Silvestro taking position change in stride


Silvestro taking position change in stride

FOXBORO -- Alex Silvestro, defensive end, got the call about his position change in the offseason. After the shock wore off, he figured he should get to work.

"Okay," he had said to himself. "Now I gotta work on tight end things."

Easy, right?

Not even close.

Silvestro last played offense while at Paulsboro High School in New Jersey. Though to recall the fact is almost unfair -- it's not like that experience gave the now 23-year-old any advantage in the NFL.

"It's completely different," he laughed. "That's the thing. I think of things I did in high school and it's just nowhere near this. It's high school!

"I guess you could say I felt like I was starting over. I felt like a rookie again. I came in, tried to learn the system, took the best notes possible, listened to my coach and tried to learn everything he was trying to teach me to do the best I can on the field."

It is, after all, his best shot at making the team.

Silvestro went through Patriots training camp last season at defensive end but got cut. Since then he's been inching his way toward another shot.

New England signed him to the practice squad a few weeks after camp, and he was brought up to the 53-man roster during the week of the Super Bowl. At the time, it was thought Silvestro could add D-line depth in Andre Carter's absence so the Patriots could keep fresh pressure against Eli Manning all night.

But in light of Monday's comments from Nick Caserio's, Silvestro could have provided insurance for someone else. The injured Rob Gronkowski, perhaps?

"Alex worked on both sides of the ball in practice on our practice squad," Caserio explained.

"He was a defensive player but he's tough, he's smart, he's got good size, he's got good playing strength. He actually did a pretty good job for us last year in practice on the scout teams in the tight end role so we thought that it was something that he'd be able to handle."

Though he may be handling the concept, Silvestro still has a long way to go on the field. When asked what the biggest challenge is to the transition, he heaved a sigh, shook his head, and was silent for several moments.

"Honestly, just everything."

Caserio and the rest of the coaching staff knows its a tall order.

"There's so much that goes into that position blocking, receiving, catching, splits, alignments, blocking a certain technique, whether it's a six-technique, whether it's a seven-technique, whether it's a nine-technique," Caserio said. "But you just try to establish your foundation through the spring in training camp and work on those techniques in a real live setting, whether it's in practice or whether it's in the game."

Silvestro went back to Rutgers this offseason and worked out with a group of players there. He practiced 1-on-1s, talked to linemen about blocking, and asked for pointers on technique.

After returning to Foxboro, he met with tight ends coach George Godsey whenever he had questions. Silvestro said he had "tons" of them.

He's committed to not making the same mistakes again and again. And some strides have been taken. Monday was one of his best days of practice. His hands look softer. His routes look a little crisper. Silvestro has made a couple of excellent catches recently, with quarterback Tom Brady getting so excited after a connection Sunday, he pulled his new tight end in a quick hug back at the line.

The focus isn't on a perceived inadequacy or failure at defensive end. Caserio said coaches felt the position change was best for both the player and the team, and Silvestro is okay with that.

"How I took it was just an opportunity. The more I can do, the more valuable I am to the team. Anything that can help us win."

Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett


Steelers know they'll have their hands full with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett

PITTSBURGH – So far this season, Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski have combined for 39 catches, 644 yards and five touchdowns. Making the numbers that much more impressive is the fact the numbers were rolled up with Gronk inactive for two games and fairly useless in another thanks to his hamstring injury.

Will the Steelers slow the roll of Robellus Grennetski?

Hard to imagine. As Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, Gronk alone has tuned up the Steelers with 26 receptions for 403 yards and seven touchdowns in six meetings.

Fittipaldo explored the strategies the Steelers defense may unveil Sunday afternoon when the Patriots and Steelers get going. He also pointed out that the return of linebacker Ryan Shazier after a three week layoff and injuries for safeties Mike Mitchell and Robert Golden may put Pittsburgh at a disadvantage.

Said Shazier: “They have the tandem they want at tight end. Now they can use tight ends the way they want. You have to respect everyone on the field. Both of them are good blockers, good pass threats and great at running after the catch.”

Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler said Pittsburgh will alter its approaches.

“We have to be able to play more than one defense,” Butler said. “They’re very good and they’ll pick you apart if they can figure out what you’re doing. We just have to execute the defense more than anything else. If we can do that … that’s been our problem for the most part. Some of the things that went on last week, we missed some things we should have made mentally.”

What “went on last week” was a 30-15 loss to the Dolphins.

Pittsburgh hasn’t been a big-play group so far -- eight sacks and three picks -- nor have they seen a gauntlet of great quarterbacks in the first six games. 

Interestingly, their losses have been to Ryan Tannehill and rookie Carson Wentz, probably the two quarterbacks one would figure Pittsburgh would do best against.
Between a smoking hot Brady and a can’t-be-stopped tight end tandem, there’s probably not a lot Pittsburgh can do aside from hoping for an off day.

Said linebacker Arthur Moats hopefully: “You have to continue to mix it up against (Gronkowski). You can’t give him the same look over and over. He has success on guys like that. If we disrupt him, and rush Brady and speed up his clock, I definitely think that will help out.”

In theory, perhaps. In practice? We’ll see.

Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers


Game notes: Patriots vs. Steelers

A quick look at the information you need to know about today's Patriots-Steelers game:

TEAM RECORDS: Patriots 5-1, Steelers 4- 2

GAME TIME: 4:25 p.m. EST


TV ANNOUNCERS: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Tracy Wolfson


NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Larry Kahn, Mark Carrier and Troy West

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak


LAST MEETING: Patriots 28, Steelers 21 on Sept. 10, 2015 at Gillette Stadium

* * * *
-- The Patriots are 8-11 against the Steelers in Pittsburgh in their history, but are 4-2 at Heinz Field. Included in those four Heinz Field victories are two in AFC Championship Games (in the 2001 and 2004 seasons).

-- Tom Brady is 8-2 against the Steelers in his career.

-- The last time Brady played the Steelers, in 2015, he set a Patriots franchise record with 19 consecutive pass completions.

-- The Patriots are 108-70 (.607) in road games since 1994, the best record in the NFL over that span. The Steelers (97- 82, .542) are second.

-- The Patriots have yet to throw an interception in 2016, setting a team record for consecutive games without an interception at the start of a season (6). The NFL record for consecutive games at the start of a season without a pick is 9, set by the 1960 Browns. The Patriots' franchise record for overall consecutive games with no interceptions is 8, set in 2010.

* * * *
-- Rob Gronkowski has 67 overall touchdowns and needs one to tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 66 receiving touchdowns and needs one to tie Morgan (67) for the franchise record.

-- Gronkowski has 22 100-yard receiving games, including two in 2016, and is tied with Jackie Smith for the third-most among all NFL tight ends. The only TEs who have more are Kellen Winslow (24) and Tony Gonzalez (31).