Patriots

Q&A transcript: Bedard at DKPittsburghSports.com

(Philip G. Pavely/USA TODAY Sports)

Had the pleasure of fielding questions over at DKPittsburghSports.com and the Patriots were definitely on their minds. Here's a transcript of what went down:

Greg, thanks for taking questions here! The Steelers are quite comfortable with running the 2 minute drill at home. Do you think that could present a problem for a defense that has improved, but still has serious holes! Ben gets to call many of the plays, and it allows him to establish a rytymn, instead of being off balance. On the flip side what will Brady and company do to get their rhythm going?

Hey everybody! Looking forward to heading to Pittsburgh tonight, which is one of my favorite cities to visit. Wish I was getting in earlier, but it is what it is.

Hey Train…I could actually see both teams using some hurry-up in this game. The Patriots would use it because the Steelers are a team that needs to get lined up to execute their calls. Hurry-up doesn’t let you get set and execute a fire zone blitz.

On the other side, the hurry-up isn’t all that effective against the Patriots because they don’t do all that much on defense. The spin the dial with their coverages, but that’s about it.

But I do like the idea of the Steelers being aggressive. That’s how they need to play

How does the average Patriots fan view the Steelers? What I mean is, is there some legitimate respect, as the Steelers and Ravens have for each other, or do they look at the Steelers like a Steelers fan looks at the Browns?

Hey emoney… going to write a little bit about that for a column later or in the morning (I’ve been a little under the weather). I would say they respect the cloth, the Rooneys, and the talent (AB, Bell, Ben). Outside of that, there’s not much respect. They don’t see Mike Tomlin worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Belichick in the conversation about. Most of this is about Tomlin. From afar, everyone sees how the Steelers playing down to opponents, losing multiple games to inferior opponents, Tomlin’s sound bytes, and they don’t take him seriously.

Greetings Greg from 30,000 feet (homeward bound from gorgeous Far North Queensland, Australia). Taking a break from the huge game coming up, I was curious as to the “hierarchy” of Boston sports teams among the fans. Could you rank the 4 major teams in terms of popularity exhibited on your site? I’d guess (1) Patriots (2) Red Sox (3) Celtics (4) Bruins. Continued well wishes and success for your new site!

Hey, thanks Kinger. I would say it’s the Patriots by a huge amount, then the Celtics by a huge amount, Red Sox and then the Bruins barely register. There’s been a lot more interest in the Sox after the season. I’ve been pretty disappointed in the Bruins’ numbers. I also asked other sports editors in town if they notice the same thing, and they said yes. Bruins are almost in Revolution territory. That’s a problem. I’ve actually had thoughts about pulling my Bruins writer off the road, that’s how bad it is. But I have faith in the team. They’ve started to turn it around and with the mix of youth and experience, I think they have a chance to do some damage in the playoffs.

Hi Greg! Have really enjoyed reading your articles this week. Brady & Belichick. Does the QB make the coach or does the coach’s system make the QB? Belichick has had success when Brady’s been hurt (ie Cassel) and don’t know how successful Brady would have been playing in a different system such as the Steelers. I think it’s funny that the Browns fired one of if not the greatest coaches in NFL history. Good luck & keep up the great work!

Hey Rick, this is a great question and one that’s constantly debated: who would you rather have, Brady or Belichick? I would go with Belichick. He’s just so good at developing a program that can beat just about anybody. I mean, I learned my lesson in 2011. That team, with a collection of trash on defense and especially in the secondary (Julian Edelman played slot CB vs. Anquan Boldin in AFCCG) was one Welker/Brady catch from winning the SB. That team was terrible. It was all Belichick. and the Steelers beat them easily that season. This was my column off that game: https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2011/10/31/road-loss-shows-patriots-can-only-far/hkFzeFwKbbn6tDKYTOvIpI/story.html

What’s funny is that I have said the 2017 front seven of the Patriots is the new 2011 secondary. Will history repeat itself?

Greg, continued success with your venture in Beantown, now to my query: Is there concern that TB’s Achilles injury has: (i) negatively affected his play over the last 4 games; and (ii) is worsening such that one misstep by him or awkward tackle of him could cause him to be lost for a significant period of time a la Richard Sherman?

Thanks so much, GC … The only game where I thought you could argue it showed up was Miami because that was about as bad as I’ve seen him play. But he’s never been the best deep-ball thrower, and he again took a pounding. Nobody’s really all that worried about the Achilles. Brady’s got a guy by the name of Alex Guerrero who will seriously massage his foot all night long if needed. It’s not physical with Brady, it’s a lack of reliable weapons (Edelman, Gronk).

I was sorry to see that you only published two Steeler tape breakdowns. Did you watch the last three games, and if so, did they change any of your impressions?

I’m still working on that, finishing up more today/tonight and I’ll have more to say tomorrow. But to answer your question, no. What I see is an underachieving line and a very mistake-prone secondary that can’t be covered for because the Steelers lack the type of 3-4 OLBs needed to make that scheme work.

Are you surprised with the Celtics fast start? I did not expect that, especially after Gordon Heyward went down.

Yes, I think everyone is. Have to give Stevens and Danny Ainge a ton of credit. Stevens pushes the right buttons and Ainge has found guys like Tatum and even some of the bench guys who are playing way better than anyone thought possible.

What slick form of mind control did Belichick use to cause two opposing coaches to gift wrap the Pats’ last two Super Bowls on two plays? I’m assuming it’s some variant of The Force. Either that or more disabling of coach-to-QB headsets.

It’s called everyone else is stupid because they’ve coached xxxx less minutes than Belichick. Waiting for Tomlin’s brainfart. It’s coming.

Can you briefly summarize the keys to the game from the pats perspective and talk about the special teams advantage the pats clearly have, specifically the return games? Thanks for doing this!

You do have Antonio Browns returns punts, right? I’m not all that big on special teams, I leave that to the more honky Patriots writers who think the Patriots keeping 15 special teams-only players is the secret to their success, when they can’t field a real front seven. But your kicker is not good and Gostkowski’s on a roll. Your punter is awesome and better. Patriots need to keep Brady’s pressure rate under 35 percent, make Ben go 12 plays for touchdowns, and don’t let AB go off.

I know Branch is out, but what’s the status on Flowers, Van Noy, etc? How much does their absence affect what Patricia can do, and would you expect the Steelers to try and exploit that banged up front 7?

Both of them are in the we’ll-have-to-see category. I mean, it’s not a question of affecting what Patricia can do — the Patriots don’t do a lot on defense — it’s a question of whether or the Patriots can hold up in the front seven. If I’m the Steelers, I’m trying to get a lead, and then I’m bullying the crap out of the Patriots and I’m running for 300 yards. Keep Brady on the sideline. That only works, however, if you do the job on defense and don’t give up the big plays. Can the Steelers do that? That’s the big question.

Bedard, are you buying all the talk this week about Brady being injured? Bless you for having to deal with Felger and Mazz every Tuesday.

Hey Tim, thanks for listening. I think, for the most part, Brady is healthy enough. He’d look a lot better with Gronk and Edelman out there. But remember, he only played 8 games to this point last year because of the suspension. Now he’s at 12 and this will be 13. He hasn’t played this kind of workload since he was 38. This is why I was an advocate for pulling him early and limiting some of the plays that expose him to the worst shots. But nobody listens to me. I don’t know why. I have all these Super Bowl rings.

Was Gronk’s one game suspension enough? Many people (not just Steeler fans) think it was two games at least

Depends on what he said during the appeal. I think if JuJu got one game (which I agreed with) for a borderline football play, Gronk should have gotten an additional game for it being so far after the whistle. But there was already precedent (if that matters in the NFL): Mike Evans. It was basically the same thing and he got one game.

Hi Greg, congratulations on the venture. I was just wondering if you’ve seen any drop off in TB12’s play? I’ve heard commentators nationally saying that he’s not the same as he was. From my perspective, he looks every bit as dangerous as ever.

Outside of the performance this past Monday night, zero. Any talk of him losing any arm strength is just wrong (and I saw the end of Marino and covered the end of Favre). Go watch this play from the end zone angle and tell me if you see any drop off. https://vimeo.com/246021241 You’re absolutely right, Str8. No dropoff. It’s amazing, really. Entering this year, I thought they might trade Brady after this season. Took me about 6 games to realize he’s a cyborg sent to destroy the Earth.

Welcome Greg-what percent of New Englands success since 2001 would you contribute to Brady vs Belichick. I say 70% Brady, 30% Belichick. Also, what exactly does Earnie Adams do on game day to have direct communication will Bill on sideline from press box?

I’d say 60 Belichick, 40 Brady. I mean, he went 11-5 with Matt Cassel.

Ernie is basically Bill’s brain? He keeps him clued in on game situations, possible reviews, and has basically gameplanned like he’s the opponent against the Patriots. He knows what’s going on.

What do you love about DKpittsburghsports.com that you hope to emulate on your site?

The community aspect of it, which is something I tried to foster when was at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with our Packers blog and it was highly successful. That’s the only way our things are going to work: people have to feel apart of what you’re doing, and that it’s a home for them. And you can’t fake that. You have to make it happen. DK has, and I’m trying to.

Greg – do you think there was some looking ahead, or even game-planning ahead, from the Patriots last week? After all, the Miami game didn’t matter a whole lot since the Patriots will still have the inside track to the #1 seed if they win tomorrow. Good luck with the site!!

Thanks bman and you’re absolutely right. The more I watched the film, the more I thought the coordinators just slapped it out there vs. Miami as they spent more time preparing for the Steelers on the short week, and I don’t blame them.

Hi Greg, this is great that you and DK are doing this. Thanks for being part of it. My question; over the years with a few exceptions (Moss Gronk etc) the Patriots don’t seem to have any superstar weapons on their team. It seems they beat you with no names and athletes that aren’t as physically gifted. What’s the single greatest thing they do that allows them to consistently succeed as an offense and team with such players?

You mean outside of Brady, I’m guessing. First of all, it’s the consistency of the system. The Patriots have had the same playbook (with additions) since 2000. They aren’t one of these teams, like the Steelers, that have to change everything when then bring in a new OC. That’s a huge advantage. The other thing is they gameplan for each opponent and target the weaknesses. They don’t just do what they do. Lastly, there’s are so many option, choice and other passing routes that adjust to the coverage that the Patriots should rarely be wrong when they run a route. But that also makes it very complex and not everyone can execute it.

Greg What is your prediction for the Game on Sunday.

I haven’t decided yet. You’ll see it Sunday morning.

First off, I love the article sharing between your site and DK’s. It really adds a new level to my understanding of the game at hand. Thanks for participating. On to my question. What are the Patriot’s fans’ and players’ view of the Steelers, for this game in particular but for the franchise overall. This game has been at the back and front of, many minds here since the AFC Championship game last year. There’s a really strong, um, inferiority complex in Steeler fandom about the Steelers chances against the Patriots and that’s been the case for years. What’s the Patriot fanbase opinion of the rivalry, if they consider it one. And the players’ view of the Steelers and this game.

It’s been a lot of fun sharing stuff this week. Hopefully we get another chance for keeps down the line.

I think everyone respects the uniform, the fans and the Rooneys. There’s just a lack of respect for Tomlin and his coordinators. Outside of the 2011 regular-season game, they’ve never come with anything different. You have to surprise the Patriots. If you run what you’ve shown on film, you’re going to have a hard time beating the Patriots. So Patriots fans view Tomlin as talking a good game, but no substance. Time for him to back it up. He has the more talented team this time. He should win and go to a Super Bowl. But does anyone outside of Pittsburgh have confidence he will? No.

Do you think Dombrowski has any interest in Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, or Josh Harrison?

If so, what trade chips do you think Dombrowski would reasonably offer?

(asking for a friend)

Lol … good question but that’s not my area of expertise. The Sox need a big bat. Have one?

Hey Greg,

My question is how long do you think Brady can continue to play at an elite level? Especially in light of Eli being benched and questions here about Ben earlier in the year.

He’s a cyborg. 2-3 more years beyond this one. He takes care of himself a lot better than Eli and Ben do. He never, ever stops. Ever.

Sometimes it seems like the Steelers are in the Bengals’ heads because of the Steelers ability to always get the best of them. Is there any sense from the Patriot players that they may be in the Steelers players’ heads?

No, they don’t think that way. Belichick doesn’t let them.

Greg- thanks for chiming in today. I love that you are having success with this model of journalism! How has the Patriots sustained this level of excellence for so long and how hasn’t the rest of the league figured out their recipe for success? The simple answer is that Brady and Bellichek are the best at what they do. Is that just it or is there something else that the rest of the football world is missing?

Touched on this earlier, but one of the biggest reasons is that they have run the same defense and offense, essentially, for 17 years. That means they also pick the same players year after year. There’s no adjusting your personnel to fit a new coordinator. There are not install days wasted on a new scheme. They start way ahead from everyone else.

I learned this when I covered Nick Saban with the Dolphins. He was going to do the same thing if he stayed. When Scott Linehan left as OC after the first season, they kept it as the Dolphins’ offensive playbook. They were going to continue that. It’s absolutely huge.

What’s your opinion of the Patriots defense? They gave up a lot of points early in the season, but seem to have settled down recently. Did anything change or are they just doing a better job of not breaking after bending?

Good luck with BSJ – it’s the only Boston sports team I’m rooting for!

They’re just executing a lot better. Take care of Trey Flowers, and they have next to no pass rush. The secondary is pretty good, but Butler is becoming more undisciplined by the day and it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s benched for this game. The Steelers’ offensive line should dominate this game.

Whatever became of Ernie Adams and Matt Walsh?

Ernie’s still Bill’s righthand man. Walsh I think is in Hawaii.

Greg, I can compare Tom Brady to one athlete that I have seen play, that is Michael Jordan. They both have the IT factor. No other athlete compares to their desire to WIN!! My question is this, does Brady bring that same level of desire/will to win to all games or does he really ramp it up for the big/primetime games and of course the playoffs?

Oh no, he brings it ALL THE TIME. it is the secret of his success. He never stops. Bill O’Brien once told me that he got a call from a Costa Rica number in March. It was Brady, when most of the NFL is getting fat on a beach. Brady was on a beach, but he was watching film. He wanted to change the practice script for OTAs so they could work on something he thought was off the season before. Is Roethlisberger doing that? Is any other QB doing that? I highly doubt it.

Was the Monday night Miami debacle a sign of true Patriots weaknesses for the Steelers to exploit even more tomorrow, or was it just an aberration (“they never play well in Miami”) and the patriots will be back to being the patriots this week? I personally think Brady and NE’s offense will bounce back because our defense is so banged up without Shazier and Haden, but cutler carving up the pats defense along with Drake running all over them, in addition to all their personnel being banged up in practice this week, has me thinking Steelers offense with the killer Bs might put 40+ points on them and it’ll be a shootout. Thoughts/predictions?

It’s a sign of weakness if they lose Gronk for any stretch. This is where they are if they have no Gronk or Edelman. The can lose one (Gronk last year, Edelman this year) and still win a Super Bowl, but not both. If the offense can’t execute for whatever reason, that Patriots defense will have a hard time. It needs the offense to get a lead, which they have done in almost every game, or the defense will get exposed.

Thanks for doing this Greg and best to you and your site!

 My question is does New England and their fans fear the Steelers at all? Or is this game something that they feel should win all the time?

Until Tomlin shows the ability to surprise the Patriots, nobody takes them seriously. All the teams that have had success against the Patriots: Rex Ryan, the Ravens, Giants, they all threw curve balls and spun the dial as far as pressures and coverage. Outside of 2011, Steelers have never done this. “We do what we do” is not good enough, and shows a lack of effort in coaching imo.

Who do you think could cause more problems for the Patriots O-line in pass protection, Watt against a back up RT, or Heyward/Tuitt against the interior line?

I don’t worry about Watt. Most of his pressure is a result of the work done by Heyward and Tuitt. I worry about the interior guys. Brady does not like pressure up the middle, and those two are as good as any I’ve watched this season. They’re awesome.

Greg, do you think Steve Addazio will stay at Boston College for the long haul? I believe his current deal runs through 2020.

 The Pinstripe Bowl matchup vs. Iowa should be a close contest.

Hmmm. good question. I think he’ll probably get plucked for a better job once he completes the turnaround at BC, which is starting to happen.

Hi Greg,

How many more years do you give Brady and or Belichick? Also, why doesn’t Belichick just answer the simplest questions the media asks him? Scott Van Pelt mentioned this after the press conference last Monday night. Thanks!

I think 3 for Brady and 5 more for Belichick. I think he wants to leave it a good situation, especially with the QB.

I don’t know … it’s just the way it is. He just has a disdain for doing anything mandated by the NFL. He just wants to coach and be done with it, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

Greg! Hope you feel better for the game!

What, if any, credit do you give to the media gamesmanship that these two HC’s appear to be utilizing to keep each other spread out in preparation? Do you even think they could be manipulating their Injury report seriousness to try and set the other coach up? Does this happen?

Three questions but they can be answered together my friend. Great work out there in Boston.

Hey, thanks PeeBee … you know, I haven’t noticed much gamesmanship this week. But I will leave you with this thought that I had: if you’re the Steelers and you gameplanned for this matchup in the offseason, would you unleash everything in this game, or perhaps hold it for the playoffs? Worked for the Jets (by accident thanks to a late-week injury to Jim Leonhard) in 2010 when they lost 41-3 in Week 16, but won at NE three weeks later? Just a thought.

Thanks everyone, and thank you for supporting independent journalism! We literally couldn’t do this without you!

Have fun this weekend.