Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a well-known approach to defense. He takes away what the other team does best.
He seems to believe that approach won’t work against the Steelers.
“I think you have to look at the whole group,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday. “[Najee] Harris is a problem. Tight ends are a problem. Receivers are a problem. Athletic quarterback, he’s scrambled against us. He had a couple big scrambles against Cincinnati, not necessarily for long yardage, but to extend plays, get away from the blitz, things like that. It’s really everything. You can’t just go into this game and say we’re just going to shut down one guy. That’s simply not going to be the answer. [Diontae] Johnson’s an explosive player. [Chase] Claypool, big, fast, good with the ball in his hands. Obviously [Pat] Freiermuth. They use Gunner [Olszewski] in there. So they’ve got a bunch of guys that are explosive. The quarterback himself, you can’t let him run around. We saw him in Chicago do a number on us in the scramble. So we have to make sure we account for him, too.”
Belichick didn’t even mention rookie receiver George Pickens. He didn’t do much in his first game — but he was open for an 85-yard touchdown pass. (Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky seemed to overthrow him; Trubisky told reporters on Wednesday that he deliberately threw the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack and/or a potential turnover.)
In 2018 with the Bears, Trubisky had 81 yards on six attempts in a 38-31 loss to the Patriots. He also completed 33 of 50 passes for 333 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The crazy, back-and-forth game saw the Bears take a 17-7 lead, the Patriots go up 38-24, and the Bears storm back and nearly score a potential game-tying (or maybe, if they’d gone foe two, game-winning) touchdown via a Hail Mary that was completed one yard short of the end zone.
It would be great if Sunday’s game becomes a similar barnburner. The reality, as Belichick tells it, is that the Steelers quite likely will score their points, thanks to an array of weapons that can’t entirely be neutralized.
The question becomes whether the Brady-free Patriots can score enough points, a week after generating only seven.