What the Steelers are saying before their momentous matchup with the Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin takes questions during the post-game news conference in November.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin takes questions during the post-game news conference in November. –AP

The Patriots face the Steelers on Sunday afternoon in what is one of the most anticipated regular season games of the 2017 season.

The winner of the matchup will put themselves in control of the AFC’s top playoff spot, and home field advantage for a possible postseason rematch. The Patriots have held the upper hand on the Steelers during the Brady-Belichick era, but the Steelers are in the midst of an eight-game winning streak.

Here’s what the Steelers had to say prior to the matchup in Pittsburgh:

Mike Tomlin

On the Patriots this season in general:

They’re an elite group. They need no endorsement from me there. They’re in the thick of things as usual. It starts obviously with their leadership – Coach [Bill] Belichick, Tom Brady. They’ve got great continuity from the top down. I think it shows that they’ve got a winning approach. It’s going to be a good football game.

On Rob Gronkowski’s absence in Miami and expected return in Pittsburgh:

Gronk is not only one of the most dynamic tight ends but just one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Obviously his absence is a significant one and his presence is a significant one.

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On the Patriots-Steelers rivalry:

It’s an awesome thing to be a part of. Not something that I or we take for granted. To be in significant games is just part of chasing what it is that we’re chasing and to have a routine dance partner that just speaks to their commitment and achievements in similar ways. We’re excited to be a part of it. We don’t take it for granted. We realize that these type games are just part of what we desire to be.

On the Patriots’ defense:

They’ve got continuity on that side of the ball too. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that. Guys like [Devin] McCourty and Malcolm Butler, man, they’ve been there and extended period of time now, [Patrick] Chung. It shows and shows up big in those moments, those possession down moments, those red zone moments. They’ve got great continuity, in particular on the back end, and that’s what makes them formidable.

On if he’s had trouble keeping up with the ever-evolving Patriots defensive line due to injuries:

No, because we haven’t followed it continuously. Really we’re just focused on them this week and what’s going on. So I haven’t followed that acquisition that you speak of. We’re just simply looking at what’s on tape and the guys that are playing for them and performing for them right now.

Le’Veon Bell

On his injury last year, and possible redemption this season:

I just felt like I missed a opportunity to get to a Super Bowl. When this year came around, we saw the schedules and everything, I knew had another opportunity if I was being healthy and playing the Pats again. It’s good. The opportunity is here.

On the heightened circumstances of the matchup vs. the Patriots:

This is the game everyone has been waiting to see. It’s the No. 1 and 2 teams in the AFC going at it head-to-head. This is obviously a game that a lot of people, even before the season started, probably circled on their calendars. I’ll definitely embrace the game. The Patriots are the team that’s always in the hunt for the Super Bowl.

On how he thinks the game vs. the Patriots will go:

I think it’s gonna be more so of whoever executes better. They got players who can make plays. We have players who can make plays. It depends on who makes the plays and when they make them.

I want to make sure I’m the guy always making a play when the opportunity presents itself.

Cameron Heyward

On the importance of the Patriots matchup:

Yeah, I think both teams have had successful years. They’re a good team and we’re a good team. This could be potentially for the No. 1 seed. There’s still a lot of football to be played but it could potentially be a big game for us.

On facing Tom Brady and his recent performances:

Tom is a heck of a quarterback. He’s going to study himself and understand what mistakes he made. It doesn’t make him any less difficult to play but you’ve got to look at those games and say ‘what didn’t he do right?’ They got pressure on him, had him force some passes and those are things we want to do as a defense. Then you just have to be physical at the line of scrimmage and you’ve got to be disruptive.

On who Dion Lewis reminds him of and the Patriots’ running backs:

It’s hard to say who he reminds me of because I think he’s successful in so many different ways. He’s got a little bit of Ray Rice in him where in the fact that he may be small in stature but plays very big in his role. He’s able to fall forward as a running back and that’s always good and he’s able to catch out of the backfield too. He’s become a good target for [Tom] Brady. I think Dion Lewis, he’s an every down back and he’s showing it but they also do have a myriad of backs that do some really good things – [Rex] Burkhead and James White. They’re doing pretty well.

Ben Roethlisberger

On what he expects from Tom Brady:

I do not expect a bad day [by Brady] this Sunday.

On how he feels about matching up against Brady:

I don’t actually go against him, but I’m leading an offense and he’s leading an offense so, yeah, of course, I want my offense to outperform his offense. But it’s just all about winning. I’m sure he’ll say the same thing. If I have the worst game ever and horrible stats and we win the game, you know me well enough, that’s all that really matters.

On Brady’s ability and the stability of the Patriots:

I think he’s supremely talented. His preparation is second to none. His ability to see a football field is second to none. I think it also helps to have stability. Having just one coach, that stability really goes a long way. When you understand a system as long as he has and I have, you’re able to really kind of make it yours. I just think having all those things combined are just a few of the reasons that make him the greatest.

On his friendship with Brady:

Yeah, I got [the jersey]. He personalized it and signed it. I can’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something like, ‘To Ben, a great friend and a great competitor. With a lot of respect … ’

That’s really cool. Coming from a guy like that, it means a lot.

On what he expects from the Patriots:

We’re going to be prepared for the very best New England Patriots, I can promise you that.

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