Bill Belichick's future following the 2023 season has been questioned as the losses mounted in New England. After weeks of subpar play, Belichick's club finally got off the mat, snapping a five-game losing streak Thursday with a 21-18 win on the road in Pittsburgh.
Veteran safety Jabrill Peppers said after the win that he's happy to get the W for a coach he believes has taken far too much heat for the 3-10 record.
"We needed it. I just feel good we could get it done for Bill and the rest of the coaches," Peppers said via ESPN. "I don't really like all the flak he's been getting, because it's on us as players to go out and execute. I personally feel like the game plan has been phenomenal week in and week out, and when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn't make them. But we made enough tonight."
Thursday's win didn't change the trajectory of the Patriots season. They still currently sit with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft -- though it most likely wiped out a chance at the No. 1 slot. It did show there is still some fight in New England under Belichick.
"No one has quit in this locker room," center David Andrews, per the Associated Press. "We're fighting, we're working. We're trying to get better. That's all you can do. That's all you can ask for. It hasn't been perfect."
New England started hot, taking the opening kick 75 yards for a touchdown. Bailey Zappe played well in the first half, making some clutch throws, including three TDs, to stake the Pats to a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
The 21 first-half points were a deluge for a Patriots club that scored 13 total points in its last three games combined. Zappe became the first New England QB with three TDs in the first half of a game since Tom Brady in Week 17, 2018.
The defense, the backbone of the club all season, forced an early Mitch Trubisky interception, stymied the Steelers' run game, and held on for the win after the offense cooled off in the second half.
"I thought a really great job by the players and the coaches this week," Belichick said. "Obviously a short week and a tough, disappointing game last week [6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers], but they came in and had a good week of preparation. I thought the guys played with a lot of effort, energy, toughness and resiliency."
The victory doesn't cleanse the stink of previous losses or the fact that Belichick's future will remain a question heading into 2024. But for at least a week, it provides some reprieve in Foxboro and shows Belichick still has Mike Tomlin's number, moving to 10-3 all-time versus the Steelers coach.