New England Patriots

  • Heading into their season-opener, most of the talk surrounding the Patriots was about how their defense would slow down the Dolphins’ weapon-heavy offensive attack. This week, the main X’s and O’s talking point shifts to the other side of the ball, as the Patriots offense – coming off a rough week of its own – will need to move the ball against a Steelers’ defense that held the defending AFC Champion Bengals to just 20 points last week, while forcing five turnovers including four interceptions of Cincinnati star quarterback Joe Burrow.

    “Obviously they had a big day defensively with the turnovers,” Bill Belichick said when asked about the Steelers’ defense on Wednesday. “Their coverage was good. Most of it was zone coverage. They broke on the ball well, had a couple of very good athletic intercepting plays, got their hands on the ball and finished them.”

    “Overall, [they are] a good complementary defense,” Belichick continued, using one of his favorite concepts of complementary football to point out how effective the Steelers can be at all three levels. He used the first series of last week’s game as an example, noting how a sack by defensive tackle Cam Heyward on first down forced the Bengals into an obvious passing situation, which led to a pick-six from defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick on the next play.

  • Pittsburgh’s pass rush won’t look quite the same this week, with outside linebacker T.J. Watt dealing with a shoulder injury that is expected to hold him out for multiple months. With that, expect the Steelers to lean more on their secondary. “Their secondary is kind of a ball-hawking secondary,” Belichick said of the group on Wednesday. “They go after the ball and read the quarterback well. Do a good job of breaking on the throw and closing space quickly.”

    That secondary is led by Fitzpatrick, a 2018 first-round pick out of Alabama. Last week against the Bengals he recorded a team-high 14 tackles with an interception, another pass breakup, and a blocked kick.

    The challenging thing about preparing to face Fitzpatrick is the Steelers will use him in multiple alignments. He’ll line up anywhere from deep safety to box safety to cornerback.

    “There’s certain things that Fitzpatrick does that they want him to do that he’s good at, so they use him in some of those situations. Not saying other guys couldn’t do them, I don’t know, but they prefer him,” Belichick noted on Wednesday. “He’s productive doing that so some of those roles I would anticipate he would continue to do them…I’m sure we’ll see him doing some of the fits things that are – I wouldn’t say they’re unique I’d just say they’re more prevalent with him.”

    It will be imperative for the Patriots to have an eye on Fitzpatrick at all times on Sunday, and not put him in a position to create turnovers. Both of these teams showed just how important that stat can be last week – the Steelers were plus-5 in their win, while the Patriots were minus-3 in the loss to Miami.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at