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How do you stop Bell? Hightower preaches discipline

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Without Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell still put up 81 yards off 21 carries in his previous matchup against the Patriots to go along with a team-high 10 receptions for 68 yards.

New England might as well throw out that tape given how different the offense looks with Landry Jones under center, but the Patriots defense seems to have gleaned one important thing about the Oct. 23 matchup -- how Bell operates and what the defense can do to stop him.

"He's a great back," Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower said Wednesday. "I think we're all aware of that. His running style is very unique. It's definitely hard to duplicate something like that in practice. That's just something that we've seen already, but just something that film is definitely going to be the go-to that's going to help us.

"He does a good job of, obviously, patience and waiting for his linemen to get up on the second level, which we're going to have to do a good job of getting off blocks and getting to the ball. That goes for him as well as anybody else on that offense. They do a good job of getting guys into space, and the more guys we can get to the ball, the better."

Hightower said a lot of Bell's advantages are caused by the defenses themselves. For example ...

"A lot of times it's guys who might have an A gap and they're looking in the B gap, shaving, trying to get off because of his patience and they're not having good enough discipline. We're getting off and causing those areas that he's looking for. He has such great quickness and burst that he's able to hit that hole and before you know it it's six or seven yards."

While it's difficult to say that the Patriots shut Bell down in their last matchup after giving up 149 total yards to one person, Bell did come more than a full yard under his regular season yards per carry total. He also did not score. In a lot of ways, New England allowed Bell to do some of the extraneous things well, but shut down the parts of Bell's skill set which hurt teams directly. His longest play of the day was a 22-yard reception, something which typically comes in flurries when Bell is rolling.

Other notes from the Patriots' Championship Wednesday pressers:


» Bill Belichick does not believe in home field advantage. When tossed a question about the boost he'll get from fans at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, Belichick cautioned the reporter to "Go ask Dallas and Kansas City" about the situation. The Chiefs and Cowboys both lost home games in the Divisional Round last weekend.

He added: "Of course (the fans give you a lift) but I mean, the game is won by the players on the field. That's who wins football games. Players. And they'll decide it Sunday night."

» Belichick was asked about the heightened "pomp and circumstance" that comes with playing in the AFC Championship Game and, during the question, the reporter noted that there were banners and trophies in the press room.

"I know," Belichick said. "It's so exciting."

» NFL Network's Mike Garafolo asked Tom Brady, who appeared a little raspy or potentially under the weather at the podium, how he was feeling physically.

"I'm good," Brady said.

It's worth noting that the media did not meet a particularly reflective or social quarterback on Wednesday. The 39 year old seemed very business-only and, no surprise, was in a hurry to get off the podium. This is Brady's sixth straight season taking the podium before a conference title game -- a pretty exceptional streak. He's learned how to handle it by now.

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