When Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been healthy during his career, attempts to stop him by opposing defenses have generally ranged from futile to laughable.
The Steelers are hoping to change that on Thursday night when they open their season against the Patriots in New England and they feel like they have the right plan to make it happen. While their opponents would almost certainly keep such plans to themselves, the Steelers aren’t being shy about sharing that plan days ahead of kickoff.
Safety Mike Mitchell says that Gronkowski is successful “when people don’t put their hands on him” and linebacker Ryan Shazier said that the Steelers don’t plan on giving him that kind of welcome to the 2015 season.
“You just have to jam him up a little bit, mess with his timing,” Shazier said, via ESPN.com. “If you mess up their timing, they are really time-oriented. You have to mess up their timing and get in his face with pressure, then I feel we can slow him down a little bit.”
The Patriots will play without wide receiver Brandon LaFell on Thursday, which gives the Steelers fewer options to concentrate on defensively. That said, the Steelers’ plan would fall into the “easier said than done” column even if there weren’t already major questions about the Pittsburgh’s defense’s ability to stop players far less accomplished than Gronkowski.