This time, the only thing the Steelers expect to hear Sunday night is a raucous Gillette Stadium crowd.
“I’m not saying there’s always an issue, but there was an issue the last time we went up there,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Thursday. “But that’s why you have hand signals, wrist bands, and we’re ready to move on with whatever we have to do.”
Mike Tomlin’s team last ventured to Foxborough, Massachusetts, for a Thursday night matchup to open the 2015 season. For much of the first half, Steelers coaches had trouble communicating with one another because they could hear only the Patriots’ radio broadcast of the game in their headsets. The Steelers, who trailed 14-3 at halftime, lost, 28-21.
Asked about the headset issues in his postgame news conference, a visibly irritated Tomlin said: “That’s always the case here.”
But the NFL — which provided the headsets for both teams — later determined that the Patriots were not to blame for the audio interference. The league said the glitches were caused by “a stadium power infrastructure issue, which was exacerbated by the inclement weather.”
The Steelers put that game behind them long ago, and they’ve spent the past week praising their AFC title game opponent.
“They need no endorsement from me,” Tomlin said Wednesday of the Patriots, winners of four Super Bowls and an NFL-record eight consecutive AFC East titles. “They have the hardware that speaks for that. And I have a lot of respect for that. That’s why we all do this.”
The Steelers know they’re entering enemy territory, and they said they’re fully prepared to handle boisterous Patriots fans.
“There are a lot of elements to face,” Roethlisberger said. “The hostile environment, crowd, weather, you never know. We cherish that opportunity to go on the road, especially to awesome environments like Gillette Stadium with passionate fans that are going to be excited.”
Pittsburgh got a taste of being in a “hostile environment” last week when it defeated the Chiefs, 18-16, in the divisional round. Players said the Arrowhead Stadium atmosphere served them well in their preparation for the Patriots.
“[It helps] a lot. Definitely a lot,” defensive end Stephon Tuitt said. “For us to go there in a hostile environment and overcome that adversity against the Kansas City Chiefs, and win in the fashion that we did, is an awesome accomplishment by us and a great motivator and confidence-builder for us as well. We’ve got to continue to do that.”