Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fast Signalling on Defense Key to Beating New England

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fast Signalling on Defense Key to Beating New England

Article excerpt

It's always something when you go to New England.

Some overzealous Patriots fan might pull the fire alarm at the hotel in the middle of the night. That happened to the Steelers in the wee hours of the morning on AFC championship Sunday in 2017. Or there might magically be trouble with the headsets. They went out on Steelers coaches on the visit to Gillette Stadium for the 2015 season opener.

But it's not that kind of communication that worries the Steelers most in advance of the season opener against the Patriots. The Steelers want to quickly communicate the defensive calls Sunday night because if they don't, the defense will look like it's running a fire drill.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has a way of making defenses look silly if they can't get properly aligned before the snap.

"It all starts with pre-snap communication," cornerback Mike Hilton said. "We know they're the type of team, once they find a rhythm, they like to go no-huddle and go fast and have the defense off balance. If we feel like we're talking pre-snap, everyone will be in the right place. Once we get settled with the call and everyone is reading the right key, we'll be fine. We just have to make sure we're on top of it pre-snap and just make sure everyone is in position."

That's easier said than done against the Patriots, and the Steelers know this all too well.

In their most recent trip to New England for that AFC title game, the Steelers had trouble lining up on the second play of the game. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt was late to line up after running over from the other side of the field. Bud Dupree, as well as safeties Sean Davis and Mike Mitchell, can be seen trying to communicate the call to teammates as the ball is being snapped.

The end result was a 41-yard pass from Brady to Julian Edelman. Two missed tackles by Artie Burns and Lawrence Timmons compounded the problem, but Brady had the Steelers on their heels because they weren't getting their calls communicated effectively. …

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