We’re inching closer to the battle for AFC supremacy, as the Patriots will head to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers Sunday at 4:25 p.m. The winner will have the inside track to the No. 1 seed in the conference and home-field throughout the playoffs.
So to keep you up to speed on the latest storylines from the Pittsburgh side, we’ve partnered with our colleagues at the Post-Gazette to bring you excerpts of their coverage with links to the full versions. (Note: A limited number of free article views are available on the Post-Gazette website, and a four-week subscription is $12).
Here’s Wednesday’s installment:
Fresh off suspension, JuJu Smith-Schuster vows to keep playing physical
By Ray Fittipaldo
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who was suspended for an illegal block that concussed Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict, vowed Wednesday morning not change the way he plays the game.
“I’m still playing physical,’’ Smith-Schuster said. “That’s not going to stop my game. That’s how I’ve always been since I was a kid. Moving forward, I’m still going to make those blocks. Yes, I’m going to be more careful. I’m going to aim for the shoulder and lower and just be more protective of the game.
“I don’t want to be conservative. I’m still going to play the way I play. I’m pretty sure they want me to be physical and stay that way and keep playing the way I play. “At the end of the day it is what it is. On my end, I felt like it was a good hit. At the same time, the taunting is not me. The taunting is part of it.’’
You can expect Tom Brady’s best against the Steelers
By Ron Cook
The better quarterback on the field Monday night in Miami wasn’t Tom Brady. It was Jay Cutler.
Think about that.
Not five-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady. Coach-killer, coordinator-killer Jay Cutler.
Still hard to believe, isn’t it?
“I do not expect a bad day [by Brady] this Sunday,’’ Ben Roethlisberger was saying Tuesday.
“We’re going to be prepared for the very best New England Patriots, I can promise you that.’’
Make no mistake, Ben Roethlisberger is the ticket to ring No. 7
By Joe Starkey
Steelers third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs is a pretty cerebral guy. He owns an aerospace engineering degree (with a minor in business) and has worked on advanced engines for fighter jets.
He is literally a rocket scientist.
So it was with intense interest Wednesday that I listened to Dobbs analyze Ben Roethlisberger’s ablation of the Baltimore Ravens.
Turns out Roethlisberger might have even more control of this offense than previously thought.
Mike Tomlin on the Patriots showdown: ‘This is what we’ve been fighting for since March’
By Ed Bouchette
Mike Tomlin was pumped for the New England Patriots three weeks ago. Now that everyone else also is talking about the game Sunday at Heinz Field, he has embraced the game the way he wishes some of his defenders would ballcarriers.
“Man, I love it,’’ he responded when asked about the hype around what is being called the biggest game in the NFL in 2017. “It’s good to be in big games. It’s better to be in big games than ones nobody is watching, you know?
“We better be appreciative of this spot and not resist it in any way but embrace it. Because this is what we’ve been fighting for since March.’’
There’s no reason to play down Patriots (10-3) vs. Steelers (11-2). Not the slightest shine was removed from the matchup after New England lost Monday night at Miami. The winner Sunday of the 4:25 p.m. game at Heinz Field still gets the inside track to the No. 1 playoff seed in the AFC and all the rewards that go with that — bye the first week, then one playoff game followed by the AFC championship at home. It’s the most reliable route to a Super Bowl berth.