New England Patriots: Pittsburgh Steelers

Emmanuel Sanders decision revisited

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
10:40
AM ET
INDIANAPOLIS -- During the 2013 NFL offseason, the Patriots inked Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, a restricted free agent at the time, to a one-year, $2.5 million offer sheet.

The Steelers had the opportunity to match the contract or receive the Patriots' third-round pick. Ultimately, they chose the former and kept Sanders.

Sanders
On Thursday morning, we asked Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert to take a look back on the decision to match the deal for Sanders with a one-year snapshot to evaluate.

"I think any decision you look back on, you start with where we were," he said. "We finished 8-8. In my opinion, none of the decisions were good enough because we weren't in the playoffs."

While Pittsburgh fell short of expectations as a team, Sanders set career highs in catches (67), yards (740) and touchdowns (six).

"Emmanuel came back and had a nice year for us, and we were happy to have him, and where he goes in free agency and what his market is, we don't know at this point, but he certainly performed for us last year," Colbert said. "And we'll see where it is in the future."

The 26-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the new league year, and while the Patriots have business to take care of with one of their free-agent wide receivers in Julian Edelman, Sanders could reappear on their radar given the interest last offseason.

Live blog: Steelers at Patriots

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
2:30
PM ET
Join our ESPN.com NFL experts as they break down the Pittsburgh Steelers' visit to the New England Patriots. Contribute your thoughts and questions beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET. And, be sure to visit our NFL Nation Blitz page for commentary from every game, as well as fan photos and the latest buzz from Twitter. See you there.

Wilfork: Game plan let us be aggressive

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
5:41
PM ET
During his weekly interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday, New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork made some interesting comments on the physical play of the defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

"I totally 110 percent agree [that this was our most physical performance of the season], because the calls we had in allowed us to be aggressive,” Wilfork said. "From the coaches to the players, we never second-guessed out there when we made a call. When a call got sent in, it was just, everybody was so tuned in and knew exactly what they needed to do and it allowed us to play aggressive and hard.

"And you know what? When we play like that, and when we play consistent football, we play great. It's the times when we don't play consistent, it hurts. Last night was a great example of us all being on the same tune, jelling together, and going out there and being physical, especially up front. Both our offensive and defensive lines handled their front pretty well."

Wilfork credited the game plan for allowing the defense, which sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times, to be physical and aggressive.

"When we got this game plan, it was like, 'Man, I love it. I love it,'" Wilfork said. "Like I said, it allowed us to play physical and play aggressive. And that's how we played."

In a light moment, Wilfork discussed the possibility of racing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which is something the two exchanged jabs about earlier this season.

"I told Brady in the offseason that we'll get 'er done," Wilfork said. "You know what we're going to do? We're going to run for charity, that's what we're going to do. I'm going to talk to Mr. Kraft and we're going to go into Foxborough, go into the stadium, get your popcorn, ice cream, or whatever and we're going to race. ... We'll have everybody there. WEEI's going to be there, ESPN's going to be there, everybody is going to be there to witness this."

When pressed about the length of the race, the 6-foor-2, 325-pound Wilfork stressed that the best distance for him would be 40 yards.
"The race is going to be 40 [yards]. Anything shorter, he definitely won't win. Anything under 40, he will not win. I guarantee that one. The longer it goes, the advantage goes to him. Look here, anything after 40 yards, I don't need to be running that. I'll tell you that right now. But anything under 40 yards, he's in trouble."

Video: Belichick, Brady talk about the win

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
2:20
AM ET
In the video below, Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady recap New England’s victory over the Steelers on Sunday night:


Video: Brady, Gronk, defense stand out

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
2:11
AM ET


In the video above, ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss runs down the top 5 storylines from the Patriots’ impressive victory over the Steelers on Sunday night:

1. Tom Brady: 350 yards passing and an emotional leader on and off the field.
2. Rob Gronkowski: Rookie tight end bounces back.
3. Defense: Bend but don't break style returns, plus an interception for a touchdown.
4. Bill Belichick: Ties Paul Brown, his idol, for 11th all-time in wins.
5. Players banding together: Logan Mankins lets Steelers know they can't do whatever they want to Tom Brady at the bottom of a pile.

Michael Smith: Pats D took it to Steelers

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
2:03
AM ET


In the video above, ESPN’s Michael Smith says the difference for the Patriots on Sunday against the Steelers was that they were the aggressors on defense.

Inside the numbers: Patriots-Steelers

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
1:43
AM ET

Pats’ Defense Switches Gears, Brings DB Heat


Coming into Sunday, the Patriots had sent secondary pass rushers on only 7.2 percent of the total dropbacks against them this season. However, the Patriots sent secondary pressure on 27.3 percent of Ben Roethlisberger’s dropbacks Sunday, their highest percentage of the season. New England blitzed one or more defensive backs on 15 of Roethlisberger’s 55 dropbacks, more than their next three highest single-game totals combined (14).

Big Day for Gronk


A week after Patriots rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski fumbled on the goal line in the Patriot’s loss to the Browns, Gronkowski posted his best game as a professional. With Aaron Hernandez and Alge Crumpler combining for 1 catch and 4 yards, it was Gronkowski who did major damage out of 2-tight end formations.

New England Keeps Big Ben on the Move


Pittsburgh’s offensive line had major issues keeping New England’s pass rushers out of the backfield, leading to Ben Roethlisberger accumulating a season-high 14 attempts outside the pocket Sunday at Heinz Field. No other quarterback had attempted more than 11 passes outside the pocket this season.

Conservative Steelers’ Defense Picked Apart


The Steelers sent 4 or fewer pass rushers after Tom Brady on 76.7 percent of his total attempts on Sunday. The Steelers were more conservative than their 71.2 percent season average, but their inability to pressure Brady with a standard four-man rush gave the Patriots quarterback too much time.

-- compiled by John Parolin and Trevor Ebaugh

Wilfork: 'We prepared well' for Steelers

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
1:24
AM ET


In the video above, Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork discusses the defense’s bounce-back effort against the Steelers on Sunday night.

“Especially coming off an embarrassing loss as a defensive unit, we just wanted this game to hurry up and get here,” Wilfork said. “... I think everybody did a good job of coming to work, putting the Cleveland game behind us and focusing on the Steelers football team. We did well. We prepared well. ... We were just eager to get to this game and get this game started, just to get the bad taste from the Cleveland game out of our mouth.”

Dilfer impressed by Brady's performace

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
1:10
AM ET


In the video above, ESPN analyst -- and former NFL quarterback -- Trent Dilfer discussed the performance of Tom Brady, who went 30-of-43 for 350 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions against the Steelers on Sunday night.

“Tom Brady was flat-out the best player on the football field [against Pittsburgh],” Dilfer said. “He surgically dissected the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, which is very hard to do. On a night that was the biggest game for both teams so far this season, Tom Brady proved once again to be the best player on the football field and the difference in the game.”

Brady: Emotion 'keeps me focused'

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
12:11
AM ET
As he was coming off the field following the Patriots’ 39-26 victory over the Steelers tonight, quarterback Tom Brady was stopped by NBC’s Andrea Kramer for a quick interview. Here are a couple of comments from Brady, who also managed to throw in a “Hi mom” at the end of the interview:

* On the play of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who scored three touchdowns:

“[Gronkowski] played a great game. I know it was a tough one for him last week [against the Browns], and he came back and really showed what he’s all about. A great performance by him, by all the tight ends, by all the receivers, by the whole offense, by the whole defense. It was definitely a team win.”

* On why he showed so much emotion throughout the game:

“I’m always emotional. Probably too emotional. It gets me going, it keeps me focused. There’s only one way to play this game: With emotion.”

Hammerin' Hank's Patriots-Steelers pick

November, 14, 2010
11/14/10
11:49
AM ET
While virtually every ESPN pundit picked the Steelers to beat the Patriots on Sunday night, prognosticator Hank Goldberg has a little more confidence in New England. Check out the video below for his pick.

ESPN's Pats-Steelers prediction roundup

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
11:30
AM ET
Earlier this season, Bill Belichick used one publication’s expert picks to motivate his team after every analyst predicted the Patriots would lose. The result? A blowout 41-14 victory over the Dolphins.

If that perceived disrespect indeed inspired his troops, Belichick would be wise to print out this roundup below, as all but one ESPN expert -- Ron Jaworski -- pick the Steelers to beat his Patriots on Sunday night at Heinz Field. Here’s a look at all of the predictions:

* ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss: Steelers 20, Patriots 17. I see this as a low-scoring game. Given the struggles of the Patriots' offense and the strength of the Steelers' defense, coupled with the home field, I slightly favor Pittsburgh. I think the Patriots will play a better game than last week, but still come up short.

* ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi: Steelers 28, Patriots 20. In thinking about who I should pick for this game I'm reminded of something Coach Belichick taught me. It was the week before a big game. I can't remember which one -- they were all big -- and we had played poorly the week before and there were some comments said in the media by some of our players about looking forward to having success the next week. Coach Bill Belichick said, "You guys think you're gonna go out there and play well?! BASED ON WHAT?!" He then proceeded to list our struggles as a team and told us that until we started to fix our problems they were going to show up over and over again. Based on what? Exactly. Based on what I saw last week the Patriots have a lot of fixing to do.

* ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter: Steelers over Patriots. “Typically in this league, good teams that come off bad games usually can respond with some good performances," Schefter said on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Friday. "And it won't surprise me if New England comes out and plays a very good game. The problem is, Pittsburgh hasn't played great lately. They nearly gave away the game on Monday night to Cincinnati. And Pittsburgh, to me, might just be the best team in the NFL right now. And you're going to play there, on a Sunday night, tough environment. This is about as tough a matchup as the Patriots could have at this point in the season."

* ESPN.com's Bill Simmons: Patriots (+4.5) over STEELERS. Good signs for the Patriots: a history of success in Heinz Field; a history of success in the Belichick era after a bad loss; a bad break for Pittsburgh with LT Max Starks being lost for the season; and I didn't put them No. 1 in a Power Poll this week while screaming, "The New England Patriots are back in business!" Bad signs for the Pats: Who knows whether they're good after last weekend's debacle? When in doubt, take the points.

* ESPN experts: Of the eight experts, seven pick the Steelers to beat the Patriots (only Ron Jaworski picks the Patriots).

* Sunday Countdown: Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Tom Jackson all pick the Steelers.

* AccuScore simulations: Steelers 25.7, Patriots 21.8 (on average). You can simulate the game yourself here.

* Madden simulation: Steelers 20, Patriots 17. After falling behind 20-10, the Patriots attempt a late rally, scoring a touchdown with six minutes left in the fourth quarter to pull within three points. There was plenty of time, but it wasn't meant to be as the Steelers get the ball and eat up most of the clock thanks to the speedy feet of Rashard Mendenhall. When the Patriots finally do get the ball back, Tom Brady throws a pick that ends any chances of a miraculous New England win.

* Doug Kretz, Scouts, Inc.: Steelers 27, Patriots 21. (Insider)

* NFL Live: Darren Woodson and Herm Edwards both pick the Patriots. In a separate Field Pass clip, Woodson predicts the Steelers will win 28-13.

* Make your Week 10 picks with our Pigskin Pick’Em contest.

* What's your prediction for Patriots-Steelers? Leave it in the comments section of this blog post.

NFL Live: Woodson, Herm pick Steelers

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
10:51
AM ET


In the video clip above, ESPN analysts Darren Woodson and Herm Edwards make their predictions for Sunday night’s game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

* Woodson’s take:

“I guaranteed the Steelers have watched this tape and watched what the Cleveland Browns did [against the patriots]. Basically, run the ball with Peyton Hillis between the tackles -- the Patriots had no answer for it. The Steelers win this game because they will be balanced on offense. They run the ball consistently and Ben Roethlisberger has been a monster since he’s been back.”

* Edwards’ take:

“Ben [Roethlisberger] is getting better as the season progresses. He was late coming in and you look at him and he’s getting his sea legs underneath him. I think the Steelers win this game at home. Tough to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers at home. How about that, New England will lose two games in a row.”

Video: Pats-Steelers AccuScore report

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
3:59
PM ET


Watch the video above for the Countdown Daily AccuScore report for Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game.

* Overall, the Steelers won 59 percent of 10,000 AccuScore simulations of Sunday night’s game against the Patriots by an average score of about 25-21.

* In the simulations, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger put up slightly better numbers than Brady. Roethlisberger is projected to throw for 260 yards while Brady is averaging 250.

* The top-ranked Steelers defense is holding the Patriots to just 3 yards per carry in the AccuScore simulations. But if the Patriots can average more than 4.5 yards per carry, the tables turn and the Patriots have a 60 percent chance of winning, according to AccuScore.

* If the Steelers win the turnover battle, they are 72 percent favorites.

* Click here to simulate the game yourself, choosing your own scenarios, individual performances, weather and more.

Reiss' key matchup: Brady vs. pass rush

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
9:45
AM ET


In the video above, ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss gives a key matchup for the New England Patriots in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night: quarterback Tom Brady vs. the vaunted Pittsburgh pass rush.

“Steelers defense coordinator Dick LeBeau is a mastermind at bringing pressure from all points of the field and Brady is coming off a performance against the Browns in which his accuracy was off,” Reiss said, before running down Brady’s sagging completion percentages from his last few games. “Brady will have to be better against the Steelers."

Will Brady's foot injury (reported to be a foot sprain) affect his ability to evade the pass rush? That will be another area to watch Sunday.

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