Steelers notebook: Press coverage caught Pats off guard in previous meeting
The last time the two teams played, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau surprised the Patriots with a seldom-used scheme of playing press-man coverage and not allowing the receivers a free release off the line of scrimmage.
It worked wonders as Tom Brady was held to 198 yards passing in a 25-17 Steelers victory.
When the two teams meet Sunday in Foxborough, don't expect to see the same defense out of the Steelers.
“They are going to game plan for that,” safety Ryan Clark said. “They know that we feel that it worked well against them. You can still use it in certain situations but Coach LeBeau is smart enough to know they are going to game plan for that.”
It might be tempting to LeBeau to do some of the same things.
Ike Taylor was matched up against slot receiver Wes Welker (who has been replaced by Danny Amendola) while William Gay and Cortez Allen, seeing his first significant game action as a rookie, were playing tight coverage on the other receivers, including tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“It disrupted the routes and disrupted the timing of what they wanted to do,” Clark said. “As for a game-planning standpoint, it was something that we haven't done at that point of the season. So they were sort of not ready for it. They hadn't schemed and strategized for it.”
• Clark noticed one thing about Brady while preparing for Sunday's game: When he was pressured, he wasn't very accurate. “We are going to need rush up front,” Clark said. “If you look at some of the games they are playing and you talk about his numbers, a big part of that is not being able to protect him and give him the time he needs.”
• Emmanuel Sanders was mere six hours away from being signed in the offseason by the Patriots before the Steelers matched a $2.5 million offer sheet presented to the restricted free agent wide receiver. Six months later, Sanders is finally heading to New England. “It hasn't entered my mind. What happened this offseason happened.” Sanders had 31 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns.
• Guard Ramon Foster “crushed” his ImPACT test on Tuesday and will take another one Friday night to see if he will be cleared to play Sunday against the Patriots. Foster was a full participant Thursday at practice after suffering a concussion during the Oakland game. “So far, so good,” Foster said. “But you have to be careful because the brain is a sensitive thing to deal with.” Foster said he suffered headaches Monday, but has been fine since. If he can't play, Guy Whimper will take his spot.
• Guard David DeCastro (ankle) didn't practice for the second consecutive day. Even though he isn't walking with a limp, he won't play if he doesn't practice Friday. Markus Wheaton (finger) was limited.
• Offensive coordinator Todd Haley confirmed the first 10 plays of every game are scripted, so quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knows what to expect, but plenty of tweaking is done. “(Former coach) Bill Parcells wouldn't let us have a first 10, and if he caught us sneaking a first 10, he was after us,” Haley said. “As I got into the coordinator business, I do think the players like, the night before, to hear (them) and be able to think through those first couple. The crowd is going and the energy and adrenaline is up. You like to give them just a little heads up: ‘Hey, here is what we're thinking,' so they've got a chance to mentally go through it.”
• The Steelers are 30th in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on only eight of 20 possessions inside the 20. They've kicked eight field goals, but wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said that's not good enough, and he suggested changes are on the way. “That's something we're addressing,” he said. “As far as game plans, we have a couple of new wrinkles here and there that we're going to work. Not only that, (we're) going to get into the minute details of the plays that we've had from the past in the red zone, and just try to execute at a higher level.”
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