In an effort to get past the Patriots, who are closing in on matching Pittsburgh’s six Super Bowl wins, the Steelers are planning to play more man-to-man coverage against the New England offense. And the Patriots are planning to try to beat man-to-man coverage more efficiently in 2017.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald explains the effort to perform more effectively man coverage, which gave the Patriots fits (relatively speaking) when implemented by the Texans and Falcons during the 2016 postseason.
For starters, tight end Rob Gronkowski is back. And if he stays healthy, man-to-man coverage won’t work against him, unless at least two men are assigned to cover Gronk. The Patriots have been working beyond their best tight end to add players who can get back man-to-man coverage.
“I think we have a lot of players now that are good at working against man coverage,” receiver Danny Amendola said recently, per Guregian. “We’re getting a lot of work in now, working against man-coverage. I can’t speak on the past, but we have a lot of good guys. I think we have a lot of good guys who work well against zone, or man. We have some good combinations to beat [those coverages], and we’re working every day to beat them.”
It’s part of the chess match that unfolds in a game often premised on brute force. The Steelers, who saw the talent gap between themselves and the Patriots expand during the offseason, need to have a strategy for slowing them down defensively, and outscoring them offensively.
The reunion comes on December 17, when the Patriots visit Pittsburgh — and when the Steelers have a chance to improve their record against Tom Brady to 3-10. Then comes a potential rematch in the playoffs, where the Brady-Belichick Patriots are 3-0 against Pittsburgh.