Tom Brady said reigning NFL Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots will have to be at the top of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Patriots will welcome rivals the Steelers to Gillette Stadium in week one of the NFL season on Sunday.

Patriots star Brady was asked about the challenge of facing Pittsburgh so early in the season.

“It’s pretty great. We’ve had a great rivalry against those guys and played a lot of meaningful games,” Brady told reporters on Wednesday.

“They’re a great football team, they have a great history. One of the best defenses, still to this day, in the history of the league. … I have a lot of respect for [Steelers] coach [Mike] Tomlin, how he coaches and what he demands out of his players.

“They’ve got a great defensive front, they play extremely hard, great group of linebackers, a talented secondary. Very difficult team to play against, they stress you in a lot of areas. We’ve got to be at the top of our game early in the season, as do they.”

Patriots quarterback Brady, who has made the Pro Bowl 14 times during his storied career, said he was looking forward to the matchup with the Steelers.

“These outcomes are very unpredictable because you have the competitive landscape of the league and you have these other teams that are working extremely hard to beat us,” Brady said.

“I mean, we don’t know how it’s going to go. You put up a plan, you think it’s going to work or else you wouldn’t have confidence in it, and then you get into the ring so-to-speak, and then you go at it.

“They’re going to show us a lot of things that we haven’t seen, and that’s just the way the early part of the football season goes. Eventually, teams settle into what they are going to be and what they’re confident in and what they’re doing a good job at.” 

The Patriots and Steelers are tied for the most wins in Super Bowl history with six apiece. 

“I have a lot of respect for the organisation,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told reporters midweek. “Coach Tomlin, the coaching staff, the players, team, they compete hard, they’re tough. They’re a good football team, they’re strong in all three phases of the game. They challenge you pretty much on every play, so we’ll have to be ready to go 60 minutes, go all the way, go toe-to-toe with them. It’ll be good to get started, but these guys do a good job. They’re a tough team to prepare for, a tough team to play against.”