FOXBORO - Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told media on Tuesday that his team will be clear on the importance of a Steelers-Patriots game by the time Wednesday ends.
"I am not going to assume that our guys understand the nature of this matchup and its history," said Tomlin with his characteristic intensity. "Many of our guys were not a part of this history when it started, because you are talking about 2001 and 2004. So its not similar (to the Ravens rivalry) in that way. We play Baltimore twice a year, sometimes three times a year over the last three to five years. So its different from that standpoint. I am not going to assume anything. I am going to educate our guys about this matchup and this football team because it is different in that way."
Much of the education, Tomlin explained, has to do with personnel. He alluded to the disuse of Chad Ochocinco, saying, "You would expect to see more of Chad Ochocinco with those guys, coming off of a bye week. Hes a top-quality guy. Hes capable of taking the top off of the coverage. Hes new to them. Under the circumstances of how the offseason unfolded, I am sure he had a productive week with those guys last week. We expect to see more of him than what weve seen on tape."
Tomlin also noted that turnovers won't fall to the Steelers like pennies from heaven as they did for the Buffalo Bills when they played the Patriots a few weeks back.
"They really dont turn the football over," said Tomlin. "There was a game a few weeks back with Buffalo, where they got their hands on some footballs but lets be honest, that probably happens once every five years. So we have about four years and nine months before we see that again. We are not anticipating Brady is going to throw us four footballs. We better be prepared to get off the field the hard way, and thats simply by stopping them. They do a great job, other than that Buffalo game, of taking care of the football."
Tomlin didn't attempt to candy-coat the Patriots' defensive realities, saying, "Defensively, theyve had troubles at times stopping people but they play great situational football. They are opportunistic. They are built to stop the run." And that has pretty much been the case.
Tomlin wasn't totally forthright in explaining why the Patriots have given up stupid amounts of yards when he said, "That is a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front. So if you come in and you think they are the 32nd best defense in football you are kidding yourself. They are whacking people pretty good. People are throwing the ball every down and they accumulate some yards, it is insignificant."
The Patriots' lead on Miami was 21-17 until 10 seconds remained in the third quarter. They did have a 10-point lead on San Diego through three quarters but the Chargers cut it to six early in the fourth. The Billserased a 21-point second-quarter deficit and narrowed the lead to 21-17 early in the third. The Patriots' lead over Oakland didn't get to seven pointsuntil halftime. The Jets only trailed 17-14 in the third quarter. Dallas trailed by double digits for just six minutes in the second quarter.
Teams throw and accumulate yards on the Patriots because they can, not because they're forced to.
That said, Tomlin did laud Jerod Mayo, saying,"We anticipate Jerod Mayo being back. He practiced last week. Hes a great player, not a good player. Hes arguably one of the top inside linebackers in the game of football. Hes accompanied by Brandon Spikes, a second-year man out of Florida. Hes quickly establishing himself as a run stopper. Hes distinguished himself really well, I think, in blitzes and getting on running backs. He utilizes his length when rushing the passer."
Meanwhile, the fact that this is the team holding the top seed in the AFC currently (New England) against the No. 2 seed is not something Tomlin wants to mull publicly.
"Its October," he explained."We are just trying to win week to week and keep pace with the elite and put ourselves in position to be considered in that conversation. Those things will sort themselves out. I truly believe that.
"We like to stay focused on things that are in our control and thats our preparation and ultimately our play this week," he added. "When you start talking about playoff seedings and things of that nature, particularly at this point in the season, you are scoreboard watching. Thats not going to be our bag. We are going to see enough quality teams over the rest of this season to deal with a lot of those things first hand and that is really how we prefer to look at it. We are all focused on what is ahead of us, of course this week, and thats that New England Patriots and rightfully so."