PITTSBURGH — There’s a good sign for Jamie Collins playing Sunday against the Steelers.

The linebacker made the trip with the Patriots to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, a source confirms to WEEI.com. The Herald’s Jeff Howe was the first to report Saturday.

Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

PITTSBURGH — There’s a good sign for Jamie Collins playing Sunday against the Steelers.

The linebacker made the trip with the Patriots to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, a source confirms to WEEI.com. The Herald’s Jeff Howe was the first to report Saturday.

Collins was a scratch last Sunday morning with a sore hip after being limited in the week of practice leading up to the game against the Bengals.

Collins practice all week but was limited in all three practices. He was officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh. That was his same status last week heading into the game against the Bengals.

Collins was one of nine limited players on Friday’s official injury report.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Tom Brady has almost always posted big numbers against the Steelers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom Brady has almost always posted big numbers against the Steelers. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

What you have to know when the Patriots and Steelers meet Sunday at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh:


The run defense totals against the Steelers have to be put in context, but no matter the situation, I can’t stop looking at the Miami-Pittsburgh boxscore and the whopping 222 rushing yards that were allowed by the Steelers. Holy moly. (Jay Ajayi had 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, including 153 in the second half as Miami gave him the ball time and again in hopes of helping protect the lead.) That came after Pittsburgh held four of its first five opponents under 100 yards rushing. In all, the Steelers are 13th in the league against the run, having allowed an average of 101.2 rushing yards per game, so the numbers are skewed a bit by what happened against the Dolphins. While every situation and every week is different, the feeling here is that if the Patriots get their chances — that is to say, get up early and are able to control the tempo — they should hand the ball to Blount about a zillion times in the second half. As expected, Blount’s production has taken a hit the last two weeks with Tom Brady back, but he’s still seventh in the league with 439 yards rushing. The 3.7 yards per carry isn’t so hot, but his six rushing touchdowns more than make up for it. If New England takes a comfortable second-half lead, look for Blount to get a lot of work.


Brady (76 percent completion rate, 782 passing yards, six touchdowns, no INTs, passer rating of 135.5) has an almost impeccable track record against the Steelers: In eight career games against Pittsburgh, he’s 6-2 and has averaged 326 passing yards and almost three touchdowns per contest. In his last five starts against Pittsburgh, Brady has 17 touchdowns and no interceptions, with a 127.9 passer rating. Bottom line? The names and faces might change, but he’s always been a pretty safe bet to light up the Steelers hyper-aggressive defense. Pittsburgh will be forced to try and stop New England’s double tight-end set, which managed to overwhelm the Bengals in the second half last week. Rob Gronkowski (13 catches, 282 yards, 1 TD) appears to be back to his old self, while Martellus Bennett (26 catches, 362 yards, 4 TDs) has made an excellent complementary fit alongside him. Julian Edelman (28 catches, 261 yards) has been slowed the last few weeks, but should be in for his fair share of targets, along with Danny Amendola (13 catches, 160 yards, 2 TDs), Chris Hogan (13 catches, 275 yards, 1 TD) and James White (25 catches, 212 yards, 2 TDs).

Brady can talk as nicely as he wants to about the Steelers, but the fact is that they’ve had trouble defending anyone you could call an even slightly better than average quarterback. Pittsburgh has yielded an average of 294 passing yards per game, which puts them 29th in the league through six games: Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz threw for more than 300 yards on the Steelers. The Steelers struggle to get consistent pressure, as they have just eight sacks and three picks in six games. (Only four teams have fewer interceptions than Pittsburgh.) Ross Cockrell and William Gay are the Steelers’ two lead corners, and Cockrell leads the team with seven passes defensed.


Oh my God. Those were the three words that Bill Belichick first uttered when talking about Le’Veon Bell this week. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Bell is a multidimensional threat who has been able to pile up big numbers since his return from suspension: in just three games, he has 48 carries for 263 yards for a 5.5 yards per carry average. (He’s also second on the team in catches with 20 receptions on 24 targets for 177 yards.) Even without Ben Roethlisberger, the Patriots will have to play pick-your-poison a bit here because of the two-headed threat of Bell and Antonio Brown (more on him in a second), but our guess here is that given the fact that backup Landry Jones is under center, they like their chances putting an emphasis on stopping Bell, because Jones probably won’t be able to get the ball to Brown as consistently as, say, Roethlisberger. That means a heavy box with plenty of big bodies designed to slow down the running game. (For what it’s worth, with D’Angelo Williams ruled out, it’ll be Bell’s show from wire-to-wire.)

On the other side of the ball, the Patriots run defense has been up-and-down, but in truth, the good has outweighed the bad, at least as of late. Overall, New England is ninth in the NFL against the run, having allowed an average of 92 rushing yards per game. The group did well against the league’s best rushing attack in Cleveland two weeks ago, holding the Browns to 27 yards per game. But because this is a more well rounded offense than Cleveland, it’ll be an even sterner test for the Patriots.


No Roethllsberger means that Pittsburgh will turn to backup Landry Jones, an intriguing youngster who has had some nice moments over the course of his relatively brief NFL career, but is by no means the equal of Roethlisberger. In his career, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Jones is 32-for-56 (57 percent) for 513 yards, three touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 76. He’ll look to do whatever it takes to get the ball in the hands of Brown, who is one of the best in the game, period: In six games, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder has 41 catches (tied for second in the league) on 64 targets for 486 yards (11th in the league) and five touchdowns (tied for best in the NFL). It’s going to take a combination effort to try and slow him down. Bell and Sammie Coates (more on him in a second) will also be part of the mix when it comes to the passing game.


Pittsburgh kicker Chris Boswell is 4-for-5 on field-goal chances and 18-for-18 on extra points. (Good numbers for anyone, especially someone who has to kick on the lousy Heinz Field turf.) Punter Jordan Berry is averaging 45.3 yards per punt (18th), and a 40.8 net (13th). Brown has gotten the most work as punt returner, with five returns and an average of 14.6 yards per return. Fitzgerald Toussaint leads all kick returners on the team (four returns, 20.0 average). Overall, the Steelers are 24th overall on kick returns and 12th on punt returns.

The Patriots have struggled more than usual on special teams this season. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is 9-for-12 on field goal attempts and 16-for-17 on extra points. Punter Ryan Allen is averaging 44.6 yards per punt (21st) and a 42.2 net (ninth). While the returners have been middle-of-the-road at best (18-yard average on kick returns is 27th in the league, while 8.8 yards per punt return is 18th), the coverage units have been good. The Patriots have the best kick coverage unit in NFL when it comes to opponents starting field position, as the average opponents drive has started at the 22-yard line — the best mark in the league.

THE PATRIOTS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… it comes down to the red zone. Pittsburgh has scored a touchdown on 78.6 percent (11-for-14) of its red-zone drives this season — third best in the NFL. The Patriots have allowed a touchdown on 71.4 percent (10-for-14) of their opponents’ red-zone drives in 2016 (tied for fourth-worst in league).

THE STEELERS ARE IN TROUBLE IF… if they can’t make big plays. The Patriots have done really well at limiting big plays this season — they’re the only team in the league not to give up a play of 40 yards or more. But Bell and Brown are two of the most explosive offensive threats in the NFL, while Coates leads the league in yards per catch with 22.2 yards per opportunity.

BY THE NUMBERS (tie) 1.85 (via Ryan Hannable) — Keep an eye on Brady’s quick release. The Steelers are known to blitz a lot, and Brady’s 1.85 average release time in last year’s game against Pittsburgh was his fastest time of the 2015 season.

110 — New England has scored 30 or more points 110 times since Belichick took over as head coach — by far the most of any team in the league since 2000. (That includes five times in the 11 games the two teams have played against each other in that span.)

UNDER THE RADAR STAR: If all the attention is given to the likes of Bell and Brown, Coates is the sort of ancillary player who might be able to pick up some big yardage at important moments. He’s been dogged by a hand injury for the last few weeks, but when he’s completely healthy, he can be extremely dangerous. In six games, he has 19 catches on 35 targets (22.2 yards per catch) for 421 yards and two touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 213-pounder out of Auburn isn’t always the most consistent receiver, but when he gets his hands on one, look out.

QUOTE OF NOTE: “I don’t think they’re doing anything special. I think they do things outside the box sometimes, you know, that might be on the edge of being legal or not legal. They’ve done a couple of things in the past — putting an offensive tackle out as ineligible but he’s not really. Sometimes the emphasis by the NFL in terms of what they call and what they don’t call, [the Patriots] use that a little bit. They’ve been accused of doing a lot of things. But the thing we’ve got to do is ignore that and play.” — Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler on the Patriots

PREDICTION: If Ben Roethlisberger were playing Sunday, despite their six-game roller coaster ride to start the season, the Steelers would have a legit chance at knocking off the Patriots and making their statement when it came to the AFC. Instead, it’ll be Landry Jones against New England, which should make things considerably easier for the visitors. The truth here is that this game for Pittsburgh is a lot like the tightrope New England had to walk at quarterback over the first four games of the season. There’s a lot of talent on both sides of the ball for the Steelers, but with a backup signal-caller, the margin for error is just too slim in a big game. Pittsburgh is still going to score its points, and the combination of Bell and Brown is still enough to make it really interesting. But in the end, the Patriots just have too much, especially on offense. Brady throws for four touchdown passes and Dont’a Hightower has another monster game. I’m going to say New England 38, Pittsburgh 24.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Rob Gronkowski can tie, break a Patriots all-time record on Sunday. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski can tie, break a Patriots all-time record on Sunday. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

In what was supposed to be a matchup between the two best teams in the AFC, Sunday’s Patriots-Steelers game will now have Landry Jones going up against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, as Ben Roethlisberger needed knee surgery on Monday. Pittsburgh enters the game 4-2, while the Patriots are 5-1.

(As always, thanks to the Patriots media relations staff for the help with some of these from this week’€™€™€™€™€™s media guide.)

1. In his past five starts against the Steelers, Brady is 134-for-189 (71 percent), for 1,667 yards with 17 touchdowns and no interceptions.

2. With a touchdown on Sunday, Rob Gronkowski will tie Stanley Morgan (68) for the most touchdowns all-time by a Patriots player.

3. The Patriots have the best kickoff unit in NFL when it comes to opponents starting field position, as the average opponents drive has started at the 22-yard line — the best mark in the entire league.

4. LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL in running plays that have been stuffed with 16. (A stuff is defined by a play stopped at or before the line of scrimmage.)

5. Gronkowski is averaging 21.69 yards per catch, the second-most in the NFL. Sammie Coates is No. 1 at 22.16 yards per catch. The Patriots tight end is also tied for first in the NFL with five first-down catches on third-and-7 or longer.

6. Something to watch as the Steelers are known to blitz a lot, is Brady’s quick release. Last season in Week 1 he had his fastest time of season at 1.85 seconds against Pittsburgh.

7. The Patriots have the second-best first half defense in the NFL as they have allowed just 6.2 points in the first half this season. The Seahawks are the best as they have allowed an average of just five points.

8. Since 2010 in the regular season when scoring first, the Patriots are 50-6.

9. Since 2000 the Patriots are 51-17 in the month of October, the best mark in the NFL. The Steelers are next at 46-19.

10. The magic number is 23. Including the playoffs, New England is 169-14 when scoring 23 or more points under Bill Belichick.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

Bill Belichick is staring down another great NFL dynasty this weekend.</p>
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Sep 10, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady will renew his rivalry with the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

FOXBORO —  There aren’t many places in the NFL that can affect a veteran quarterback like Tom Brady.

But Heinz Field is certainly one.

In 2004, their NFL-record 21-game winning streak came to an end in a 34-20 Steeler win that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Their last trip there ended in a 25-17 loss where the offense stalled badly at the end.

The Patriots quarterback has certainly had his fair share of success, like in Jan. 2005 when the Patriots went there and hung up 41 points on the vaunted Steelers defense in their house in a 41-27 win in the AFC championship. In 2010, the Patriots scored 39 points on a Sunday night and beat the Steelers 39-26.

The Terrible Towels will be out in force again late Sunday afternoon in an atmosphere that will feel like January football in October. That means one thing to Brady: Make sure you have a good silent count before the snap.

“Well, again I think it’s just always being on the same page. Whatever we do in terms of the count and so forth, it’s all about us trying to make sure – it could be, at home, it’s verbal communication, on the road, it’s nonverbal communication, and we work on those things pretty hard,” Brady said. “We practice them all week and we’re going to need to really utilize this week because it’s going to be a tough environment.”

Brady said while it may seem at times that he tries to throw to a receiver like Rob Gronkowski and expect the tight end to fight off a defender for the ball, that is usually not the case. And it certainly won’t be the case in a hostile environment like Pittsburgh, where managing risk-reward is everything.

“I try never to really throw a 50/50 ball. I mean, I don’t ever want them to get their hands on it. I think some other quarterbacks maybe do it a little more than me, but it’s probably situational, also, with some of those things,” Brady said. “It’s all risk-reward, so if it’s fourth down, you’ll throw any ball. If it’s late in the game, you’ve got to start taking some chances because time is running out. If you’ve got no time left, you better start, so that risk-reward changes a lot.

“If you’re up 14, that play that I over threw Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] on last game, the last thing I want to do is throw an interception, so I ended up throwing it out of bounds. We didn’t necessarily get the look that we wanted so we just kicked the field goal. It just all factors in to me, I think situationally, but I like to throw 100 percent balls that we’ve got a 100 percent chance of getting, or no one else.”

As WEEI’s Ryan Hannable noted, Brady will also use his quick release to try and keep the Steelers defense from getting momentum. He had his quickest release of the year in the 28-21 win over Pittsburgh in the 2015 season opener.

“They’ve got still some of the same players even – [Lawrence] Timmons and [William] Gay. Cam Hayward is a great player, Mike Mitchell’s a great player; they’ve got some veteran players, but it feels like it’s always kind of the same Steeler defense. It’s a lot of pressure, I mean, they blitz a lot. They have every blitz in the book. They’ve got every combination that you could think of, so much of it for us is about making sure that everyone’s aware of who we have in pick-up and who we have in the run game, and making sure we kind of have a hat and account for everybody.

“A lot of times they overload you, and you’ve got to get the ball out if you need to, based on the protection or based on the calls, so it’s a challenging defense to play. They test you in every area and that’s why we’ve always had so many tough games against them. They’re just tough to play, especially at home.”

Brady will be keeping the wise words of Ernie Adams in his head this Sunday. The Patriots football research director gave him advice years ago that he still uses to this day.

“You have to be able to make them defend the width of the field, the length of the field. Ernie once told me, ‘Make them defend every blade of grass.’ I think that’s a great thing to do. They’ve got to be able to – that’s how you stress the defense. You can force the ball to all different parts of the field, and they never really know who’s going to get it. They can key on certain players, but if you do that, you’re vulnerable to other things.

“It’s just part of – it’s good to have kind of a lot of tools in your toolbox and to be able to use them at different times. Whatever you need, that’s what you’ve got to pull out and be able to do. Good offensive execution takes all eleven of us and so much of what we practice is us all being on the same page every play, every day, every week, so we can be our best. We’re going to need it. This team really forces you to have every guy on the same page because it’s hard to anticipate what they’re going to do, because they do so many things. We’ve got to be on the high alert.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Vontaze Burfict wasn’t the only player fined by the NFL for his behavior in last Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.

Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

Vontaze Burfict wasn’t the only player fined by the NFL for his behavior in last Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium.

LeGarrette Blount was docked $9,115 for an unnecessary roughness penalty he received after getting stepped on by Burfict. Blount reacted by shoving Burfict and getting in the face of Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims. Burfict was fined $75,000 by the league for stomping on Blount’s leg after the all-22 coach’s film clearly showed the Bengals linebacker committing the act.

Rob Gronkowski was also fined $9,115 after being flagged for taunting in the fourth quarter. Gronkowski was flagged came when he caught a pair of passes on a field goal drive and yelled at Burfict. Gronkowski was upset with Burfict diving at the back of the left knee of Martellus Bennett earlier in the drive. Gronkowski was pulled from the game and received a dressing down from Bill Belichick.

Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was also finded $9,115 for grabbing Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman’s facemask during a tackle in the fourth quarter. Kirkpatrick said Edelman grabbed his facemask first and that he did nothing wrong.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

FOXBORO — The Patriots head to Pittsburgh in relatively healthy shape.

The team did officially announce Friday afternoon that nine players are officially questionable for Sunday’s game, including linebacker Jamie Collins, who missed last Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a hip injury.

Jamie Collins

Jamie Collins

FOXBORO — The Patriots head to Pittsburgh in relatively healthy shape.

The team did officially announce Friday afternoon that nine players are officially questionable for Sunday’s game, including linebacker Jamie Collins, who missed last Sunday’s game against the Bengals with a hip injury.

Collins practiced all week leading into the Cincinnati game but was ruled out Sunday morning. Collins was limited all three days in practice. Also listed as questionable are Julian Edelman (foot) and Brandon Bolden (knee). Edelman was limited in practice all week while Bolden was limited Wednesday and Thursday before missing Friday.

This week, the team took the opportunity to take several players off the injury report altogether, including Rob Gronkowski with his hamstring issue, Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and LeGarrette Blount (hip). The move indicates that both players fully participated in practice and are expected to be available at full strength for Sunday.

Here is Friday’s complete practice report.


RB Brandon Bolden (knee) QUESTIONABLE


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
LB Jamie Collins (hip) QUESTIONABLE
LB Shea McClellin (concussion) QUESTIONABLE
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle) QUESTIONABLE
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) QUESTIONABLE
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) QUESTIONABLE
DL Vincent Valentine (back) QUESTIONABLE
WR Julian Edelman (foot) QUESTIONABLE

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia