Patriots coach Bill Belichick could never be accused of looking past the Steelers. Or anyone else for that matter.
“The more I’ve watched the Steelers this week, the more impressed I am,” Belichick told reporters on Friday. “The way they play, they’re really well-coached, they’ve had so many end-of-the-game, end-of-the-half situations that they’re very productive and efficient with, and coach [Mike] Tomlin does a great job with the clock management, with the play selection — just doing the right plays in the right situations and executing them well.
“They’ve played well on defense, on offense and in the kicking game, made a lot of critical plays. They do a really good job in that area, and that’s translated into a number of wins for them. So, along with all the other things that they do well, that’s pretty impressive, too. You need to play a good, 60-minute, complete football game, all three phases, to be competitive with these guys. They’re good at everything.”
That’s the positive aspect of the Steelers playing down to the likes of the Titans (for more than half of the game), the Packers, the Bengals, and the Ravens; in three of those games, the Steelers have had to perfect the art of situational football, something in which Belichick takes pride.
So if/when the Patriots and Steelers are caught in a close game with five minutes or so to play, the Steelers will be less likely to freak out and/or to make bad decisions than if they’d been blowing teams out, week after week.
One thing they won’t have on Sunday is the extra focus and motivation that would come from being disrespected by the Patriots. But no team ever has that, because Belichick always ensures that no one on his team will allow that to happen.