The New England Patriots look poised to start quarterback Bailey Zappe against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Talking with the media on Tuesday, Zappe hinted that it would be him, stating that Bill Belichick made it rather clear who would start against Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football.
“Coach has made it pretty clear, but I’ll let him announce it to everybody. That’s private right now. Whenever he announces it, that’s with him,” Zappe said.
Belichick declined to name a starter on Monday, but it does not seem like a switch is coming. Jeff Howe, a national insider for the Athletic, revealed after their 6-0 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that it would likely be Zappe again. In the last three games, the 2-10 Patriots have scored 0, 7 and 6 points. They’re the first team since 1938 to lose three straight games where they didn’t allow more than 10 points, per CBS Sports. The Patriots rank dead last in scoring offense, averaging a measly 12.3 points per game.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemed concerned about the different strategies the Patriots could employ. That includes Malik Cunningham, who has a mobile element that Mac Jones and Zappe do not have.
“I’m really concerned about the quarterback position and the things that they’re doing at the quarterback position from our preparedness standpoint,” Tomlin said. “They got two guys that are somewhat similar in Mac (Jones) and Zap (Bailey Zappe), but Malik Cunningham potentially is very different. And they had all three up just yesterday, and so that has our attention as we prepare. The quarterback mobility component, particularly in a short week is something to be focused on and to make sure that we’re solid thankfully, we play enough quarterback mobility, that we’re not starting at ground zero. And hopefully our cumulative history against quarterback mobility will allow us to make some quick decisions and so forth because when you’re working on a short week, there’s a limited amount of physical reps that you get. And so, when you’re looking at something, potentially like wildcat or quarterback mobility or designed quarterback runs, period, they have your attention.”
Belichick seemed intrigued by the idea of Cunningham playing at some point. He was elevated from their practice squad for a reason, and the Patriots could be at a point where they turn a leaf over to a new direction for the offense Jones and Zappe have seemed fruitless. But as for right now, Zappe is the expected starter, and Pittsburgh is preparing for other contingencies.