Patriots prepare for AFC Championship against strong Steelers competitors
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are only one more win away from another trip to the Super Bowl.
But first, they have to get past the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday during the AFC Championship.
"It’s the two best teams in the AFC," Bill Belichick said Wednesday. "You earn your way to this game. There’s no other way to get there. You’ve got to beat a lot of people to get to this game. Both teams have done that."
A win Sunday would give Belichick 7 conference titles as a head coach, the most in the NFL's Super Bowl era (post-1966).
This weekend could be full of other record-breaking moments for the Pats, but players say they're only focused on the challenge the Steelers will bring to Gillette Stadium.
"They put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of areas," Tom Brady said. "They’re tough to prepare for. We’re going to have to just rise to the occasion."
Brady already has the record for most postseason wins in NFL history at 23, and a win on Sunday would add another to that.
Together, Belichick and Brady have made 11 appearances in the AFC Championship game. Six of those years, the team advanced to the Super Bowl. Four of those years, they won the whole thing.
The last time the Patriots faced the Steelers in the playoffs was in 2005. New England won and went on to win their third Super Bowl title.
This is also the Patriots' sixth straight appearance in the conference title game.
But for the team, this week is business as usual, following preparation standards just as they have all season long.
"Obviously, it’s an important game for us," said running back LeGarrette Blount. "It’s one step closer to the main goal for every team in this league, so we just pin our ears back and get to work."
The team was back to full participation on Wednesday, though several players were limited, dealing with nagging injuries.
A common theme.
Players said this week they'll work on making sure performance and execution Sunday are top-notch.
"The margin of error is smaller this week against a group like this," defensive end Chris Long said.
The winner will take on the winner of Sunday afternoon's NFC Championship game -- the Green Bay Packers or the Atlanta Falcons -- in Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5.
Kickoff on Sunday is scheduled for 6:40 p.m. You can follow the action on NH1.com or on Twitter.