FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was in a good mood when he met the media Wednesday morning.
"Feels like we're back in the division here," he began. "It was kind of unusual to not have Pittsburgh on the schedule last year. But it looks pretty familiar."
After a few more opening remarks about New England's Week 9 matchup with the struggling Steelers, the coach took questions about recently acquired defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga. The Patriots traded a fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for Sopoaga and a sixth-rounder.
"He's basically played defensive tackle and nose tackle throughout his career. He's a strong guy, physical guy," Belichick explained. "I don't think he's an edge rusher."
A trade deadline move to shore up the middle of the defense only makes sense in light of season-ending injuries to Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, and the prolonged absence of Tommy Kelly.
The attention turned back to the Steelers. Safety Troy Polamalu, in his 11th NFL season, is still garnering a lot of attention on the other side of the ball.
"He's a very instinctive player," Belichick noted. "You can say he's guessing, taking chances, but I would say he's right most of the time. Most of the time, he makes the right decision. Whether those plays are call blitzes or he blitzes on his own, I don't know exactly how they do it, but there's times you look and say that's not where he's supposed to be, but where he is is the right place to be."
Pittsburgh's 2-5 record is hardly intimidating. But Belichick pointed out how the team flashed toughness in wins over Baltimore and the Jets, and believes the losses are due to a few plays rather than abounding weaknesses.
Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor had one of those game-changers last week. Starting the game on its own 7-yard line, Oakland was expected to run. Pittsburgh certainly didn't expect Pryor to take the first play from scrimmage 93 yards downfield for a touchdown, however.
"That's a huge play in the game. I'm sure the Steelers are saying, 'If we don't give that one up, then we've probably got a lot better chance to win.'
"It's sometimes just one of those things. That was a huge play," Belichick shrugged. Then, after a pause: "I'm sure they're not worried about us doing that. Even after Tom's fourth-down run."
Belichick smiled to recall his own quarterback's Sunday scramble. Brady went for it in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-4. He gained a huge eight yards, though per usual, no one would say it was graceful.
"I mean, that was a heck of a run. He ran, cut back, broke a tackle. It looked like he was going to slide, but it looked like he wasn't sure he got the first down, so he decided not to slide.
"Tom doesn't run often, but I'll say one thing, when he decides to run and picks his spots, usually he does the right thing. It certainly catches the defense and our coaching staff by surprise when he does that," Belichick laughed.