In this week's "Five questions with ..." segment, former Patriots star and current radio color commentator Gino Cappelletti previews Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game.
PFW: The Patriots haven't lost coming off a bye since 2002. What is it about Bill Belichick's squad that makes them so automatic after a rest week?
Cappelletti: The continuity that the team has had for the past seven, eight years is a big reason. That offensive line, just a sprinkling in the last couple years of some changeovers, they pretty much had great communication along the offensive line because it has been so intact. (Tom) Brady working with Belichick over a period of time like that — two heads are really working in the same way all the time. With all that in place on offense, and continuing year after year, they are also playing a great brand of football. They are staying with that brand and have a potent offense.
PFW: The Pats have had some struggles punching it in from the red zone the past couple of games. Should this be a concern?
Cappelletti: What they have enjoyed was getting the lead in all the games. They have come up with field goals on the first possession the past couple games, but they are scoring first and getting momentum. The red zone sometimes can present a problem with trying to spread (the defense) out. I think they're efficient enough in the red zone. You can't expect to score (a touchdown) every time.
PFW: What has impressed you most about the way rookie ORT Nate Solder has played?
Cappelletti: He fits right in. Solder stepped right in — he was drafted first for a reason. He is one of the first-round picks that came through. He has the size and balances off with (fellow ORT Sebastian) Vollmer. It's all part of that offensive line continuity. When you're a new guy with the abilities, you will blend in quicker because they will help you with what they're doing and how they're doing it, as opposed to teams that are putting them together with lots of interchanging of players. You lose that cohesion with those teams.
PFW: Last year, the Patriots blitzed Ben Roethlisberger often. How do you expect the defense to handle him this season?
Cappelletti: That's what Belichick does. He tries things that are unexpected at the time. If you have been doing something for the past couple weeks and it's working, the opponent can't assume they're going to do the same thing. They will try to do something that the Steelers haven't prepared for. (Belichick) has that kind of versatility, especially with the front seven, the way he has put it together, the way he devised it. It depends on how he wants to surprise the opponent.
PFW: What kind of difference does a safety like Troy Polamalu make for offensive players?
Cappelletti: You have to be aware of where that guy is and where he can get to. You got to be right on your reads as you're coming off the line. He's going to give that team a big boost. You just have to know where he is, where he is lined up and how fast he can get to a certain area. He is someone you have to watch. I can't say exactly what they will do. When you have a quarterback like Brady who sees the field like he does, he's generally throwing to the open guy; that's what you want. You don't want to throw to a guy that's covered. You have to find the open guy, and the Patriots have been very successful at that.