Steelers 'surprised' and 'caught off guard' by Patriots offense
January 23, 2017 4:45 PM
Tom Brady celebrates a touchdown in the third quarter of the AFC championship between the Steelers and New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
If it looked like the Steelers were taken by surprise at what the New England Patriots were doing on offense Sunday in the AFC championship it’s because they were. Outside linebacker Bud Dupree and cornerback Artie Burns said Monday the Patriots caught the Steelers off guard with how they attacked the Steelers at the beginning of the game.
“The first drive hit us by surprise,” Dupree said. “They came out firing and they caught us off guard. We were checking and they were checking at the same time. Hats off to that team. They had a great preparation.”
The Patriots drove 62 yards in six plays and took a 3-0 lead on the first drive. Brady completed his first five passes on the drive for 12, 41, 5 and 4 yards before a third-down pass fell incomplete.
The Patriots jumped out to a 10-0 lead when they scored a touchdown on their third drive and had 17 by halftime.
Dupree said the Steelers had prepared for the Patriots to operate out of the no huddle, but they were taken aback by the frequency with which Brady ran it.
“We didn’t really anticipate it like that,” Dupree said. “It was more in their approach to the no huddle, the checks they made right away. It was a great job by Tom Brady.”
Burns said the Steelers were not expecting Patriots receiver Chris Hogan to be the main offensive weapon for Brady.
“We knew he was one of the guys who could stretch you,” Burns said. “That’s why we played a lot of zone, to keep the top on the coverage. He was able to slip behind it. That’s why he had the game he had by slipping behind our deep coverage to make plays.”
Dupree said he and James Harrison dropped into coverage more than they rushed against the Patriots. He said the game plan was for Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons to rush up the middle to take advantage of the Patriots’ weakness on the interior of their offensive line.
However, the Patriots countered by sliding their protection and they were able to pick up the rushes from the inside linebackers with relative ease.
“We were trying to attack the middle and trying to win one-on-ones, but we just couldn’t get off,” Dupree said. “It would have worked, but we couldn’t stop them on third down to get into the situation we really wanted to get in.”
Injured defensive end Cam Heyward watched helplessly as the pressure the Steelers dialed up failed to get to Brady.
“I just think we could have gotten off on third down, especially early on,” Heyward said. “They out-executed us a little bit. I thought we held up really well against the run. We needed to get more stops and got the ball to our offense more. We needed to get more pressure. It was a little bit inconsistent. They did some things and they converted, and you tip your hat to them.”
On the mend
Inside linebacker Vince Williams said he will have shoulder surgery and is expected to be in a sling for 10 weeks afterward. Williams played the past two playoff games with the injury.
Receiver Sammie Coates said more surgery for his fingers could be in store. He is meeting with team doctors in the next couple of days and will find out more after meeting with them. Coates injured his fingers in a victory against the Jets in September and played with the fingers splinted for the remainder of the season.
“Surgery is always an option,” Coates said. “We’re going to see how it goes. I have to see the doctor this week and I’ll see what they say.”
Offensive lineman Ryan Harris said he rehab from a hematoma on his leg is going well. He was injured in early October and team doctors told him at that time a return might be possible during the season, but the Steelers placed Harris on injured reserve to free up a roster spot.
Heyward said his rehab from a pectoral injury is going well. He’s not sure if he’ll be ready for OTAs and minicamp this spring, but he is definitely expected to be ready for the start of training camp.
“I’ve progressed pretty well,” Heyward said. “I’m ahead of schedule on a lot of things. Hopefully, I can keep doing that.”
Steelers sign 11
Running back Karlos Williams had his 10-game suspension lifted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell Monday, and he was one of 11 players the Steelers signed to futures contracts.
Williams signed to the practice squad in October, but he was suspended by Goodell for violation of the league’s drug policy. Williams, the brother of Steelers linebacker Vince Williams, continued to train at the Steelers’ facility during his suspension.
The other players signed to futures contracts, including several who spent this past season on the team’s practice squad, were running back Brandon Brown-Dukes, defensive back Brandon Dixon, offensive lineman Matt Feiler, defensive back Jacob Hagen, defensive back Mike Hilton, running back Gus Johnson, offensive lineman Keavon Milton, running back Dreamius Smith, receiver Dez Stewart and receiver Marcus Tucker.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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