New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his conference call on Tuesday, November 25, 2008.
BB: Watching the Steelers, they are a pretty impressive football team. They certainly do a lot of things well. You see their defense ranked at the top of the league in just about everything: rushing, passing, points, third down, red area. Nobody has gotten 300 yards against them and about half of their possessions are three and out. They are really solid across the board. It is no one man band. They are good at everything. The front, the linebackers, the secondary - they mix it up on you quite a bit. They are very good. Offensively, they have a lot of good players - very skilled players at the wide receiver position [and] an excellent tight end with Miller. The backs are tough. Roethlisberger brings a dimension of the game not just passing but running and staying alive in the pocket with his size and vision to go down field with scrambles. They are an excellent coverage team - they lead the league in kickoff coverage, third in punt coverage, five yards of punt return. So, they do a good job with field position and putting their defense in a good situation. Defensively, they usually hold up their end of the bargain too. It is a big challenge for us this week. There's a lot to get ready for in all three phases of the game. The Steelers are really sound. They are well coached, they are tough and they are a hard team to beat. You have to go out there and play well and do things well against them. They are not going to make too many mistakes and make it easy for you. You are going to have to work for everything you get.
Q: How consistently are the Steelers blitzing this season?
BB: It varies, but I would say overall not as much as last year.
Q: In turn with your offensive line it seemed like you were in a lot of five man protections against the Dolphins. How do you feel the line did in protections in that passing game?
BB: I think for the most part we were ok considering the number of times we threw the ball. We mix our protections up so there is a little of everything. Sometimes we are in five-man, sometimes six-man, which there are a lot of different varieties of, and some seven man too. We use them all like most teams do, like the Steelers do. I don't think you want to stay in one protection the whole time. Our tight ends and backs are going to be important in blitz pickup. They have been and they will continue to be, not just individually but in conjunction with everyone working together in unison so we get all the guys blocked that we are supposed to get blocked and if there are any free ones we know who they are and we account for them between the quarterback and whatever receivers are involved. That is a tough thing to get everything right on. That will be a challenge for us this week to work on all aspects of not only the communication but actually physically blocking them.
Q: You mentioned the Steelers rank first in pretty much everything defensively. How challenging is it to even find a weakness to exploit?
BB: You are going to have to work for everything. You are going to have to execute whatever play you run whether it is run, pass or play action. Whatever it is, it is just going to have to be well executed and if it's not then you are probably not going to get much out of it. If it is sloppy you will probably turn the ball over. We're going to have to have a real good game of execution offensively, whatever the plays are.
Q: What makes James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley so tough?
BB: They are both very athletic. They are fast and they play with good power, so they match up well against different types of blockers. They are more physical than most of the smaller guys they encounter and when they are up against bigger guys they use their quickness and athleticism to win against some of the offensive linemen they face, particularly the tackles. The scheme creates some problems too - getting the right guys on them or getting them blocked period. They bring all four of them, so you have to account for all four of them. Sometimes they spring guys free on that too. But, they are good rushers with their athleticism, their power and their quickness.
Q: With the Thursday night games becoming more prevalent in the league, is having extra time to prepare the next week an advantage?
BB: I think for most teams with the coaching staff it is an advantage because you have a little more time to not only look at the most recent games that you have broken down but the whole season and study with a little more detail. I think for the players, most teams use the extra time. We are into the season 10, 11, 12 games whenever they hit. I think most teams would use that time to try to give the players a couple extra days to heal up their bumps and bruises and get ready for the remaining games you have left with as healthy a team as you can. As compared to playing early in the season or having a bye week early in the season where you might take advantage of some extra practice time when your team is healthy and fresh. I think at this point there is not a lot of that. We had a very light practice on Friday of last week, probably closer to a Saturday practice than a Friday practice. Even though we had extra time for the Miami game and we had more meeting time, we didn't do a whole lot more on the field than we would in a normal Sunday to Sunday week. I think from some of the other coaches I have talked to in the league that is closer to the norm than practicing five days instead of three.
Q: Does Dick LeBeau get his due credit for what he has meant to this league?
BB: Dick should. I think his respect in the league from everybody that I know is immense. He was a great player in this league and he has been a great defensive coach for a long time, whether it's been an assistant or the head coach. I think he is as well respected as anybody in the game defensively. His overall career accomplishments - I can't imagine there be more than a handful of people that would really be able to compare with what he has done in the National Football League throughout his entire career. He has had a great track record and has had an awesome career. It wouldn't be overlooked by me. I don't know who else would be grading it but it is pretty impressive to me.
Q: How will this week's schedule differ, if at all, with the Thanksgiving holiday?
BB: Not too much. We are going to try to stay on a normal schedule and maybe move things up a little bit earlier on Thursday. We will try to do a couple of things in practice on Wednesday and a couple of things in practice on Friday that we would normally do on Thursday. We will just shorten it down a little bit, not too much. We still have to do what we have to do to get ready for the game. I think if we just push things up a little, everyone will have time to have a good day with their families on Thursday - I think that is important too. We can get done what we need to get done Thursday morning and break things down earlier than we normally do.
Q: Have you heard any follow-up from the league on the Matt Light and Channing Crowder situation?
BB: I don't have anything to add on it.
Q: What are some of the attributes that separate Troy Polamalu from other safeties in the league?
BB: He is a very instinctive player. He has good skills. He is very fast, quick, is a tough guy, good tackler, very aggressive and is very instinctive. He really has a nose for the ball. He has a good level of anticipation on what is going to happen. Either before the ball is snapped or sometimes immediately right after it is snapped, so he is heading in the direction in a hurry. I would say that he is a guy that whenever he is on the field you have to be aware of him from an offensive standpoint. Whenever he is on the field he is moving to the ball pretty fast. He might be 50 yards away, he might be 5 yards away but he's coming and he's coming in a hurry. It won't be too long before he gets there. Sometimes other guys get there first but he won't be too far behind.
Q: Does he remind you of the vintage Rodney Harrison at all?
BB: I think there are some similarities between the players, yes. They make plays in every aspect of the game. They blitz. They tackle. They cover. They knock balls down. They intercept them. They play with great emotion, competitiveness and toughness. They take on anybody - guards, tackles - it doesn't matter who it is. They will hit anybody, whoever is there. They will hit them just as hard it doesn't make a difference of how big they are or what number they are wearing. I think there are a number of similarities in those two players.