Patriots players return to Gillette Stadium on Tuesday, but the coaching staff is already back to work after the bye week, and while continuing preparation for Pittsburgh, coach Bill Belichick said the Steelers "look good as usual" and use a lot of the same plays and schemes as last year when they were AFC Champions.
Also playing similarly to last year, according to the Patriots, is safety Troy Polamalu, who's the returning Defensive Player of the Year.
In a conference call on Monday, Belichick was asked about Polamalu, and the injuries he's had this season. But the Patriots coach doesn't believe he's struggled one bit.
"Wasn't he Defensive Player of the Year last year? It's not like he didn't do anything," said Belichick. "He's just one of the top defensive players in the league."
Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien agreed.
"You look at Troy Polamalu in his ninth year. The guy's playing as good as any safety in the league," said O'Brien on Monday's conference call. "You've got to know where this guy is, on every single play. He's a very instinctive player. He's a guy that can really disrupt the game, if you don't have knowledge of where he is on every play. He's playing really fast . . . He's one of many defenders on that defense that's going to be tough to go against. He's at the head of the class."
The Patriots also praised Pittsburgh's offense on Monday, and more specifically, wide receiver Mike Wallace.
"He's a big-play receiver," said Belichick. "He's really fast. There's no way you're going to catch him. So, you've got to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. But I think he's improved a lot from when we played him last year."
"He was big, and could always run in college," said Nick Caserio. "He's just become more consistent in all phases: route running, catching the ball, understanding coverages, just understanding how the defense is playing. And really, these last couple years, including this year, he's played at a very high level."