Today on Season Ticket, guest host Chad Finn (@GlobeChadFinn) chats with NFL analyst and former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. They discuss the upcoming showdown between the Patriots and Steelers, the reasons for each team's sustained success, and the evolution of quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady over the course of their careers.
- Bill Cowher (@CowherCBS), Studio Analyst, CBS' "The NFL Today"
On how the Patriots and Steelers have achieved sustained success
Bill Cowher: You're talking about people that have been able to have owners [who've] had success. So, you have the same systems in place. If you look at Tom Brady, he's been in the same system now for, what, 15 years or 16 years. So, there's a lot to be said for growth, for development, for bringing young players in when it's the same system. It's one or two players who learn it every year as opposed to 11 people when you have to change coaches. So, I think when you have the same coach and you have success, you have familiarity with not just the players around you but with the same system, it allows you to develop within that. There's stability, there's familiarity, and that gives you consistency. And, really, I think that's the most important thing.
"As you start getting down the stretch, it comes down to the ability to play great situational football and being able to not flinch"Bill Cowher
On the matchup between quarterbacks Roethlisberger and Brady
Bill Cowher: These two quarterbacks have won championships. They've been on the biggest stage. They don't flinch when it gets into the fourth quarter and they get behind. And that's what I love about this type of game—it's the patience. You're going to watch these two quarterbacks understanding, you know, "Okay it's a four quarter game. Let me get a feel for what the other team is trying to take away from me and make sure I use the weapons I have." And you'll see the adjustments that both teams are going to be making.
On the Patriots defense
Bill Cowher: When you look at these guys, it's amazing what they've done, what [defensive coordinator] Matt Patricia's done when he's had. Certainly, the back end, their communication has been so much better. So that's why I don't look at the stats. This defenses has played really well the second half of the season. Coming off a rough start to the season, they they have communicated better. Yes, the pass rush has come and gone, but that's just who they are.
On a concern for the Steelers heading into the end of the season
Bill Cowher: Pittsburgh has had some struggles this year finishing drives. They've had some struggles in the red zone, and I think that's why they've been involved in these close games, because even though they've moved the ball at times, they've ... had to settle for field goals. Therein lies the difference between good teams. I mean, as you start getting further in the playoffs and as you start getting down the stretch, it comes down to the ability to play great situational football and being able to not flinch—to be able to get that first down you need to keep the drive going, to be able to finish that drive and get the touchdown and not have to kick a goal. Those are the little things in each game that, as they start to add up, become the difference between winning or losing games.
On what make Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady special
Bill Cowher: They're very patient. They throw a great deep ball. I think that's the thing, to me, if you look at quarterbacks today, is the ability to throw a good deep ball, to keep it in bounds and put it where the receiver has a chance to make a play. These two quarterbacks are really good at that. They're both very patient. I mean, Tom Brady, I remember going against him all the time. Whether it's a checkdown to [Kevin] Faulk, now it's a checkdown to [James] White or whomever, Dion Lewis, wherever it may be, he always was so patient and never really panicked. He had a calmness about him in the last minute of a half, the last minute of a game, and I see that in Ben right now ... There's no panic on his face. He just sits there and takes what the defense gives him. He's got playmakers around him. They don't force the issue. They have a great feel for the game.
"I think this could be one of those high scoring games where they're gonna lean on their offenses"Bill Cowher
On what make Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady special
Bill Cowher: It's a game that comes down, in my opinion, to three areas. Number one: you can't turn the football over. And that's because both these offenses can take advantage of that. Number two will be: third down. We saw the inability of the New England offense last week—when they don't convert third downs, they don't have rhythm. They don't get in sync. Tom looks out of sync ... and that's so unlike them. So, I think that is going to be a key for both these teams. The last one, the most important one: can you finish drives with touchdowns and not have to settle for field goals? ... I think this could be one of those high scoring games where they're gonna lean on their offenses and whoever has the ball last, what is the deficit? Is it a one-point deficit or a four-point deficit? Those can be determined based on how you do earlier in the game in terms of finishing drives: touchdown or field goal.
Chad Finn: It sounds like your prediction is suspense.
Bill Cowher: It's going to be a classic game. I think this'll be Round One. I think there's going to a second round that's going take place. So, Round One will determine where Round Two is played. But, I'll tell ya what, Round Two will be sudden death.