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Pats not worried about Pitt's guarantee; Thurs. notes

A little-known Steelers player makes a big-time prediction about Sunday's game with New England. But Pats players and coaches take it in stride.

Anthony who?

Anthony Smith, that's who. He's the Pittsburgh Steelers safety who guaranteed to reporters that his team would defeat the 12-0 New England Patriots this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

You're not alone if you've never heard of him. Neither had QB Tom Brady.

"I didn't know who he was until we started preparing for them [this week]," he told a gathering of media members around his locker Wednesday.

"He's a young player and it's obvious that [there are] guys that we've played in the past that we really respect on that team – Deshea [Townsend], Troy [Polamalu], Aaron Smith, Casey [Hampton] – those guys aren't the ones that say it.

"We heard about it, I think everybody on the team has heard about it."

Brady's response to Smith's presumptuous prediction?

"Coach always says we do our talking on Sundays. We'll see. We'll see who comes out ahead on Sunday."

Other Patriots, like WR Wes Welker, admitted that they might be using Smith's tough talk as so-called "bulletin-board material" to help motivate them even more than usual.

"Maybe a little bit," he conceded. "But, we still have a big test [against Pittsburgh] and we just need to be prepared."

Smith also took an indirect swipe at Welker and his fellow wideouts, saying he thought the Bengals trio of Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Chris Henry were a better pass-catching group than New England's.

When told about that statement, Welker replied, "Cincinnati has a great receiving corps."

"I think it's one of those deals where it gets blown out of proportion," Welker added.

During his midday press conference, head coach Bill Belichick was asked about Smith's statements. He appeared to dismiss them as sources of motivation for his players and coaches.

"We can sit around and put a bunch of stuff up on a board and write stuff down on paper and all of that," he observed. "I think in the end it comes down to whether you can outplay the other team on Sunday or not outplay them. On a priority basis, that's what our priority is – trying to prepare well and play well."

"We just got to make sure we're doing what we need to do, and not worry about all the other stuff," said Welker. "That's the key is just executing, making sure everybody's out there doing there job and being in the right place, and getting down the field and scoring in the red area."

"It always comes down to who plays better," Brady concurred. "Well done is always better than well said – that's been the motto of this team."

That's why you'll probably never hear one of Belichick's Patriots make as brash remarks as Smith – at least not in public.

"I would think every one of our players would expect to win the game on Sunday," Belichick noted. "That's what I would think."

Thursday Practice Notebook

Every player was in attendance as the Patriots practiced inside the Dana Farber Field House on Thursday afternoon. The players were in uppers (helmets and shoulder pads) and sweatpants.

LB Eric Alexander, OL Wesley Britt, and QB Matt Gutierrez were awarded the coveted black jerseys for their outstanding efforts in last week's practices. There was one other sartorial anomaly. For some unknown reason, OL Ryan O'Callaghan, who normally wears 68, was sporting a red jersey with the number 74. That number belongs to OL Billy Yates.

Special teams were a focus early on, as WR Chad Jackson alternated with CB Ellis Hobbs to return kickoffs.

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