The Pittsburgh Steelers have won nine straight games, but if they want to make it 10, they’re going to have play their best game of the season this Sunday in Foxboro.
“It’s the classic (game plan),” NFL Network analyst Brian Billick said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “You got run the ball well, you got to not turn the ball over, you got to be explosive, (and you got to score touchdowns) in the red zone. If you go in to play the Patriots, you say, ‘Guys, we got to do all four – because three out of four is not going to cut it.’ That’s the challenge for you. Ben, you got to have three touchdowns with no interceptions. We got to run for 160 yards. We got to score. What they did in Kansas City, as great as it was, if they settle for field goals, they’re going to lose.”
The Steelers beat Miami and Kansas City to reach the AFC Championship, albeit with a bit of social-media drama courtesy of Antonio Brown.
“This is probably, for me, the No. 1 challenge,” Billick said, referring to Brown live-streaming Pittsburgh’s locker-room celebration last Sunday. “How do you deal in the social media – which is the ultimate me environment, this is about me, this is about my brand – and working that within a team? The league has some rules about before and after. I don’t know what kind of structure I would have. It would basically be, ‘Guys, you’re at work, so when you’re in the facility, two hours before the game, two hours after the game, it’s not going to happen.’ That’s hard to enforce, and the players may even give you some pushback. At the end of the day, was it a big deal? Probably not. It was incredibly disrespectful, both to the team and the coaching staff, and I think Antonio Brown knows that. I think he’s embarrassed by it. But it’s a great teaching opportunity. ‘Guys, what do you think it’s going to take to be a champion? You think this kind of mentality (is okay)? I know we’re exuberant after the game, but do you know what it’s going to take to beat New England and then go to the Super Bowl and win? Do you just not get how hard this is and the total mindset that it takes for us to win?’ That would be my (approach).”
And if that line of questioning didn’t work, there’s always this one:
“Can you imagine his happening with the New England Patriots?” Billick asked. “That’s the benchmark. Whether you like or don’t like (Bill Belichick and the Patriots), that championship pedigree, what they’re doing – What Would Bill Do, so to speak. That’s the challenge for Mike Tomlin. What have we done? I understand these are young players, but this is a teaching moment. ‘Guys, this is not a championship mentality, so somewhere between now and this weekend and beyond, we got to learn what it is to be a champion – because this stunt was not the act of a champion.'”
In the NFC, meanwhile, the Falcons must slow a red-hot Aaron Rodgers, who has led the Packers to eight straight wins. How will Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn prepare his team for Sunday?
“Well, first, I wouldn’t show them any film of Aaron Rodgers – because it would scare the hell out of you,” Billick said. “But seriously, the teaching moment is, ‘Guys, we know there’s something special going on with this guy right now. It’s going to take all hands on deck – because we can stop this. The receiving corps is down, the secondary is beat up. We got to play our game. Offensively, we’re going to have to tear up that secondary. Defense, you’re going to have to not give up the big plays. Without Jordy Nelson and if Davante Adams can’t play, we’re up to that challenge – but we’ve got to do it because this guy, yeah, it’s special what he’s doing. So we’ve got to attack everything around him. You’re not going to make him play bad, but let’s take away all the underpinnings around him and this is how we do it.’ I think Atlanta may be up for the job.”
The NFC Championship kicks off at 3:05 p.m. ET, with the AFC Championship to follow at 6:40 p.m. ET.