Zolak: Steelers should throw
If there is anyone with a local tie who has an idea of what the New England Patriots are like as a football team, it's Scott Zolak.
Zolak, a 1986 Ringgold graduate, spent eight years as a backup quarterback for the Patriots and has been doing radio work for Patriots games for the last six years.
He will be working Sunday at Heinz Field when the Patriots are in town for a game against the Steelers.
Zolak works for CBS affiliate 98.5 "The Sports" HUB. HUB is the flagship station for the Patriots and the NHL's Boston Bruins.
Zolak's game-day job for the station is working as a sideline analyst during Patriots games.
"I don't give injury updates or anything like that," he said. "My job is to jump in when I see something pertinent or have some type of information for the listeners."
He likened his job as similar to what former NFL player Tony Siragusa does for Fox broadcasts.
"Except, I'm not as over the top as Goose is," Zolak said, chuckling. "He says some crazy things."
Zolak enjoys his job with HUB, a station that is only two years old, but has quickly become one of the more popular stations in the New England area.
"It's really taken off and things have happened so fast," Zolak said.
He says he is trying to find his niche in the radio broadcasting industry and says it is a lot different than doing television work.
"Radio is totally different than TV," he said. "There is so much more explaining to do for the listeners. You have to get them to see what you are seeing."
He is excited this weekend, not only for the showdown, but for the homecoming.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing Mom and Dad on Saturday," he said. "This is a homecoming for my co-host, Andy Gresh, as well. He's from the Coraopolis area."
Zolak said that even though the Patriots have had a large share of recent success against the Steelers, the team doesn't consider Pittsburgh as just another game.
"We have played very well against them for some reason," he said. "Things have pretty much gone our way.
"However, the Patriots know the Steelers are a quality team and one worth taking seriously."
Zolak said the AFC East rival New York Jets remain the biggest rival game for the Patriots, but the Steelers aren't far behind.
"Pittsburgh is a big game. The Jets are first, but now that Peyton (Manning) is out for Indy, the Steelers are probably second," he said.
So how does Zolak seeing Sunday's game shaping up?
"I think the Steelers, with all that speed they have on the outside, could give the Patriots some concern there," he said. "The Patriots have had trouble with teams who get the ball downfield.
"I don't think it would be wise for the Steelers to try and run the ball and keep it away from Brady. They have the receivers to throw it to."
Zolak wouldn't predict a winner, but he said there is nothing he could say to accentuate how important the game is to the Patriots.
"Everybody is getting back healthy here," he said. "Like most teams this time of the year, the Patriots have been nicked up. But (Coach Bill) Belichick has had two weeks to prepare for this game.
"The Patriots have been pretty good in the regular season, but have lost their last four playoff games dating back to the Super Bowl," he added. "Expectations are high around here but until you win some playoff games, nothing else matters.
"But this game will be a great barometer of letting the Patriots know where they stand this year."