Patriots

Patriots

Most players and coaches don't like discussing strategy before games.

Ben Roethlisberger doesn't fall into that category.

Speaking to reporters Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback openly discussed what he expects to see from the New England Patriots' defense in Sunday night's season opener.

"They always do a good job of combo-ing your top two guys," Roethlisberger said, via NFL Network's Michael Giardi. "Whether that's a wide receiver, running back, tight end -- whoever they deem as your top two, that's who they'll double.

"That's what we anticipate this year. The key is going to be early on, figuring out who (those two are)."

Roethlisberger knows what he's talking about: One of Bill Belichick's defensive calling cards is taking away what the opposing team does best and forcing it to play "left-handed," so to speak.

In past Patriots-Steelers matchups, that's meant a heavy focus on Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. With both players out the door, New England likely will turn its attention to running back James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, their top two performers in 2018 (outside Brown) by a wide margin.

Smith-Schuster -- who should see a lot of No. 1 Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Sunday -- is expecting the extra attention, too.

"I won't be surprised if they double me," the 22-year-old wideout said Friday.

Pittsburgh's offense seems pretty sure of what to expect from New England's defense -- which probably means Belichick will throw a new wrinkle at his longtime rival.

 

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