Patriots look to contain Roethlisberger

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Patriots look to contain Roethlisberger

FOXBORO The goal for dealing with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is pretty cut and dry.

Hit him hard.

A lot.

But Roethlisberger, all 6-foot-5, 241 pounds of him, is no easy take-down.

His size, strength and ability to throw on the road is challenging enough.

When you toss in the potential roughing the passer call, which seems to be happening more often these days throughout the NFL, containing a quarterback like Roethlisberger has the potential to put the most quarterback-hungry defender in a bit of a quandary.

"Sometimes it is; it's hard," said Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. "It's definitely hard, especially when you have a bigger quarterback. You have these big quarterbacks and they're not calling the play dead until they're on the ground sometimes."

Patriots defensive lineman Shaun Ellis acknowledges that the potential for roughing the passer is always present, regardless of how big a quarterback may be.

But, he added, it becomes a much larger issue when facing a quarterback like Roethlisberger.

"Ben is a big guy in the pocket," Ellis said. "He's elusive in the pocket -- not fast, but he's deceptive; he can get away from a lot of things."

While this is true, Roethlisberger has also taken his share of hits as well.

In fact, he has been sacked 20 times this season.

Only St. Louis' Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears have been sacked more than Roethlisberger this season.

Even with teams seemingly finding ways to put him on the ground, the Patriots are wise enough to know that he's still a dangerous threat, even when a defender seemingly has him wrapped up.

"You watch film and there are a lot of guys falling off him," Wilfork said. "There are a lot of guys that think they have him, but they don't have him, where at the last minute he flicks the ball. This is the only guy that you have him wrapped up and he can flick the ball 30 yards down the field."

"That's probably the worst thing about being on defense against them; when he scrambles around and start breaking tackles," said Pats cornerback Devin McCourty.

That's when Roethlisberger has the ability to inflict the most damage on a defense.

"With him, you have to get him to the ground and keep him there," McCourty said. "When you get him there, you don't worry about anything except for trying to get him down and holding on to him. He does it so easily, just swims people by with one hand. You can't worry about penalties and stuff like that. You just have to get him down."

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

Belichick asked if playing at home helps: 'Go ask Dallas and Kansas City'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick knows that how you play, not where, is what matters most. 

That's why when he was asked on Wednesday about the advantage the Patriots will have by playing at Gillette Stadium in the AFC title game, he wasn't willing to go all-in on how a comfortable environment will positively impact his team.

"I don’t know," he said. "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City."

The Patriots apparently thought enough of home-field advantage that they played their starters throughout their regular-season finale win in Miami, exposing their best players to potential injury in order to maintain their positive momentum while simultaneously ensuring a better road to the Super Bowl. 

The Patriots fans in attendance on Sunday will help when the Patriots take on the Steelers, Belichick acknowledged. But there's much more to it than that. 

"Yeah, of course," he said, "but the game is won by the players on the field. That’s who wins football games – the players. And they’ll decide it Sunday night."

And if you needed any further proof, just ask the Cowboys and Chiefs how helpful their home crowds were in the Divisional Round. 

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

Tomlin not letting up on Brown after ill-advised Facebook Live video

FOXBORO – Mike Tomlin didn’t sidestep questions related to Antonio Brown’s ill-advised locker room broadcast.

Instead, Tomlin actually seemed to up the ante during a conference call with New England media. Asked whether Brown seemed to get the message that Tomlin delivered and take it seriously, Tomlin said, “I think time always tells those stories.”

Tomlin easily could have used a “we’re moving on” message or talked about how Brown simply made a youthful mistake but he opted not to. Which isn’t surprising.

The number one criticism of Tomlin is that the Steelers head coach runs a loose ship and that the lack of discipline and accountability is a big issue.

Seeing Brown run a live broadcast from the locker room while Tomlin’s trying to make a point doesn’t just keep that perception afloat, it advances it to a place it’s never been.

It’s not a stretch to say that Brown’s actions imperiled Tomlin’s reputation. There’s no wonder he isn’t willing to let Brown off the hook.

Brown addressed the controversy on Wednesday saying, “I absolutely regret the Facebook Live situation. It’s a total distraction to the organization. A total distraction to my teammates. Obviously disrespect to my coach. I’ve got utmost respect to my coach so I totally regret that.”

Tomlin on Tuesday went as far as to suggest other players doing team-distracting things like Brown wind up getting passed around the league despite their great talent. “That's often why you see great players move from team to team,” said Tomlin. “Don't want that to happen to Antonio Brown.

Tomlin expressed embarrassment that the language he used in the postgame in the privacy of his locker room was served up for public consumption.

“As a parent, I’m not into public displays of that type of language so I was more embarrassed about that aspect of it not necessarily the content or the message of the video,” said Tomlin.

As to referring to the Patriots as “those a*******,” Tomlin said, “Man, you could have applied that sentiment to any opponent. You could have made that tape two weeks earlier and applied it to that opponent. It’s not about the nameless great faces that we play, it’s about our overall preparation and that was the sentiment of the message that I was sending to the guys not necessarily about the New England Patriots, they just happened to be who we’re playing this week.”

Tomlin also addressed the time element he referenced in his postgame speech when he said the Patriots had a day-and-a-half head start on his team. 

“I was just trying to instill a sense of urgency in our group regarding preparation and I wanted them to understand that we didn’t have a lot of time to pat ourselves on the back based on the performance of the last game,” he explained. “That we needed to transition and transition quickly and start the preparation, whether it was actual preparation or just from a mentality standpoint.”

Because of Brown’s decision, it’s probably been a lot harder to make that transition than Tomlin ever hoped.