PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) – Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler has been on the bad end of numerous lopsided losses to Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.
When Pittsburgh lines up against the winningest coach-player duo in the NFL’s history on Sunday, Butler will again be tasked with slowing down a dynamic offense that throttled his defense in last year’s AFC Championship game.
“Number one, you’ve got to believe that you can beat them,” Butler said after Thursday’s practice. “Number two, you’ve got to believe that this has got to be your best game to beat them. I think our guys believe that. They’re excited about this game. If you can’t get up for playing the best in the league, then there’s something wrong with you.”
Following last year’s 36-17 drubbing in Foxborough, Butler’s scheme was highly criticized for not using more man-to-man defensive looks, something the team has worked heavily on since that loss.
“You can’t give them too much time,” cornerback Artie Burns said. “We’ve got to make sure we get hands on [Brady] and the receivers. We know they’ve got some great playmakers out there so we’ve got to make sure we get contact on those guys. It’s all about disrupting them. The more disruption we have, the better the game will go for us.”
New England comes off their third loss of the season, a 27-20 defeat in Miami Monday. But the Patriots were without suspended all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who will be back Sunday.
“He’s like a big forward that bodies people down in the low post,” Butler noted. “He runs his routes where he puts his body between you and the ball. He’s very hard to cover when he does that. We’ve got a plan to try to defend him as much as we can, but we’re not going to tell them what that plan is right now.”
Brady has historically dominated the Steelers, going 10-2 against Pittsburgh in his career with 24 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But both Steelers win have come at Heinz Field, with New England’s last loss coming in 2011.
“They’re a good football team and it’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Butler said. “But man, I’d rather be playing in this game than doing anything else. Our guys want to play in this game, it’s going to be exciting for us, it’ll be exciting for the city and it gives us a chance to try to make the playoffs go through Pittsburgh.”