This is a subject that I have been meaning to circle back to for weeks now, but I have been finding other topics to write about in the interim, and at the time, we seemed to be at the height of Patriots Madness, so I decided to put it on the back burner.
Now that things have slowed down, however, I thought it would be a good time to revisit it. According to the Boston Herald, while the Pittsburgh Steelers are working to implement man coverage into their system with greater emphasis, the New England Patriots are also working on being able to beat it more successfully.
This was spurred on not by the reports of Pittsburgh’s defense wanting to play more man coverage, but rather by the Patriots’ own struggles playing against man coverage in the postseason against the Texans and Falcons, according to Pro Football Talk.
One immediate aid in beating man coverage more successfully in 2017 than they did through most of 2016 will be simply getting tight end Rob Gronkowski back once again, as the Steelers know as well as anybody that you can’t simply put a player on him and expect for him to do okay. Right, Robert Golden?
According to Danny Amendola, the Patriots players believe that they have “a lot of players now that are good a working against man coverage”, and to that end they have, of course, added Brandin Cooks to the mix.
“We’re getting a lot of work in now, working against man-coverage”, he said. “I can’t speak on the past, but we have a lot of good guys. I think we have a lot of good guys who work well against zone, or man. We have some good combinations to beat them, and we’re working every day to beat them”.
That is not the ideal storyline that Steelers fans would like to hear out of New England, most likely, especially during this offseason while they (not so) quietly anticipate seeing changes in their defense as it pertains to playing wide receivers closer.
Of course, whether or not that whole angle was overblown, and the extent to which they will actually increase their usage of legitimate ‘man’ coverages, very much remains to be seen, and that will be a factor against the Patriots as well as everybody else on their schedule.
But New England is on their schedule, slated for the game prior to Christmas. The Steelers would certainly like to get a win over the Patriots, as they have failed to do so in every attempt since 2011, so it’s been a while. It won’t matter what coverages they use as long as they exit the stadium with a victory.