PITTSBURGH -- Back in 2007, Mike Tomlin's first year as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the young safety Anthony Smith told a radio station that the Steelers were going to win at New England on Sunday. He guaranteed it.
The quote grew into quite the spectacle because the Patriots were 12-0 and Tom Brady and Randy Moss were healthy and thriving.
Fans packed Gillette Stadium and were rabid by the four o'clock start. They watched Brady and Moss "torch" the Steelers, 34-13. Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns and Moss caught seven passes for 135 yards (19.3 avg.) and two touchdowns.
After the game, Bill Belichick was asked about Smith and he deadpanned, "I've seen better safety play."
The Steelers hope to provide better this time around. To that end, Tomlin -- according to a quote attributed to Shamarko Thomas by the Observer-Reporter's Dale Lolley -- is replacing Thomas this week with 12-year veteran Will Allen.
Allen has played twice for the Steelers against Brady and the Patriots, both times as a bit reserve behind Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu, and even Thomas.
The first time, in 2011, the Steelers beat the Patriots 25-17 as Brady threw for only 198 yards and had short touchdown passes of 2 and 1 yards.
In 2013, Allen played mainly special teams at Gillette Stadium as the Steelers were bombed by Brady, 55-31. Brady threw touchdown passes of 34, 19, 17 and 81 yards.
Allen was asked if quality safety play is more important, even imperative, against the Patriots.
"I think every position's important," Allen said, "but safety is an important position in the game today, considering how much teams are passing. You've got to be able to stop the run, be in your run fits, understand how the quarterback and the offense are trying to attack you from a passing standpoint. It's just a very dynamic position in today's NFL."
Allen was asked if he remembers "The Anthony Smith Game."
"I wasn't here for that," he said.
Does he remember it?
"The guy who said he was going to pick Brady off or something and got torched? Sort of. I remember."
"They saw him trying to jump stuff. They saw him as an aggressive young safety," Allen said. "When they see you trying to get out of the things you're responsible for, the things that are your job but you're trying to make plays by jumping routes, things like that, they'll attack you. They'll attack guys like that with double routes and whatnot. They know what they're doing."
Allen does. He may not be as fast or as physical as young Thomas, but he knows what he's doing.
That'll be a big part of the battle against Brady on Thursday.