With Bell and Bryant out, Steelers lean even more on Brown


With Bell and Bryant out, Steelers lean even more on Brown

FOXBORO -- Antonio Brown isn’t built like Megatron, Larry Fitzgerald or even Dez Bryant, but there was no more productive wide receiver in the NFL last year than the Steelers premier pass catcher. 129 receptions, nearly 1,700 yards and 13 touchdowns. Even in a league that’s made playing in the secondary damn near impossible, that’s some kind of year.

Is it possible for Brown to be even more involved in Pittsburgh’s offense on Thursday night, especially as they deal with the suspensions of star tailback Le’Veon Bell and number-two wideout Martavis Bryant?

“Could they get him the ball more?” questioned a bemused Bill Belichick. “I guess they could. But they get it to him a lot. He's definitely a go-to guy in the passing game, not just in terms of just making plays and {Ben} Roethlisberger going to him, but in terms of scheme, and plays that are designed to -- if not get him the ball -- at least get him a look. Then if the defense takes him away, they can go somewhere else, but at least get him a look at it.”

Brown measures at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, but he plays bigger than that. You see that in his ability to go up and catch the ball at its highest point. While that’s a big deal, Belichick notes it’s Brown’s feet that are the initial difference maker. 

“He's got really good quickness so he's got the ability to get separation, even when guys are close to him, his one-step or two-step quickness to get away," Belichick said. "And he's got really good hands, so he doesn't need a lot of separation.” 

But with Brown, it goes beyond that. He’s one of those receivers with that innate ability to get open, processing information quickly both pre-snap and as he gets off the line of scrimmage.

“Even if you're in a good leverage position and you have him covered or you have him covered downfield, he's really smart enough to understand what the coverage is, how the coverage leverage works and be able to work off of it,” said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia in a conference call earlier in the week.

Belichick echoed those thoughts Monday morning.

“He's a good technique route-runner, so he does a really good job of making routes look the same that are different,” he said “Making the inside route and the outside look the same or the over and the corner route look the same. Things like that. His releases are good. He does a good job of at the line of scrimmage of getting into his route and attacking the defense quickly.” 

Todd Haley, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, has been smart enough to move Brown across the formation. He’ll line up anywhere, and that’s an added headache for Patricia’s defense. Do the Pats decide to take their best cover corner in Malcolm Butler and have him shadow Brown all over? Or do they stick to what they’ve done throughout the preseason, leaving Butler on the left side and trust that Bradley Fletcher, Tarell Brown and Logan Ryan can hold their own? The latter seems like a risky proposition because it’s difficult to always get help over the top on someone as quick a Brown is.

As you would imagine, Belichick didn’t tip his hand to which way the Pats were leaning. 

“This is not the kind of guy you want to back off, let them throw it to him and then come up and make the tackle. That'll be a challenge,” he said. “On the other hand you don't want him to get over the top of the defense either. He's a huge problem.”

One that must be solved, or the Pats will find themselves in an unwanted shootout against as good a receiver as they’ll face at any point this season.

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots RB Danny Woodhead announces retirement

Former Patriots running back Danny Woodhead has announced his retirement after 10 years in the NFL.

The 33-year-old took to Instagram to make it official.

10 years! Wow, God had crazy plans for a small little kid from North Platte, NE! It’s been a wild ride and feel so blessed He allowed me to do what I loved for so long. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the game I love. First, I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Without Him my career wouldn’t have been possible. He blessed me with the gifts and He paved the way. All I had to do was follow His plans for my life, and His plans were crazy awesome! Next, I want to thank my wife who has been by my side since freshman year of high school. She has been a rock through all the ups and downs. Sis, Willy, Mae Mae, and Hopie your daddy is going to be home a ton more and I can’t wait! Thanks to my Dad and Mom for always supporting me and showing me that God is first, then everything else will fall into place. Ben, Joel, and Anna thanks for preparing me for the NFL in our backyard games growing up. The dreaded in-laws Steve and Suzie for always being there for me. Chris Gittings (agent) you’re the best and thankful your my brother/uncle! Thank you Jets, Patriots, Chargers, and Ravens! Thanks to all my head coaches (Bob Zohner, Brad Smith, Bill O’Boyle, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick, Mike McCoy, and John Harbaugh) who believed in me! To my rbs coaches (coach skiles, coach reiners, Jimmy Raye, A Lynn, Ivan, Ollie, Ridge, and Thomas) thanks for putting up with me. Thanks to all my teammates from high school till now. Without you guys I never would’ve become who I was as a player. To all my olinemen, you guys deserve the credit for anything that I received credit for. I thank you for helping make my career. To all the trainers, team docs, strength coaches, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, body gurus thanks for making sure I was on the field. To all the people who made my life easier at the facility (ops, pr, equipment staff, cafe workers, custodians) thanks and your work doesn’t go unnoticed. And how could i forget all my fans?! You’re the best and have always felt the love and support! I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few but know that I’m thankful for everything everyone has done on my journey.

A post shared by Danny Woodhead (@teamwoody39) on

Thursday, it was reported the Patriots reached out to Woodhead for a possible reunion. 

The last two seasons have been challenging for him, as he dealt with season-ending injuries in both 2016 with the Chargers and 2017 with the Ravens.

Woodhead finishes his career with 2,238 yards rushing, 2,698 yards receiving, 15 rushing touchdowns and 17 receiving touchdowns.


NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

NBC Sports Boston Photo

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: C's win despite injuries, Pats make additions

1:20 - Despite throwing a depleted roster out there, the Celtics were able to get back in the win column vs. the Magic. Michael Holley and Tommy Heinsohn break down the win.

6:17 - Finally, the Patriots have done something! On Friday night it was reported that New England signed defensive end Adrian Clayborn as well as running back Jeremy Hill. Tom Curran, Alex Giaimo and Ben Volin discuss the impact these additions will have on the team.

11:05 - While the Celtics were able to pull out the win on Friday, the team did announce that Marcus Smart is expected to miss six to eight weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. A. Sherrod Blakely expresses his optimism on Smart’s return for the playoffs.