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Bill Belichick Press Conference Transcript

Posted Oct 30, 2013

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, October 30, 2013.

BB: It feels like we’re back in the division here. It was kind of unusual not to have Pittsburgh on the schedule last year, but looks pretty familiar. [Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Dick] LeBeau has the defense playing the way they always play. I think [Troy] Polamalu has been very disruptive this year. He’s clearly an impact player you have to have your eye on every time you snap the ball offensively. I think their offense is definitely an explosive group [with] a lot of big play receivers. They have [Heath] Miller back at tight end, of course [Ben] Roethlisberger is a handful to deal with – strong guy, who is really hard to tackle. They have good depth at the running back position, all three of those guys have contributed, fullback. [They’re an] explosive return game, very good coverage team; lead the league in kickoff coverage. They’re a good team, they’ve been in a lot of close games, lost a couple tough ones but a team we have a lot of respect for, a lot of good football players, a lot to get ready for. We’re going to have to really put our foot on the pedal this week in terms of our preparation to re-familiarize ourselves with the Steelers schemes and some of the new players that we haven’t seen since the last time we played them. They have a lot of young guys, a lot of good young players.

Q: How would you describe Isaac Sopoaga’s strengths as a player?

BB: He’s basically played defensive tackle and nose tackle throughout his career. Strong guy, physical guy.

Q: In terms of how they were using him in Philadelphia, was he doing pretty much the same thing that you would ask him to do here?

BB: Yeah, same thing he did in San Francisco. Yeah, I think that’s pretty much what he is. I don’t think he’s an edge rusher, that’s not really his thing.

Q: Were they asking him to play the same techniques you will?

BB: Yes and no, I’d say there are some differences but there are certainly some similarities.

Q: You mentioned the Aqib Talib deal happened right at the deadline. Was this a similar situation? Did you know he would be available?

BB: I really didn’t handle this one. [Director of Player Personnel] Nick [Caserio] did most of it. I would say it came together at the end. That’s the way I would characterize it.

Q: Can you talk about how the next man up philosophy helps in a year when you guys lost Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo?

BB: I think we’re really in that mentality from the day we step on the field as a football team. It’s great to have everybody available. It’s great to have all your players and be at full strength. The reality of it is that’s usually not the case. Every team in the league goes through the same thing somewhere along the line. All the players that are on the team have a role and they have to be ready when they’re called on to perform that role whether it’s practice squad guys moving up to the roster, whether it’s backup players moving up to be starters, maybe it guys playing different positions on their side of the ball, whether it’s additional contributions in the kicking game, whether it’s guys in the kicking game that now have a bigger role on offense or defense. That’s just the way it is. We have to be able to adjust during the game when those situations occur or during the week or during the year if it’s a long-term thing. That’s not always the same move. Sometimes the move you make during the game isn’t maybe the move you’d make if it was a season-ending type of situation. Whoever it is and whatever the circumstances are, we have to be ready to adjust to them. That’s why we, during training camp, work different combinations of people. They double up different positions. You never know when those kinds of things are going to happen. Fortunately we haven’t been in the situation this year where we’re having to take offensive guys and put them on defense and stuff like that which at times we’ve had to do in the past. It hasn’t gotten to that point but we’ve had to make some adjustments. You could look at every team in the league and they’ve all had to make them too. It is what it is.

Q: Does Troy Polamalu freelance more than other players at his position? Is he unpredictable because he takes more chances?

BB: I’d use the word instinctive. He’s a very instinctive player. You can say that he’s guessing, taking chances, but I’d say he’s right most of the time; most of the time he makes the right decision. Whether some of those plays are called blitzes or he just blitzes on his own, I don’t know exactly how they do it. But there are times where you look at it and say, ‘That’s not really where you’re supposed to be.’ But where he is, is the right place to be. He’s right in the middle of the play or he’s doing something that’s disruptive to the offense. However that’s orchestrated I don’t know, but you can’t just let him run free and ruin the game. Just because this is where they’re supposed to be isn’t necessarily where he is. He’s very, very instinctive. He has a great nose for the ball. A lot of times he winds up in the center-guard gap, sometimes he winds up in a tackle-tight end gap, sometimes he’s 20 yards deep, sometimes he’s out in the flat, sometimes he blitzes off the edge and sometimes he lines up in one of those places and runs somewhere else as part of the disguise. It’s really hard to tell even where he is, whether he’s going to stay there or not when the ball is snapped. He has excellent timing and really has a good feel for the game; makes a lot of plays. Even when he plays close to the line of scrimmage, he plays very strong. He can definitely hold his ground, even against offensive linemen. When he gets blocked, it isn’t like they knock him out of there. He can penetrate and take up a couple blockers or hold his ground here very competitively for a guy his size. He’s fast, he can make a lot of plays from the backside. He’s a good tackler; strong and very, very physical but very instinctive. Call it whatever you want to call it, but he knows where the ball is or where it’s going and he gets to the right place at the right time way, way, way more often than he’s wrong.

Q: Is there anything you can do this week to prepare for Ben Roethlisberger?

BB: Let [Nate] Solder take some plays back there at quarterback, let him be the scout team quarterback for a few plays. That’s what it’s like. You see guys hanging all over him, hanging on his legs, hanging on his waist and he stiff arms them and still throws the ball 40, 50 yards downfield. He can throw without his legs. You can be draped on his legs and he doesn’t need to step and throw. He has the arm strength to let it go more than half the length of the field. There have been a bunch of times where guys have gotten a clean shot on him and it’s almost like he looks out there and knows that they can’t bring him down or at least bring him down right away and he just stiff arms them or shrugs them off and stands out there and throws. It’s a hard thing to simulate in practice because you’re not hitting the quarterbacks and that’s not the point of it. But I think the emphasis of it is knowing that this guy is a very difficult guy to tackle. He doesn’t really run away from people very often, he just runs through them or finds enough time for the receivers to get open. The receivers are very good at that too. They do a good job of – look, he’s scrambled and extended plays before, so they know that if they keep working to get open or adjust their route or find an open space that he’ll find them and he often does. They create a lot of big plays that way. It will really be incumbent upon our pass coverage to not lose track of their guy or the guys in their zone and not get caught up in if Roethlisberger starts to run around a little bit, that we still have to take care of our coverage because the plays just extend and go longer than a lot of other team’s plays. They do a good job of it, they do a lot of it, not by design but it just happens that way and they’re very productive doing it.

Q: Any clocks starting on Mark Harrison or Armond Armstead?

BB: No change.

Q: It looked like Dane Fletcher was the lone linebacker in dime. What do you look for from a player in that role and what have you seen from Dane?

BB: Well, in the Miami game we had a number of different roles for different people, Jamie [Collins], Dane, obviously Dont’a [Hightower] and Brandon Spikes. So we had different guys doing different things. But I think anytime you have a sub linebacker on the field, he has to be able to play in space, be able to cover man-to-man and usually has some degree of blitz assignments or responsibilities. You always have to be alert for sub runs in that situation. There’re usually not that many of them but it’s third down so you have to – they’re big plays if they hit them, so you have to be able to stop them. So, it’s all those things: multiple receivers on the field – three, four, however you want to count some of these tight ends. Guys like [Charles] Clay or guys like Heath Miller, you can call them tight ends but they’re just big receivers. Matching up against those kind of skill players as opposed to fullbacks and blocking tight ends and early down running backs is different than sometimes the four or five skill guys that are really good in space, good athletically in the passing game that you see on third down. The matchups are a little bit different.

Q: Is Heath Miller more often in the passing routes than staying at the line of scrimmage?

BB: He definitely blocks in the running game but he’s a hard guy to cover in the passing game. He’s big, he’s instinctive, he’s a big target, he has good hands, he’s got a big catch radius, he’s slick, he’s experienced and savvy in his route-running. So yeah, he’s definitely a tough guy to cover in the red area, third down, play-action. I’m not saying he’s going to catch 100 balls in a season, but he’s a productive pass receiver and yeah, they go to him.

Q: Would you say he blocks more than guys like Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates?

BB: More and better, yeah, absolutely. He’s a complete guy. Whatever they need him to do, he does. They need him to block, he blocks. They need him to make tough, possession-type catches on the goal line or in short-yardage situations, he does that over the middle. He can stretch the field on seams and flag routes. He’s extended from the formation at times. He’s a good player that really is able to play on all downs and all situations.

Q: I remember he hurt you in the first quarter in Pittsburgh.

BB: He killed us. I mean, everybody hurt us in that game. There’s a long list of guys that hurt us in that game. He was definitely one of them, yeah, absolutely. Thanks for reminding me, I’d forgotten all about it.

Q: Is there any carryover from the last time you played?

BB: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think they’ve fundamentally changed what they do. Offensively, with [Offensive Coordinator] Coach [Todd] Haley and defensively with Coach [Dick] LeBeau, I think their overall schemes are similar. They obviously game plan change from week to week and there are a lot of new players within those schemes that have different characteristics [than] some of the guys that we’ve played. There’s a lot of carryover. The secondary, we’ve played against all those guys. Linebackers, we’ve seen [Jason] Worilds, we’ve seen [LaMarr] Woodley, we’ve seen [Lawrence] Timmons, [Brett] Keisel, Ziggy Hood. There are a lot of guys out there we’ve seen. A lot of guys we’ve seen on offense: [Heath] Miller, [Emmanuel] Sanders, [Antonio] Brown, [Ben] Roethlisberger and a couple guys on the offensive line, [Ramon] Foster. But you know they have some new guys too. But schematically, look, if you didn’t know what year it was and just looked at the jerseys and looked at the plays, you’d recognize the Steelers. They haven’t changed their offense or their defensive schemes dramatically from the last time we played them. But subtly and the players’ matchups are a little different, sure.

Q: Are you surprised that they’re have the season that they’re having?

BB: I think if you look at them on a play-by-play basis, you don’t see that. You look at the record but again, they’ve lost a couple tough games. They beat Baltimore, which is a good win. It’s something we didn’t do last year. They beat the Jets; it’s something we didn’t do two weeks ago. They were in a bunch of close games that could have gone either way. When you look at them, I think you see a good football team that’s kind of like us: we’ve been in a lot of close games. We’ve won more than we’ve lost; they’ve lost more than they’ve won, but a couple plays one way or the other in any of those games and you could have a big swing in what a lot of teams’ records are, but that’s the league. They’re competitive against everybody. Most of their games have come right down to the end, like last week’s came down to the last possession or the onside kick. They’re perfectly capable of playing with anybody in this league. I don’t think they lack any confidence to that and they shouldn’t. They’re well coached, they have a good program, they have a good football team and I’m sure they feel like if they play well they’ll win and they’re probably right most of the time.

Q: But you have to prepare for their best even though they’re not doing it consistently, right?

BB: Absolutely. We expect every opponent’s best every week, each player’s best every week. Whoever the players are, whatever the team is, the things that they do well, the things they’ve shown that they do well, the players that are their key players, we expect their best every week, absolutely. Without a doubt, we prepare for that every week.

Q: Will you be a pirate again this year for Halloween or is it a game-time decision?

BB: It will be a game time decision. I don’t want to be too predictable.

Q: No other options?

BB: Not many.

Q: Would you say the Terrelle Pryor play was the big play in the Steelers-Raiders game?

BB: Certainly that’s a huge play in the game. I’m sure the Steelers are probably saying, ‘If we don’t give that one up, we probably have a lot better chance to win.’ I know it was only seven points, but they’re on the seven-yard line, that’s normally for the Steelers, field position at the midfield when they get the ball back. It turns into a seven-point play all at once. They don’t give up a lot of long drives. They’re a good defensive team. It’s hard to move the ball 90 yards against them. Sooner or later, somewhere along the way, they make enough plays and do something to knock you out of there. Percentage-wise, that was a huge play and [Ryan] Clark came up in the run, the fake on the offensive left side and once Pryor hit the edge, Polamalu was out on the slot on the ride side and Pryor just split them. Sometimes it’s one of those things. But they, yeah, that was a huge play. I’m sure they’re not worried about us doing that, even after Tom’s [Brady] fourth-down run. That was a heck of a run, but…It was one of those plays where sometimes defensively you just get caught a little bit out of space, especially early in the game and somebody splits you, a quarterback or a back or a receiver or whoever it is, and it could be 30 yards, it could be 90 yards. Once that space is there, if the guy is fast, it’s all over. You really can’t coach speed and have a fast guy on the field that can take a play 90 instead of 20, that’s where those kind of guys are really valuable.

Q: Do those eight-yard runs sometimes feel like 90 yards with Tom Brady?

BB: That one did. He ran, cut back, broke a tackle there by [Philip] Wheeler sort of, it looked like he was going to slide then he wasn’t sure he got the first down and decided not to slide. Tom doesn’t run often, but I’ll say one thing, when he decides to run, he picks his spots, he usually does the right thing. It’s usually the right play. It certainly catches the defense and our coaching staff by surprise when he does that. That was a huge play in the game; it was a key play. That was a good decision by Tom.