QB TOM BRADY
Q: What has Dion Lewis added to the offense upon his return?
TB: He's done a great job. Obviously last week he made a lot of big plays for us. He's just a very dependable, consistent player for us, and we'll need that this week.
Q: What does it mean to you to be heading to your 11th AFC Championship Game?
TB: Well it's a big game, so I'm going to go try to play my best.
Q: Was there ever a point during OTAs or training camp where Chris Hogan's speed or downfield ability surprised you?
TB: I think he's just shown over the course of the season he can do that. He's just done a great job for us. He's up there in yards per catch and he's been phenomenal. He made a bunch of big plays last game and we'll need that this week.
Q: Does talk of the history and meaning behind this game serve as a distraction of any kind?
TB: I don't think so. I think there's always something going on. I think it's just important for us to focus on what our job is, and that's to go out and play well. Our job is to show up and try to do a great job when we get the chance, and that's the way it's been all year for us.
Q: As your jersey is hanging in Ben Roethlisberger's office, what does that say about your mutual respect for each other as competitors?
TB: Well, Ben [Roethlisberger] is an incredible player, and he's been that way since 2004 when he came into the league. I've always loved the way he plays, very tough, hard-nosed. He's great for the city of Pittsburgh - a very tough, hard-nosed city. I have a lot of friends from there. He's just been a great player. I think the respect is very mutual. To play at his level for as long as he has and with his style of play has been remarkable.
Q: Does it mean anything to you to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated? And as the story is about your connection with your receivers, what are your thoughts on that?
TB: I haven't seen it yet. I saw the picture, which is very cool for someone who collected all those covers and hung them on my wall when I was a kid. I think it's pretty neat. My receivers, I couldn't do anything without the guys that I've played with. I've had so many great guys, so many great players that I've stepped in the huddle that are on defense that have really helped us achieve all the success that we've had. It's a lot of people working hard, going in the right direction and I've been very blessed.
Q: Mike Tomlin used the same derogatory term to describe the Patriots as Antonio Cromartie used five years ago to describe you. What is it about you and the Patriots that elicit those kinds of descriptions and responses from players and coaches around the league?
TB: I'm not sure, Gary [Myers]. I don't know.
Q: What impresses you most about the Patriots defense right now?
TB: They have a lot of good players, very well-coached. I go against them every day in practice and they're very competitive, very hard-nosed, good stopping the run, and have been very competitive against the pass. It's a very good defense.
Q: What has changed with the Steelers defense since the last time you guys saw them?
TB: I mean, they've been dominant. Very good in the secondary, dependable. Very good against the run. The linebackers are some of the best in the league. Big front, very physical, a very mentally tough team, well-coached, great scheme, they pressure the quarterback. They do a lot of things well.
Q: Specifically regarding James Harrison and Bud Dupree, what differences have they made in the defense for the Steelers in the second half of the year?
TB: They've been great. They've been great just rushing the quarterback, making plays for their team, strip sacks, forced interceptions, a lot of big plays. They've been exceptional. They've got some really great players on the other side of the ball, and really at all levels of the defense. It's a big challenge for us.
Q: In preparing for the game Sunday, are you almost more focused on yourselves than anybody else on a week like this?
TB: We have to play our best game of the year. I think that's what it comes down to. We've got to all do whatever it takes to be at our best for those three hours on Sunday night. They put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of areas. They're tough to prepare for. We're going to have to just rise to the occasion.
Q: You sound a bit raspy - are you feeling OK?
TB: I'm good.
Q: What does it mean to you to be going up against a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger?
TB: He's a great player. He'll have those guys ready to go. He's been a leader for that team for a long time and they've won a lot of games with him behind the center. I know we've got our work cut out for us facing that defense. I know our defense has its work cut out for them facing that offense. It's going to be a great game.