"That's a good question," Cockrell told TribLive.com. "I think the best thing we can do is not put them on a pedestal. Just go out there and play football the way we know how to do it."
While serial New England Patriots hater Mike Tomlin could have a less diplomatic pep talk before the team's Dec. 17 matchup at Heinz Field (or potential playoff matchup afterward), Cockrell might have found the best way in the interim to not fall victim to Patriots hype. While every team has at least a faction of players and coaches who honestly believe the team is good enough to win the Super Bowl, New England's consistent dominance and offseason layering of talent has to be a little disheartening.
That might be less true for a Steelers team that lost to New England in the conference championship game last season. The Steelers also are significantly better now, they diversified their weapon set for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and, should they have Le'Veon Bell on the field at some point, they will be more attentive to a potential season-altering injury that could force his early ouster in a playoff game.
The Steelers topped my preseason list of teams with the infrastructure to actually stop New England. As Cockrell said without really saying it, the Patriot mystique doesn't affect certain teams as much.