sure they’re going to want to continue to do those things well. They rush good, they’re tight in coverage, they mix their schemes in – zone and man and blitzes – and they do it on all three downs. They don’t make it easy on you.
“Now, for us, it’s just being on alert. We’re going to try to go out and play the way we play, too, and that’s what makes for a good game. They’ve had a lot of good teams over the years. These are always pretty big matchups and this is a big one for both of us.”
Brady and the Patriots have had plenty of success against the Steelers over the years, with Brady owning a passer rating of 115.1, his best career passer rating against any one team including playoffs. New England will need Brady at his best on Sunday against a talented Steelers defense.
“They’ve got a lot of good players,” Brady said. “A very veteran group that plays well, they’ve been in that system for a while and they’re playing really well. A lot of turnovers, sacks- they’re pretty high up there in all the rankings, so it’s going to take great effort by us.”