Get after Tom Brady.
Everyone knows that’s the goal. Put pressure on the quarterback. But that’s true for anyone playing the position. Is there any QB you’d gameplan around not pressuring?
Mike Tomlin took things a step further in his Tuesday press conference. He said getting after Brady on Sunday night is important but doing it within key moments is even more critical.
“You’re not going to take Brady down a bunch,” Tomlin said. “It’s about having the ability to rush him in those moments. He gets the ball out on rhythm and he changes the pace of play so much nobody takes him down a bunch. The key is be able to rush him significantly in the moments where you need to do it. That’s what we were able to do in the waning moments of the game last year. But you better get him in those moments before those things can happen.”
In last year’s matchup, the Steelers pressured Brady eight times. Twice, that came on third down and the Steelers’ defense got off the field each time. Another pressure resulted in a TJ Watt sack while a fourth occurred on Joe Haden’s monumental interception as the Patriots were driving.
Tomlin’s correct about the big picture idea too. You’re not going to sack Brady four times in a game. He’s too smart, gets the ball out too fast, and the offense schemes things up well enough he always has a safety valve or checkdown option.
Only once last season was Brady sacked more than twice in a game, taken down three times in an ugly 34-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. And the last time the Steelers did that against him was their 2013 regular season matchup and the Pats still rolled Pittsburgh 55-31. It’s about getting enough overall pressure and sacking him when it’s most important – 3rd down, red zone, end of half/game – just as they did in last year’s victory.