FOXBOROUGH — “Even when Rob’s covered, he’s open.”
Those were the words of Patriots coach Bill Belichick in the moments following Rob Gronkowski’s nine-catch, 168-yard performance in the AFC East-clinching 27-24 win over the Steelers last December in Pittsburgh.
Gronkowski was particularly beastly on the Patriots’ winning drive, collecting three passes for 69 yards.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Wednesday he remembers the performance well and he will remind his players about it before the teams meet this Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“I think that goes without saying, obviously,” said Tomlin. “Those guys that were a part of that know that, those that weren’t could care less. We better be concerned about preparing ourselves to minimize his impact and do what it is we need to do to be successful against him this time around.’’
Gronkowski is coming off his best performance of the season (8 catches, 107 yards in Miami) and Tomlin isn’t buying into the narrative that the perennial Pro Bowl tight end has lost a step as he deals with ankle and back injuries.
“He’s a dangerous man. He’s Gronk,’’ said Tomlin. “He’s a vertical matchup, he’s a big-time playmaker, he’s good with the ball in his hands after the catch, he’s a big-time competitor. It is a serious job to work to minimize his impact on the game.’’