DateSeasonTextNoteObviously countPerformance at next gamePerformance at prior game
Good afternoon. It's a big week for us as we get ready to prepare for the Carolina Panthers in search of our first road victory. It's something that's a nice challenge that we need to work to achieve this week. We had a good practice yesterday, a bonus day, coming off of a long weekend. We had some good, extended work. We had an opportunity to really evaluate the guys from a health standpoint in terms of practice availability. We have a lot of guys with a clean bill of health that are working in that regard. The only two guys that really have medical issues are Dri Archer with an ankle injury, and he was a partial participant yesterday, and Steve McLendon with his right shoulder subluxation was a partial participant as well. We will monitor those guys throughout the week and take a look at their availability for the football game. We've done that. We have evaluated our performance at Baltimore. It was a losing one. It's really quite simple when we evaluated it and looked at it. We just have to do a better job with some fundamental things. We have to take better care of the football. We have to do a better job of tackling and playing penalty free football on defense. If we do those things, good fundamental things, it will increase our chances of winning. I like the work that we are doing, and really that's what we've been talking to the guys about. These early stages of the season, it's important that we come in here with that sense of urgency on a day-to-day basis with an arrow towards improving. I believe that we have an opportunity to improve on a daily basis, individually and collectively. I thought yesterday we put a good stake in the ground in that regard, and we need to continue to do good work throughout the course of the week in preparation for this game, so that we can clean up some of those things that I mentioned. But it's more than some of those things. At this point of the year we are all growing and developing in a lot of ways. If we approach practice with the right sense of urgency there's a greater opportunity to improve, and that's what we must do. As we look towards this challenge there are several things that kind of stand out. It's a unique thing. We play Carolina every preseason. We just played them a few weeks ago. Let's start with their offense. It starts with Cam Newton and the unique skills that he has. He can really throw the football. He is really big and strong, and athletic. When the pocket breaks down he can create and extend plays. He can throw the ball down the field. He has a hand cannon. He also has tremendous touch. You'll see some balls that have no flight time, you'll see him put great flight time under others. He will back-shoulder throw people. He will throw people open. He really has a well-rounded game from a passing standpoint. He has escapability. He is very mobile. He doesn't necessarily look to run. He looks to extend plays in an effort to break down coverages. But also they do some things schematically to highlight his skill set, particularly in the run game with some read option-like things, and some things we need to be sharp at in terms of acknowledging what he is capable of doing from a quarterback standpoint. But it starts there with them. We have to rush them aggressively but at the same time we have to rush and contain him. That's going to be a big challenge as we prepare this week with our front people and the people that get after the quarterback. They have a real solid backfield tandem in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. These guys have been there and been together for a number of years. I think both guys have been there seven years. Stewart is the younger of the bunch. They utilize both guys. Williams was deactivated last week and you saw a lot of Stewart. But over the years we've seen a lot of both guys. They are both capable guys. They do it in a little different way. Williams is a very speedy and one-cut runner. He is capable of getting on the perimeter but he does have a downhill mentality. He is a very efficient runner. He has very good ball security. Stewart is a stop-and-go guy. He has great vision and feet, particularly for a big man. He's about 235 pounds. He has very good contact balance. He bounces off tacklers. You talk about that tandem and the things that they are able to do and how they complement each other, but I would be remiss if I didn't talk about Mike Tolbert, their fullback. Not only does he open holes for those guys but he's an integral part in what they do from a ball toting standpoint, also particularly situationally. He is a short yardage tailback. He is a goal line runner. He is a third-down back. He is a very versatile, Pro Bowl caliber fullback. So the mobility of their quarterback and the things he is capable of doing with his legs as well as his arms and that stable of backs, I think you get a sense of the challenge we have for us this week. It starts with working to minimize what they are capable of doing in the run game for us. We haven't been our best in that area and this is an exciting opportunity that we have to rectify it for the purposes of increasing our chances of winning. In the passing game, Greg Olsen, their tight end, is a big time vertical threat. He is a matchup issue in just about every stadium he steps in. He has done it for a long time in this league. He's eight years in. He's a very talented guy. We are going to have our challenges there. They have an exciting, young rookie in Kelvin Benjamin who is a big-body guy. He is 6-5, 240 pounds. We looked at him at some length in the draft. I went to his pro day. I had an opportunity to meet him. He is an impressive young man. There are big wideouts and then there are really big wideouts. This guy is really big. He is 240 pounds. He is going to have a 50 pound or so advantage on just about every defensive back he comes across. He has good body control. He has good, strong hands. He attacks the ball. Cam does an awesome job of locating balls and putting balls in locations that only Benjamin can make the plays. If you think back to the National Championship last year, that significant touchdown catch he made, they just put the ball up in the back of the endzone. Those are the types of plays that this guy is capable of making. Quarterbacks can easily put balls where only he can get them. And oftentimes he does. We have to do a great job of working to minimize him. Jerricho Cocthery is a savvy veteran who is very versatile. He is good in the running game as a blocker and is good in the passing game. He is a good route runner. We have known him for a number of years. He is doing some of the things there that he did for us. We have our challenges cut out for us with their offense. If you look at who they are and what they are on defense, we have some challenges there also. They show the signs of a group that is 2-0. They do a nice job of running the football. They have big play capability on offense. And they play stingy defense. When you talk about their defense, they are a four-down group. They have a deep front. Without even talking about their first teamers, the type of production that they are getting from their second-team guys up front speaks to the depth and quality of that depth in the group. I think Kawann Short has been playing great inside. I think Dwan Edwards has been playing great inside. They deactivated Greg Hardy last week and their guy Mario Addison stepped up and had a really big football game. If you look at their contributions of their second-team defensive line, I think it's speaks to the quality of that group and their willingness to utilize all the people that are available to them. At the linebacker level I think they have two special people. Thomas Davis, I marvel at his ability to bounce back from adversity. He is a guy that had several major knee injuries and he is still ticking. He plays really good football. He is athletic. He is active. He is savvy. He's a veteran guy. He is good both versus the run and pass. Their young inside guy, Luke Kuechly, is quite simply one of the best in the business. I think he is legitimately in the argument of a J.J. Watt in terms of some of the most exciting young football players in our game. There's nothing that he can't do. He is good at blitzing. He is good versus backs when he gets on running backs. Backs have a problem from a protection standpoint. He is a sideline-to-sideline tackler. He has innate instincts. He can slip blocks. He can defeat blocks physically. He is great in the passing game in zones and mans. There is really nothing he can't do. He doesn't have many holes in his game as a linebacker. They have a real solid secondary that does a nice job of keeping the ball in front of them. Antoine Cason has really impressed me. I talked about him when we were preparing to play them in the preseason, and he's continued that into the regular season. I think he is doing a really good job for them at left cornerback. In terms of supporting the run, which they get an opportunity to do a lot in their cover-two scheme, but also in terms of some man-to-man things, I thought he really accepted a nice challenge, particularly situationally, he stepped up and bumped and defended Calvin Johnson in one-on-one situations last week. They are a 2-0 group. We are at their house. It's prime time. We respect all those things. But more than anything we are excited about the challenge that we face in terms of preparing ourselves and ultimately playing and playing to the level that we are capable of as we seek victory this week. Those are exciting things. We are working hard toward it. I look forward to getting back with the guys and continuing that process tomorrow. (Is it rare to see two running backs play together for a long time?) It is just in this era of free agency. It is because they're not one and two, they are one and one-a if you will and have been for (an) extended period of time. I imagine that they view it in that way that it's a blessing to be able to retain two backs that are the quality of those two guys. What it does is it never allows you an opportunity defensively to take a break in terms of defending the front line capable runner because they are both just that. And then couple that with the versatility of (Mike) Tolbert, and they have one of the most impressive running back groups in the NFL. (How many runs are designed for Cam Newton versus not designed?) I think more than anything it's not about how often it occurs, it's about the possibility of the designed runs occurring. They use him as an additional blocker if you will. Oftentimes when he hands the ball off and he carries out a fake, you just have to respect his talents. And that requires a defender. Whether they'll hand it off to him once or twice a game, the reality is he's the type of athlete that you have to respect every time that they do that. That removes one core defender from the box. When they're handing the ball off to (DeAngelo) Williams or (Jonathan) Stewart they use it in a very effective way. If you're not respecting it they can and will allow him to keep the football. And then some of the things that he does in the passing game from a scramble standpoint, he's simply taking what's given. He's a very established pocket passer. (He's) a guy that's capable of throwing the ball vertically down the field (and can) really make any throw on the field. But if you lose rush lane integrity (or) if the coverage is dissolved and breaks down, he's got a chance to hurt you with his legs as well. (Do you expect Lance Moore to play and what are your expectations for his performance?) He practiced fully yesterday. We're going to watch that develop throughout the course of the week. A guy that missed some time with a soft-tissue injury like him it's not only his ability to participate it's how his body responds to that participation. So we'll watch him and watch his response to yesterday's work and formulate a plan appropriately. Lance is a guy that's capable of helping us. He knows how to play football (and) he knows how to play the position of wide receiver. So when we get him back out there we expect him to be a positive contributor to our efforts. (What makes a good slot receiver?) That they see the game that the way the quarterback does (and) that they're capable of reading coverage rotations and one-high safety and two-high safeties. They have to do a lot of sighting in terms of the blitz game. They are often involved in some interior blocking in regards to some of the running game stuff. They just have to be a well-balanced wide receiver. (They have to be) a football player first (and) a wide receiver second. I used to say that about Hines (Ward) when he played for us because he embodied what you value in a guy that's capable of playing inside. It's just that, somebody that's a football player first and a wide receiver second. (How do you improve tackling when you can't practice it?) Because oftentimes tackling is about a plan or an approach, and having a hardcore plan and recognizing the positions that your positions puts you in (and) the manner in which you approach the ball from a variety of positions on the field and having a plan to execute fundamental tackling accordingly. There's fundamental tackling that you do on sleds and on people in drill-like settings and we'll continue to work on that. But I just think the more that you play, the more that you're in positions on footballs and you're approaching the ball inside-out (then) you are learning to maintain that consistency. Or outside-in or you learn how to chew up the free grass associated with a guy that has to cover great distances. All of those things can be done in a practice setting without actually tackling. We have been emphasizing that (and) we'll continue and we'll expect the tackling to improve because of it. (How many defensive issues are attributed to being late to the ball or out of position?) It's a myriad of things. I'm sure you could find instances where that is the case, but largely it's just about improving on a day-by-day basis on some fundamental things individually and collectively. (Re: Defending the run and if the issues are guys being out of position or guys being pushed around:) Like I said in response to the previous question, usually when you are giving up 180 (yards) per (game) like we are it's a combination of things. I'm not going to dispute any of those suggestions that you made because the reality (is) it's a mix of all of the above when you're not playing in the manner in which you desire to play (and) particularly against the run. (Is that more of a concern if players are getting pushed off the ball?) It's all a concern (laughs). It really is. It's all something that needs to be addressed and quickly rectified and that's what we're doing working day-to-day to do. (Are the referees calling unnecessary roughness penalties the way that members of the competition committee like you had designed?) I haven't looked at it globally. I'm not really familiar with anything going on outside of Pittsburgh right now. (Do you have to re-emphasize with your players how they can hit or do they know?) No. I've been pleased with our guys' overall level of respect for the way that the game needs to be played in particular that area. Sometimes you'll fall short. I don't have major concerns about our ability to respect the player-safety initiative and lowering the target and things of that nature. I know that we were called a couple of times in the football game but largely in regards to our guys and our approach to it, I have very little concern. (Re: Averaging 10 penalties per game this year compared to five per game last year and what is the difference:) We're two games into this one. Hopefully by the time we're able to compare this year to last or any year for that matter over a 16, 19-game schedule or 20-game schedule if you will (that) we'll have a better showing than we have to this point. (How do deal with a young player like Justin Brown when he fumbles?) I want to encourage him to maintain possession of the football (laughs). That's first and foremost. We can't do anything without possession of the football. That supersedes anything else. (How do you correct Brown while maintaining his confidence?) He's responsible for his confidence. He better maintain possession of the football (laughs). (Re: Marcus Gilbert's performance and how his two sacks could mean he had a horrible game to the public:) You outlined it. You play 60-plus snaps (in a game and) if you give up two sacks it's a bad game. It is what it is. That's the nature of our business and I'm sure as a tackle that's a challenge that he embraces. I'm not concerned about Marcus and his ability to rebound from that (and) his mentality in regards to that rebound. He was in the building yesterday (and) had a good day. I expect him to come back fighting like Rocky. (Is Gilbert now on a shorter leash after giving up four sacks in two games?) No. (Were Gilbert's issues technique related?) A lot of it was (Elvis) Dumervil related (laughs), who is a pretty good player and has been for a longer period of time. When I coached college football I used to say, 'They have scholarships too.' I think the same applies in the NFL. You're talking about guys like Marcus and having to rebound and obviously he needs to do that. But you also have to acknowledge that they face some pretty stiff challenges week in and week out. But that's irrelevant. It's part of it. (Re: His concern with the off-the-field issues around the league:) I'm not (concerned). I'm focused on Pittsburgh and what's going on with us. (How do teams go about respecting due process and wanting to do the right thing and make decisions?) I'm not a good guy to quote on that. I haven't followed some of those other things. I focus on our issues to be honest with you. It's not my job to solve global issues. My job is to solve Pittsburgh issues. (Was Ben Roethlisberger hurting the rest of the game after sustaining a big hit at the beginning of the Baltimore game?) I'm sure he was. That was a significant shot but that comes with the territory and that's something that he's embraced over the years. (Did that hit affect his performance?) No. He's not going to make excuses and I'm not either. He's capable of playing better and we look forward to working hard so that it occurs this weekend.
Press conference1L
I’ll quickly start with a review of yesterday’s performance. Much liked we talked about after the game, really it was a tale of two halves. We got a lot of things done in the first half in all three phases that we desired to get done but didn’t get many things done in the second half in all three phases that we wanted to get done. Let’s spend a little time in areas where we fell short, because I think on a short week that needs to be addressed as we work to improve in preparation for Baltimore. I thought that we were highly penalized in the football game. I think we were penalized 11 times. Probably the most significant element of it is was the way it affected the drive starts in the second half. We were penalized in our kickoff return and in our punt return game. And in many instances in the second half, we started backed up in our own territory inside the 10-yard line. Just from a probability standpoint, you aren’t going to have a lot of scoring drives when that occurs. I thought we could have done a better job offensively in terms of dealing with the backed up scenario and at least flipping the field a little bit and earning a first down or two. We weren’t very successful in dealing with that backed up scenario offensively in the second half. So they played on a short field. We played on a long field they were able to repeatedly capitalize on that. We have to get better in that regard. Liked I talked about yesterday, we also had the issue dealing with their up-tempo pace and what they did to us in the second half from a communication standpoint and from a misdirection pass defense standpoint. I thought that enabled them to find rhythm, get chunks of yards and flip the field. The way we were able to get chunks in the first half and sustain drives – on our first drive we threw a screen pass to Antonio Brown, we had a big ball to Markus Wheaton for 40 yards and we had a 30-yard check-down to Le’Veon Bell. That flips the field regardless of whether or not you score. That puts you in position to score. We didn’t have those things in the second half and they did. That’s why the momentum changed in a big way. But the thing that is really encouraging about it all, as negative as it could have been, over the course of the second half I thought we got tremendous play in the waning moments and in the most significant moments of the football game in all three phases. I thought William Gay was really significant defensively with a pass breakup to get us off the field on the second-to-last possession, and the two plays he made on second and third-down on the last possession. Wheaton stepped up and delivered big for us on offense. I can’t say enough about what Brad Wing was able to do. Obviously, Shaun Suisham gets a lot of the credit because he’s the one that kicks it through the uprights, but we are talking about a young guy in Wing, in his first game, and he holds on the game winner and did a nice job in some difficult punting situations. I was really pleased with his performance and his ability to deliver in the waning moments. We have a lot to learn from the performance. It’s good to do that with a win. We will do that in a quick fashion as we prepare for Baltimore. We have some injuries to deal with in response to yesterday’s work. Dri Archer has an ankle sprain, which makes him questionable. Shamarko Thomas has an ankle or an Achilles sprain of some kind that is going to make him questionable. All of the guys that were out yesterday will probably remain questionable, guys like Brice McCain, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant. We will see where these guys are as we begin the preparation process tomorrow. But anybody that wasn’t available yesterday, the best you can list them at this juncture is questionable on this short week. We are excited about going to Baltimore and playing the first division road game. They are Baltimore and we are Pittsburgh. We understand what that means. We are excited about learning more about ourselves in the midst of that challenge in a hostile environment. They have some new components also that are going to create some interesting work for us as we prepare on a short week and will challenge us once we get into the stadium. Obviously Coach Kubiak, their offensive coordinator, brings a new component to the matchup. He has a big zone scheme running background and misdirection pass background. Obviously we struggled with some of those things in the stadium yesterday. But it’s not like those things are totally new to Baltimore. They’ve been a zone scheme team and a pocket moving team in the past. So from that standpoint it won’t be new to us, but he has earned his stripes in this thing with that schematic approach. And we have a level of respect for the work that we have to do in terms of making sure we are up to speed with that. On a personnel front, Steve Smith is a been-there, done-that kind of guy. He went over 100 yards yesterday. He had a big 80-yard play. I know him from back in the day in the NFC South when I was in Tampa Bay. He is a difficult guy to get on the ground. He is a ridiculous competitor. He has great contact balance. He is like a running back once he gets the ball. He is very similar to Antonio Brown in that way. We have to do a good job of first denying him the ball when we can, but when he does get it, we have to get multiple people to the ball because he doesn’t die easy with the ball in his hands. He is a tough run after the catch guy. Dennis Pitta, their tight end, was injured last year. He has been a part of their program, but he is back and back in a big way. He’s being featured in a lot of things they do offensively. I think he had 10 catches yesterday. We have to be good to minimize what he is capable of. With their running backs, Ray Rice is out due to suspension. They have Bernard Pierce and Justin Forsett. Pierce is a bruising second-year runner and a guy that we saw last year. He played quite a bit of football for them in the past. We expect him to play a significant role in the game Thursday night. Forsett is a savvy veteran guy that they acquired. He’s been around the NFL for some time. He has a very efficient, no-nonsense game. He is good in the running game and good in the passing game. I think that is exemplified in his numbers yesterday. He was involved in the run and pass game, screens and so forth. It will create issues for us as we prepare. They have a new center (Jeremy Zuttah) but they have some real continuity on the offensive line. Eugene Monroe is back. We have to deal with those guys. They are a great zone scheme team. They do a nice job of cutting, particularly on the back side of plays. We have to keep our feet clean so we can pursue the ball and minimize running lanes. If you look at what they do on defense, their core components are still there. But when you talk about the Ravens’ defense it starts with Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. But there are some other guys that have been supporting members in the past. They are ascending and maturing much like some of the young guys that we have on our team that are maturing and ascending: guys like Pernell McPhee, Courtney Upshaw and Matt Elam. They have some guys that have played some ball. Jimmy Smith is a savvy, veteran cornerback for them. Chykie Brown is probably four years into the program now and is playing a significant role for them. It might be new to some people but not knew to them. Obviously we are familiar with what these guys are capable of. A lot of these guys that I’ve mentioned have earned their stripes on special teams in the recent years. They are getting an opportunity to play defense. We are going to be excited. We aren’t concerned about the short week. It’s Week 2 in this season and we are going into a hostile environment. I am sure there is going to be a lot of excitement associated with that. It’s prime time. We look forward to the challenge and getting to know our team, and hopefully we push through it. (Was Cleveland’s success in the running game due to their schematics?) A lot of it is schematics and some of it is communication. And a lot of it is just technique. I think that when you have the type of day that they had, particularly in the second half, it’s never one thing. It’s usually some things. Most of the time that one thing may produce shortcomings in other areas that produce a multitude of things. But more than anything we just have to be good fundamentally. We have to exercise good technique. We have to play the defense that’s called. We have to communicate those defenses and we have to put them in the best position as we possibly can to defend the plays as coaches. (Do you need to have safer calls on the defense when the opposing offense goes no-huddle?) No, the big thing is whatever is called we have to communicate it. Communication is integral to execution and I thought we could have communicated better. Obviously, I thought we could have executed better. (Is that philosophy due to you playing young guys like Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier?) I’m not looking for excuses, I’m really not. It’s irrelevant. We’re going to work and prepare and we are going to let the ball snap, and we’re going to play. (Re: Needing better communication and if that is from the sideline to the player or player-to-player:) All of the above. We have to do a good job communicating, whether it’s verbal or hand signals from the sideline to the field. We have to do a better job of relaying that information from player-to-player on the field. (Re: Thoughts on the Ray Rice video and if he has seen it:) I have, and I have nothing to say regarding that video. Absolutely, nothing. (Did the defense have enough time to get in position against the no-huddle?) Being where you are supposed to be doesn’t necessarily mean snap readiness (laughing). We were where we were supposed to be, but based on some of the results of those snaps I can’t say that we were ready. We’re going to work hard at being better in that regard here on a short week in preparation for Thursday. (Should playing against your own no-huddle offense have prepared your defense better for the Browns’ no-huddle?) It should have and we have worked extensively against it. We’ve had some good days. Obviously yesterday was not one (laughing). We’re not going to let yesterday define us by any stretch though. I appreciate the thoughts and concerns, but we’re simply going to roll our sleeves up and prepare for the next opportunity, and obviously hope for a better result. We’re going to need a better result if we want to get a victory on Thursday night. (Re: The defensive line rotation:) Until people distinguish themselves as being core components and reasons why we win regardless of circumstance, we’re going to cast a big net and play all the guys in a helmet. (Did you have the fake punt call set up earlier in the game but did not use it because of you didn’t have the look that you wanted from Cleveland?) Correct. (Re: Le’Veon Bell’s receiving performance and what it showed:) We’re not surprised by that. That was an element of his game that was attractive to us a couple years ago when we drafted him. I think he caught 38-40 balls or something his last year at Michigan State. Le’Veon thinks he can do anything on a football field. I agree with him (laughing). (Did you feel like physically the players were fine yesterday or were they tired when facing the no-huddle in the second half?) I’m not concerned about fatigue and things of that nature. What I’m concerned about is the quality of our play. There was no reason for us to be fatigued in any way. We’re not looking for excuses. We have to play better. (Does William Gay’s performance yesterday give him the ability to start?) To me a nickel corner is a starter in today’s NFL with multiple receiver threats and how significant it is in situational football. We view him as a starter. That’s why we introduce him with the starters at the beginning of every game. I just think that’s a component of NFL football now. When you talk about defense, you have a minimum of 12 starters with that nickel corner being the 12th.
Press conference7LW
Good afternoon. There is a lot to be excited about as I sit here today in a similar manner in which I expressed to the team yesterday. It’s really black and white in terms of the things that should stimulate us as we prepare this week. It’s the Cleveland Browns. It’s AFC North football. It’s at Heinz Field. It’s our opener. If that doesn’t turn you on, then you don’t have a pulse. We had a good bonus day yesterday, laying the foundations of our plan and starting the specific preparation process for this football game. I’ll take a few minutes to outline them and some of the things that make them who and what they are. On offense, it’s a new staff but not new to us schematically. I have known Kyle Shanahan for a number of years. I worked with him in Tampa Bay. He has been the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, who we have played in the regular season and in the preseason the last couple of years. He is a very good football coach. They have a balanced attack. The passing game mirrors the run game, misdirection passes, and their play-action is highly coordinated with the running attack. We will be challenged schematically. I’ll start first with the quarterback position. We have a great deal of respect for Brian Hoyer, because we know him. We worked with him. What you don’t see on tape probably is what is most impressive about him. He is a consummate professional. He is an energy bringer. He is really intelligent. He is really football smart. He has great ideas. He understands how to fit his skill set into system football. He is not going to lose games above the neck. This guy is going to show up highly prepared. He is going to know his strengths. He is going to know what we are. He is going to work to play to his strengths and attack our perceived weaknesses. He is a good football player. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he is the guy they chose to go with. With that being said, we have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career. We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn’t draft him in the first round to watch. We understand that. So we are going through the process of preparing ourselves, really for both guys. I don’t imagine they are going to be drastically different with either guy. Obviously, Manziel has some unique run skills and capabilities. I think they are capable of highlighting that within the framework of their offense. But it’s not like Hoyer is immobile. We are proceeding to prepare and play against both of those guys. We have a pretty decent understanding of who and what those guys are. Again, we are anticipating them utilizing both in some capacity. I think that’s the appropriate approach for us to take. If you look at their running back, Ben Tate, it’s easy to see why they acquired him. He is a terrific zone-scheme runner. He proved that in Houston and on his college tape. That is the running approach that they choose to employ, strong zone-scheme runs. He really fits the bill in that regard. He is capable of running inside and outside. He is capable of lowering his pad level and getting behind his pads. He is 5-10, 220. He has a nice build. He has great contact balance and vision. He is a one-cut runner, a very efficient runner. He is a perfect fit for what they are doing schematically. If you look at their eligible receivers, I think you start with Jordan Cameron. This guy is a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. He is one that is capable of being an integral part of their passing game and one that is capable of stretching the field vertically. I would imagine that he is as established a player on the receiving end of passes as they have, if you consider Josh Gordon not participating in the game. I expect them to utilize Cameron. He fits nicely in terms of some of the misdirection passes and the play-action passes I talked about when I was talking about the schematics of Coach Shanahan. We expect Cameron to be an integral part of what they do. We have to do a good job of minimizing the chunks that he is capable of creating in the passing game. Obviously they have acquired Miles Austin, a savvy veteran, a route runner and a guy that knows how to get open versus man and zone. He is a combat catch guy. He is a tough guy to tackle. He is a real sturdy wide receiver after the catch. They picked up Andrew Hawkins, who we are very familiar with from Cincinnati, who is an option route runner, a gadget guy, reverse guy and does wide receiver screens. He is very elusive. He is a tough guy to deal with in space and I am sure they will work to utilize him in those ways. If you look at their offensive line, they have a really nice group. They are anchored by Alex Mack at center and Joe Thomas at left tackle. But they have a new acquisition or two that are impressive. Joel Bitonio from Nevada. He played tackle at Nevada but was a very aggressive player on video leading up to the draft. His skill set fits perfectly for a guard and he’s starting at left guard for those guys. I am looking forward to matching up against him and seeing what our skill set is against him. He has an awesome play demeanor. From a defensive standpoint, again it’s a new staff but not necessarily new schematically in terms of us. Obviously this group comes from Buffalo in a lot of ways. We played those guys a year ago and prior to that the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens. We have a strong history of schematics in terms of matching up against these guys. I don’t say that seeking comfort. We have a potential of knowing a little more about what they are under normal circumstances in terms of an opener, but I am sure they are saying the same things about us because of that same shared experience. If you look up front, it starts there with them. They have a really talented rotation on the defensive line: Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin. They are both loads. They do it in different ways. Taylor is a penetrator. Rubin is great laterally and comes off blocks. He plays with good technique. The two Bryants, Armonty and Desmond, are quality players on the rise, particularly Armonty. He is ascending. His hand usage and rush abilities are exceptional. They have quality outside edge players in Barkevious Mingo, Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard. They play all three. They rotate all three through both positions. Both tackles have to be prepared to block all three of those men. All three of those men present different types of challenges. That’s going to create a good challenge for us as we prepare this week physically for those matchups. Inside they acquired Karlos Dansby, who is a been there, done that linebacker. He is a good in all situations. He is good versus the run. He is really good in open space versus the pass. He has been throughout the course of his career. He is a nice acquisition for those guys. If you look at their secondary, it’s still centered around the talents of Joe Haden. He has matched up against Antonio Brown in the past. I would imagine he would do the same. He is supported by Buster Skrine, who we have played against in the past. Obviously, they have a high pedigree, first-rounder in Justin Gilbert out of Oklahoma State, who is also a cornerback. New at the safety spot is Donte Whitner. He is a Cleveland native. He is a guy that has been around, Buffalo and San Francisco. He is a rough and tumble football player. He is a good personality guy for defense. Obviously, I am sure he is looking to make his mark on this series, being a guy that is from this region of the country. And on special teams, it will be business as usual there. We will have our challenges and opportunities alike. What is different this time around is that last year they had Travis Benjamin, who was really exciting early in the season as a return man. He was injured and we didn’t get an opportunity to play against him. Obviously, we will do that and have an opportunity to compete against him in the stadium this Sunday. He is going to present challenges. He is very elusive. He has natural run instincts and has ridiculous top end speed. Those will be the challenges to us as we prepare. And really a lot of the things that we are doing are centered around what we can do well and execute, and how it measures up to the information I just gave you. From an injury standpoint, I think we are in pretty good shape. We had some guys that missed some time last week in the fourth preseason game. Most of those guys participated in yesterday’s practice, at least in some capacity. I am talking about Sean Spence, Greg Warren, Matt Spaeth, Lance Moore and Brice McCain. Obviously, Martavis Bryant did not participate. I don’t know his status as we speak. At the early stages of the week, we are going to leave the light on for all of these men and kind of harden up our inactive list as we get closer to game time with that information in mind. (What steps have you seen Hoyer take in his development?) I think he’s taken steps we’ve all taken in terms of getting ready for the season. He’s had to get acclimated to a new staff and new system but Hoyer is the type of guy that it’s just procedural stuff for him. It’s not troublesome to him. He’s a football junkie, he’s really intelligent. It’s his job and his hobby. He loves it. I would imagine he’s spent the necessary time and then some in terms of preparing himself for this opportunity. Like I said, we’re fans of Hoyer because we know him first-hand and have seen him work on a day-to-day basis. (Can Le’Veon Bell be a back that can get 20-25 touches a game?) Yeah I think he is. I think he had 380 (382) his last year at Michigan State. I think we drafted him with that in mind. (Do you expect to see Johnny Manziel situationally?) I think Kyle (Shanahan) is best suited to ask him that. Why don’t you ask him and let me know what he says. They’ve got talent and that talent is going to be available to them. I’m sure they’ve prepared and (are) preparing to utilize that. When they do is up to them. We don’t have control over that but we will be prepared for the utilization of that talent. (Do they get a win with forcing you to practice and prepare for Manziel?) I don’t believe that because I believe that all of the things that they are potentially going to ask him to do I think Brian Hoyer is fully capable of doing. And I’m sure they are going to do it with him as well. I just think when you have a talent like Johnny Manziel, you’re going to get him on the field and help him grow and develop and continue with the growth and development process even as you get into the regular season. I don’t think necessarily his presence in the game is going to dictate a difference in schematics. (Does Cleveland have one of the more balanced defense in the conference?) I believe that they do, but I don’t believe that is something new. This core collection of defensive linemen that I’ve talked about have been together for a number of years, particularly (with) Phil Taylor and (Ahtyba) Rubin. Obviously Joe Haden has been Joe Haden for a number of years. I think that (Karlos) Dansby is a quality NFL linebacker but I feel the same about (former Browns player) D’Qwell Jackson. I believe that (Donte) Whitner is a quality NFL strong safety, but I felt the same way about (former Browns player) T.J. Ward. So I think that they’ve been that. I think that they’ve been a very balanced group. (Will Arthur Moats rotate in with the starters at outside linebacker?) He’s capable. Obviously how we’re getting off the field will dictate that. Fresh bodies are the best bodies, particularly if they are capable of being reasons why we win. We believe he is. We’ll let the game circumstances dictate the usage. (Who will be your return specialists?) In the punt game you’ll see Antonio Brown and Dri Archer. In the kickoff return game you’ll see Dri Archer along with LeGarrette Blount. I think that’s how they’re listed on the depth chart. (Will you pick your spots to use Antonio Brown in the return game?) I don’t live in my fears (laughing). He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber return man so that’s what you do with those guys, you play them. (Re: The progression of Chris Hubbard since last season:) He’s grown in all areas and that’s what the practice squad is about. He’s gotten better in his knowledge of the game. He’s gotten better in his fundamentals and technique and obviously he’s improved his body or his physical makeup in the weight room. He’s bigger, stronger, faster. But I think the same could be said for a guy like Justin Brown who made a similar leap. We take pride in the growth and development of guys. It’s the life blood of the program, if you will. Those two guys are examples of guys that took advantage of an opportunity to continue to come to work and improve and get better. Hopefully many of the guys that are on the practice squad this year will do similar things. (Re: Brett Keisel’s performance and if he will start on Sunday:) It was above the line. I still think we’re just getting a sense of what Brett is capable of from the snap standpoint. That will have a lot to do with his utilization in the game along with the performance of others. I think that’s just growing organically and I’m not opposed to it growing in any direction. And I’m sure Brett is not opposed to it growing, particularly if it means him playing more than he played last weekend. He’s going to be an asset to us and I just look forward to continuing to watch him round himself into form. (Re: Punishments of Bell and LeGarrette Blount:) That will be between us. So I’ll stick to that. (Re: Details on Bell/Blount punishment:) Just in general. (Is Ryan Shazier where you want him to be after drafting him in the first round?) Slated to start, yes. But I don’t seek comfort or find comfort in that. He’s a young guy. He’ll be better in two weeks than he is today. I think that’s one of the points that you continue to re-iterate to young players, not only him, (is) that yeah it’s a significant point in the journey when we move from preseason to regular season but he’s by no means a finished product. We’re by no means a finished product. He has an opportunity to get better on a day-to-day basis when he comes into this building, as do we collectively. I think us collectively are going to have a lot to do with the mentality of guys like him and I had a similar discussion regarding Jarvis (Jones) I think last time we sat down in this setting. I like where they are but I expect them to continually get better. (Did last year’s performance hit home with the players regarding importance of having a good start to the season?) I hope not. I hope that that point already hit home. I don’t like to be reactionary in my thinking. I don’t need an 0-4 start to let me know how significant good starts are. They are significant so I’ll perceive the same mentality that I’ve had through the course of my career, not only here but prior to being here. (What did you see in Alejandro Villanueva?) He’s a guy that we believe has some upside, that has some talent, but aside from talent has some special characteristics that might assist him in terms of helping that talent come out of grow(ing) and develop(ing). So we’ll put him in the program like we did Chris Hubbard and Justin Brown. And he’ll come with the mentality regarding getting better on a day-to-day basis and we’ll see where that leads us. It’s really as simple as that, not only for him but all the practice squad guys. (Who’s your backup long snapper?) It’s not me (laughing). I guess it’s not James Harrison either, remember that from a few years ago? That’s not something that we like to talk about. I’m not going to list him on the depth chart because I don’t want to apply any more pressure to him than need be. But we have a guy and he’s working (laughing). (Do you have any concerns with playing Keisel and bumping Cam Heyward out of his position?) Just because he’s an end doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to move Heyward. He might be the pliable guy. I think those are the things that we’re sorting out. It might not mean anything in terms of ‘Okie’ or our odd-man front. It might be nickel oriented or sub-package oriented. I think we’re sorting through all of those things so it would be premature to talk about adjustments that he’s got to make or people that play with him have to make.
Press conference10W
Good afternoon. I'll start, as always, quickly with a review of yesterday's performance and then kind of get into some of the season review things. I was pleased with yesterday's performance. I thought it was a definitive victory. But probably one of the most pleasing things was that it wasn't one of our more clean efforts, but we were still able to win the game definitively. I think that speaks to the miles that we covered and how we've evolved as a football team, that we weren't capable of playing our best ball but were able to win the game in definitive fashion. What I mean by some of the things we didn't do well in the game but have done in recent weeks, we turned the ball over in the game. We hadn't done that. We didn't get off the field quickly enough in some instances on defense, but actually we did really stand up in the field goal fringe area, obviously with some of those fourth-down stops throughout the game. We dropped a very catchable interception. We had seized some of those moments in recent weeks. We didn't have a lot of splash in the kicking game. That has aided us quite a bit in recent weeks. So to come up short in some of those areas and still win the game in definitive fashion, I thought it just spoke to the overall growth of the group. We are glad to get the win. Obviously, it was a necessary one to keep us in play. And to finish off the regular season in the manner in which needed to be done, appropriately speaking, against an AFC North opponent, in our home stadium and in front of our fans. I appreciate the efforts of the guys in that regard. On the injury front, we had a few minor injuries in the game. Jerricho Cotchery hurt his ribs. He will be evaluated today. Steve McLendon re-aggravated his high ankle sprain. He will be evaluated today. A few guys that went into the game with bumps and bruises that weren't able to finish, Emmanuel Sanders being one of them. Obviously, we couldn't get Jason Worilds to a level of comfort prior to the game to be able to play effectively. We will continue to deal with those things. I'll try to keep you guys up to date with a myriad of injury things. Obviously, as we push into the offseason, we have to be on our details of getting the ones injured well, and well quickly. All the surgeries that needed to transpire to this point have transpired minus Curtis Brown. If you remember, he had an ACL tear and an MCL injury. The MCL had to heal before the surgery. It has. I think his ACL surgery is scheduled for this Friday. Other than him, all of the other surgeries that needed to transpire have transpired. Obviously, there may be some things that come up at the end of the year, exit physicals and so forth. We aren't going to rush through any of that. We are going to do what is appropriate in regards to closing this out from a health standpoint to put ourselves in the very best position to be as healthy as we can as we push forward into 2014. In review of the season, and looking back at the season, I like to consider myself an accountability guy and responsibility guy. I know that our team does the same. Our record speaks for itself. We fell short this year of getting ourselves in the tournament to chase the ultimate prize, which obviously every year is our intention. We didn't do enough. We didn't do enough, particularly early this year. I think that's been well documented. I'm really proud of the guys, the way they improved, number-one, and the way they stuck together in the midst of adversity. Obviously, it could have gone several ways. You've been around enough football that you know that people tend to seek comfort or get selfish when things were going the way things were going for us earlier in the season. I give a lot of credit to the character of the people that work, players, assistant coaches and even all throughout the organization. Everyone kept a positive, upbeat and can-do attitude in regards to our then present circumstance. We were able to maintain some sort of relevance and improve and put ourselves in a position that we were in yesterday. Obviously, I am sure there is a lot of reaction to what unfolded yesterday evening and last night in regards to our efforts. For me, we made that bed, like I said yesterday after the game. It's my intention to lay in it in a proper manner, professionally speaking, with honor and the right approach. We stepped into 16 stadiums this year with an opportunity to state our case, and we didn't state a strong enough case, so I am not going to lose a lot of sleep over something that went on in a stadium that we weren't even in. We had plenty of opportunities to state our case. What transpired yesterday was unfortunate for our hopes moving forward, but we have to find a way to accept that and move forward, and I am sure that we will. I'll get an opportunity to meet with the guys today at 2 p.m. and start that process. I think there is also something that needs to be said in regards to this season that I believe in. I believe we have the very best fans in the world. And I would like to thank them for sticking with us throughout what was a trying journey this year. There were many moments during the course of the year where it became very evident to me how special Steelers Nation is. I think about the following we had in London. We went to London as an 0-3 team, and I think about the type of following we had in London, even along the walkway in the bus area after the game when we fell to 0-4. I think about the support we had in New York, coming out of the bye week and going to play the Jets in a road city. I think about the way our fans rallied and supported us here down the stretch with a stretch of home games that were significant in our efforts to stay alive. I don't take it for granted. It doesn't get old. But at the same time, I do want to acknowledge it and thank the fans for riding with us. As we move forward, from a business standpoint and looking ahead to 2014, obviously the necessary business that has to take place, staff things and player things, I'm really just kind of at the very beginning of that. I don't have any strong statements or anything in that regard. I'll do the best I can to answer any questions that you have, but obviously, I am not going to speak inappropriately or too soon in regards to some of the natural business that needs to transpire in all cities in the NFL over the course of the next days and weeks. Those things are reality here. Change is a part of football. Free agency is a part of football. But I won't get into any of that in great detail. (Re: Process for evaluating players and staff:) It's a long and drawn out process for me, something that there is a tendency to try to rush to it and through it. I don't. I take my time. I'll visit with players. I'll set aside blocks of time to do so. I'll evaluate their performance. I'll hear what they have to say in regards to the overall group of the team if you will. I'll do that over the course of the next days or maybe even weeks. I'll have an opportunity to evaluate the staff. Obviously, I'll sit down and map out a plan for moving forward with the Rooney's and Kevin [Colbert] in regards to salary cap, player personnel, looming free agency, draft preparation, etcetera. All of it is normal business for us, but I don't want to rush it. I don't want to make hasty decisions. Obviously, I don't want to make emotional decisions and obviously we've been on an emotional journey. We'll be very deliberate about how we proceed. (Will both coordinators be back next season?) Again like I said, I'm not going to address any of that. Any personnel issues, any staffing issues, is inappropriate. I haven't met with the team and I haven't met with the staff. I will at some point. Obviously, I acknowledge that change is a part of football in staff and in players. But other than that, I'm not getting into that today. (8-8 is 8-8, but do you have a different feel about the way the end of this season was versus the way you left last season?) There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what transpired when you look at it over the course of the season. It just speaks to the men that we work with. I learned a lot about them and sometimes you learn a lot about yourself and the people that you work with in the midst of adversity. We had enough adversity, obviously. Starting 0-4 and being 2-6 at the turn, it's encouraging to know the type of men that you work with that are capable of getting singularly focused and tuning out the noise and staying together and continuing to work and improve in the midst of negativity. All of those things are encouraging. But at the same time, as I look back at the body of work, and that's what the beginning of this process is, you've got to acknowledge we are what we are and that's an 8-8 football team on the outside looking in at the tournament. But there is a lot of reason for optimism, a great deal of pride in this group of men that I work with. I just really want to honor their efforts and honor the support and love that we get from our fans. (Was this the most difficult coaching season that you've had?) They're all difficult. I really don't look at it in that way. My job is to provide the team what it needs to be what they're capable of being and that's how I walk in this building every day. Regardless of circumstance, I've got to deliver for them. The circumstances might have been a little different than they were in some years or during the course of it, and we created some of that adversity obviously. But I don't look at it in terms of what I have to do. I just simply do what I have to do in an effort to provide an environment that's conducive to winning and winning consistently and chasing the Lombardi trophy. (How can your team get better in terms of taking care of business against teams that are equally talented or perhaps less talented than you are?) I really don't get into all of that. I'm trying to beat everyone. Where people stand today might be different than where they stood when we played them. I think that's an element of it. I think when we played Detroit they were a division leader, etcetera, etcetera. Teams evolve over the course of the season. You want to be a team that's on the upswing obviously as the season draws to a close so that if you're good enough to get in the tournament, you can have what's necessary to pursue and win the Lombardi trophy. We've got to win every football game. We didn't. We've got to be better. I haven't had a chance to evaluate it from that perspective, but obviously I look forward to doing so. (Re: Handling adversity like injuries differently as a coaching staff:) Obviously, we need to insulate ourselves a little bit better than we did from an injury standpoint. Obviously, I could adjust a little bit better schematically as new positives and new negatives arise as injuries set in and so forth. It's my job to make sure that this group works towards their strengths and works to minimize weaknesses. Obviously, those things change significantly when you have the types of injuries that we had. The ability to adjust, to have a plan and be light on your feet is part of football. To grow over the course of a season, for young players in particular, is a part of football. Those things happened, not quickly enough obviously to get us in the tournament and have an opportunity to move forward. I'll be looking at all of those things and then some moving forward. You can call it assessing blame. For me, it's just looking at it with realistic eyes in an effort to be better the next time and that's what I'll do. Like I said earlier, I'm a believer in accountability and responsibility, and from that standpoint I accept responsibility for what transpires within our organization. (Did Kelvin Beachum show you enough at left tackle that going into next season that could be his position to lose?) He did a very good job of representing what he's capable of, but I'll expect him to continue to improve. I will not allow him to have an opportunity to exhale or seek comfort in regards to that. He's got a big offseason and training camp ahead of him, but he's in pretty decent position from that regard. (The focus and commitment and the staying with it you were talking about, was that something that emerged from this team or was that something that was brought out by a group of leaders or the staff? Where did it come from?) I think it's all of the above. When it's time to circle the wagons, you don't care where great ideas come from and perspective and personalities and I saw it from a myriad of places or a great number of people over the course of the journey. Sometimes it's just as simple as being an energy-bringer as opposed to an energy-drainer. We've got a lot of guys that fall into that category, but like I said it is special. (When you're evaluating personnel, how much are leadership characteristics involved in a decision like that, even if a player may not be what he was three years ago?) It's an element, but it's not an element that's exclusive to every particular individual or decision that needs to be made. Largely speaking as you go through this thing, you make necessary decisions and you better have enough guys with experience and natural leadership capabilities and personalities and so forth. Obviously, that will be a part of discussions as we decide what needs to be done from a personnel standpoint, not only in free agency and team development, but also in the draft. (Would you describe your offense as being ahead of your defense right now and maybe even going into 2014?) No, I wouldn't say that. I don't think statistics support that. I think we're 13th in the league in defense or whatever and 20th or so in offense. There are many ways to cut it, obviously. We're an 8-8 football team and that's the bottom line from my perspective. However you cut the mustard, it is what it is. We've got three phases that we look to be as strong as we potentially can be in it in an effort to increase our chances of winning. We've got some work to do in all three phases, obviously. (Are any of your injured reserve guys not on course to be ready for the offseason or camp?) I have no idea. I haven't even begun to ask some of those questions yet. I'm sure I'm going to be getting into those things in the upcoming days. (Re: Using a timeout on the punt at the end of the first half yesterday:) They held their punt team and then when they ran their punt team out on the field, we were in the process of exchanging defense to punt return. At one instance, I thought we had 12 guys on the field. With the new participation rule, you don't have to snap the ball to get penalized for 12 defenders on the field. So I didn't want them to potentially penalize us for 12 people on the field. I called a timeout to preserve that so if we did have 12 on the field that we wouldn't be penalized prior to the ball being snapped. I knew that the play clock was running down, but I wasn't interested in getting into that. I didn't want to have a participation issue. We had some last minute adjustments from a personnel standpoint with Jason Worilds and others being out. That's why I utilized the timeout. (So the timeout was for personnel, not to save time on the clock?) It was for personnel, certainly. (Is there a plan in place for Keith Butler to succeed Dick LeBeau? Is he the coordinator in waiting?) Again, there is no plan in place specifically and I won't be talking about any personnel or staffing issues in great detail today. (Did your coaching philosophy on the no-huddle change as the season evolved?) No, it changes as circumstances evolve. I think week-to-week you ask yourself questions relative to that and I've kind of outlined it in great detail in here over the course of many weeks throughout the course of the season. There is a myriad of decisions that need to transpire as you weigh the options of no-huddle or how much or what personnel group to run it out of or multiple personnel groups to run it out of. Those are discussions that we have as a staff week-in and week-out. (Is this the greatest input Ben Roethlisberger has had into the offense, both in meeting rooms and on the field since you've been here?) No, it's probably consistent with what's transpired in recent years with him. As we get down to the course of the season and we find rhythm or continuity in terms of the people that we're utilizing and how we're playing. He's been a part of the process. He did a great job of it this year, obviously, and not only in terms of his input but his leadership. We've got a bunch of young guys. I really thought he answered the bell for us in a big way in that regard and others. But just specifically in regards to input, he's been involved in input for a number of years here, as all veteran signal callers should be. (As far as the no-huddle and the opponent, do you not look how much success you've had with it in the past games?) No, it's not opponent only. It's circumstances and I think I was pretty clear in discussing that. Most of the time when I outline the variables that are significant in terms of determining how much or if we do utilize it, I talk about us and our people and so forth. (Is there an area or two from the season that you're pleased with the improvement you saw? And conversely, is there an area or two where you weren't pleased with the progress you made?) I really haven't had enough time probably to take a step back and give you a fair assessment of it from that standpoint. Obviously, there are plenty of things to be proud of, there are plenty of things that need to improve. I think the overwhelming feeling that I have as I sit here right now is just a great deal of pride in the group and their willingness to stick together and their ability to maintain focus and improve over the course of the season. I think that's probably the theme that I'll remember regarding this group more than anything else. But there are a myriad of things and specific things that I'm sure that we got better at that need acknowledgment and things that we fell short. (Did you watch the San Diego-Kansas City game with the guys? Did a bunch of the guys watch the late game together?) I don't know what they did. I went home. (Re: Challenge flexibility moving forward based on what has transpired the last few weeks:) Obviously, there is a lot of work that needs to be done from an officiating standpoint. I think it has been played out and well documented over the last several weeks, not only in the stadiums we have played in but others. I look forward to being part of the process of helping it improve. I think that's the mentality that we all should have. We are all blessed to be a part of the NFL. I take a great deal of pride in that. I always want to be somebody that is part of the solution as opposed to someone that is complaining and moaning about the problem. I intend to roll my sleeves up and offer any insight that I can in terms of making this the very best it can be moving forward. Like I said when I opened this thing, I am not looking to assess blame on anybody else about our current position other than ourselves. (Re: Reaction to the San Diego game:) What do you think? (I don't know.) Come on. You're a smart guy. (When you saw Kansas City line up for the field goal, could you see on the television that San Diego was committing a penalty?) Yes. (Do you think having full-time referees could help?) I think that and other things are up for discussion but I'm not going to get into that, just like I am not going to talk about personnel and staffing. It's inappropriate for this setting. Having an opportunity to be a part of the competition committee and the number of meetings we have scheduled moving into the offseason in an effort to ensure that football is the very best product we can provide for the fans, I look forward to being a part of that. (Did LaMarr Woodley need surgery for his injury?) It's a rehabilitation thing. There are no procedures scheduled at this juncture. (When you saw they missed the penalty call on the field goal, did you say anything or yell at the television like a lot of people would?) I'll leave that between myself, my sons and our basement. (Have you received any calls from the league about the officiating from yesterday's Chiefs-Chargers game?) I have received calls, texts and emails. Those guys do a great job of communicating during difficult times. I appreciate that. But it doesn't change what transpired. (Re: Evaluating yourself this offseason:) I'll evaluate everything that I do and how we go about it in an effort to be better. Obviously, I will leave the evaluation of my performance where it should be, to the Rooneys. (Re: Ike Taylor possibly playing safety:) That hasn't been discussed formerly in any form or fashion. Ike and I talk about that from time to time because a lot of guys that have played his position have extended their careers in that manner, particularly guys that have the type of size that he has. Nothing has been discussed formerly in any form or fashion, and I don't think anything needs to be read into that at all. (Re: The fake punt call in overtime during the Chiefs-Chargers game and should there have been a review:) I haven't kept up with the press releases and stuff coming out of New York in regards to some of those things. I will let those guys comment on it. I think that's appropriate. I will follow up if given an opportunity. But I am not going to say anything before they do. (Re: Rationale behind instituting the new rule on field goals and extra points:) It was for player safety. There were guys coming in twos through the gap and some of the ugly things that were transpiring with people toppling over people and things of that nature. I think that was the original intention of the rule. (What officials are responsible for making that call?) There were two guys positioned behind that group, but again, I'll let those guys make comments in regards to what mechanically was done correct or incorrect in that time period. I think it's just best that I wrap a bow around the season and move on from there. (Do you have a time table or deadline for decisions about your coaching staff?) No. (Does it mean anything to you that you still haven't had a losing season as a coach?) Nope.
Season wrap-up29W
Good afternoon. As always I will start with a review of our performance. Obviously, it was a very timely and appropriate one. I was just really pleased with the effort from all parties involved. Obviously we were in less than ideal circumstances in many ways, but guys got an opportunity to play late. Jarvis Jones was sick. That created an opportunity for guys like Stevenson Sylvester, Chris Carter and others. I just thought all-in-all it was a great team effort. I liked the way that the units supported one another throughout the game. There are many ways you can point to that. I thought at the early portions of the game, every time we gave up a drive on defense, the offense responded with a scoring drive of some kind, and the drive opportunity that followed. When we turned the ball over on offense, our team stepped up. Ben Roethlisberger threw the interception and our defense stepped up. There was some debate about the field goal attempt and all those things. But in essence the defense stepped up and responded to that short field. I liked the way our defense stood up when put on a short field. I liked the way our offense responded to scoring drives by Green Bay, by responding with scoring drives of our own. I thought the special teams were an asset to us. The big kickoff return before halftime put us in position to score a field goal before the half. We didn’t get anything out of Antonio Brown’s big punt return but that was another field flipper. He’s been consistent in that way all year. Obviously, we were able to gain a possession with the fake punt. Just largely, it was a collective effort. Groups supported one another at the appropriate times. That’s what you have to have this time of year. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect but it was appropriate. From an injury standpoint, we have a few to note. Terence Garvin has a knee sprain. That will have him questionable. We will see how much he will be able to participate. It’s probably a little bit better than we anticipated, so we will leave the light on for him. I saw Jarvis this morning. He is looking better, coming off his illness. Emmanuel Sanders has a lateral meniscus that will make him questionable for the week. Like Garvin, I think there is more optimism there than initially anticipated. Markus Wheaton has a finger fracture that will be splinted and taped to another one beside it. He will proceed. Jason Worilds has an abdominal injury that could slow him down at the early portions of the week. We will see how he pushes through that. Some of the other guys coming off of injuries, Brett Keisel, Jerricho Cotchery, Marcus Gilbert and others, seemingly made it through okay but we are just starting the process of getting the guys in the training room to get a clear indication of the injuries coming off of the game. As always, we will prepare the healthy ones and move forward this week. Obviously, we do so with a great deal of excitement. Still having a horse in this race is important to us. We are excited about getting back in front of our fans, and doing it in Heinz Field against a division opponent, one that we are familiar with and one that’s familiar with us. There are a lot of scenarios and so forth out there but our approach will be the same as it has been, largely, for the last two months. We’ve made this bed. I like the way the group is laying in it. We will focus on the task and challenge that is in front of us, the preparation and play against the Cleveland Browns. Looking at them, we just played them a short time ago. There are some subtle changes, starting on offense. Edwin Baker, a Michigan State man, is doing some quality work for them out of the backfield. That’s new. Obviously, Josh Gordon continues to show that he is a special player. He has to be one of the tops in the league in terms of receiving yards, and definitely I think he’s number-one in terms of yards per game. He is a big-play guy. He had a 200-yard day against us the last time. We are going to have our hands full working to minimize him. Greg Little is a talented guy opposite of him. Jason Pinkston is now playing left guard. He’s played against us in the past. He’s a former Pitt guy. He is back in the lineup. He is no stranger to starting time. Obviously, a lot of the components are still in place, Jason Campbell and others. We have to be prepared to deal with those things. On defense, they are still an attacking group, and they are still a very aggressive group. Joe Haden is playing good football along the line of scrimmage. They are asking T.J. Ward to do more things than the last time we played them. He is playing some linebacker, similar to how Troy Polamalu plays linebacker in sub-package football. That’s the best way to equate it in terms of what they are asking him to do. He is a talented guy. He is an aggressive guy. His skill set fits some of those things that they are asking him to get done. John Hughes is playing quite a bit for them up front. Desmond Bryant is on their Reserve/Non-Football Illness List. Hughes has stepped in and has played really well for them. Their sub-package football is continuing to grow. I think Barkevious Mingo is continuing to evolve as a player, like a lot of young guys do. He is rushing. He is covering. His chase ability is unique. He is making more plays. That’s not surprising. He is a talented, young player. We need to be prepared to deal with him and the growing list of things they ask him to do, not only on the left side of our offensive line, but he plays on two feet at the linebacker level. He moves around quite a bit now. So we have to be on our screws in regards to that. Largely, it’s about us and having the singular focus that’s going to be necessary to produce an A-like performance for us in the midst of all the things that are going on and the possibilities, the holiday week and so forth. We just want to live in these moments, prepare to the best of our abilities and put ourselves in the best position to play. Those are our intentions, and we look forward to getting after it this week. (Now that you’ve had time to reflect on the decision at the end of the game with scoring the touchdown instead of potentially kneeling twice, would you make that same decision now?) I would. I just had a concern of kneeling under the circumstances with the weather conditions being what they were. [Mason] Crosby, their kicker, had a kick blocked earlier on that end of the field. And to be honest with you, it wasn’t anything that we did. I just think it was a low-hit ball and you’re talking about a guy who’s been kicking great all year. I was concerned about the weather conditions from that standpoint. Also, when they utilized their last timeout, I was more comfortable with putting the defense on the field under those circumstances after getting a touchdown. If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably do it the same. Obviously, if I knew they were going to return the kickoff 70 yards, I’d probably have a different approach. But I don’t anticipate them doing that, although they did. (A few games ago you mentioned that you went for it on fourth down deep in your own territory because you didn’t have confidence in your defense. Yesterday you did. What was the difference?) We had just taken the ball back after punting with about three minutes left to go in the game. We had a nice, impressive stop. We had a sack on first down. The quarterback scrambled on third down, we tackled him and recovered the ball. We put our offense on a short field. I like the momentum of those moments. How I feel about how we’re playing defensively or offensively or special teams is just that, it’s in those moments. I’ve got a great deal of confidence in all of those guys to deliver largely speaking. But I need to make game-time decisions based on what I’m seeing in-stadium and what I was seeing from our defense in-stadium to that point, obviously, was more than acceptable. They rose up to the challenge and gave us the ball back and put us in position to go ahead. So I didn’t have any problem with having them take the field to win the game with no timeouts for Green Bay. (What if Aaron Rodgers had been the quarterback yesterday?) That’s a lot of hypotheticals. We might not have even been in that situation had Aaron Rodgers been the quarterback yesterday. (Talking about the weather conditions in that situation yesterday and the potential for a bad snap, you have Ben Roethlisberger in the shotgun on that play where Le’Veon Bell scored. There’s a potential for that. Bell fumbled earlier.) There is a lot less room for error on PAT and field goal snapping that there is shotgun snapping. A shotgun snap can be wobbly, it can be off the location and it’s not going to disturb the flow or the rhythm of the play at all. What I’m talking about in terms of field goals is you’re talking about 1.0 to 1.2 seconds to get that ball on the ground and kick it. That is a totally different animal, talking about comparing a shotgun snap on offense and snap on PAT/field goal. (My larger point being something can happen on those plays. Bell fumbled earlier in the half. There was something that could happen on that. I don’t know if anybody in the organization studies game theory or probability, but looking at these things, if you kneel twice you’re going to have eight to 10 seconds left for them to have an opportunity to do something, versus 80 seconds and no timeouts, but having the ball. If you go through the sequence of things, it would seem to be a sub-optimal decision.) I understand your point, but I’ve answered your point on multiple occasions. My rationale for doing what it is that I’ve done, I can’t give you any more answers than what I’ve given you. Obviously, you and I disagree on it. That is your right, but it doesn’t change my perspective on what I did in that stadium. (Would you think about kneeling in that situation in the future?) It really depends on the circumstance guys. It really does. What’s going on in the game, who we’re playing and so forth. There are a myriad of variables that go into that decision-making. I’m sorry I’m not answering the question to your satisfaction, but that’s my opinion, that’s how I felt and again, I’d probably do it again. (Was there any consideration given to running a quarterback sneak? If he makes it, he makes it, but if he doesn’t, 40 seconds goes off and now you can run your dive play on third down.) We went with the play that we had and there is a lot of ways to look at it. Obviously, there are a lot of options and I’m sure that they had options in terms of how they could have finished the game. All of that is good armchair quarterback Monday stuff. We did what we had to do to win the football game. (Was there a conversation about squib kicking on the kickoff?) There was, but in those moments, you’ve got to be prepared to kick and cover. I wanted to give those guys an opportunity to do that. Obviously, we didn’t get the job done. (You used the phrase “singularly focused.” Given that, will you have any requests to keep the scores off the scoreboard?) I’m not concerned about that. I’m really not. (Did you receive any explanation or clarification on the blocked field goal?) I haven’t asked. (In general, possessions plays are not challengeable?) I didn’t understand that, but I’m sure there are several, many rules in the book that I don’t understand in great detail. It made common sense to me that I could challenge that, but they ruled otherwise. I’m sure at some point I’ll get clarity in regards to that. But in the game, obviously, I thought that was going to be a challengeable play. Makes sense that it should be, but it wasn’t. (In general over the last four weeks you guys have unearthed some pretty crazy rules that maybe the Competition Committee hadn’t thought of in advance. Being on the committee, do you see the theme being that replay, if applied, could correct some of these bizarre decisions?) I haven’t thought one iota about what lies ahead for me from a Competition Committee standpoint. Obviously, I’m a newly appointed member and haven’t had a lot of active participation in some of the things that go on. I look forward to being a part of the process. That’s really all I have on that. (Can you talk about the play of the two inside linebackers? It looked like you started the game in the nickel with Terence Garvin and then Vince Williams came in later. Was that the base defense and is that how you were rotating those two guys?) It was based on situation and their personnel groups. Both guys are capable young guys. Both guys have different skill sets. We want to put ourselves in position to be the best that we can be and kind of lean on the skill set, the natural skill sets, of those guys. Garvin is an athletic guy that’s capable of running around. He was a hybrid if you will, in college. He’s probably more inclined to playing in space and so forth, where Vince is a downhill, nine-on-seven type of linebacker. We’re trying to utilize both guys because both skills sets are assets to us in different situations. (Mat McBriar and some other guys were saying in practice that sometimes the fake punt didn’t look so great. Was there any trepidation on your part?) [Laughs] Yes, but you know how it is. (In other words, was it to the point where you were questioning if you should do it?) No, we’ve been working it for some time. Like a lot of plays that you work, some days it looks better than others. We had a great deal of confidence in our ability to execute it, our understanding of the play, but executing it was another thing. But to see Mat get it done and those other guys get it done, it’s a credit to them. (Did Danny Smith come up to you and say it was a good time to run it, or did you call it?) We had talked about it throughout the course of the week. We had talked about maybe doing it in the first half of the game. I brought it up to him again at halftime. It was still alive and then we ran it. (Other guys have been benched sometimes after fumbles. Not only did Le’Veon Bell come right back in, but you went right back to him and he had a great run. Is that your call or is it Todd Haley’s?) Certainly. It’s the only time this guy has fumbled since we’ve had him. It made only common sense to give him an opportunity to redeem himself. He’s a competitor, so we did. (On the next to last drive, you got the conversion on fourth-and-one on your side of the field. Deeper in Green Bay territory on fourth-and-five, was it just a down and distance situation that you decided to punt there?) And game circumstance, like I said. I felt good about our ability to convert the maybe fourth-and-one or two. Felt a little differently about the fourth-and-five, but there are a myriad of variables that come into those decisions that we make in those moments. (What do you need to differently against Josh Gordon this time?) We need to stop him from catching it, but that’s been a tall task. I think he had 200 yards the week after we played them as well. He’s a talented young player. Usually you work to minimize the impact of those guys’ performance on the game as opposed to eliminating it. It’s going to be our goal to work to minimize what he’s capable of in determining the outcome of the game. (With Markus Wheaton, you said he would tape his fractured finger to another finger.) So, he won’t be returning kickoffs. [Laughs]. Merry Christmas. [Laughs] (What do you expect out of him and do you think with him possibly down and Sanders injured Derek Moye might get an opportunity?) I don’t have the answer to those things. I think that will be determined as we prepare throughout the week, particularly on the practice field. (Re: Matt Spaeth’s contributions:) Matt is a big-time contributor to our efforts. He’s one of those animals that looks like the guys that he’s trying to block. It really is kind of exemplified when you think about the defensive ends for the Bengals from a couple weeks ago. He looks like [Carlos] Dunlap, he looks like [Michael] Johnson. It’s a level playing field there in terms of what he’s able to do from an end-line blocking standpoint. He works hard at it, but he has a natural skill set for it. Obviously, he’s always correctly spaced in the passing game and does a nice job. He’s a big, easy target to throw to. Ben was really comfortable putting that ball on him in the red area. It’s good to have him back. It’s good to have his contributions. We value the things that you don’t see probably more than the things that you do see. His contributions at the end of the line in blocking and so forth has been a positive for us the last several weeks. (Coaches have been known to use the media to get a message across to a player, not you of course. You were asked about Eddie Lacy versus Le’Veon Bell and said it was an easy choice for you. Do you think that message motivated Bell at all going against Lacy?) That wasn’t my intentions. I just told the truth as I saw it. It’s not a knock against Eddie Lacy. Obviously, he is a quality runner. Oftentimes it seems like in this business we’re scared to tell the truth for fear of providing bulletin board material or offending someone. I was just asked a question and gave an honest answer. We like Le’Veon Bell. We like his well-balanced skill set. We thought he was perfect for us. So, that’s all I was trying to get done with that and really didn’t think a lot about it, to be honest with you. I was really quite surprised by some of the things and conversations that it produced. (Can you talk about Bell’s play yesterday?) Other than the fumble, I thought he was game. This is a guy that’s been continually on the rise for us and gaining an understanding of what he’s capable of and what we need from him. He’s embracing it all. In the midst of that, he’s staying humble and grounded and that’s appropriate and needed as well. I just like where he is. He needs to continue to grow. Obviously, he’s a young talented guy. We’re going to need more efforts like that from him moving forward, potentially this week. (Do you ever advise Bell to not hurdle people?) I could advise him to do a lot of things. It looks like a really natural act to me. There are a lot of things that can keep you up at night from a coach’s perspective, things that are debatable. You can debate whether or not you are comfortable with how Ben extends plays. You can debate whether or not you put starting receivers back there to return kicks. You can debate whether or not Le’Veon should be jumping over guys. He looks pretty effective doing it. (Re: The Packers jumping off sides on your late field goal attempt:) I think they just jumped. We were on the road in that instance. I don’t how affective a cadence could have been in that circumstance. I just think they jumped, and thankfully they did. (Re: Carter and Sylvester filling in at outside linebacker:) They were above the line. That’s important, particularly under those circumstances. When you start talking about lineup changes 90 minutes or so before kickoff, it is what it is. But thankfully we had a couple guys that have been around, like Carter and Sylvester that know the drill. They really did a nice job of heaping that work on top of their normal work on special teams. (How important is it for your guys to take a day this week to get away because of the holiday?) We are going to be respectful, obviously, because of the holiday. I really hadn’t thought too much about it. They get a day off this week. I am going to give them Wednesday off as opposed to Tuesday. (Re: Brown responding to challenges last time against Haden:) I think he responds to the challenge that every Sunday presents. If you look at the make of the story, he’s been ridiculously consistent all year. I think he has five catches and a minimum of 50 yards in every game. I think that is unique territory. He always wants to be one of the key reasons why we are successful on offense, and we appreciate that. (Re: Clock management in the first half where you went into halftime with one timeout left:) I’d probably would [do it the same way]. I can’t remember some of the elements of that discussion that you are suggesting. I just don’t remember some of the intimate details of that. But I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary about that sequence of events or what we were trying to get done. (There are reports that a former player said Danny Smith is interested in the Redskins’ head coaching job. Did he approach you about that?) Not at all.
Press conference18WW
Good afternoon. As always, I’ll start with a quick review of our last performance. Like I said at the stadium after the game, I thought it was a good performance by all parties involved. I thought we had significant plays in all three phases. That’s exciting. You like to have a team whose arrow is pointed up in that regard this time of year. I thought the splash plays on special teams set the stage for us to jump out to the type of lead that we did. Will Allen made a tackle on the punter, who mishandled the ball. Then Antonio Brown had a big punt return. But aside from those splash plays, I thought we were solid. I thought we had good balance and ball control on offense. I thought that we worked to minimize big plays on defense. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch. We kicked three field goals. We stalled on some drive situations. Such is life. Largely, I liked the performance. But more importantly than the performance itself, I liked the things that set up the performance, the singular focus of the group regardless of circumstance. Particularly in preparation, I thought we had a great week’s practice last week. I thought the group was singularly focused. There was a lot of speculation about our chances from a playoff standpoint, and all of those things. What had transpired was we lost two close ballgames prior to that. I thought they displayed the mental toughness in their singular focus and preparation. I think it paid off for us in play. It will be our goal to have a similar approach this week, regardless of circumstance. We need to be singularly focused on the task at hand. It’s a tall one playing Green Bay at Green Bay with some of the things they are fighting for. Before I get to that though, I’d like to talk about a few injury things to the best of my ability. Brett Keisel’s arrow is pointing up. He’s been in and worked out. He may even participate in a partial capacity tomorrow and definitely on Thursday. We will see where the week’s preparation takes us in regards to his availability. LaMarr Woodley will be out. He hurt his right calf early in the football game. Not the calf that was injured prior to the game, so obviously, with injuries to both calves, one being further along than the other, makes his availability pretty bleak. Some other guys who are nursing bumps and bruises, Steve McLendon, who missed the last game, we expect him to participate in this one. We expect him to practice in some capacity tomorrow and have increased participation throughout the week in an effort to play this weekend. Some of the other guys that have been nursing injuries, Kelvin Beachum, Jerricho Cotchery, Marcus Gilbert and Emmanuel Sanders should be fine. They may be limited at the early portions of the week but we don’t anticipate any steps backwards from those guys. Talking about Green Bay and some things that are going on with them, obviously it’s been some time since we’ve played them, so not only do we need to familiarize ourselves with what they are schematically now in all three phases, but who they are doing it with. That’s always a challenging process playing an opponent you don’t play very often. When you watch them, they have a definitive personality on offense, defense and special teams, and they have quality players in all three phases. At quarterback, Matt Flynn is playing good football for them. They have a win streak going. They have rhythm. There is potential that Aaron Rodgers could play. we aren’t going to worry about that. We will get information as you guys get it. Obviously there are positives and negatives about working to defend either guy. Flynn is the hot hand and rightfully so. He has made a lot of plays for them and won a significant game last week in comeback fashion. He has managed their offense very well. He makes quick decisions. He is distributing the ball quickly to his eligibles. Structurally, they don’t change much regardless of which guy is playing. They have definitive characteristics as an offense, quick game, misdirection passing and vertical passing. It’s a nice balance of run and pass, like they’ve been for a number of years. I think they are seventh in the league in passing, seventh in rushing and fourth overall. That speaks to their balance as an offense. We are going to have our hands full working to minimize those things. I think Eddie Lacy is the hot runner right now. Obviously, he had a big game last week. But largely, he has been consistent over the course of the season from a numbers standpoint. He is averaging over four yards per carry. He has over 1,000 yards rushing. Their eligible receiving targets are known guys in some areas. Jordy Nelson, obviously, has been around for a number of years. He is a Kansas State man. He is up over 1,100 yards. He has a nice combination of size, speed and body control. I think you can say that about all of their guys. They are not a small receiving group, but at the same token they aren’t an enormous receiving group, like the Chicago Bears. These guys fall somewhere in between, and I think their skill sets allow them to do a lot of things, like be combative and win versus bump and run, be easy targets down the field in the vertical passing game and having an opportunity to run after the catch. Nelson does all those things. James Jones does all those things. Jarrett Boykin does all those things. Obviously, Randall Cobb has been down for some time but he fits that bill as well from a skill set standpoint. These are not small guys. They have a nice balanced skill set. At tight end, Andrew Quarless has been a nice and consistent target for them in the passing game. He is multi-talented. He can displace himself from the core, and he can run a variety of routes like some of the tight ends we’ve seen in recent weeks, like the guys in Cincinnati are capable of doing, capable of getting in three wideout personnel groups with a tight end, and really playing like four wide receivers because those tight ends can play out of a two-point stance. The loss of Jermichael Finley hasn’t affected them much schematically because of the skill set of the people that stepped in. The same can be said for the loss of Cobb or even Rodgers. That continuity provides an opportunity for them to plug guys in, and really they’ve shown that they are capable of moving forward. I think one of the interesting things, moving on to the defense, is the collection of top pedigree talent that they have, particularly up front. When you play somebody you haven’t played in a number of years, the first thing you do is re-familiarize yourself with their personnel. When I look at their personnel, I see a lot of ones and twos, first-round and second-round draft picks, in their front. B.J. Raji is a former one. Jerel Worthy is a two. Mike Neal is a two. Clay Matthews is a one. A.J. Hawk is a one. Nick Perry is a one. They have a lot of ones and twos up front. They have a lot of depth. They play a lot of people. They are very multiple. We have our work cut out for us in terms of blocking the number of talented people that they have and the number of schemes and fronts that they provide. They have big time flexibility in that regard. Obviously, Matthews is somebody from a skill set standpoint that you have to pay attention to. He is a quality rusher. He is a top-flight athlete. They move him around. Both tackles have to be prepared to block him and his skill set. Make no mistake Perry on the other side is a handful himself. He is a former number-one out of Southern California. They even play Neal some at outside linebacker as well as on the defensive line. He presents a different set of problems when you start talking about a 290-295 pound guy that’s playing outside linebacker. You can’t allow running backs to end up in that matchup. They do some really good things with those people. The cornerback tandem of Tramon Williams and Sam Shields is very good. They are good on the line of scrimmage. They are good in off coverage. Both guys have tremendous ball skills and provide production in that way. Morgan Burnett is a multi-talented safety. He is in the deep middle. He plays half of the field. He is on the line of scrimmage. He has a good and balanced skill set from that standpoint. On special teams, I really think they’ve been solid. Mason Crosby has been a really good kicker for them for a number of years. He continues to be so. They are averaging 40 yards net punting. In a team that plays in an environment that they play in, I think that is pretty impressive. Even with the loss of Cobb in the return game, I think they are getting great production out of their return game. Micah Hyde is a very impressive and versatile young guy. He is playing nickel for them. He is returning punts and kicks. He already ran a punt back 93 yards this season. He has a very balanced skill set, and is doing a number of things for them. Just from a coaching staff standpoint, this is a group that has really good continuity. You have to have a great deal of respect for that. There might be some knowledge in terms of who they are from a personality standpoint, but more times than not that continuity is an asset to a group, and it is in my opinion to this one. We have a lot of work to do. We look forward to doing it. We can’t wait to get started with the players tomorrow. The staff has been in process of game preparation for over a day. (LaMarr Woodley had an injury to his other calf. Has the medical staff evaluated this injury and told you the degree of the strain versus the other one which kept him out three weeks? Is he a candidate to go on IR here?) All of those things are up to discussion. We haven’t had those meetings yet as we sit here today. It’s normal Tuesday business. Obviously, with a new injury similar to the one that’s kept him out for a number of weeks, he may not be available to us and that might be a process that’s discussed here this afternoon at some point. (How would you evaluate Al Woods’ performance?) I thought he was above the line. I think he’s a guy, like many guys in his circumstance, that’s getting an opportunity due to the misfortunes of someone else. He’s getting better with it. I thought that this performance was better than the last. I thought his pad level was good. I thought he came off blocks and was productive in some areas. I’m excited about him. (Does he fit more of a prototypical mold of the nose tackle that you’re looking for?) I think he’s versatile. I think just from a physical skill set standpoint, he’s nose-capable and end-capable. He’s been a guy that’s done both since he’s been here. I think he still falls into that category. He’s a big, strong man but he also has great length that could lend itself to some of the things we ask the end position to do, as well. (Did Terence Garvin just do what he’s coached to do on that block?) Yes he did. (What do you make of the rule where punters are deemed defenseless but still can be in on the tackle?) What he’s coached to do and what transpired on that play are two different things. Obviously, from a structure of a call standpoint, the position that he was in to be a final block, if you will, is what he’s coached to do. The nature in which the block unfolded, obviously, is not what we’re looking for. It’s not what we coach. It’s not what he wants, but that play hit pretty quickly. It was right back up the field at him and it transpired the way it transpired. So, we’ll wait for potential judgment from the league, just like you guys are. (Are there different rules in blocking punters and kickers in the course of a play? Is somebody like Garvin that’s supposed to identify a guy that’s a punter or kicker?) Again, I’m not going to debate whether or not the rule is fair or not. I’m acknowledging that the rule exists. I’m going to wait for the league to render judgment just like you guys are. (Is there a point where a punter or kicker becomes defenseless? Or are they defenseless at all times?) They have additional protection, just like people in the act of catching footballs or people in the act of throwing footballs – or defenders at the end of the line of scrimmage from crack blocks and so forth. There are a lot of guys in today’s NFL who have extended protection in an effort of course to make the game as safe as it possibly can be. (That’s at all times? It doesn’t matter where they’re positioned during the course of play?) Correct. (How did that differ from what sparked the rule when Warren Sapp hit on Chad Clifton? What was different about that as opposed to this?) Oh my gosh, you’re talking about a play that’s over 10 years old. I don’t even remember that play and I was there in the stadium. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t remember the nature of that hit or how it came together. I don’t. (Re: Using a lot of no-huddle against the Bengals to keep them out of their multiple looks on defense:) It was multi-faceted or multiple reasons for the approach. We like no-huddle. We’ve had success in it. It changes the pace. We did it out of two tight end personnel packages, which we hadn’t done in the past because of the availability and the asset that Matt Spaeth is to us. We’re just growing and evolving as a group. Some of the reasons why we do some of the things that we do is based on our opponent. Some of it is just based solely on who and what we are. (I know you’re going on a business trip and you’re not there to sight-see or anything.) But you’re going to ask anyways. [Laughs] (Vince Lombardi is a guy that I imagine every coach has a great deal of respect for. Going in there as a head coach for the first time, will you take a second and reflect?) I will not. I’ve been in that stadium a bunch. I used to be in that division when I was in Tampa and Minnesota. It’s business as usual for us. (The wind chill in Green Bay was down to negative-18 Sunday Night. I know you guys are both playing in it, but what differences are there in the approach?) It’s less about temperature and more about weather conditions. Whether it’s wind or surface area, those are the things, the elements, that you spend time discussing. The temperature is irrelevant. I imagine it’s going to be the same temperature on their sideline as it is on ours. (When Woodley has been healthy, how has he played?) He’s been solid, not only this season but over the course of his career. But, obviously, particularly in recent years, he’s had to battle some injuries, unfortunately for him and for us. (Re: Offensive line’s protection on Sunday:) I thought they did a good job. I thought largely they’ve been doing a good job in recent weeks. I think we’ve been a group that’s been arrow pointed up from that standpoint. Obviously, given the information that I just provided you guys, it’s going to be a big week in that regard. Not only because of the schematic challenges that they provide, but just the top quality players that they have with the number of first round and second round draft picks that they have in their defensive line and linebacker corps. We’ve got our work cut-out for us. We understand what we are. We understand that we’ve got guys that need to step up and we lack continuity due to circumstances in some instances, but I like the way they’re growing. Cody Wallace is taking responsibility of being the hub of communication. Guy Whimper continues to step up week in and week out, whether it’s at left tackle or right tackle or guard. The guys are just doing a nice job of settling in regardless of circumstance, which is what we need. (On your first two drives, you had a fourth-and-three on the 37 and decided to punt. Then you had a fourth-and-four on the 31 and you went for it. Was it strictly those six yards that made the difference, or was there something else in your thought process?) Those six yards, but also information that you gather throughout the course of a game. It always weighs-in on the decision making, the multi-layers. Sometimes it’s just my gut. (Has there been an improvement in the level of Cortez Allen’s play over the last few games? If so, what’s he doing now that maybe he wasn’t doing earlier in the season?) I think he’s been continually arrow pointed up since he came back from his injury, which is often the case with young guys. He missed some time in training camp and in the early portions of the season with an injury. As he’s played and played continually, I think his play has gotten more consistent over the course of the season. That’s not anything ground breaking. That’s really what you kind of expect from young guys, particularly ones that are working their way back from an injury. (Is that something moving forward that maybe you’d like Cortez Allen on one side and Ike Taylor on the other side, instead of having Ike chase somebody around?) We make those decisions week to week based on our assets and the potential problems that the assets of our opponents provide. (Will you prepare for Matt Flynn or will you prepare for both?) We’re going to prepare for what they do schematically because I don’t think it changes very much, regardless of who’s playing quarterback. Obviously, the individual skill sets and talents of the guys make them unique to themselves. But, schematically, in terms of how they calls play, particularly situationally, I don’t see much change in the way they approach the game of football from a play calling standpoint. It’s not going to affect our preparation, particularly at the planning stages of the week, the early portions. Obviously, as we get close to game time, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, we’ll hear about levels of participation and practice and so forth, just like you guys will. We’ll make whatever adjustments we need to make, relative to that as we go. (Is Jarvis Jones’ arrow pointed up?) It really is, and although his numbers might not be jumping off the page at you, I really think that he’s settling in and playing harder and faster and displaying understanding at an increased rate every week. I think that’s an element of playing well and producing plays. You’ve got to know what to do. You’ve got to have a certain level of comfort with what it is you have to do so you can play free and fast. I see him doing that increasingly. (Does he need to get stronger, given the level of the tackles he has to play against?) I think you could say that about any young guy. I hadn’t found a young guy that I’ve run across in recent years and say, ‘Boy, he’s plenty strong enough.’ I think I probably could’ve said that about Woodley at that position. But every other guy that’s come in at that position, that’s an area in which they could improve – whether it’s him or Jason Worilds or Chris Carter or anybody else at that position since I’ve been here because it’s a unique skill set. Most of these guys have earned their reputations on their ability to rush the passer and they’re edge players. But oftentimes they’re matched up against big strong people in the run game, whether it’s tackles or whether it’s multiple tight ends and multiple tight end personnel groups when they get double teamed and so forth in that C and D gap area. (Do you see Kelvin Beachum as your long-term solution on the left side?) It depends on how he plays. (Conversely, Mike Adams, could you consider him the way the Bengals did with Andrew Whitworth and could he potentially play guard?) Same thing. I’m open to anything that increases our chances of winning, particularly with that group. Mike doesn’t have a background at guard. I think comparing him to Whitworth is not a fair comparison. Whitworth is a savvy, veteran player who’s excelled at one position, so it’s comfortable exploring the position and potentially moving him to another. Mike is a guy that’s working to establish himself even at one position and he’s a young guy. It’s not a comparison. It’s apples and oranges as far as I’m concerned. (Troy Polamalu, before Sunday, appeared to get a lot of snaps in the linebacker role over the last couple weeks, but less so this week. Was that a choice to have Vince Williams in there more often? Or was the base defense in there and that calls for Vince Williams? How did you plan on using Troy?) Like a lot of things, it’s multi-layered. It’s about the personality that we choose to employ, and that was a choice that we made. But also, it can be dictated at times by the personnel group that the offenses employ. I think that’s something that needs to be stated. For example, Miami lists three wide receivers in their starting offense, so obviously sub package football is going to be what it is when you’re playing somebody like the Dolphins. Obviously, the Bengals have got two top quality, high-pedigree, first-round tight ends, so multiple tight ends would be a personality that could be based on those guys. So, you play those two packages differently. So oftentimes, if you’re looking strictly at snap count or package count, oftentimes it’s what we desire to be or want to be for a particular game, but it’s also our opponents. So there are multiple reasons why Troy might play strong safety or linebacker during the course of a football game. (What did you think of Vince Williams’ performance?) Vince has been arrow pointed up over the course of the season. I like his demeanor. I’m excited about where he’s capable of going. I thought he stood up particularly in goal line situations, he met their big linemen in a gap. He had some splash plays. He’s contributing in an increased fashion on special teams. All the things you look for when you’re talking about a young guy. (How much has Le’Veon Bell improved coming out of the backfield and being a weapon?) To be honest with you, he was kind of ready-made in that capacity when we got him. If you look at his number from Michigan State and look at his tape from Michigan State, he was a man for all situations for those guys. I think he had over 35 catches his last season at Michigan State and they weren’t all check-downs and screens out of the backfield. They lined up in empty and displaced him. He ran out of a two-point. He ran a route tree. That’s one of the things that attracted us to him – his versatility and his ability to play in all situations. (Re: Antonio Brown’s maturation and development, particularly from last year and becoming a number one receiver:) I think in his mind he’s always been a number one, even when he was a number four. I think that’s why he’s successful to be quite honest with you. He’s got ridiculous work ethic. I think everyone respects that and it’s very evident. He’s in great shape over the course of a 12-month calendar. He’s always working his body and working his craft. He’s very comparable to James Harrison in that mentality. He has that type of singular focus in terms of his growth and development as a football player. I think that’s why he’s endeared himself to his teammates. I think that’s why he’s as productive as he is. (Re: Using Felix Jones as the kick returner rather than Brown:) He [reporter] just mentioned that Brown was a number-one wideout. Name another number-one wideout that returns both punts and kickoffs for his team. (What about Markus Wheaton?) Wheaton missed time with a broken finger. He played with a cast on for five weeks. He is three weeks off of coming off of that. Any other options? (Re: Emmanuel Sanders:) He starts at wide receiver and returns kickoffs in a supplemental capacity. (Re: Just curious to why you have a guy like Brown return punts and not kickoffs:) Like he just mentioned, he is our number-one wide receiver. Name another number-one with similar stats to Brown that even returns punts for that matter, let alone punts and kickoffs. We appreciate his versatility and his willingness to be an asset to us on special teams as well as offense. (So if Wheaton and Sanders were healthy they could return kickoffs?) Potentially. (Re: Future of Terence Garvin playing linebacker on defense:) I think it’s a blank canvas with him. He played that hybrid position at West Virginia. He was half defensive back and half linebacker. I think that alone lends itself to special teams, which is where he has been able to distinguish himself to this point. He has to grow from a strength standpoint like we were talking about with another young linebacker. I think the jury is still out on all of those things. Obviously, we are finding ways and means to use him in packages in recent weeks on defense. I think he played a few snaps on defense in our last ballgame. Really, it’s just natural. You give a young guy an opportunity to make plays on special teams, and he’s done that and has been consistent and productive. Guys that usually do it in that phase usually have the potential to do it on offense or defense. We like what he is doing on teams, so we are giving him an increased opportunity to do it but the same can be said for a lot of guys. I like the contributions of Wheaton on teams. I think he had two tackles in the last game. He’s getting increased package work as a wide receiver because of it. (Was choosing Le’Veon Bell rather than Lacy an easy decision?) It was an easy decision for me. Again, probably because of the things that I talked about with his versatility that he’s displayed here but also at Michigan State. Obviously, Lacy is a top-quality back and rightfully so. He was a great back at Alabama. Obviously, he is over 1,000 yards and is proving his worth in Green Bay. Probably it’s just a matter of preference. Just like I am sure Cincinnati went through the same discussions and thoughts when they took Giovani Bernard in front of both of them. (Do you have the final say in draft selection?) I am not getting into that, particularly because it’s inappropriate for what we are discussing here today. That’s an offseason discussion and really it’s irrelevant. Regardless of who antes up opinions and so forth, they are all Pittsburgh Steeler decisions. And we stand collectively behind the decisions that we make as an organization. (Is there still a sour taste in your mouth because of the last time you played Green Bay?) Oh gosh, that’s light years ago in football terms. That’s the first time I even really thought about it. I don’t know how many guys on our team are still here from that experience, and I am sure they can say the same thing. That’s bygones.
Press conference19WW
Good afternoon. Like always, I will start with a summary of our last performance against the Dolphins. Obviously, it was a disappointing outcome in a tough, close and hard-fought game. The reality is they were a little better than us in too many areas. Really, in all three phases, they made more splash plays, or at times they neutralized our splash play with a splash play. They made a few more timely plays. If you look over the course of the game, they had a third-and-three or four and they got a 40-yard chunk down the field. We took a similar risk down the field and Antonio Brown in the same circumstance was only able to get one hand on it. They converted a big play and flipped the field. We did not in a similar circumstance. Obviously, we had a splash play that produced a touchdown on defense with Troy Polamalu’s interception and return. But they had a similar play earlier on a sack fumble that wasn’t run back but it produced a short field, and they produced a touchdown. Tit-for-tat, a very close football game but there wasn’t enough definitive playmaking for us but enough for them, particularly timely ones down the stretch. I thought some of the things that their tight end, Charles Clay, was able to do, particularly at the latter portions of the game was impressive. I want to give them credit. Obviously it was a disappointing outing for us. We understand the ramifications of us not doing what it is we needed to do in that stadium. We will accept that and take responsibility for that, but it really doesn’t change our approach in terms of what we are doing here this week. We are putting together a plan that is geared towards defeating the Cincinnati Bengals, and what it is we are doing here largely, with the people we are doing it with and the manner in which we are going about doing it. When you start the kind of way we did this year, 0-4, really we’ve been functioning with that mentality for some time, being singularly focused on the things we can control, our preparation with the people we are preparing to play with this week and the opponent that we are scheduled to face. Back at that time when we started 0-4, we talked about some things that needed to change. We needed to take care of the ball better. We needed to produce more turnovers and splash plays on defense. We needed to develop a personality. Largely, we needed to be a team that was continually on the rise. Obviously, we haven’t been 9-0 since that time but I do think that we have answered some of those questions and have improved in some of those areas, and have a definitive answer in regards to some of those things. We’ve lost two close ball games in the last two weeks to teams in a similar circumstance or state to us, fighting for survival and so forth in this playoff picture, in the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins. We came up short. There are consequences in that. But largely it doesn’t change how we approach what it is we are doing. We are excited about putting together a plan to play a division foe for the second time at home in front of our fans at Heinz Field this week. On an injury note, Kelvin Beachum has an opportunity this week. He will probably be limited during the early portions of the week. Same for Brett Keisel. He had an extended workout yesterday, coming back from his foot sprain. We will watch him closely and monitor his progress over the course of the week. A lot of the people that were able to work their way back into the game last week but probably at less than ideal circumstances may be limited a little bit at the early portions of the week, but we expect no steps backwards in terms of their participation are guys like David DeCastro, Steve McLendon and LaMarr Woodley. Obviously, Ziggy Hood sustained an ankle injury during the game but he was able to return. That may limit him at the early portions of the week. Jerricho Cotchery has a shoulder contusion that may do the same for him. From a health standpoint, we anticipate having most if not all of our guys available. We are going to need them, obviously, because we are playing the division leader and a very good opponent here this weekend in the Bengals. Obviously we are very familiar with them, playing them over the course of the last number of years and some of their core components that they have in place, the continuity that they have in place, guys like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and others on offense, and on defense, Reggie Nelson and the myriad of people they play up front, Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and others. Their linebacking corps is made up of Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga and James Harrison. But I really want to focus and spend a lot of time talking about what has evolved since Week 2 when we played them. Who is emerging? Who are their new players or young players? On offense, I think it kind of starts in their running game with Giovani Bernard, their rookie running back out of North Carolina. He has over 600 yards on the season. He is averaging 4.7 yards per carry. He is a significant contributor to their passing game. I think he has 50 catches or so on the season. He showed that skill set in draft study, in terms of being able to affect the running game and the passing game. He has very soft hands. He has a very good screen game. They are utilizing all the assets that he has to supplement BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They are creating a formidable tandem from a run game standpoint. We have to be solid there. They were successfully able to run the football at the end of the game, the latter stages of the game in Week 2. We can’t allow that to happen obviously. To supplement some of their known guys like Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham and others, I think that Marvin Jones has really emerged since the last time we played them. He’s a big-play capable wide receiver. He is right at 15.0 yards per catch. I think he has eight touchdowns on the season. He has provided some big splash to go opposite of Green, and really has worked to minimize some of the things that teams are capable of doing, in terms of allocating multiple people or rotating coverages to minimize Green’s impact on the game. He’s taking advantage of that and I think he’s kind of altered some of that, even since the last time we played them. Tyler Eifert, their talented and young tight end, their second tight end, continues to emerge and develop a solid role within their group. I think he has 35 catches to go along with 40 catches for Gresham, 35 and 40 catches are a significant number for the tight end position. They create mismatch issues and problems. They are big guys. They are vertical capable. They challenge you in that way. We have to be prepared to deal with those things. Defensively, I really think some of the things that have happened are less about the emergence of young guys but about their reaction and response to their loss of some people, and what type of opportunities that are created for some of the people that were still available to them. They lost Geno Atkins since the last time that we played them. I think that has given them an opportunity to explore some multiple-personnel packages, particularly in third-down and in sub-package football. They have found more unique ways to utilize a guy like Harrison. He plays inside and some up front in sub-package football. They are moving him around. They are moving Johnson around. Dunlap is now playing defensive tackle some in sub-package football. So the loss of a quality player like Atkins obviously is something to deal with, but in response to that, I think it’s created more issues, at least schematically for opponents and the things you have to be prepared for, the myriad of looks. I think the same thing can be said about the loss of Leon Hall, their talented and top-flight cornerback. I think it’s provided an opportunity for others to emerge, like Dre Kirkpatrick, their talented first-rounder at the cornerback position. But I also think you see the emergence and utilization of some people in different areas. Chris Crocker is back playing nickel cornerback some along with the safety position. He has done that in the past for them. He is doing it again for them. He provides a unique presence in that position. He is physical, combative and a good blitzer. They are generating turnovers. I think part of the reason why they are generating a significant number, even over the recent weeks – I was just looking at their Cleveland game from a few weeks ago, their second Cleveland game. They had 7-8 turnovers in that football game. I think the myriad and number of looks that they are providing in response to the loss of some people is creating opportunities and confusion for some opponents. I think they are benefiting from it, along with just simply playing well, being opportunistic, catching balls and applying pressure to the quarterback, all the things we’ve come to know from Coach Zimmer’s crew over there you are seeing on tape. Obviously they are solid on special teams. We have our work cut out for us. But we are excited about this and preparing with the guys that we have to prepare with this week. (You mentioned being excited about this and the guys being excited about it. After the game, Ryan Clark talked about the situation you guys are in now and guys being independent contractors. How do you keep the guys motivated as a unit? Do you see them motivating themselves as independent contractors?) I don’t expect that to be an issue for us, and not only because I know the character of these guys and their approach to the football business, but also because, like I mentioned earlier, in a lot of ways we’ve been operating with that type of sense of urgency since our catastrophic start at 0-4. When you start 0-4, you understand the ramifications of that and we really got singularly focused and tried to void out all the noise and focus on the challenges that are in front of us on a week-to-week basis. So, from that standpoint I don’t expect the mentality to change. I know mine won’t, and I know the presentation of material or the approach to preparation, or even our intentions in terms of how we’re going to go about victory are not going to change. (You mentioned after the bad start that you wanted to establish an identity. Nine games later, what would you say the indentity of this team is?) I think we’re capable of changing the pace on offense, we’re capable of running it, we’re capable of passing it. I think that is clearly evident as we get traction and continuity with our core pieces. Guys like Le’Veon Bell and of course Heath Miller has been solid, Jerricho Cotchery has provided plays for us. I think that we’ve seen that the inclusion of those guys in personnel packages have been good for us. I think we’ve had some emerging young players on defense, guys like Cam Heyward, who has worked his way into the lineup and established his presence. Obviously, Jason Worilds has taken the misfortune of LaMarr Woodley’s injury and really kind of run with it and established himself as a guy that’s capable of being a consistent reason why we’re successful. I think, also, over the course of time the reacquisition of guys like Will Allen has provided personnel packages for us that have been good. Sub packages, the package of Troy [Polamalu] and Lawrence Timmons has been good at linebacker along with our dime secondary packages and so forth. I think it’s provided good disguises for us. I think it’s allowed us to be very multiple. We function very well in it and need to continue [to do so]. But all of that being said, that’s one thing, obviously, I talk about the emergence of those things and the emergence of people and people taking advantages of opportunities and so forth, that’s just the natural evolution of football teams. Our goals and our mentalities are unchanged. This week, we need to put together a plan that’s geared toward beating the Cincinnati Bengals and doing it at our stadium in front of our fans. (Even if Kelvin Beachum can play, will we see more of Mike Adams at left tackle after he got more snaps this past week? Or would Beachum just go right back to left tackle?) It will be based totally, not only on his availability, but his level of availability and how we practice and function throughout the course of the week. Those decisions don’t happen in a vacuum. Obviously, I mentioned a couple other guys that could be limited from a practice participation standpoint at the early portions of the week. So, that could dictate who we utilize at what spots and how. (How did Adams do?) I thought he represented himself well and it was a great opportunity for him to get back in the tackle position and show his capabilities in that area. But also I think that he’s been a positive contributor to our efforts with the things that we’ve asked him to do at the extra tight end spot prior to that. So, it’s not like he’s been sitting on the sideline and just solely watching since he was taken out of the lineup at left tackle. He’s found positive ways to contribute and I appreciate that, and I know he does too. I think it probably helped him in getting back on the field at the left tackle position last weekend. (Are you saying that you’re not ready to play to get looks for next year? You’re just going with the best guys in the starting lineup?) There’s no question about that. I didn’t lead any of the discussion in that direction at all, so that would be very clear, yes. (What can you attribute to the fall off in the defense both against the run and the pass?) I think splash plays has a lot to do with that, and don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeking comfort in identifying splash plays as a reason for the change. If plays are on tape they are ours. We own them and that’s the level of ownership and accountability that we need to have. The reality is the 50-yard plays eliminate a lot of execution. We’ve had quite a few splash plays that have really eliminated a lot of execution opportunities for our opponents and really execution opportunities for us. I think the same thing could be said about our last performance. But largely over the course of the year, we’ve given up too many big plays. Obviously, if they were centrally located in one area schematically or from a personnel standpoint, those things are easily solved. But when you look at it, it’s really kind of been like popcorn in terms of a myriad of schematic things, a myriad of personnel things. Really what it says is we’re falling a little short of being the type of group that we desire to be, the dominant type of group, which you mentioned in regards to some of our past performances or defenses. (How do you then identify whether it’s scheme or personnel? ) I think that’s easy and I just did, it’s both, because it has been both. There have been some schematic challenges of course that people have gotten in good situations and taken advantage of some premium looks and we haven’t done enough physically to overcome that. That’s the reality of it. Sometimes you’re in less than ideal circumstances schematically and it takes physical contributions to overcome it. Maybe we’ve been in similar circumstances in the past and been able to overcome it. By the same token, sometimes you are in a good schematic matchup and sometimes physical errors lead to splash plays. That also has occurred. What we just need to do is continue to stress the fundamentals and details of what it is we’re doing schematically and work with the individuals that we’re working with in an effort to minimize those plays. That has been the charge and that will continue to be the charge. (A lot of those plays are the result of missed tackles. I know fundamentally all of these guys know how to tackle. Ryan Clark is an example of a guy who leads often with his shoulder. He almost never wraps guys up with his arms. Do you guys go in and emphasize that and try to change that?) Fundamental tackling is a central part of good defense. I’d probably beg to differ with that characterization of Ryan Clark’s tackling techniques. I think he is a very good technical tackler and has a very sound approach to his tackling. (How much of tackling can be either missed assignments or being late to the assignments?) Oftentimes it’s purely – that’s a function of it. Very rarely are missed tackles purely a function of technical poor tackling approaches. Usually it’s because someone is out of place because they’re not looking at what they’re supposed to look at and so forth, or they’ve been tricked or fooled in some way and they’re hurrying up to catch up. You overrun plays, backs are able to cut back, shoulder tackles become arm tackles, etcetera. Usually that’s a function of missed tackles, not just a function of poor technique. That applies not only to us, but I think just football globally speaking. (What did you like from what you saw about how you were using Jason Worilds, LaMarr Woodley and Jarvis Jones as a combination? Did you find anything that would be an anchor as far as how you would like to deploy them over these last three games?) I definitely think it provides a window of opportunity for us to talk about a multitude of things, of rotations and even maybe utilizing all three guys together. But that wasn’t really our mentality a week ago. It was about getting Woodley some snaps and getting him back up to speed and understanding that there was going to be a limited number of snaps that he would be available for because he hadn’t played in some time. Obviously, with the responsibilities the other guys have from a special teams standpoint, it was more about keeping all three guys viable and fresh, whereas this week we may take a different approach and take an offensive approach in terms of how to deploy them, and maybe even deploy all of them at once. (Is one of those prospects moving Worilds inside?) Or any of the guys, inside or on two feet in a mixer-like approach or a hybrid front. Certainly. The Cincinnati Bengals are doing similar things with James Harrison and like I was mentioning earlier, the loss of Geno Atkins has provided an opportunity for them to explore some of those things, and really probably made them more difficult to block and identify with some of their pressure package. Obviously using a guy like James Harrison, who is obviously a viable player, and having an opportunity to put him on the field in sub package football, which is the position he plays for them wasn’t allocated for the first time we played them. (Markus Wheaton and Shamarko Thomas were both seeing more time before they got injured. They’ve come back and not had a lot of snaps on the field. Are they not ready? Is it performance based? What is it, and what should we expect to see going forward?) I really think it’s kind of oftentimes the emergence of some other people, and it’s also the evolution of those young guys. When a young guy misses a substantial amount of time from an injury standpoint, you can’t sweep that under the rug. They have to work themselves back to the spot in which they were in order to proceed. I like the mentality that both guys have taken in terms of doing that, but obviously it is a process and some other guys and packages have emerged in the midst of that. I think that the veteran presence of Will Allen and some of the things that we’re able to do with him, at least from a pre-snap disguise standpoint, because of his experience has provided us with an opportunity to be more multiple in some sub package things defensively. That’s had something to do with it, but also just his play in general. He’s made some splash plays for us. He intercepted a ball late in the game that was significant a few weeks back. He recovered a fumble in Cleveland a few weeks back and advanced it down into scoring territory. But that’s just the evolution of football teams and roles over the course of a football season. I think any time someone is faced with an injury, it’s an opportunity for someone else to emerge and maybe affect their role and maybe how they contribute. That’s just a function of professional football. I think you could say the same thing about the emergence of Jason Worilds here in recent weeks and what he’s able to do, particularly from the left side of the defense since LaMarr Woodley has been down, and how that may change how we approach and utilize those guys over the course of the upcoming weeks. I just think that’s a function of football as you go through a season and react and respond to the ebb and flow of a football season. (You mentioned on that fourth-and-10 play where you called the timeout, there was not good enough communication to get that play in. What was the breakdown on that play?) Really it wasn’t a breakdown. We had some receivers down field that were working their way to the sideline not knowing that we were going to go for it. I didn’t want to press it from an at the line of scrimmage standpoint in terms of the play clock. I didn’t want them to be able to disguise or sneak a pressure on us and not be able to communicate and identify. I liked the way our offense was moving the ball, quite frankly. We had scored 21 points in the second half and we had kind of stopped ourselves in instances, as opposed to them stopping us. The drive prior to that, we had a significant play that pushed us to midfield. That drive was quelled by two penalties, a lineman down field on a screen, a false start by Cody Wallace, but other than that I thought we were moving the ball well. I was comfortable with those guys. They had delivered in a similar circumstance a week ago in Baltimore. Ben, putting the ball in his hands is always a good approach for me and us. I think there’s a great deal of comfort in that. So, I utilized a timeout. I got those guys in the huddle. We got the type of call that we wanted. We also got maybe a subsequent approach or call after we converted the third down. Obviously, that was wishful thinking. The fourth down, we didn’t convert it, so those things didn’t transpire. But that being said, I had no problem with taking that calculated risk for those reasons, but also I felt comfortable that we could stop them on a short field like we did. I didn’t think that the field goal was given with the weather circumstances and the rush package that we had selected for field goal rush. That didn’t transpire either. They kicked the three points, but we still ended up with the ball and a minute and ten seconds or so, and an opportunity to win. (How do you view timeouts in those late game situations when you’re trailing? This has come up before in, I think, it was the Oakland game when Roethlisberger called timeout. Do you impart to your team the importance of just how valuable they can be?) I do, but at the same time I don’t want to be scared to use them. I don’t want to walk out of the stadium with one or two timeouts on the board and an “L” too. When I think utilization of a timeout gives us an opportunity to win a significant down, I’ll use it. Whether the clock is running or stopped, if that’s significant, we’ll take time, we’ll have a discussion and we’ll make sure that we’ve got the type of play called that we want to call. We’ll also use that to plan ahead and understand the ramifications of the utilization of that timeout, too. But like I said, that didn’t transpire because we didn’t win the down that followed it. (On fourth down, you said you had two plays called. Isn’t that a situation where you walk on the field and those guys know that you’re in four-down territory and that’s something you’ve got to be ready for and the receivers shouldn’t just assume they’re coming off the field?) I think that would’ve been a dangerous assumption to make based on how that drive started. We stared that drive with a penalty on a kickoff return, we started it on the minus-10. So I didn’t relay my mindset to the offense as they took the field. I developed that mindset as they were on the field that that was a group that I wanted to leave on the field, even in spite of those circumstances. We didn’t convert third down, but it was a very, I thought, convertible play. We had a guy past the chains and a clean look and a clean pocket. We didn’t win that down. I felt like they weren’t pressuring in that circumstance, so I thought we had a clean opportunity to win the fourth-and-10. We didn’t do it. The ramifications, obviously, that come with that and the questioning of the mentality is part of that. That’s something that we accept. (Emmanuel Sanders had a chance to catch a ball there that would have helped.) Yeah, that was the ball I was talking about there. (It has happened in the past where guys have lost playing time due to similar situations. Limas Sweed, we saw that situation where he could have caught a touchdown.) I don’t want to compare it to the Limas Sweed situation. That’s going back and reaching. [Laughs] (How many situations like that does a wide receiver get?) He’s made some plays for us, too. Obviously, he’s missed some plays like everybody. We like his contributions, we like his energy, we like his demeanor, we like his playmaking ability. Obviously, he didn’t make the play in that circumstance. Obviously, there have been other circumstances where hadn’t made plays, but I’m sure you could say the same thing about guys that you might deem reliable like Antonio Brown or Heath Miller for that matter. We had a sequence in the game earlier where we had a second-and-six, Heath dropped a very catchable pass. They very next play on third-and six, Antonio Brown dropped a very catchable pass. So, if I took that approach, I wouldn’t be playing with any eligibles. (At the end of the first half, there was about twenty seconds left and you had all your timeouts, you sent Troy Polamalu back there. I’m sure you saw Alabama and Auburn and what happened in that situation. If you were doing it again, would you rather take the ball on the 42-yard line with three timeouts and take a shot with Ben to see if you can gain some yardage and maybe kick a field goal?) I had no problem with Troy attempting to return that ball and what we did on that play. I actually instructed him, like I said after the game. Just from a coach’s perspective, and I don’t need the Alabama and Auburn game to confirm that for me, that situation and that structure is one of the purest scoring opportunities in football because you’ve got non-runners and non-tacklers on field goal units. So, when given an opportunity to search for a splash play like that, we’ll be aggressive, particularly at the end of the half and things of that nature in an effort potentially to get seven. We were extremely close to getting seven. We were an ankle tackle away from some open grass and a probable touchdown. Probably, given an opportunity to do it again, I’ll put the ball in [Polamalu’s] hands. Those are pretty good hands to put it in as well. I don’t deny putting the ball in [Roethlisberger’s] hands with timeouts and so forth is a good option, but like I said multiple times, and maybe in some different circumstances, field goals and so forth weren’t a given in those weather circumstances. Putting the ball in Troy’s hands, running at a group of non-tacklers and runners was a good opportunity for us, one that I wanted to take. (Did the video show that Foster was down field? Did it show that Roethlisberger’s lateral was forward?) Yeah, that was the correct call in that circumstance unfortunately for us. It was probably less about his negligence and more about the timing of the play. We’ve got to clean that up and be better in that area. I thought Ben’s lateral was backwards to Antonio, yes. (You talk about always being a team on the rise. What would you like to see out of your team that you haven’t seen so far in these last three games?) I really hadn’t taken that approach because I’m focused on the things that are going to be required for us to win this week. So, I really don’t have a definitive answer for you in that regard. I know what’s going to be required for us to win this week, and that’s a little bit more solid play and some splash playmaking. Obviously, they’ve got some known issues that we’ve got to deal with that I expressed earlier. (Re: Worilds’ production based on playing on the left side or just that he’s a better player:) I believe the answer to that is probably both. I think he is emerging and developing like all players should. He is healthy, more healthy than he has been in recent years. He is becoming a veteran player that has snap experience over the last couple of years, playing for Woodley and Harrison. I think he is benefiting from that. But also, I think that he’s a different athletic matchup for right tackles. I think that is an element of it too. It’s probably more of a level playing field with the athleticism of some left tackles in terms of matching his skill set. He is probably more troublesome for some of the animals that play right tackle in our game today. (Re: Opinion on low hit:) Football is dangerous. Obviously we are going to do everything in our power to make the game as safe as we can make it. Just the function of playing football there is a potential for injury. I think that all players know that. All coaches know that, and obviously all members of the Competition Committee. That being said, we are going to do everything in our power to work to minimize injury, particularly ones that we deem avoidable. There are repercussions obviously from the player safety initiative. Some of the things you discussed are a part of it. That will be discussed at the appropriate time during the offseason. (On the final play last game, let’s just say the referees said Antonio Brown was not out of bounds. What could they have done? Would you have gotten another snap to where they thought he went out of bounds?) No element of that play was reviewable based on the judgment of the official that called the ball out of bounds. We were inside two minutes. I didn’t have a challenge flag. Scoring plays are reviewed automatically. If that guy was deemed out of bounds then the call stands. (Re: So it couldn’t come down from the booth:) He was out of bounds. (I know. I was just asking hypothetically:) There was no function that I had at my disposal to change the outcome of that play. (If the booth told the referees that he was in bounds, where would you get the ball then?) I don’t have the answer to that. Obviously, they would have to determine that based on the outcome of the replay. I don’t have the answer to that. I didn’t explore the potential answers to that because obviously he was out of bounds. (Does having excellent sideline awareness happen with repetition and time? Or is something you train yourself to do?) I’d acknowledge that the playing surface was a little unique in that circumstance. I’ve seen Brown skate down many sidelines over the last 3-4 years. He is very good at it. I think it also affected how that last defender played the space in which he played. Obviously, game surface is an element of the equation or variable in terms of how the game unfolded and how that play specifically unfolded. It wasn’t a lack of judgment or anything on Antonio’s part. That’s silly. It was a tough surface to play on. I think it was exhibited not only in terms of his inability not to stay in bounds but the ability in which he had to sit that last defender down as he faked the cutback. It’s just an element of football. The elements are part of the equation. It was in the game and it was on that play. (Does playing in conditions like that change the way you coach? The Super Bowl could be in the same conditions.) Not at all. It’s going to be the same for both teams. Really from that standpoint the playing field is level. (Was it fun playing in the snow on Sunday?) I love it. I do. That’s just a personal preference. (Re: Le’Veon Bell not touching the ball much in the second half, not running as much and throwing it more and comfort level with that:) I am comfortable how it unfolded and part of it was due to circumstance. Like I mentioned earlier, a significant possession, we had the ball with a four-point lead and we were able to get a drive started with a 19-yard completion to Cotchery. That was off the function of a play-action pass. We sucked the linebackers up because of our ability to run the ball. We got the ball to midfield. We had an offensive linemen down field on a penalty and had a false start on our center that put us at second-and-19 or something like that. Obviously, the prospects of running the ball changed from there. So a lot of it had to do with game circumstance. I admit some of it was due to our own inabilities to function in a normal state without getting penalties. But largely, we are capable of running it and throwing it. Le’Veon is going to be a big part of what we do, whether we do one or both. I am comfortable with how the game unfolded. We ran the ball effectively in the first half of the football game. It was an asset to us. I would have liked to have scored more than seven points. We scored 21 points in the second half. That was better than the first half. We didn’t run the ball as much as I would have liked. The bottom line is, we need to do any and everything that increases our chances of winning. (If you do happen to lose a draft pick, would that be an unfair penalty?) With the upmost respect to your question, I’ve been pretty clear that I am not going to discuss that moving forward. I don’t think it’s appropriate. That’s my mentality. I acknowledge my shortcomings and accept responsibility for it. That’s all I am going to do in regards to it. (Will you ever evaluate young guys during the course of the season?) That’s not my mentality. (Is it all based on what happens next season or next preseason?) Let me say this. I am continually evaluating young talent in the midst of doing the things we desire to do, which is prepare and win this week. It’s not like it’s a one or the other proposition. The evaluation of young talent is not only within stadiums but it’s also within this building in terms of some of the things they do on the practice field. That’s forever. It’s always ongoing. I really think it’s kind of naïve and not realistic to assume that you either do one or the other. I am always in continual evaluation of the talent. And I also put preparing and winning this week at a premium.
Press conference31WL
Good afternoon. I thought I would break from my normal routine and kind of do what’s appropriate under the circumstances. I thought I would start by outlining that kickoff coverage play from Thursday night, and make a statement regarding my actions and thoughts surrounding that, and then provide you guys an opportunity to ask any and every question that you have in regards to that, before reviewing the performance, going through the injuries and pushing forward towards Miami, our normal Tuesday stuff. I think under the circumstances that is appropriate. I will be very point blank, black and white and clear with you. My descriptions of my actions on that play are a lot of things: embarrassing, inexcusable, illegal, and a blunder, being many of the things I use to describe it. I take full responsibility for my actions on that play. I acknowledge that my actions, unfortunately, became part of the play. I also embrace that as head coaches, we are held to the highest standards of conduct. I realize that blunder fell woefully short of that expectation. In that vein, I embrace the responsibilities that come with my position and understand there are repercussions from a blunder of that nature. I embrace it. I also understand with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football. I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night was not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint. At no time Thursday night, in the game or after, did I realize that my actions would be perceived potentially or could be perceived potentially as intentional. That’s a mistake on my part. As someone in my position that’s supposed to preserve the integrity of the game of football, I should have realized the potential for that and acted accordingly. I didn’t realize that potential. Really, I was focused on the blunder itself, the embarrassment it produced and moving my football team past it. That was the number-one guiding influence of my actions, and not recognizing the potential perception from that standpoint, I also fell short of the duties that come with my position. That being said, since I left the stadium, it’s been shocking to me that my actions could have been or have been perceived in any way intentional in regards to my actions on that play. I have no desire, and let me be clear, to defend my character and things of that nature. I’ve become comfortable with the fact that in these positions you get judged in a certain way, and to a certain degree you live a public lifestyle. I’ve embraced that long ago. I will take this unfortunate incident and this blunder on my part and do so with honor to stand up and champion our game, in particular the NFL and the integrity of that. It’s all that I have professionally. It’s been very good to me in my life, and to be honest with you, quite frankly, the winning of any game is not important enough for me to jeopardize that. Those that know me know that. I appreciate the support of those people. I also want them to know to stop calling me. I am busy [Laughs] with this week’s issues. I am most concerned and will take this opportunity to talk about this great game that we have, and the responsibility of us all to preserve and protect it, particularly the integrity of it. I would never do such a thing. I would never consider doing such a thing. As unfortunate as my actions were, and they were a lot of things, as I said earlier, inexcusable being at the top of the list from my perspective. It was a blunder nonetheless. With that being said, I would be happy to address any questions regarding my actions during that play, after that play or anything surrounding this thing in an effort to be as transparent as I can and move forward with this week’s business. (Have you had the opportunity to say exactly what you just said to the NFL?) Again, initially after the game the thought that it could be perceived as intentional never even crossed my mind. I realized that I fell short of the expectations of my position in being where I was and my actions on the play. I am not one to seek comfort from that standpoint, so I was just going to take my medicine, if you will. I thought that once the integrity of the game became a question in some of the commentary and discussions, then it was my duty to speak up. And I am taking this forum in which to do so. I have communicated with the NFL. I exchanged communications with Commissioner Goodell on Sunday. I talked to him personally on Monday. I talked to Ray Anderson and Merton Hanks on Monday in an effort to be as cooperative as I can be under the circumstances. (Do you expect there to be a punishment?) Certainly I do, because first and foremost, my behavior was inexcusable. It was an inexcusable blunder on my part. To be in my position, obviously I am held to the highest of standards of conduct. That conduct fell short of that. I can’t make those types of mistakes. I did. It’s something that I have to wear. I am capable of wearing and willing to wear. But again, at the same time, I acknowledge that I want to defend football. I think that is appropriate as well. (Did the league indicate to you whatever punishment was coming down would be individual or would it affect the team?) There was no indication, and I didn’t ask for any in that regard. I did not. Like I said, I am one to embrace the consequences of actions, personally and professionally. So I wasn’t looking for comfort in that regard. (Re: Take us through the play:) It’s standard procedure for me. It was refreshing to hear when I talked to those guys that they did some investigative research on my procedure. Almost always when the ball is kicked off, I am right at the kickoff line in order to watch that. There is a myriad of kicks that can transpire or there is off sides [penalty] or so forth. Generally once the ball is kicked off, my eyes will go to the Jumbotron in an effort to get a good perspective on the coverage and fit, particularly when we are on kickoff. Obviously, when we are on kickoff return, I may leave my eyes to the field a little bit more for lane exchanges or direction of kicks, but when I have that knowledge, because we are the team that is kicking off, I can simply go to the point of emphasis in the play or the point of contact where the two units come together. That’s what I did on the play. That’s what I do on most plays. Obviously, that play unfolded in a manner that was unfavorable for us. It came back at us quick. We didn’t fit it well. I got probably mesmerized by those events. At that point, I can’t tell you in terms of how I ended up in my spot. I probably walked towards the Jumbotron. Obviously, when I jumped out of the way, the thing that gave me the indication that I was potentially in the way was I saw myself come into the Jumbotron. That’s a frightening experience, an embarrassing experience. That’s really why I moved in the manner in which I moved, because as I was watching the pursuit angle of Cortez Allen in an effort to try to run down Jacoby Jones, I saw myself in the Jumbotron, and that’s why I responded the way that I responded. (When you looked over your shoulder, did you think you were further off the field than where you actually were?) I did. When I saw myself on the Jumbotron, I jumped and looked over my shoulder, probably simultaneously in response to what I saw on the screen. (Did you say that the league has seen on tape how you act on other kickoffs and that’s what they communicated to you?) I believe that if you do [look at the tape], you will see that my actions are very consistent in that regard, in terms of what I do on kickoff plays. I am sure we all as coaches have routines, mechanics, in terms of observing and managing the game. That’s something I employ. Obviously I have to do it with a great deal of more caution moving forward. Hopefully my blunder provides a lesson not only for myself but anyone else that utilizes their technique. (What was the response from your family and close friends?) I have two sons that play football. I talk to them about what a teaching tool the game of football is. It teaches great life lessons. I expect them to play the game the right way. Play it hard and fair. So obviously it created an opportunity to have an extended discussion with my sons regarding it. I did. They are probably still hacked off at me. But such is life. But it is a teaching opportunity. I try to utilize all my mistakes that I make in life as that, not only for myself but those that I am around. It did provide those moments this weekend, specifically with my sons. (By speaking with Commissioner Goodell, do you think you helped your cause?) I think he is appreciative of the communication. I don’t know if it’s capable of helping my cause. Like I said earlier, as a head coach, we are held to the highest standard of conduct. From that standpoint, my actions were below the line. They don’t judge intent. I don’t know that they do. They don’t do it in regards to player safety. I don’t think they would judge intent in regards to this matter. Again, my actions over the weekend in terms of communicating with them, and even my actions here today are not done in a vein to minimize the consequences of my actions. Really, I am just taking it as an opportunity to champion the game of football as I should. I think that we don’t do that enough. If this unfortunate incident provides me an opportunity to do so, then I am glad. Even though the circumstances and situations are what they are. (In your years as a head coach, were you ever told to get back by an official?) I am sure that has occurred in some form or fashion. More times than not, it’s more about me noticing where I am, self-checking if you will. If the play doesn’t get to you from an officiating standpoint, chances are they aren’t going to be involved with that space, so that conversation is less of an issue. Really, that’s one of the elements for me, probably that lulled me into the sense of comfort that I was in. we hadn’t allowed a kickoff past midfield all year. Really, we hadn’t been in that circumstance or situation from a kickoff coverage standpoint. (Do you have someone on the field in charge of keeping the team off the field?) He does an awesome job of that. He probably is going to be a little less than comfortable instructing me in that way. I will do a better job of policing myself. (Did you reach out to the Ravens in any way?) I did not, because I know the perspective that they have on it and are going to have on it. That’s old news. They’ve won the game. They’ve moved on. The people over there that know me, they know my character and my love of football more importantly than anything else, and the level of respect that I have for this game at this level. I imagine that they understand that is not something I would do intentionally. In regards to reaching out and apologizing for my behavior from a blunder standpoint, it’s inexcusable. Excuses are not going to cut it. I can’t be in the space. And I was. So I take responsibility for that. (Your text to Jay Glazer said, “If anybody thinks I would do this on purpose, they are crazy.” Can you understand why people would think you did it on purpose?) I understand that mentality from a media standpoint and maybe from a commentary standpoint. I think it provides hours of interesting discussion, particularly in light of some other things that are going on in sports in recent weeks. But from my perspective and how I care about this game, and the position I hold within this game and the things I am committed to, in regards to all the above, the possibility of my actions could be perceived in that way never crossed my mind to be honest with you, not when it was occurring, not immediately after it occurred and not even after the game at the stadium. But that’s just my mentality. I realize maybe I take an ideal approach to the game of football. Football has always been very black and white to me. So from that standpoint, my commitment to it, my dedication to it, even in the areas of my life where it was a little bit gray when I was a younger guy, that’s never been in question – that’s probably the chief mistake I made, because had I realized the potential for that, then I could have guided my actions accordingly in an effort to safeguard the integrity of the game of football after it. I didn’t do that. My actions were guided by working to minimize the level of embarrassment and moving my team past the incident to keep us focused on getting back into what was a very competitive and close football game. (Do you think this incident jeopardizes you being on the competition committee?) I hadn’t pondered whether or not it’s going to jeopardize my position. If it does, again, like I said, I embrace the responsibilities that come with being me, and I understand the potential consequences of my acts. I will deal with that. If given an opportunity to serve the game of football, I will do so in great spirit. In regards to whether or not it comes up, boy I am sure I have some ribbing coming. It came on the sideline from my guys. It’s come continually since. But I am not one that takes myself so seriously that I can’t take what’s coming to me in that regard. (What if John Harbaugh did that in front of Antonio Brown? Would your perspective maybe have changed?) I don’t know that my perspective would have changed had I seen someone else do it, just because of the routine procedure that I go through in regards to that. Not only that, I would imagine that I probably was out of place from the time that the ball was kicked. I don’t know at what point I got in the spot I was at. That’s pretty tough to premeditate, considering we hadn’t allowed a kickoff past midfield all year. I was probably on that spot from the time that the ball was kicked, not knowing what direction their return was coming in. (What would a just punishment be? Is there some nervousness now?) I don’t know what a just punishment is. I have no idea. There is no nervousness to be honest with you. I am not acting in a means to preserve my wallet or my money. My wallet and my money is what it is because of the game of football. I guess we will all make due. (When and how did you realize this thing was way bigger than you thought?) My boys watch football. They are football fans. Over the course of the weekend, they continued to reiterate to me what a story it was. From that standpoint, that’s when I kind of got in line with the nature of the story and what direction it was running. I was less concerned about seeking comfort for myself but when I realized the integrity of the game became the chief issue in the discussion, it was an opportunity and the time was appropriate to set the record straight. (Did the Rooneys have a conversation with you?) They didn’t. That doesn’t surprise me. I would imagine if the Rooneys thought that I was capable of that or they thought my intentions were that, I wouldn’t be sitting at this table talking to you guys today. (Moving forward, how will this change how you monitor yourself on kickoffs?) It won’t change the mechanics of what I do. I believe technology helps us all. Technology in that instance provides a perspective that I don’t have in person. Obviously, I will do so in a more professional and cautious type of manner given the circumstances. (Re: A memo that was circulated last Wednesday about coaches staying away from the sidelines:) It potentially [was a part of it]. I get quite a few memos. That was a Thursday night game on a short week. On a normal week, I do a diligent job of reading all memos. On a short week, I can’t tell you that last week that I read some of those memos at the latter part of the week. By the latter part of the week, I mean on Wednesday or Thursday, if it did come in that form or fashion. The league does a nice and proactive job in terms of trying to stay ahead of some of the things that could mechanically break our game down, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was a part of a memo last week, specifically in that area. (How would it make you feel if the organization was fined as well?) I have no control over their actions. My feeling in that regard is irrelevant. I would hope that they understand that the actions were a personal blunder of mine, that they wouldn’t penalize the organization in response to it. But I also understand, in terms of being the head coach of this organization that there are responsibilities that come with that, that I represent us, and that there are potential consequences that come with that. Like everyone else, I will wait to see what their actions are and respond accordingly. (Did they indicate yesterday when you would know?) They didn’t give me any solid indication. Nor did I ask. I recognize the sensitive and touchy situation that my actions put them in, specifically, guys like Ray and Merton. I apologize for that. I am sure they have things that they have to look at from that standpoint. I will be respectful of that. (Have you ever had to defend your actions before as a coach?) I am not worried about defending myself or my character. Like I said, I got comfortable with that long ago that I live somewhat of a public life. The people that know me know me. The people that don’t, I could care less about, to be quite honest with you. But I do care about the perceptions of the integrity of our game. And I will take this as an opportunity to strenuously defend the game of football and the NFL. I won’t defend myself. The people that know me, I don’t need to do that. The people that don’t know me, they are going to make their judgments any way. (Re: The last move you made where you went right before you went left:) I think if you are standing as probably as straight-legged as I was, it would require some bending and some movement to the right in order to go left. I am not as athletic as I used to be or those guys that play. I did see the “Soul Train” picture. That was interesting. I’ve heard all the jokes. I got it coming. I’ll move on to our normal Tuesday business, if you will. A quick review of the Ravens game. It was a typical Steelers-Ravens game. Obviously, we came out on the short end of it. There are a variety of reasons why. I’ll highlight some of them. I thought the splash play that they produced early was a significant play because, obviously, it produced a touchdown and really the only touchdown in the game. We did a nice job of playing red zone defense and getting stout at the end of drives and producing field goal or field goal opportunities. That splash play early was significant. I thought they made a couple significant splash plays in special teams. Obviously, the field goal opportunity to put points on the board that was missed by us and the return by Jacoby [Jones] after we had started to gain some traction and put together a scoring drive were significant plays. Often times in the history of this series, particularly in the recent history of this series, splash plays on special teams are pivotal. It was at Heinz Field when we came out on top and I thought it was in that game on Thursday night when they came out on top. I didn’t think we stopped them quickly enough on third down sequences defensively. I thought they converted some third downs early in drives that allowed them to get points, even when we stopped them. The five field goals, of course, is an example of that. Obviously, there was not enough playmaking at the end. Now, I mention those things and those things can be perceived as all negative, but I highlighted the reasons why we didn’t get the job done. Obviously, there were a lot of positive things in the game. I think our team is mentally tough enough that they don’t need me to mention that in effort to move forward and meet this week’s challenges. We analyzed the game in the way that we always do and looked at how we fell short and the areas in which we fell short. Those are some of the areas that were critical to the outcome of the game. A lot of effort, a lot of quality performances. We’ll take that with us as well as we get ready to play the Miami Dolphins this weekend. I’ll quickly look at the health standpoint of our football team. Kelvin Beachum won’t be practicing here at the early portions of the week with his right knee sprain. His availability for the game could be characterized as questionable. David DeCastro with a left foot sprain, he will be limited at the early portions of the week. I think his participation could be described in the same way. Brett Keisel with his left foot plantar fasciitis, I think he could be characterized as out. He had a step backward, obviously, when he returned to action in the football game and I think he’ll be out this week with that injury. We’ve got a myriad of guys and injuries, of course, that could be limited in some form or fashion. Mike Adams with a left ankle sprain will practice in some capacity. Le’Veon Bell practiced yesterday in a limited capacity. We’ll continue to march him back to health as he recovers from his concussion. Obviously, we’ll do what we always do in terms of doing what’s right in regards to his health and making sure that he goes through the necessary checkpoints to return. Thus far, it’s been very positive with him, which is good. Steve McLendon with his left ankle sprain is going to work in a limited capacity and we’ll see where that week’s work takes him. The same could be said for LaMarr Woodley with his left calf strain. He worked partially yesterday. He’ll work partially again on Wednesday as we proceed. Fernando Velasco obviously ruptured his Achilles. Unfortunate for him, unfortunate for us. I can’t say enough about what he’s done for us and the manner in which he’s done it. That was surgically repaired on Saturday and he’ll start the process of getting well. But we’ll keep him close to us and also just continue to appreciate what he did for us. At the same time, we’ll get Cody Wallace ready to play. [He’s] a guy that’s a professional, a guy that’s capable, a guy that’s been readying himself for some time since he’s been here to answer the call that he’s been given right now. A myriad of bumps and bruises associated with playing, particularly playing the Ravens. We’ll get those guys ready to go and get ready to answer this week’s challenge. To talk about the Dolphins, I’ll start with their offense. As I study these guys and prepare, [Ryan] Tannehill is an impressive young quarterback. His mobility is surprising for me. I remember him when he came out and evaluated him, his mobility is a concern. I think it’s something that is a factor into the equation in everything that you do defensively and it’s a factor in terms of deciding some of the things that they do and that they’re capable of doing offensively. He’s capable of creating when plays break down, scrambling, running, buying time, throwing on the run, all of those are assets to his game. He’s got a nice set of weapons that he utilizes. [Brian] Hartline has been really impressive in watching the tape. He’s their leading receiver. He’s great at creating separation at break points. He’s a precision route runner. He’s got a well-polished game and really has no standout areas of weakness. He plays a complete game. He catches that ball in his hands. He runs the dirty routes. He creates separation at break points. His run after [the catch] is impressive. Obviously, we know what Mike Wallace is capable of and have got a great deal of respect for him and his game and what he can do inside stadiums. He’s capable of taking the top off the coverage. Obviously, since he’s been in the league, he’s worked hard at developing a well-rounded game and that’s evident – even last week, in terms of taking a short catch and turning and breaking a tackle and producing a touchdown. Love Mike, won’t love Mike on Sunday. We’ve got business and he stands in the way. I think he has a respect for that. We do, too. The tight end that they have, [Charles] Clay, is an interesting and impressive guy. I think that if you appreciate football and watch tape, when you run across a guy that’s a personnel matchup, a guy that creates mismatches, a guy that has a unique skill set per his body type, I think it speaks to this guy. He’s capable of displacing himself from the core, playing in a two-point stance, running routes down the field and across the field. He’s capable of lining up at the fullback position and isolating linebackers. He’s just a very versatile and good football player and a big part of what they do. Obviously, [Lamar] Miller is their featured runner. He’s a speed guy. He’s capable of bouncing to the perimeter and he does. He reminds me a lot of C.J. Spiller in terms of what he’s capable of and how they utilize him in both the run and the pass and in the screen game. Obviously up front, they’re led by Mike Pouncey. Looking at him is like looking at ours, genetics are something else. Got a great deal of respect for what that guy is capable of and who he is as a player. Obviously, they’ve acquired Bryant McKinnie who’s been rock solid since that acquisition at left tackle and working to solidify their front. I’ve worked with Bryant over the years in Minnesota and I’ve got a great deal of respect for his game and we’ve seen him in the AFC North as well. On defense, they’re a 4-3 group. When you talk about 4-3 groups, you talk about the front. They wreak havoc with their front. They’ve got multiple people. They’ve got a bunch of people and they utilize them all. Cameron Wake, obviously, is a known issue to deal with from our perspective. He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber guy, a guy that’s been across the water, a guy that’s a really good rusher. His other book end, Olivier Vernon from Miami, is a young guy who is really making a name for himself. He’s got 10 sacks on the season. He’s very athletic, can bend and redirect, utilizes his hands well and has got a hot motor. [Dion] Jordan, their first-rounder, also is in that mix outside. The guys inside, [Jared] Odrick and [Randy] Starks, are highly impressive, great one-on-one interior rushers. They probably create as much of a mismatch inside as the guys that I mentioned outside do, relative to their position. They’ve got a lot of sacks. They come from a variety of places and those guys make them go. On the linebacker level, they’ve got very active and aware players, run-and-hit type players in [Philip] Wheeler and [Dannell] Ellerbe. We’re familiar with both of those guys and have seen them in multiple cities over the years. They’ve got a very sound secondary that does a nice job of minimizing big plays and making plays of their own. I think [Brent] Grimes is playing really top quality ball. You’ve got to deal with [Reshad] Jones along the line of scrimmage from the free safety position. They really stretch you with a myriad of looks. We’ve got a great deal of respect for what they do schematically, very similar to what we’ve seen in recent years from the Cincinnati Bengals defensively. From a special teams standpoint, [Brandon] Fields their punter, is at about 49 yards per [kick] and really doing a nice job. I think their coverage unit from a kickoff standpoint is something to be dealt with and their punt return unit provides a variety of looks from a protection standpoint. Your punt team has got to be on the screws. Obviously, it’s the early portions of the week. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We look forward to doing it. We understand the significance of this football game for us and for them. We’re excited about doing it and excited about doing it at Heinz Field in front of our fans.(Do you see them using Mike Wallace in any different way than you guys? What development have you seen in his game?) Again, I hadn’t pondered what their plan is in regards to utilizing Mike relative to ours. Their components around Mike are different than the components we had around Mike, so I don’t expect it to be the same. I expect it to be built to suit their needs and it is. He’s a big component of what they’re doing and is really doing a nice job for them. Mike is a competitor, Mike is a worker, and I expect nothing but that from Mike, not only this week but in the stadium. (You have LaMarr Woodley listed at left outside linebacker and Jason Worilds at right outside linebacker with Jarvis Jones as the reserve. Is that the way it will play out at the start if Woodley is ready?) That’s to be determined not only on whether or not Woodley is ready, but his level of readiness. I acknowledge that the work that we’ve gotten from Worilds, particularly on the left side of our defense has been impressive and has not gone unnoticed by me. (Woodley has told us, I don’t know if he tells you guys the same thing, that he’d be more than willing to move to the right. Would that move make sense, given what Worilds has done on the left?) It’s definitely something to consider, given Jason’s performance since he’s been down, certainly. But I’m not ready to make that determination at this time. Obviously, Woodley’s health and availability is a chief element of that decision and the decision-making process. (William Gay talked yesterday about some of the things you said about Brian Hartline and how good he is. He raised his hand and said, “He burned me when I was in Arizona.” Do you look then at maybe having Ike Taylor on Hartline, or is Wallace Ike’s job?) Again, we haven’t met as a defensive staff yet. I usually start those meetings sometime this afternoon and that will be one of the many things that we discuss as we prepare our game plan. But, obviously, matching of people and personnel matchups that are advantageous to us is a normal part of the process for us. (With the AFC being what it is, at 5-7 you’re not out of this. What sort of value does that have to your team?) It’s all the value that we need because the reality is we have enough information to understand that we don’t need to look outside of what it is that we’re doing right here, right now, and that’s preparing to play and defeat the Miami Dolphins. That’s where our energy should be. (You’ve reviewed the tape, are teams targeting Ike Taylor more frequently? Or, because he is usually on their best receiver, is it then natural for them to go after their best receivers with Ike in coverage?) I think the people that we play are better equipped to answer that. I’d probably say it’s an element of both. I think that the nature of how Ike plays lends itself to people being aggressive and pitting their skills versus his. I think that’s something that he embraces, but also recognize that some of the people that he draws from an assignment standpoint are going to draw a few flies, if you will, because of who they are for their football teams. (There was a play that was a deep ball and Ike was defending, and then there was another play that I think was a touchdown, and it looked like on both of those plays he was expecting help. Was that the case, and if so, why was the help not available?) We fell short of perfection in a few of those plays and like I acknowledged in the review of the game performance, I thought that initial splash play was big. I’m not interested in assigning blame. I accept responsibility for it like our guys in the secondary do. We’ve got to be better. (Do you have a roster move for us after it was announced that Rashad Butler left the team?) There potentially will be, but not as I sit here. We’ve got some housekeeping to do in that regard. It’s ongoing standard Tuesday procedure. I apologize for not having it as I sit here. (Your offensive line is sort of decimated. Is there any worry about that?) We’ll make do as we always do. We’ll start with the healthy people. We acknowledge that there are some issues in that area that we’re working on. We also acknowledge that we have capable professionals that we believe in and given a week to prepare, we expect quality performance. I really think that’s the point to be made in regards to injuries. Not only on the offensive line, but any position, I think the biggest adjustments made in regards to injuries are in-game because the people that are performing are doing so in less than ideal circumstances from a preparedness standpoint. When given an opportunity to address injuries in this manner and prepare over the course of a week, I expect those guys to perform at a high level. I have no problem expecting Cody Wallace to play winning football at the center position for us because he’s going to practice and prepare all week, and any other name that you want to fill in the blank along that line of discussion with. (Do you expect that helmet rule to be examined a little bit in the offseason, the popping off in mid-tackle play with Le’Veon Bell?) I’m sure it will, but I think that’s always the case whenever we institute a new rule, that there is a review process at the end of the year to assure that we’re getting the intended result and that the rule is worded in a manner in which we desire for it to be worded, etcetera, etcetera. (The rule that was implemented for this season where you can’t tackle anyone with the crown of your helmet, was that then an illegal hit on Le’Veon?) Again, I hadn’t looked at that from that element, to be honest with you. Given the circumstances that I’m in, I’m not calling the league office talking about anything this week.
Press conference24LL
Good afternoon. Business as usual for us. I will address some things, kind of pertinent to us. Quickly, a review of our performance yesterday in Cleveland, like I said after the game it was obviously a significant victory for us, a critical one. Two 4-6 teams were scrapping to stay in the hunt. Thankfully we were able to get it done. I think it was due to the contributions of really all parties involved. If you look at what we were able to do on offense, I thought we were able to mix in the run and pass and have success with both. I thought that aided us in keeping our quarterback clean and protection of the football. We were pretty solid in situational football in the red area. We had a few chunks of a couple of big plays that aid you in terms of execution. Big plays eliminate a lot of execution. That big pass to Antonio Brown in the latter part of the second quarter was significant for us. It was a break in the action if you will. It kind of gave us a leg up. And we were able to put on another three points prior to the half. Defensively, it was simple. We were able to stop the run. It put us in position to apply pressure to their quarterbacks. In doing so, we were able to create some turnovers and big plays, and actually score. We got solid contributions from our special teams as well. I thought that field goal by Shaun Suisham on the first possession was significant. They won the toss. They elected to take the wind and give us the ball. For him to bang that 47-yarder under those circumstances to get us off to a positive start, I thought it was significant and shouldn’t be overlooked. That’s kind of behind us now, really, not a lot of time to analyze this performance. We will do so in a necessary way in an effort to minimize the mistakes that happened in that game, so that they don’t become issues in our next one. It’s upward and onward to Baltimore for us. From that standpoint, I’ll take a look at some injuries. Curtis Brown has a left ACL. Obviously, he will be out and will miss the remainder of the season. Steve McLendon has a right ankle sprain. He will miss this game on a short week. We will see if he is available to us next week. Some of the guys that were able to come back into action or that missed action the last game, Ramon Foster is no worse for wear coming off of his ankle injury. We expect Brett Keisel to work this week with an eye towards participation. I think the same can be said for Shamarko Thomas and LaMarr Woodley. Obviously, what they are capable of doing here tomorrow is going to be significant in determining that. When we made the decision that they weren’t going to be available for us last week, we thought they would have the possibility to be available on Thursday. We will see where the week takes us. Obviously their participation and how their body responds to practice participation will be our guide in terms of roles that we etch out for them or whether or not we allow those guys to participate at all. Stevenson Sylvester is probably not as close as those guys but we will monitor him and see if he is capable of working with an eye toward participation. All of those things are taking place as we speak, or a little bit later on this afternoon in terms of looking at those guys. We have to work diligently on a short week. Looking at Baltimore, really, I spent some time looking at them and tried to determine what’s different or what has evolved over the last month since we played them. There are some things that are obviously the same. Joe Flacco is Joe Flacco. Ray Rice is Ray Rice. Torrey Smith is Torrey Smith. I do see some things evolving for them. I see the evolution of participation at the tight end position in their passing game. Ed Dickson had a really big game yesterday. Dallas Clark is being utilized in some situational football, third-downs. He’s done it at a high level for a long time. Dennis Pitta may have an opportunity to participate in this game. If they regain him, obviously, they’ve been a very good two tight end team over the years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of that if he’s available. I think they are doing a nice job of just finding their traction with their running game. Ray Rice has had a couple of pretty big games since the last time we saw him. Obviously, they are still supplemeting him with Bernard Pierce, who is a solid runner in his own right. Really, it looks like they exchange those guys and use them freely. Some other wide receivers that are playing roles for them, Brandon Stokely is a part of the mix now. You will see him in some sub-package, working in conjunction with Clark. Those guys have an awesome relationship. They have done it in multiple cities together over an extended period of time. I think that contiuity and understanding shows on their tape when they work together. Obviously, Tandon Doss, is continuing to work and find roles within their multiple receiver set offense, along with Jacoby Jones, who obviously starts opposite of Smith. Along the offensive line, A.Q. Shipley is now in the starting lineup. Kelechi Osemele is out for the year. That is something that is new and different. Obviously, A.Q. is not someone that is unfamiliar to us. He was here for a short period of time a number of years ago, and he’s a Penn State guy and Western Pennsylvania guy, so we are familiar with him. On defense, it still starts with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Those are the guys that can create a great deal of negativity, collapse a pocket and get us off rythym. Haloti Ngata is who he is. There are a lot of constants in their defense, things that are known issues but are issues nonetheless. They have people that we have to work to neutralize so that we can do what it is that we desire to do. I am continually impressed with Daryl Smith as an inside linebacker, not only against the run but against the pass. He gets to a lot of balls. He is highly aware. He destroys screens. He is really doing a nice job for them. Jameel McClain is back, which is new since the last time we played them. Arthur Brown was playing quite a bit and others the last time we played them. They have McClain back in the mix. Brown is still participating but really kind of in sub-package football and on special teams. He’s a talented young guy. Their secondary is still intact from the last time we played those guys. We still have to deal with their bump coverage, guys like Jimmy Smith who are adept at man-to-man coverage along the line of scrimmage. He and Lardarius Webb are a formidable tandem. They are going to be big business for Antonio and Emmanuel Sanders in this football game. And in all elements of their special teams they’ve been rock solid for a number of years. Particularly, they are explosive in their return game with capable return men in Jones and Doss. We are working on a short week. We aren’t going to make that an excuse. It’s a short week for them as well. We are excited about playing on Thanksgiving and being a part of that. Like a lot of people, I grew up in a household with Thanksgiving football engrained in the holiday, shared family experiences. It’s an honor to really be a part of that, entertain and pursue victory at the same time, obviously. We realize that this is a big game. We realize AFC and AFC North road victories are tough to come by. I failed to mention earlier that they are 2-2 since the last time we played them but 2-0 at home. We realize how difficult it is to go into their place and get a victory, but it’s the challenge that is on our plate this week, and one that I am sure our guys will be excited about preparing for first, and ultimately going and playing. (Re: Playing on Thanksgiving being a distraction:) I don’t think it’s going to be a distraction at all. We’ve got a lot to do and a short period of time in which to do it. We have a known formidable opponent that is waiting on us on the other end in a hostile environment. I don’t think anyone is going to be distracted or lack attention in regards to preparing for this game. (Are the Ravens struggles with the running game a reflection of what is going on with their offensive line? ) I think they’d be better equipped to answer that than myself. My perceptions of it are probably no different than yours. I know that Ray Rice, obviously, is a quality player and has delivered for them over a long period of time and continues to do so. I’m sure it’s a myriad of things that have them in the state that they are in that regard, like ours. We desire to have an effective running game and it’s been spotty from time to time. It was a positive contributor to our efforts yesterday, but just yesterday. (Knowing that this is a short week, was the game against the Browns the best possible outcome with how you guys played as a complete unit and moving forward into this next week?) I just wanted to win it. (What is the process for a short week with only two days of practice? Is it just running on adrenaline for 72 hours?) It’s really more about doing what’s necessary. I think that as coaches you always have a desire to put guys in the best position possible to excel and to make sure that they’re as prepared as they can be. That’s kind of guiding our thoughts and actions as we deal with what is a short week, similar to, I’m sure, what’s going on in Baltimore among their coaches. (Does it help that you know the Ravens very well?) I really think the league does a good job of trying to make that a possibility in some of these Thursday games. It seems like there is a lot of familiarity in the opponents on Thursday night, oftentimes the second time that people play one another, the division opponents or people that have an extended recent history. Obviously, that knowledge helps us in terms of our preparation but it helps them in terms of their preparation. So from all of those standpoints, the playing field will be level. (On the last possession of the first half, you got the ball around midfield with two timeouts and 1:43 left. It took one minute and one second to run the two plays after that. Was that by design, or do you think the team needs more urgency in that situation?) I thought we had an opportunity to score. I thought if you fast forward a few plays, it’s easy to pick a couple plays and analyze it and comb it with a fine tooth comb. I understand that and have respect for that, but I really think at the end of the drive we had the ball deep into the red area and a clean throw to Le’Veon Bell and an opportunity to score a touchdown before the half. That’s how I envision the possession. (How about the situation where Ben Roethlisberger spikes it. You’re coming out of a timeout. Are you supposed to have multiple plays called there so you don’t waste that down?) We’re capable of that, but under the circumstances and knowing the myriad of things that Coach [Ray] Horton was capable of doing due to his understanding of our attack, we thought it was appropriate to live one play at a time in that instance. So we did. The spike and the kill provided us an opportunity to stop the clock. But again, to go back largely big picture to the general discussion, we had a guy open with an opportunity to deliver him the ball and an opportunity to score. Le’Veon didn’t hold onto the football. Such is life. We took the three points and went into the half. (Will Al Woods start for Steve McLendon and can you talk about his performance?) Obviously, I thought he was a positive contributor to our efforts. I think maybe he had a couple sacks. Al has played a contributing role to our efforts largely throughout the season. He’s played in just about every football game, getting 10 to 12 snaps per game. Hopefully, he’ll be ready for the extended action that comes with having an opportunity to step up. In terms of making a decision of who will play for Steve, that hasn’t been done yet. We haven’t come together yet. Obviously, he’s an obvious potential selection but we’ll still have the discussion in an effort the put the very best people on the grass. (Who else could be in the consideration to start?) It could be a myriad of people. I think we’ve got decent position flexibility with those guys. We’ve got a possibility of getting Brett Keisel back. Maybe Ziggy Hood is inside capable. We’ll have the necessary discussion and look at all the possibilities in an effort to put our best combination of people on the field. The reality is, with Steve down, we’re going to need increased effort and contributions from all of the men that I just mentioned. (When you saw Baltimore in person for the first time this season, did you see any vast difference in how they approached football from a year ago? Or are they still the Ravens in approach and style?) I really didn’t sense any schematic differences or approaches to play or team personalities in any of the three phases. Obviously, I think they probably wish the results of some of the games would be different, like we do. But I still think they are approaching the game and preparing for the game and the manner in which they go about pursuing victory in the same way. (Was Joe Haden singled up on Antonio Brown virtually all game long?) They played it very similar to how they’ve played a number of their top guys that they’ve seen over the course of the year. He’s represented himself well all year. I think I stated that in here last week. I thought he was having a Pro Bowl-caliber year. I still believe that. He was matched up on Antonio quite a bit. Antonio was able to shake free a couple times and provide plays for us. It’s not unexpected from our standpoint. We believe that Antonio is a quality player and a Pro Bowl-caliber player as well and is having a similar season. We thought that would be a critical matchup in the game. Thankfully, Antonio was able to make some plays to help us in our efforts. (Outside of the results, what is the biggest difference between the team that you see now and the team that you saw in September?) Oh gosh, where do I start? Teams evolve. Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. I’m not going to dredge up the past. That is the past. We had a lot to do with that. I’m more concerned about pressing forward with the men that we’re playing with now and their preparation this week. (Were you surprised that they didn’t re-spot the ball when you challenged it on fourth down?) [Laughs] Yes. (You didn’t waste any time throwing that flag.) No, because aside from coaching, I also referee on the side and I thought I had a pretty good perspective on the spot. I used the left foot spot on that particular play. [Laughs] Evidently I was wrong. (Re: Play of Will Allen:) I’m not surprised by anything Will does. Will and I go back over a decade. I was the secondary coach in Tampa when we drafted him in 2004. He’s a low-maintenance guy. He’s a high-energy guy. He’s a team guy. He’s willing to do whatever. There are probably not many 10-year veterans that run down on kickoffs in the NFL. It’s something that he embraces. He’s a good teammate because of it. (There were a lot of empty set formations in the first half. Is that something schematically that you saw with the Browns or that Roethlisberger saw in the course of action?) We just wanted to clean up some of the potential pressure looks early. Of course, getting people out of the backfield aids in that, but blocking them also aids in that. (Once again, you used a lot of no-huddle. Players in the locker room were talking about how much they enjoy it. Might you continue to evolve in that area?) I say the same things every week when you guys ask me about no-huddle. We go through a checklist of the things that we do, and if it provides an advantage for us in a number of fashions we’ll do it continually. But there are a myriad of things that could affect the usage of no-huddle or the non-usage of no-huddle. We’ll prepare accordingly. (What were some of the things that made you come out in it quickly?) Like I was just saying, Coach Horton has got a myriad of pressure. We thought it could potentially minimize it, among other things, but just a normal checklist of things that we go through week-to-week in terms of determining whether or not it’s a significant weapon or not. (Emmanuel Sanders is kind of hitting his stride. How critical will it be for him to continue to do that down the stretch?) I wouldn’t consider him hitting his stride. I thought that he’s been a consistent performer for us over the season and delivering plays when called upon like we expect him to and like he desires to. He’s going to be a critical part of our operation moving forward and really has been. (How do you weigh what happens at the end of games when they call it ‘garbage time’ and the game is basically out of hand. Some of your secondary was not happy with the amount of passing yards the Browns totaled yesterday. Do you have a problem with how they played yesterday and how much do you attribute it to being in that situation?) I would expect competitors to be hacked-off about things such as yardage totals and things of that nature. The emphasis is to win the game but also the emphasis is also to play well. In some instances in the latter part of the game, we didn’t. (Are you seeing the Jason Worilds you thought you would get when you drafted him?) We are, but even more than that, I think just as a competitor he recognizes the circumstance or situation where we’re thin at his position. He’s doing what’s needed, which is being a solid veteran guy that’s been around here and understanding our culture and climate and knowing that he has to step up and provide consistent play for us. And he really has done that, not only yesterday, but over the last several weeks, particularly since LaMarr [Woodley] has been down. (Is it evolution for Worilds? Or from your experience, even when you were an assistant, guys playing on contract years, does that sometimes serve as motivation?) I think in regards to him it’s a continual evolution. If you think back to the time period that he’s been here, he’s a converted college defensive end and one who’s dealt with a myriad of injuries really over year two and year three of his career, with his wrist and so forth. I think what you’re looking at is a natural evolution of a healthy guy that is becoming a veteran football player. (What did you see in practice from Matt Spaeth last week? Is there any chance he could be activated this week?) I really didn’t look real hard to be honest with you. It was good to have him out there. (How are guys doing things differently to create turnovers and get the ball out?) I don’t know that we’re doing anything differently. I think that we’re doing things better, with greater detail. Usually, that’s the case. When you’re protecting the ball it’s because you’re doing things right and you’re using proper technique. When you’re taking the ball away, it’s because you’re doing things right, you’re in the right place, you’re seeing the right things, you’re doing the right things and you’re probably doing it with the proper demeanor and level of energy. We were able to do it yesterday thankfully.
Press conference16LW
(On how the Steelers are handling their current record:) “Like we always do. We’re focusing only on this week’s challenge. That’s the only way to go about it, regardless of circumstance. The season’s too long to approach it any other way.” (On RB Le'Veon Bell:) “I think he’s growing every week as a young guy should. Obviously he’s missed some time, not only in the regular season, but in the preseason. I think with every snap you’re seeing growth in him as a player.” (On concerns with Bell’s heavy workload in college affecting his pro performance:) “Not at all really. It was only a one-year workload. He was a co-starter the year before with Ed Baker, who has also bounced around the league or spent some time in the league. And he (Bell) played as a co-player also as a freshman. So really it was just the one-year feature-back workload.” (On Bell’s areas of growth:) “In all areas. I think a lot of the things that guys do at the running back position is natural in terms of the carrying of the football, but I’ve been impressed with his overall blitz pickup awareness and technique in that area and his inclusion in the route game, in the passing game. He’s showing good route savvy for a young guy, but largely I just think he’s improving in all of those areas on a week-by-week basis. (On how Bell’s playing career at Michigan State prepared him for the NFL:) “I really don’t follow Michigan State, the program itself, that much, being in this part of the country I just don’t get a lot of opportunity to do that. I really just look at players in terms of evaluation leading up to the draft.” (On if Bell’s injury was a Lisfranc injury:) “Yes it was.” (On what impresses him about the Lions on film:) “They have a consistent personality. I think that they’re big-play capable on offense, but they minimize negativity. The quarterback doesn’t get sacked, he takes care of the football. They of course have big plays to a variety of weapons, the vertical pass, it is what it is. Obviously you have to deal with Mr. (Calvin) Johnson. And on defense they wreak havoc with their men upfront. They play a lot of people, but obviously it starts with No. 90 (Ndamukong Suh) and No. 98 (Nick Fairley) in terms of the havoc that they create in the middle of pockets.” (On QB Ben Roethlisberger holding on to the football as long as possible and increasing his chances of being sacked:) “It’s been a myriad of reasons why we haven’t protected him in the manner in which we’d like.” (On why the Steelers offensive line has not protected Roethlisberger:) “Protection issues, not having continuity in the offensive line, us trying to throw the ball vertically down the field because of down and distance situations. Him trying to create and maximize opportunities. Pick one.” (On defending Lions WR Calvin Johnson:) “We’re no different than anybody else. We’re going to try to mix some things up from a coverage standpoint. Obviously work to try to minimize his impact on the game, but that’s been done nine times this year and he’s averaging 100 yards a game and a touchdown a game. We’ll do the best we can.” (On the Lions’ other offensive weapons making it harder to stop Johnson:) “I think he’d be difficult to stop regardless of circumstance.” (On if game-planning for Bengals WR A.J. Green twice a year help in their preparation for Johnson:) “A.J.’s a talented young receiver, but Calvin’s in the prime of his career. He’s a much bigger man. He presents a different set of challenges.” (On WR Antonio Brown:) “He does a good job of creating space at breakpoints. Short-area quickness is an asset that he has. He’s very competitive and obviously he has really solid hands.” (On the team’s room for error going forward:) “Obviously very little, but again like I said earlier, we’re just focused on this week’s challenge and that fact being of the key reasons.” (On using reports that Roethlisberger wants out of Pittsburgh as motivation:) “Really hadn’t thought about it in that way and really not concerned about the rumors.” (On how important is the run game vs. the Lions:) “We try to strike balance on the offense regardless of circumstance, so it’ll be a central element of our game planning, but obviously we’re willing to do whatever it takes to win the game.” (On the importance of blitzing to slow down Johnson:) “Rushing and coverage works together, but we better work to deny opportunities to get him the football and that’s by using any means at our disposal. It’s going to require some coverage, it’s going to require some rush, obviously some things that will throw the timing of the passing game off, but that’s really no different than any other week. When you’re playing good people you have to use a variety of weapons to work to minimize what they do.” (On LB LaMarr Woodley:) “He’s been solid. LaMarr has been solid, not only this year, but over the course of his career here. We need big plays from him this week.” (On if it is hard for Woodley to play at a consistent level when the Steelers defense struggles around him:) “Not at all. He’s a competitor. He’s a professional.” (On benching Brown in the game at New England:) “Like I said after the game, I wasn’t getting the type of execution that I thought was necessary for us to be successful, so I worked to minimize the negativity. It had no effect on his role moving forward. He’s a central reason why we’re going to be successful, not only this week, but every week. He understands that. He also understands the responsibility of that. Really that’s old news for us, we’ve moved on.” (On if his receivers can exploit the Lions secondary like the Bears receivers did:) “I really hadn’t thought a lot about what those other guys did. Obviously they’re very big people and probably attack in different ways. Chicago is very familiar of course with playing them. They play them twice a year, that was the second time they played them. I’m sure some things are born out of familiarity, so I’m not really combing through that looking for opportunity.” (On what Lions and Steelers QB Charlie Batch meant to the Pittsburgh franchise:) “Charlie was a special guy, not only as a player, but as a professional. I think that’s why guys are able to stay in the league the length of the time that he has. The secret is that there’s no secret. He was a consummate professional.”
Conference call9WW
Good afternoon. There’s a sentiment in our profession after a performance like that. An option is to throw the game in the can and kind of turn the page and move forward. That’s really not an approach that I prescribe to. It’s not an approach we took. We went about our normal processes yesterday in terms of evaluating the game and looking at and analyzing our performance. Obviously, we were beaten soundly in the game and were dominated in a lot of facets. That’s something that we have to acknowledge and come to grips with. I think we did that yesterday. I think studying the tape, and coming together and looking at it, and acknowledging areas where you fall short, I think that helps in that process in terms of moving forward. I thought it was a productive session yesterday from that standpoint. Obviously, it was a pleasant one. But it shouldn’t be after a performance like that. You have to give credit to the Patriots for performing in the manner in which they did. We have to take the lessons learned from that outing to ensure that doesn’t happen again moving forward. Obviously there were some positives. I had concerns about quality effort and things of that nature after a performance like that. After combing through the tape, there were no blatant breaches of that. I really think kind of more than anything that we were beaten. And it happens from time to time, as humbling as it may seem. I think that we can grow from this and move forward. I know that we are excited about getting back to work, because I think that is just part of the process of moving on. It’s taking the field and starting the preparation process for the Buffalo Bills, getting back at Heinz Field in front of our home fans this week. I am excited about doing that. I am excited about doing this process of preparation with the coaches. If you look at us from an injury standpoint, a few things to note: Kelvin Beachum has a left hip flexor. It may limit him at the early portions of the week. Cameron Heyward has a left knee contusion that may limit him at the early portions of the week. Same can be said for Fernando Velasco. His can be characterized more as a thigh. Some guys coming back, David DeCastro is scheduled to work fully tomorrow. He has been in this morning and worked. He appears to be ready to rock and roll. Markus Wheaton, you can say the same thing for him. He worked in a partial capacity at the latter part of last week. It’s going to be all systems go for him tomorrow. Some in-game things that happened, guys that won’t be practicing at the early portions of the week, we will monitor their progress as the week unfolds. Marcus Gilbert has a right ankle, and the two guys with concussions, Ike Taylor and Vince Williams, they are going through the normal processes of getting back to competition. They have to take the ImPACT test, be given manual tests and things of that nature. That process is ongoing. I will update you as that thing unfolds. Quickly looking at the Buffalo Bills, they are 3-6. They’ve played three different guys at quarterback. But I see some things that concern me from a preparation standpoint with some things that we have to be prepared for. Obviously, the question marks regarding the quarterback position are concerns. There are some subtle differences in skill sets with the men that they’ve been employing. Obviously, with them releasing Matt Flynn, you have to acknowledge that E.J. Manuel is probably back in action. I’ve studied his tape quite a bit. He is a talented guy. He is worthy of the first-round selection. He can throw the ball at any point on the field. He has poise in the pocket, particularly for a young guy. He does a nice job of administering their offense and the no-huddle variety that they employ. Obviously his mobility and escapability is an asset of his. If you look at some of the other guys, we are familiar with Thad Lewis from his days in Cleveland. We are familiar with his skill set. Some of the things that concern you when dealing with him, his mobility, his ad-lib, if you will, so we have a little familiarity there. We will just watch that closely as the week unfolds. Obviously, we will be prepared to deal with a multitude of potential people there. Their running game is rock solid. They have two quality running backs in Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Inside and outside, but both guys run the same plays also. Spiller’s perimeter speed is very dangerous. You have to keep him in the chute. You can’t allow him to get outside of contain. He is capable of producing big plays. He averages almost five yards per carry. Jackson is a situational football player and a solid all-around back. He handles short yardage and goal line for them. He has six rushing touchdowns on the season. He is great in the screen game, is good in blitz pickup and is their leading rusher. But both guys are co-starters or big-time contributors, if you will. We have to be solid there. They average about 145 rushing yards per game. If you aren’t sharp, you can look at some of the things New England did in the passing game, and focus solely on that, but the reality is also that they ran the ball effectively against us. A lot of their issues stemmed from their ability to run the ball and the play-action passes associated with it. We have to be rock solid in that regard as we prepare for these guys this week, acknowledging that they have a very solid run game. And they’ve had some instability at the quarterback position. I think the successful plan starts there [run game] for them. We have to work to minimize that, obviously, the play-actions and things associated with it. If you look at their receivers, they have two distinct groups. They have a veteran group that works the interior of the field, if you will. They have Scott Chandler, their very versatile and vertical threat-like tight end. And Stevie Johnson has been around for a long time for them. He has a great rapport with just about everyone they’ve had play quarterback. He’s a savvy veteran-like player. They have some talent on the perimeter that is able of stretching the field vertically, starting with Robert Woods but it doesn’t stop there. T.J. Graham is a talented player. They have a young rookie, Marquise Goodwin, out of Texas. He just showed last week that he is capable of getting behind people. I was at his pro day. He is a top-flight, elite athlete. It doesn’t surprise me that he is capable of taking the top off of coverages and getting behind people. If you look at them defensively, it starts up front with them. It’s a talented group that is going to create major issues. They’ve created issues for everyone they’ve faced. It starts with Mario Williams, a big free agent pickup from a couple of years ago. I think he has 11 sacks through nine games. He is versatile. They use him in a variety of locations. If you look at their defense, it’s kind of like the N.Y. Jets. Their coaching staff comes from that group and from the Baltimore Ravens. You can acquaint some of the things Williams does to a guy like Terrell Suggs, if you compare the schemes. He is on his feet. He is moving around. He is also down in the three-point, and he flops on both sides. Both tackles have to be prepared to block this guy. So it’s not a situation where you can identify a tackle that gets assistance or things of that nature. Guys have to be prepared to block him. Their interior people are really quality guys. I can’t say enough about Kyle Williams, a multiple-time veteran Pro Bowler that plays with a great motor. He’s been highly productive over his career and time in Buffalo. Marcell Dareus, the third overall pick from a few years ago from Alabama, has a unique motor for a big man. He is powerful, yes, that’s his build, but his willingness and ability to run to the football and overall physical conditioning for a guy that size is surprising and unique. We have our hands full with those guys. It’s going to require physical work and some schematics. Their leading tackler is Kiko Alonso. He’s a young guy out of Oregon, but he’s a talented, instinctive football player that is sideline-to-sideline. He does a lot of things well, not only tackling but working in the passing game. I think he leads them in interceptions. I think he has four on the season. Talking about their pass defense, I think you also need to acknowledge they have a quality safety tandem. Jairus Byrd is an acknowledged veteran player with Pro Bowl experience in the middle of the field, and their franchise player. Also, the contributions of Aaron Williams, a young guy out of Texas, who has played some cornerback and some safety, he is really filling in nice at the strong safety position and is providing a lot of versatility for them in terms of his ability to tackle in the box and also cover people with his corner background, particularly in some of their sub-package football. I think he has three interceptions on the season. They have a bunch of cornerbacks, like the Jets, if you compare them schematically to the Jets, that are adept at man coverage and bump coverage, led by Stephon Gilmore out of South Carolina. They do a really good job. Leodis McKelvin is another familiar name that has played a lot of ball for those guys over the years. On special teams, they have quality return men. If you talk about some of their dangerous, young offensive weapons and some of their bump cornerbacks, therein lies some of their special teams return men. McKelvin is a guy that has made a name for himself in this league as a longtime return man. He gets a lot of work in that area. And Goodwin is a talented and explosive rookie out of Texas that handles the other version of the kick returning duties. We have a lot on our plate, obviously. We look forward to continuing with the week’s work in preparation. (Do you think the answers are in the locker room to get this turned around?) I do. But with that being said, I’m not opposed and open to exploring any potential answers in terms of getting consistent, above the line play for us that produces victory. (So, going back and watching the tape you didn’t see any lapses in terms of effort? It was simply an execution problem?) No, I didn’t, and really I think that’s your knee-jerk response after a performance like that when you’re defeated in that manner, is to look first at those things. There wasn’t any blatant disregard or blatant breaches of effort and hustle on the tape. What was on the tape was that we were soundly beaten in that game. (Both of your starting safeties took a lot of personal blame for their play. Can they still get it done?) Certainly. I believe that and I’m sure that they believe that as well. That was a substandard performance and I appreciate their willingness to accept responsibility for it. I share that, but at the same time, I’ve got a great deal of confidence in them and their abilities to play and play winning football for us. (I’m sure you weren’t pleased with the scheme or execution on the defensive side of the ball. Was there a balance one way or the other?) When you get beat like that it’s a myriad of things and not only in terms of the things that you could control, but also you have to acknowledge that there was some quality play by those guys. There were some tight coverages on some of those plays to be quite honest with you. I thought the back-shoulder fade touchdown was a great throw and catch. I thought a couple of the throws and catches, obviously, to [Rob Gronkowski] were exceptional. That’s to be expected when you’re playing a quality group like the group we played last week. (Was the defensive game plan against the Patriots significantly different than what you’ve done against them in the past?) I’m not going to paint with a broad brush and compare it to all of the times because, obviously, from time to time, the schematic approach changes. It wasn’t very different from our approach that we took the last time we played them, which was [2011]. (Can you explain again why you left Ben Roethlisberger in the game with a couple minutes left? And do you still feel it was the right decision?) I believe that. We’re a group that still believes some good football is ahead of us. We also acknowledge that we’re a group that needs to improve. That was an opportunity to continue to do that. The healthy guys were going to stay on the field and play with an attempt to move the ball and, obviously, get better at our football. (It looked like you had a conversation with Antonio Brown right before that series. How come he didn’t go out on the field?) That was my decision. We weren’t getting quality execution from an assignment standpoint. It created an interception. As opposed to continuing to absorb negativity from that standpoint, potentially, with some of the things that we were doing in no-huddle offense, I chose to remove him from the game. It was my decision. (You’re 31st in the league against the run and playing a team in Buffalo that is very good in the run game. What do you guys have to do to be the team that we’ve seen the last six or seven years?) Just accept what we’ve done and prepare tediously, obviously, for this next opportunity and prepare with an edge. We’ve got a couple work days here ahead of us and I look forward to doing that with those guys. I think we’re capable of, obviously, responding to our latest misstep defensively. (Are there recurring issues in terms of the run defense?) No, I wouldn’t characterize it as chronic problems. If that were the case, I think you would identify it and quickly make necessary changes. But there have been, popcorn if you will, a variety of things that create the end result. Obviously, it doesn’t require a lot of missteps in the National Football League to be out of place or to be out of whack, if you will. Obviously, we were not in step on Sunday. (It’s easy for us in the media or the fans to see that certain players made a mistake. Where are you looking internally with yourself and your coaches that are on your staff to do better that we may not be able to see on television?) We’re not opposed to turning over any stone to change the end result. Like I just said earlier in regards to another question, I think that’s something that’s appropriate and that’s something that you do all the time anyway – the continued self-analysis of what you do and why you do it and how you do it, and if changing will produce a different and better result. That’s something that I think we as coaches need to do, not only in terms of schematics, but the teaching and coaching of techniques and our approach to business. We’re doing that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are going to be broad, sweeping changes, but it means that we’re open to it and I think that’s the appropriate approach to take, that we need to be open to it, that we need to have a hardcore plan to be light on our feet under the circumstances. That’s generally the approach that I take regardless of circumstance. So, there’s really no new news there. (Will Antonio Brown be starting this week?) He certainly will. Antonio is a good football player. He was frustrated at the end of that football game, and rightfully so. There were a lot of us that were. We’ll proceed with business as usual as we start work tomorrow with him. (On those big pass plays, is lack of speed a concern? Are you planning any changes there?) No, it’s a not a concern and if it were, there wouldn’t be much I could do about it anyway. We’ve got to be on the screws, obviously, we’ve got to be in the right places. We’ve got to use proper technique to maximize that position. It’s fundamental. We could be better, but also I don’t want to stop short of complimenting those guys and the nature in which they played and performed on Sunday. I think that would be inappropriate not to continually mention that. (A decision has to be made on Sean Spence on Wednesday. Can you talk about how he practiced last week and where you might go with that?) He did some good things. We’ll put the heads together at the appropriate time and make that decision. I think we have until four o’clock or so tomorrow. That discussion hasn’t been had yet. It will be had very soon. I like his growth and his play, but we’ll see where that takes us. (Could you update us on Matt Spaeth?) There is no update. I haven’t got an update from his evaluation today. I just have an evaluation from last week, so there wouldn’t be any changes in terms of what I said regarding his overall readiness last week. I’ll probably have an update a little later in the week in that regard. (On the Julian Edelman punt return, outside of the punt itself being a problem, were there a lot of missed tackles? Has there been a lot of missed tackles on returns throughout the season?) No, there really wasn’t a lot of missed tackles on that play. It just wasn’t a great punt. They did a great job of holding us up and minimizing our coverage. Like I talked about last week prior to the game, Edelman is a very dangerous return man that has a vertical approach to his return game. He got vertical on that play. Thankfully, we were able to get him on the ground and give ourselves some grass to defend. It was a great play by him. Obviously, we need more consistent play from that unit than we got on that play. But other than that play, I thought the performance of the punt unit, not only from a punting standpoint, but from a coverage standpoint, was excellent in the football game. (Because of inexperience and injuries, are you sort of limited on what you can do, even if you really wanted to make drastic changes?) I don’t feel limited. I believe that all the guys on our football team are capable of being reasons why we win and I approach each week with that mentality. We’ve got 53 capable guys, plus eight on the practice squad, at our disposal and I consider all guys as viable options. I think that would be selling them short if I didn’t take that approach. (Are you concerned that some of the starters may think the guy behind them isn’t pushing them and their job is safe regardless of performance?) Not a concern. (You talked about the impulse to question the effort. Was there in an impulse after the game to just blow everything up?) No. (Is it realistic that Roethlisberger can continue to take this punishment and play at a high level well into his 30’s?) I hadn’t pondered any big picture thoughts along those lines. I know he’s capable of playing winning football for us this week, and that’s been my focus. (Wasn’t part of the plan when you changed offensive coordinators to minimize the damage to Roethlisberger?) Certainly, but obviously, when you’re 2-6, usually damage to the quarterback is a part of that. This hasn’t unfolded the way we would have liked to this point, globally speaking. The quarterback and his play is always an integral part of that when things are going really well or when things are going really poorly. (Can you talk about your receivers getting off the line of scrimmage. Is there some discussion that when getting jammed that they get into the routes and makes the process unfold more slowly? Have you seen that or not?) No, I haven’t seen that as a substantial issue for us at all, to be honest with you. I think we have the type of receivers that we welcome bump coverage, to be honest with you. I think it provides an opportunity for big plays for us. It’s right in their natural wheelhouse, in terms of getting the ball into their hands and allowing them to catch and run. (Polamalu has been given a lot of freedom in the defense. By his own admission, he made some mistakes with some of his positioning and some of his calls. Is there a thought to reign him in?) No. Troy is a versatile guy, he has a unique skill set. We need that skill set to do a variety of things for us. Obviously, he didn’t play as well as he would’ve like or we would’ve liked in the last football game. We’re not going to have a knee-jerk reaction to that performance. He’ll continue to play safety for us, he’ll continue to play linebacker for us, he’ll continue play deep, he’ll continue to play in the box, he’ll continue to cover in zones and man, and blitz as well. He’s done that for us in this league for a long time. We look forward to him to continue to do it. But more importantly, and probably more appropriately, we look forward to him doing it this week. (With the numbers you’ve seen put up against you this year, do you still have confidence in Dick LeBeau to stop opposing offenses?) Certainly. (Why is that?) Because he’s Dick LeBeau. Does that answer your question? (After missing some time earlier this season, Le’Veon Bell is still on pace for about 175 carries. Is there an amount of carries you need to see out of him to get enough experience, but also not have him take too many hits?) We manage his snap count, and not necessarily his carries. If it becomes an issue and something that we should watch, we’ll be more cognizant of it. But right now, we’re just managing his snap count. He’s a young guy, he’s very talented, he’s growing in a lot of areas. He’s capable of being a major component and reason why we play winning ball. That’s kind of been our focus. We’re not really looking at it from a big picture perspective, but we have been conscious of the number of snaps that he has played as he has grown within this system. Because the amount of time he’s missed, not only in the regular season, but in training camp and preseason-like settings, I think that’s an appropriate approach. We have done that. We’ll continue to do that. If snap count becomes an issue as we move forward, obviously, we’ll take that approach. But it was not an issue in the last football game. Obviously, he ran the ball 15 times due to the nature, obviously, of how the game was unfolding. (Jonathan Dwyer has done good things when he’s had the opportunity. Do you expect him to get more snaps?) Again, that depends on how many snaps we get and how the game unfolds. Obviously, we believe that Jonathan is a viable option for us and he has been a burst of energy for us, particularly in recent weeks with positive performances. We expect that to continue. (Is Cam Heyward becoming the football player you thought he would?) Yes he is. Not only versus the run, but also versus the pass. I think he’s been continually in the upswing from a performance standpoint. He’s a quality young player that we’re excited about. (You’re 2-6. I think your worst record at midseason as a head coach was 5-3. Has this been an especially difficult year for you as a head coach?) It’s difficult, obviously, because of the result of games. But not anything from a personal standpoint. I don’t care about my personal record and things of that nature. Just the way that was framed, I want to be clear in that regard. We’re here to win. That’s our charge, that’s our job, that’s our passion. We’re not getting it done consistently to this point. So, that’s irritating and frustrating and all of the above, certainly. (I’m sure you’ve heard about the situation in Miami. Have you in your career, as a player or as a coach, confronted anything like that? How do you approach that?) I think you confront things of that nature continually, particularly when you’re in positions of leadership. By leadership, I mean not only coaching, but as a player and teams that I’ve been on in that capacity, captains and so forth, whether it’s high school, college or even professionally as an adult. I think those are things that you continually monitor and coach and educate in regards to culture. I know I’ve done a lot of that since I’ve been here, but I don’t think that’s anything out of the ordinary. I imagine that every team in the National Football League participates in it in that way. (Are there procedures here that prevent situations like Miami’s?) Certainly. (Have you seen it in locker rooms?) I think any of us that have been in football for a long period of time know that in the confines of a team setting, there are unique and complex relationships. Sometimes those relationships get strained. Sometimes things are said and done that are inappropriate, and they need to be dealt with and dealt with in an appropriate manner. Those types of things are ongoing and always will be. They always have been with teams that I have been a part of. It’s not something that we are desensitized to. It’s not something that we bury our head in the sand in regards to. But it is something that you acknowledge that potentially could exist when you have a large number of men working together in close confines in the manner in which football teams do. So you continually educate. In regards to our young players, we take a simple approach in that young players can be quality reasons why we are successful. So if they are capable and willing to help us in our efforts in terms of what we desire to get done as a football team, then we are all committed to helping them help us. I think our veteran players embrace that and have mentor-like relationships with our guys. But I am sure that’s the approach that most teams take in terms of how they handle young people and how they raise them. (Have you seen enough from Spence to make you think he might be able to play? And is it possible for you to leave him on the roster so he can practice?) All of those things are on the table. We need to have that discussion. We haven’t had it yet. (People ask how much are you involved in the draft day process and how much accountability do you have for these draft picks. What would be your answer?) I take responsibility for the players we have drafted since I’ve been here. Not only in recent drafts, but since I’ve been here. Because it’s the truth. (Is it equal to that of Kevin Colbert?) I take responsibility for the players that we’ve drafted since I’ve been here.
Press conference25WL
Good afternoon. We met yesterday and went through our normal Monday procedure in terms of reviewing the game. We talked about the reasons why we were unsuccessful, many of which are the things that I related to you guys after the game. It was an obvious slow start. It put us behind the eight ball in terms of allowing the game to play out in the way we would have liked. A big play on the first play of the game obviously is not how you want to start. We got off to a slow start offensively as well, two three-and-outs and we had a partially blocked punt on our second punt of the game. All of those things contributed to a 14-0, and all the way to a 21-3 halftime lead for those guys. But starts don’t determine the outcome of football games, whether they are positive or negative. We know that. I think our guys displayed that. Obviously, we didn’t do what was required in terms of coming back and securing a victory. The things central to that, obviously, we missed a couple of field goals that we deemed makeable. Obviously, the Oakland Raiders had two red zone possessions and they scored touchdowns on both. Regardless of circumstance, as a defense, sometimes you don’t have control over how you get on the field. You have all the control of how you get off the field. If we turned one of those red zone possessions into a field goal, that may have been the difference in the football game. And about midway through the fourth quarter, we had a very big punt return that put us in scoring position. We came away from that drive with no points because of an interception on third-down that went through Antonio Brown’s hands and was picked off by their cornerback, Tracy Porter. Obviously, there were some things that were disappointing but things that we think are correctable. We better do it and do it fast as we prepare for our next opportunity this week as we travel to New England. Obviously, this is a big game for us. From an injury standpoint, I’ll outline some of the ongoing injuries. Markus Wheaton is being evaluated, his finger fracture, for his level of participation, not only in the game this week but in practice. We will see where he is. David DeCastro will be limited at the early portions of the week, maybe with an opportunity to play with his ankle injury. Ramon Foster has been cleared to practice. We will let that practice participation dictate where we go with him. Obviously, with a concussion, we will do what is appropriate, like we always do. Guy Whimper, with his hyper-extended knee, could be limited at the early portions of the week but we expect him to be available, not only to play in the game but practice at some point. Steve McLendon was ill yesterday. We sent him home. Lawrence Timmons continues to work through his hand injury. Obviously, it is something for him to deal with but it didn’t limit his participation at all last week and in the game. I would imagine that is going to be the same as we prepare this week. Let’s talk about New England. Obviously, they are a very good football team. Their team has gone through adversity themselves but have found a way to win in the midst of it. Offensively, I think they are really finding their rhythm in the last few weeks, getting back Rob Gronkowski is a big part of that. Danny Amendola is a quality receiver. He has a good relationship with the quarterback as well. But it’s beyond those things. They have a really good stable of running backs, Stevan Ridley, LaGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. They average over 120 rushing yards per game. They use all three guys and in a variety of situations. It’s tough to get a bead on roles and things of that nature. I really just think the guys are interchangeable. They have a definitive run demeanor and are really doing a nice job in that aspect. I think during the time period where Gronkowski and Amendola were out, they were able to establish some good relationships with young wideouts, Aaron Dobson, a young wideout from Marshall and Kenbrell Thompkins, a young wideout from Cincinnati. They work the perimeters of the field. They are both vertical threats. I think one is at 13 yards per catch and one is at 15 yards per catch on the season. Thompkins has four touchdowns. Obviously, in terms of dealing with Gronkowski, he is a physical matchup issue in open grass and in the red zone. He is big. Of course, Tom Brady has a great deal of confidence and puts the ball in catchable locations for him. We have to be on our screws in terms of being able to deal with those things. Like always, New England is very multiple offensively. We have to be prepared to deal with a myriad of things. Their screen game is excellent. Their play action passing game is excellent. Their small ball, or their third-and-medium ball, the interior route combinations and stuff is very solid. Obviously, Julian Edelman is a feature guy there. He does a lot of the things that Wes Welker used to do, working on the strong side of formations in combinations with tight ends and other people. They are really tough to get a handle on, not only in man but in zone. They are very functional and accurate in those circumstances and instances. We have to be on our screws there. Obviously, they have a solid offensive line, led on the left side by Logan Mankins and their talented left tackle, Nate Solder, out of Colorado. Obviously, they will be playing with a new right tackle, Marcus Cannon, a talented young guy out of TCU, who we evaluated a few years ago when he came out in the draft. I am sure he is a quality player as well. On defense, it’s a similar thing. I think in recent weeks they’ve lost quality veteran guys like Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. But in the midst of that they have found ways to win and also establish some new quality young talent. Their young nose tackle, Chris Jones, is really lighting it up. He’s a high-motor guy out of Bowling Green. He isn’t small. He is short. He plays with good leverage. He is quick. He has a relentless motor. I think he has about 5-5.5 sacks or so on the season. He is really doing a nice job of providing interior pressure for their defense. Chandler Jones, out of Syracuse, is a really good football player. He is aware. He has great hand usage. He is a quality rush man. He has a nice repertoire of rush moves. He provides the pressure on the edge. He is also playing in the interior some as they have gone through some of the injury things. They really have kind of shown great versatility there. At the linebacker spot, they have two quality people inside. Brandon Spikes is a quality run stopper and thumper. He has played a lot of ball for them over the last four years or so. Alongside of him is Dont’a Hightower out of Alabama, another quality, strong and thumping linebacker. They have a young guy, Jamie Collins, out of Southern Mississippi. He has a variety of skills. He is really kind of showing it. He is playing on his feet and off the ball in some sub-package stuff. He is playing defensive end and coming off the edge in some sub-package stuff. Really, it’s a lot of the similar things that you saw him do at Southern Mississippi. He’s got a wide variety of skill sets, and he’s really kind of doing a nice job of showing things that he is capable of doing. Rob Ninkovich at the other outside linebacker spot is a guy that is very versatile and underrated. He can come off the edge and rush. He can play off the ball linebacker, and he does. He is good in the depth in underneath coverage. He is one of those versatile, low-maintenance performers for those guys. In the secondary, they are doing a nice job. They have missed Aqib Talib some. But again, they have found ways to be productive in spite of. They have a cornerback group led by Alfonzo Dennard. He’s been very good playing on the line of scrimmage. He’s played bump coverage. He’s really challenged receivers and disrupted the time and flow of the offenses they’ve played. They have versatile safeties. Devin McCourty, who is a former cornerback, has really shown some savvy ball skills and angles to the ball. He’s done a nice job kind of being the man in the middle back there. They’ve complemented him with a quality free agent pickup, Steve Gregory, from San Diego. From a special teams standpoint, obviously they have continuity. Coach O’Brien has been around there for some time. They have a definite playing personality there. They have guys like Matthew Slater, their special teams captain, that have defined roles and they excel in the jobs they are asked to do. For us, it’s about preparing and sharpening our sword, looking at the components of the people that we are going to utilize this week, getting them ready to play and formulating a plan around that, and playing winning football, which is what we believe we can do. (Re: Thoughts on the punting against the Raiders:) Really, with [Zoltan] Mesko, the punting has been very similar to how it’s been the previous weeks and really how I kind of characterize it, he’s had his moments, positively and negatively. He’s been inconsistent and that’s not good enough. Obviously, he needs to perform better. But along with the obvious negativity in the game, I thought he rebounded well and really finished the game strong with some quality punts, particularly a couple that were downed, one was downed inside the one or two-yard line. It was a leg-up in the waning moments of the game as we tried to work our way back into it. (At 2-5, what’s the best way to maintain the team’s focus and resolve, especially after you had a little bit of momentum coming off those wins?) For us, it’s just to remain singularly focused on the task at hand and the variables that are within our control, and that’s our preparation and ultimately our play this week. Our record is our record. There’s nothing that we can do about what has been played. What we do have control over is our next opportunity. There are going to be challenges in this journey that is the season, regardless of whether the results to this point are positive or negative, I really believe that the groups that can remain singularly focused on the task at hand, the ones that are right in front of them, are the ones that have a chance to find the type of desired performance that they’re looking for. (Is there anything to do from a coaching standpoint during the week to prepare them to start out better than they have in previous games?) Certainly. We as a coaching staff take responsibility for the manner in which that game started as well. We’ve got to do all the things within our power to put them in a good strategic situation to have success, and particularly early. It’s important to start games off with rhythm to get some things started, to look at some things, to look at some personnel matchups, just to really start the game off on good footing. Obviously, we didn’t do that. But again, like I said, positively or negatively, the starts of games don’t determine the outcomes of games. We need to keep that in mind as we prepare, too. I don’t want to get lulled into a sense of comfort if we should go up to New England and come out and have a successful start. We’ve got to play football for 60 minutes and winning football. (Have you or will you bring in any punting personnel to evaluate? Do you think the holds contributed to the misses on the field goals?) I’m not opposed to evaluating anyone at any position that’s capable of helping us get better and those are some of the things that we do this time of the week. We’re probably going to do some of that this week. In regards to the holds with the field goals, I thought they were fine. (Between the three-minute mark and the two-minute mark you were able to get two snaps off. Any reason why Ben Roethlisberger didn’t spike the ball after the third-down run to get the first down?) Like we talked about after the game, there were some communication things going on during the course of that sequence. We didn’t do a great job of handling those circumstances. Obviously, we would have preferred to have all three timeouts after that score. It may have changed how we would’ve kicked the ball off and so forth. But that’s in our rear view. Hopefully, we learn from that as we move forward. Obviously, under the circumstances, we wish it would’ve unfolded differently. (Roethlisberger didn’t seem to know if it was more important to save the timeout or lose those five yards. Has that ever come up in a discussion in late-game situations?) Discussions such as those come up every day. I think there is a myriad of layers that come with those situations and scenarios. Really, to be honest with you, all of them are very different. That’s why it’s important that you continually talk about situational football, how you handle game circumstances and what general protocol is. Even with all that being said, situations like Sunday are capable of occurring. That’s why the challenges of playing and coaching in this league are what they are and that’s why we have to continually take ourselves through potential situations and scenarios as games unfold, particularly close ones. (You said after the game that you imagined you would have a chat with him Monday. Did you?) Yes, but again, Ben and I meet every Monday to review situations and circumstances such as that because that’s the only way that a quarterback and a coach get on the same page and grow and have a sense or an understanding of the way you play situations. We met on Monday, we talked about that particular situation or circumstance, but it’s not different than any other Monday. We always meet on Monday and talk about situations that may unfold or may have unfolded in football games. (With three minutes to go, you got the snap off with 2:44 on a third-and-one. It would’ve seemed like an obvious time to have two plays called in the huddle. The next snap didn’t go until 2:10. What was the problem with the sense of urgency?) For us, more than anything, it was about getting quality plays and putting ourselves in position to score a touchdown. That wasn’t a given at that point. We had been down the field a few times in the game and come away with no points. We missed a couple field goals and obviously in one instance we had to settle for a field goal. I don’t want to be presumptuous and make it seem like getting a touchdown in that circumstance was easy because it hadn’t been to that point in the football game. (A lot of teams will employ statistical analysts just for those moments. Do you guys utilize any of that outside analysis of late-game situations?) We have a nice division of labor regarding those situations and circumstances and others. Our staff does a nice job of communicating and divvying up those responsibilities. There is no outside consultant, if you will, in that regard. (Jarvis Jones obviously struggled the other day. What is your outlook like for a young player like that who is a first-round pick? Do you ever weigh the future in terms of getting him back out there right away, or is it just about Sunday?) He’s got to play better from an assignment standpoint. If he’s capable of showing that, he’ll be given an opportunity to contribute now. I think that’s where our mentality is and where it should be at this juncture. (Like the punting situation, do you feel there is a need or do you anticipate going outside the organization for anyone to evaluate at any other position?) Again, like I said when I answered that question over there, I’m not opposed to looking at any possibility within our organization or outside of our organization that will help us in our efforts to win football games, and specifically this football game this weekend. (Roethlisberger said on his radio show that the first 10 plays of the game are almost always scripted. In a situation like last Sunday, are those first 10 calls re-evaluated?) That script is just that, it’s a script. It’s re-evaluated each and every week as the game unfolds. It’s not something that we’re married to. Obviously, we’re capable and willing to change due to game circumstance. (On the partially blocked punt, what was the bigger component of that, the bobbled snap or the missed block?) I think it’s both and it’s tough to weigh which one is more significant than the other. Obviously it takes two to tango in that circumstance and the bobble created an out time that wasn’t ideal and obviously the pressure was the pressure. It’s tough to analyze which was more significant. Obviously, together, it was catastrophic. (As far as they go in their passing game, how have you seen the Patriots wide receivers develop? Without Hernandez, do they still employ a lot of their multiple tight end sets and formations? Do they use some of the wide receivers in the place of where Hernandez was?) I’ll let them speak to their intentions in terms of personnel usage, but what I’ve seen on tape is they’ve got quality young players in [Aaron] Dobson and [Kenbrell] Thompkins. They’re throwing the ball to them quite a bit and they’ve made their share of plays. Obviously, I think they’ve got an opportunity to find rhythm as they get major components of their offense back in place and they’ve shown that over the last several weeks, scoring 30 and the high 20’s in all the contests – talking about [Rob] Gronkowski and obviously [Danny] Amendola. [Julian] Edelman is a big part of what they do. They’ve always been multiple in the past. I know that their tight ends have received a lot of recognition for the things that they are capable of and able to do when they employ multiple tight ends on the field at one time. They still do that. Obviously, they’re still capable of working out of the three wide set. One of the things that’s challenging about these guys is you better be prepared to defend a variety of personnel groups as they roll the decks through and change the pace of the game. That’s just a mode of how they work. (If David DeCastro can’t go, would you move Kelvin Beachum over there and play Mike Adams at tackle, or just plug-in Guy Whimper or Cody Wallace at right guard?) Whimper and Wallace are strong candidates. We like what Beachum is doing at left tackle. But we’ll deal with that as it comes up. We’re still not resigned to the fact that DeCastro is not going to play. We’re going to give him an opportunity to do so. (There haven’t been many rookies start through the years at outside linebacker in this defense. Is Jarvis Jones struggling with picking up the defense? Is he just regressing?) He’s just not doing enough detailed work right now, and really Jason Worilds is. That’s just the reality of it. Part of playing really good defense and playing really good football period is having detail with your work. There’s more detail in Worilds’ work right now than there is for Jarvis. Jarvis needs to continue to work. I think he’s open to that and we’re open to giving him an opportunity to do so. (Re: Ziggy Hood not seeing as many snaps and his role moving forward:) Really, it depends on how games unfold and the nature in which offenses choose to attack us. We employ three defensive linemen in some personnel groups and two defensive linemen in others. Situations dictate that. Offensive personnel groups dictate that. We are open to all of those guys playing and all those guys are going to be capable reasons why we are successful on defense. (Do you view Shaun Suisham’s misses as an anomaly and what did you see from those misses?) I did. I got a great deal of confidence in Shaun. Such is life in the NFL. You go from being AFC Special Teams Player of the Week the week before to missing a few last week. Shaun has been a quality guy for us. We expect him to bounce back. We look forward to him having an opportunity to do so. (As far as the statistical analysis that I mentioned earlier, is that something you are open to in the future?) I am open to anything that will help us win. I think that’s just appropriate. (Is losing eight straight games out of the Eastern time zone an anomaly or is there something about your travel schedule that you need to review?) I am open to that as well. Obviously I am aware that we haven’t performed well outside our time zone, or just in general on the road. That’s a function of being a good team. It’s our desire to be a good team, to win regardless of circumstance. Game location being one of them, and we have to change that. (Re: Opening big play by the Raiders:) I am not going to get into schematics. Obviously, we could have played that play better than which we did, not only from an assignment standpoint but just the tempo in which we moved to the ball. We were overaggressive and it provided an opportunity for Terrelle Pryor to go 93 yards and get the game off to a great start from their perspective. (Re: Convincing the team that the season is not done being 2-5:) I really don’t believe our team needs convincing. (Why is that?) Because they are here every day. They know what we are capable of. They work. They put their hand in the pile. They see why we are successful. They see why we are unsuccessful, and they realize they have control over that. (Re: Trade deadline today at 4 p.m.:) I am open to it. We will see
Press conference28LL
Good afternoon. Like always, I’ll start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance. Obviously, it was good for us to get our first division win and win at home. Hopefully we can build upon it. We reviewed the tape yesterday as a staff and with the players. We went through our normal processes. Obviously, we know that the majority of these games in recent history against the Ravens have come down to the waning moments, usually three points. Sunday was no different. I like the mentality in which our guys went about their business with that understanding. Obviously, there are some things that we can improve upon. When reviewing the tape, there were some things that we identified, even going into the game, some of the consistent things that were issues for us. That’s really what goes to the top of the heap in terms of our attention in our effort to get better. Offensively, I think you can point to penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties. Oftentimes, things that occur in play, they happen, usually the technique-oriented things of that nature. But pre-snap penalties, we have all the control over. Quite frankly, when you are playing good people, penalties, particularly pre-snap penalties, generally kill drives. We only had 8-9 possessions in that game. Some of those possessions were killed by pre-snap penalties. We had a false start on the first possession of the game. We had a third-and-four in the red area that went to a third-and-nine that we didn’t convert. We had to settle for a field goal. When you are playing somebody like that, and you get the opportunity to get seven, you have to get it. Obviously, we are going into a hostile environment this weekend. So we have to control that element of it. We can’t be penalized on offense prior to the snap. We have to deal with things such as crowd noise and so forth, so we’ll be looking at that based on our last performance also, with an eye in terms of what is ahead of us in this next one. Defensively, we did some good things. We were stiff, particularly when we needed to be in the red area. But their ability to convert third downs was troublesome at times, particularly down the stretch. That last touchdown drive that they put together was really based on their ability to convert about 4-5 critical third downs. Largely though, they were 50% in the game. If we are playing good defense, we have to be better than that. Obviously, we had some splash plays in the kicking game. That was positive. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch, but really a lot of positive things to build from in that regard. On the injury front, it’s typical of a week following most of our Ravens’ matchups. There is a laundry list of injuries and things that we will deal with that will dictate or affect how we work some during the portions of this week. Kelvin Beachum has some right ribs that could limit him at the early portions of the week. LaMarr Woodley has a right knee that could limit him. Lawrence Timmons broke his left hand. That’s been casted. He is ready to go. That happened late in the third or early in the fourth quarter of the game. He was able to finish. We fixed it. He has full mobility in all of his fingers, but it has been secured with a cast. Brett Keisel has left ribs that could limit him. Richard Gordon has a grade toe sprain that makes him questionable. Marcus Gilbert, with his right quad that didn’t allow him to finish the game is still an issue. We will keep an eye on him as we progress throughout the week. Jerricho Cotchery has an abdominal strain that will limit him at the early portions of the week. Cameron Heyward has an illness. We sent him home yesterday. Hopefully he will be getting well, back to us and working here soon. Markus Wheaton has been out, and he will continue to be out. We have a couple guys in Birmingham for a variety of reasons. Maurkice Pouncey is down there getting a checkup. Levi Brown is down there getting a surgical procedure done. That’s the laundry list of injuries. Obviously, it could affect how we approach this week’s work. We will take a look at it in the morning and see what the practice availability is and adjust accordingly. Moving to the Oakland Raiders. Obviously, they are a group that provides some concern for us for a lot of reasons. They have a quarterback that can create. They are coming off of a bye week. You have to acknowledge that. A team that is coming off of a bye week has an opportunity to take a look at themselves, and make necessary changes or explore new things. So there will be an element of unknown in regards to that. Specifically talking about Terrelle Pryor, he’s a guy to deal with. I think they utilize his skill set nicely in their offense, some zone-read stuff, some designed runs and some pocket movements. He has nice touch on the ball. He is throwing a good deep ball. He has gotten behind some people. He is really doing a nice job of staying within himself and working with the pieces that he has around them. His number-one target is Denarius Moore. He’s a young and talented wide receiver out of Tennessee. They have a great rapport, particularly on possession downs and situational football. It looks like that is his first target. He is putting some good stuff on tape. Obviously, we had an opportunity to see him last year, and we got some exposure to him. They have some unique, multi-talented, big and athletic bodies, whether it’s Marcel Reece or the rookie from Tennessee, Mychal Rivera. They are fullbacks. They are tight ends. Shoot, Reece is even running the ball some. A couple of weeks ago versus San Diego, he had quite a few carries. These guys can carry it. They can run. They can block. They are matchup problems. I think Reece was a former wide out at the University of Washington, so he has that type of skill set, couple that with the fact that he’s 250 pounds and can run. Some of those guys, they utilize them nicely in their pistol [formation] in terms of blocking people, interior and on the perimeter, slipping them out into the flats, misdirection passes and so forth. We have to be on our screws. We also have to be sharp in terms of the people we employ to cover these men. They have some matchup issues there. Darren McFadden is a quality runner. He rung the scoreboard up on us on a long run last year. We know what he is capable of. We have to be prepared and understand that every time the ball is snapped, he is capable of going yard. He has that type of talent, vision and long speed. He is a quality player. Defensively, I really think they are coming into their own collectively, under their defensive coordinator, Coach Tarver. They have a multitude of things to prepare for, this dime, 32-package that they have with three down linemen, two linebackers and the rest are defensive backs. They have a variety of zone coverages and pressures out of that thing. If you get behind the chains, and it’s third-and-seven or more, they dial a variety of things up. It’s a lot of fluid movement, pre-snap. You have a lot of work to do in terms of sorting it out as the ball gets snapped, particularly if you are working in the gun and you have to locate the ball and deal with silent counts and things of that nature. It has created an awesome environment for them. I think the stats reflect that. There is a multitude of players that are registering sacks, linemen, linebackers and secondary. They have had a number of interceptions that you can describe in the same way. Up front, Lamarr Houston is their guy. He is the bell cow, if you will. He is a quality player. He has a hot motor. He is very physical, very strong. They move him around some. He plays in the three-point and in the two-point. We have our hands full from a tackle standpoint getting him blocked, and obviously, the people that we choose to employ schematically to help those guys. I think the interesting story about these guys are the secondary acquisitions, starting with Charles Woodson. He is a legendary player, a Hall of Famer-caliber player. He was already AFC Defensive Player of the Week once this year. He is playing free safety. He is a ball hawk. He is physical. He blitzes well. He covers people. He is just a really good football player. Tracy Porter is a great coverage man outside at the cornerback spot, and is a savvy defender inside as well in the nickel. They also picked up Mike Jenkins, a top-quality veteran cornerback from Dallas. Those guys allow some of the things that I described from a package standpoint to go on from their coverage ability. They can stay close to people, and they are good at it. From a special teams standpoint, obviously, Sebastian Janikowski is one of the best in the world at what he does, and he has been for a long time. Their young punter, Marquette King, is a very talented guy. I think he is at about 49 yards per punt. He really seems to have a live leg. Jacoby Ford is their return man, not only in terms of what he does in the return game, we need to be aware of that he’s a gadget guy offensively, a reverse guy, a wide receiver screen guy, things of that nature. He has top-flight speed. He is capable of really breaking you down with his speed and quickness. But it’s a normal procedure for us. We have to get back to business and start the preparation process, and get ourselves ready to play, work on our issues and focus on the very best that we can be as we push forward to Sunday. (Re: Reasons for your team’s struggles on the West Coast:) I haven’t thought about it, to be honest with you. (Did Sean Spence injure his finger? What is his availability? Was Curtis Brown injured on Sunday?) I chose not to play Curtis. I played Isaiah Green. Curtis is a top-flight special teams player but hadn’t been playing that way over the last several weeks. I chose to play Isaiah. In regards to Sean, he did have a hand injury which has been medically fixed. I’m not sure of his availability from a practice standpoint as we press into the week. Obviously, he’s not a candidate to play at this juncture. (Can you talk about the decision to release Isaac Redman?) I thought Kion Wilson provided more flexibility for us as a teamer, to be quite honest with you. Isaac has been an inactive the last several weeks. Kion has been on our team earlier. He was on our practice squad. He’s a linebacker, viable special teams-like body. Given the number of things that have transpired over the last several weeks with Jarvis [Jones] missing work and others, I thought it was best to get him up on the 53 and available to us. (Any update on Jarvis Jones?) Not to this point, no. We’ll know, obviously, tomorrow morning in terms of his availability for practice. (Will you use Emmanuel Sanders as a primary kickoff returner?) I hadn’t gotten to that phase of the game yet in terms of our kickoff return. Obviously, I know what Emmanuel is capable of and I’m not opposed to doing it, but I’ve got to look at the schematics before I make those kind of determinations. (Does the down-and-distance situation have to do with when you use the wildcat, or does it have to deal with the time of the game?) It’s at our discretion. The reality is the plays themselves aren’t new. The window dressing is. It doesn’t require a bunch of work from a practice standpoint in that regard. We’ve run the plays and we’ve run the plays all year. Some of the formations and pre-snap movements are walk-thru, classroom-type work. So, it’s not as an intense of an endeavor as it appears to be. (Would Guy Whimper have the opportunity to start Sunday if Marcus Gilbert can’t play?) I’m not going to make that decision until I have to. At this point, I’m not ready to count Marcus Gilbert out. Obviously, he wasn’t able to finish the game on Sunday but I’m optimistic about his availability, not only for this game, but for preparation leading up to it this week. (Did Whimper get many snaps at tackle leading up to the Baltimore game?) Oh, absolutely. The days where Marcus was limited or did not practice last week, Guy got the vast majority of those right tackle snaps in preparation for the game. He was prepared and more importantly than that, he delivered an above the line performance. (Is Zoltan Mesko meeting your standards?) It’s been a mixed bag to this point. He’s been inconsistent. Just about every game over the last three games, he’s had what you call a ‘junior varsity’ punt. Thankfully, we only punted once in the game from a collective standpoint. Obviously, negatively for him, he didn’t get an opportunity to redeem himself from that punt. We need more consistency there. (Before the bye week, the Raiders played a really good defense in Kansas City. They had nine sacks allowed and I think there were three interceptions that had a lot to do with the pressure. Did that have a lot to do with Terrelle Pryor holding onto the ball, or was it Kansas City playing great defense?) It was a lot of things. Obviously, you start with Kansas City’s playing really good football. They’re ahead in football games and that dictates how things unfold. They’re playing really good defense. They’re very multiple. Game situations and circumstances also lead to it. I heard that it was very hostile environment, maybe the loudest crowd environment in history and so forth. A lot of those things weigh into performances. I don’t really get into that. I just focus on what it is they do or attempt to do from a schematic standpoint and the personnel issues or pedigree issues we might have and try to forecast what best fits us from a matchup standpoint. (Would it be premature to say that the offensive line is jelling?) It would be premature to say that. (Were you pleased with the way the offensive line played?) I was in that game, but largely, how they do and how we do is going to determine how we move forward. (You pointed out the pre-snap penalties in the red zone earlier. What other consistent thread have you seen in these first few games that you need to improve on to be better in the red zone?) That’s the only one I want to identify. (Why did you wait to throw the wrinkles in the offense last game, rather than earlier in the season? Did it have anything to do with the record?) Division play. You play people twice during the course of the year and sometimes that has an element of dictating how you attack them and things you want them to work on. The reality is, division opponents, you know you’re going to play them twice a year every year, so you allocate some time during the offseason on things you’d like to try on them and so forth. It’s just that, probably more than anything else. (Would you consider doing it consistently against all opponents?) Maybe. I’m not going to tip my hand, but maybe. (Your quarters or dime defense, is that becoming more of your base defense because of the nature of the league? Do you expect to see a lot of that with Oakland?) It’s multi-purpose. Not only because of things that we face, but who it is we are. Those guys are capable players and we’re trying to get our best 11 on the field. Sometimes that’s dictated by circumstance, down-and-distance. Sometimes it’s dictated by offensive personnel groups. The reality is we better be multiple and diverse and that’s what we’re trying to be. (Are you sensing more confidence with your team after the last two weeks?) I never sensed a lack of confidence in our guys. I sensed some frustration, obviously and rightfully so based on how we were playing. I can’t say that I ever sensed a lack of confidence in our guys. (After the game you brought up Le’Veon Bell’s performance. Did you feel that he was slighted at all?) You guys know that I don’t care what it is you say or write, but I realize that he is a young guy and he may. So, I felt the need to assure him that he was doing the right things a week ago and he’s doing what we’re asking him to do in the manner in which we’re asking him to do it. I don’t want him listening to the elevator music. I want him listening to what matters, and that’s the opinion of the people that evaluate him. So, that’s why I took the stance that I took last week in regards to some of the things written and said about how he plays, because I don’t want him to pay attention to that. (Are you seeing a different guy in Jonathan Dwyer than you saw before he was cut. He seems to be kind of the fiery leader of the running backs now?) I’m not. He’s always kind of been that guy, particularly on game day. He likes to play football. (Re: Thoughts on the defensive line’s performance so far:) They’ve been solid, and not only the front line guys, but all the guys we’ve chosen to play and the variety of personnel packages like we were talking about. We mixed some things up. I like what they’re providing us. Obviously, we need more. (Did they give you official word on the Sanders kickoff return that they did review it? What happened there?) There was no official word. What Bill told me, the white hat, in-stadium that there was no mechanism in place to review it based on how the play was officiated. (As a scoring play, isn’t that an automatic review?) Well, the fact that he called him out of bounds doesn’t make it a scoring play. The fact that he ruled that the guy stepped out of bounds is not a scoring play because of that. (Did you get the proper time back on the clock there?) I have no idea. I was too pissed to notice.
Press conference18LW
Good afternoon. I’ll start with a quick synopsis of our last performance. In reviewing the tape, not only as a staff but with the guys, a couple things were evident. Regarding the game, the turnovers were big. Our ability to maintain possession of the ball, our ability to get the ball defensively, and not only to get the ball but get the ball in the spaces of the time of the game in which we did, situational football and in the red zone, taking points off the board was significant. Maintaining possession of the football was significant to our efforts. I thought the situational splash plays contributed to our efforts, not only those red zone interceptions but a touchdown on offense occurred. In short yardage, I thought we converted some third downs that were pivotal in the game, the third-and-15 screen to Antonio Brown, we were able to get 16 yards on our first field goal drive. Those types of plays, situational splash plays aided us in securing the victory. But again, like always, the performance was far from perfect. We did the same things that we always do on Monday. We acknowledge and review some of the areas where we fell short in an effort to improve in our next time out. Obviously, it is coming quickly here at home at Heinz Field versus the Baltimore Ravens. On an injury note, I will address a couple things. I talked about Levi Brown’s triceps after the game. That was confirmed. He has been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. He will have surgery. David Johnson, his wrist needs surgery as well. He’s been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. Brett Keisel, what we believed was a rib injury is really kind of muscular in nature in that area. He will experience some discomfort throughout the week but we expect him to perk up and be ready to go. LaMarr Woodley has a little inflammation in his right knee that may limit him somewhat at the early portions of the week but should not limit his participation at all in the football game. And there are some of the normal bumps and bruises associated with playing. A couple of the other guys that have been on various lists, we are going to look at Sean Spence participating in some form or fashion this week, probably in a limited capacity, individual drills and so forth. Matt Spaeth is going to continue to stay where he is. We will continue to update you guys on a week-by-week basis in regards to that. Obviously, we have a window to evaluate Sean, but more than anything, it’s about getting him out on the field first and watching him in a limited capacity to see where he is before we make any plans about his participation or how we move forward. In regards to Baltimore, obviously, we are very familiar with those guys. I’ve seen some things on tape that look very familiar, and I’ve seen some things on tape that are new, like all seasons. Obviously, they are the defending World Champions and they get to wear that. Joe Flacco is still doing Joe Flacco-type things. He is making quick decisions and is spreading the ball around to some familiar targets. Torrey Smith is still an up-field target of his. He is averaging over 20 yards per catch for the season. But they’ve added to that [group of receivers] with a young guy named Marlon Brown, who is big and tough to get on the ground, a young rookie that has provided some splash plays for them. We have to tackle the catch extremely quickly with this guy. I think once he gets going, he’s a big-body guy, it’s going to be tough for secondary people to get him on the ground, at least that’s what the tape tells us. Flacco has Ed Dickson at tight end who has been a part of their tight end passing game for a number of years. He has a good rapport with him. Added to that, Dallas Clark. I see Dallas Clark doing Dallas Clark-like things. This is a guy that is good at working in the middle of the field and in space. Obviously, he made a critical, vertical play late in the football game for those guys this past weekend. I am sure they are excited about adding him to the fold. Some other guys, Jacoby Jones is coming back from injury. He has provided splash plays for them, not only on offense but on special teams. I am sure they are excited about getting him back. Obviously, their running backs are a big part of what they do in the passing game, be it flares, screens or check downs. Ray Rice is a guy for all situations. You have to be prepared not only to defend what he does in the running game but how they utilize him in the passing game as a primary, and really as a useful outlet. He has big-play capabilities once he gets a short pass in his hands. His resume has proven that. They have some new people up front combined with some old. Michael Oher has been around, Marshal Yanda has been around and Gino Gradkowski is a new center for them. He has been doing a great job. Obviously, he is returning home. This football game is going to be a big game for him, I am sure. They picked up Eugene Monroe, a tackle from Jacksonville. He is a savvy veteran player. Bryant McKinnie is still in the mix there. So there are a lot of familiar faces and a lot of new components. The schematics are very similar but there are new people to get familiarized with there. If you look at them defensively, I think all defensive discussions start with the protection of our quarterback, particularly versus Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. I think collectively those guys have 12 sacks in six games. They have been very disruptive in the manner in which both guys have been disruptive throughout their career. It’s doubly important that we be on our screws in preparation for them this week, because they’ve joined forces and are on the same defense. It provides some unique challenges schematically, who and how you help and so forth. Some of the poisons that you pick situationally, it’s going to be a big challenge for us this week. It’s been a big challenge for everyone that has played them to this point this year. But you couple that with a solid and deep front, led by Haloti Ngata, Arthur Jones has been around for a number of years, they acquired Chris Canty in free agency and Marcus Spears, they know what they are doing. They play a number of people. They have a multitude of fronts, like the New York Jets do schematically. We have a lot to work on this week. With that, we are preparing with an edge, with a certain sense of urgency, not only because it’s an opportunity to perform in front of our fans versus a division opponent and the defending World Champions, but it’s an opportunity to build upon a performance last week that was a winning one. We recognize the significance and importance of that under the circumstances as we push into this week. On special teams, obviously they have been solid over a number of years, and that continues here in 2013. They are big-play capable in the return game, both punts and kicks. Jacoby Jones has a resume that speaks to that but obviously Tandon Doss has provided some splash for them this year as well. Lardarius Webb is a solid cornerback for them. He is kick return-capable too. That’s one thing that they have. They don’t have a shortage of return options. Speaking of Webb, he puts together a solid cornerback tandem along with Jimmy Smith, that has played for them for a number of years. We got a lot of challenges from a preparation standpoint. Obviously, our focus is and will continue to be us and how we perform and prepare to give ourselves the very best chance to play A-ball. We believe that A-ball is enough to win under any circumstance, so that’s what is guiding us as we prepare for this one. (Why didn’t you sign a tackle to replace Levi Brown?) We just decided to strengthen ourselves in the very best way possible. Richard Gordon was a tight end that had similar attributes as David in that he’s a strong run performer and he’s healthy and ready to go and performed in a workout for us yesterday. Isaiah Green is a useful corner/special teams player that we’re very familiar with. Maybe he can help us this weekend. The emphasis was about helping ourselves this weekend and not necessarily numbers. Obviously, numbers are important but we’re not married to numbers. When we have an opportunity to add a body, that’s what we’re doing. We’re adding someone that we feel like can help our efforts from a global standpoint, not necessarily from a positional standpoint. (Is it possible Sean Spence could play this season?) Yes, it is. We’ll see how he performs in practice and kind of let that be our guide in terms of how we progress. Obviously, at least initially, he’ll be working in a limited capacity, on the look teams probably more than not. (It looked like the running game was a little bit better this week but Le’Veon Bell maybe missed some holes. Did you see that on film?) I did not. I thought he ran very well. I thought the Jets provide some challenges in terms of run defense. They’re number two in the league and they lived up to that. They’ve got some talented people up front. There weren’t many holes. I thought he did a great job of picking vision and putting the ball where it was supposed to be and running with the type of demeanor that we desire. Obviously, the numbers don’t exhibit great success, but I thought it allowed us to have the type of balance necessary to complete splash plays like the third-and-one play action to Emmanuel Sanders and so forth. We’re going to continue to be a group in evolution there. We don’t run away from that, but I was not displeased with Le’Veon Bell and his performance in any way this past weekend. (Ben Roethlisberger apparently said on his radio show this morning that there won’t be any more summersault celebrations that we’ve seen the past couple weeks. Is that the case?) That would be very correct. (And that comes down from you?) Absolutely. (Why don’t you like it?) Because it’s a potential for injury. It’s silly. (Defensively at the end of the half, you have allowed field goals four of five times. Is that something you will work on a lot this week? And also red zone offense?) We’re going to work on it, but not in response to performance. We believe that we’re capable of better. We just need to continue to evolve in those situations like in all situations. We’re going to do so this week and allot the normal amount of time to those areas. Yes, we need to perform better at the end of the halves defensively, and in the red area offensively. I think we kicked four field goals in the game and that’s potentially a recipe for disaster in the NFL. But I also acknowledge that the Jets play pretty stingy red zone defense and that’s the nature of matchups when we step into stadiums. I don’t paint with a broad brush in terms of evaluating how we perform. I acknowledge that in some circumstances our opponents and how the they perform is an element of the equation and the Jets defense was a stiff one. Obviously, they performed well at the end of the half and we don’t want to take that away from them. (Would you like to have seen your secondary play the sidelines a little bit more than they did on the field goal drive at the end of the half?) Absolutely. In-bounds tackles, particularly after they were out of timeouts, were critical. All we needed was one on any of those plays. I think there was four or five plays. All that’s required is one in-bounds tackle and we’re out of the half. We weren’t able to get that done, but again, I want to give a little credit to those guys. I thought they executed well, talking about Geno Smith and the New York Jets. (You haven’t had a big return yet. How much do you place on the returner, how much do you place on the other ten guys on the field?) It’s an 11-man job in our return game and we talk openly about it. We believe we have dynamic return people. We have yet to put together a dynamic return. We’re going to continue to work at it and hopefully it will show sooner rather than later. (Given the injuries to your offensive line the last few seasons, why hasn’t there been more thought to dress an extra guy on game day?) We make those decisions based on a week-to-week basis based on the health of the men that we intend to utilize in the football game. We do it exclusively in regards to that, not based on the potential of someone randomly getting hurt in warm-ups and so forth. That’s just the nature of football. People get hurt from time-to-time. You make necessary adjustments and you move on. (Should there be a rule where you can replace a guy that gets hurt in warm-ups after the inactives are sent in?) No, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the rule. Unfortunately, freakish things happen from time-to-time and we can’t make new rules every time something freakishly happens or unfortunate happens. A guy sustained a significant injury in a pre-game warm-up. I’ve been in this league a number of years and this is probably only the second time I’ve ever been around that. (With all the injuries, David DeCastro has sort of flown under the radar. Can you talk about his performance to date?) He’s been solid. (Ryan Clark was on ESPN last week and was giving opinions on your team, including one on Ben Roethlisberger. How do you feel about one of your players doing that?) These guys are professional and to cooperate with the media is not only something that I think they’re capable of doing, it’s something that they’re required to do. Some do it better than others. Ryan is a very seasoned communicator, particularly with the media. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about those interactions. I assume that they’re going to say appropriate things and represent us in the manner in which we need to be represented professionally. I focus on the variables that matter. Obviously, the preparation and play of the men on the football team, not what they do in their off hours. (Do you think what you did with the locker room issues last week sent the message you wanted to send? In any way did that correlate with the victory on Sunday?) I have no idea. Your guess is as good as mine. We’re going to continue to turn over whatever stone is necessary to produce the outcome similar to last week. (Will any of those changes be reversed?) I hadn’t thought a lot about it, to be honest with you. I’ve been really focused on looking at Baltimore Ravens tape. (Is Markus Wheaton going to be available this week?) He is not. He’s still recovering from his hand surgery. (Is Vince Williams earning his spot at inside linebacker?) He’s been playing it the last several weeks. He started exclusively at the other spot and has performed there the last several weeks, so nothing has changed in that regard. (Is there any plan to replace David Johnson, personnel-wise?) We acquired Richard Gordon, who I was just referring to with Gerry [Dulac], that has some similar skills. Obviously, we need to get to know him and evaluate his ability to learn. We have three tight ends besides him already on our roster that were able to participate in the game and finish the game out. So, we’re not short on options in that regard. (You mentioned Baltimore’s defensive line and their abilities. Are you concerned with the amount hits Ben Roethlisberger has been taking lately, and how are you going to address that on the offensive line?) I’m concerned, but no more concerned than I usually am. Quarterbacks get hit. That’s the nature of the game. That’s why people rush people. That’s why they employ people like Suggs and Dumervil. It’s our job to minimize that and we’re working to do it this week. (Do Suggs and Dumervil flip-flop at all?) Primarily, Suggs is a defensive right side player and Dumervil is a defensive left side player, but they can and will flop from time-to-time. They’re going to make sure that both tackles are prepared to block both men. That’s shown up on just about every tape you look at. (Kelvin Beachum did a pretty admirable job last time out against Suggs, didn’t he?) I haven’t reviewed the tape yet. Are you talking about from past years? (From last year.) Yeah, I haven’t got to last year’s tape yet. I’m still looking at 2013. (What have you seen out of Baltimore? Why have they struggled?) I think they’re better equipped to answer that than I am. I’m just evaluating them in terms of what they’re potentially capable of and what we need to be prepared to combat in all three phases. Obviously, they’re a talented capable team led by superstars in all three phases and they’re defending World Champs. They don’t need an endorsement from me. (Do you think the rivalry has lost some luster because both teams have struggled?) Not from our perspective and I’m sure not from theirs. If anything, it’s probably some outside standpoint. That can’t affect how we prepare and I’m sure it’s not going to affect how they prepare. This is going to be Steelers-Ravens on Sunday, I’m sure. (Is the offensive line turnover the reason you haven’t run much outside zone? Is there another reason?) Not only the offensive line turnover, but the running backs turnover and the nature of the personnel that we’ve had. We’re going to lean to our strengths and work to minimize our weaknesses. Outside zone is something we spent a lot of time working on in the offseason, but we had Maurkice Pouncey in the offseason. That’s just the reality of the NFL. We’re going to lean to the strength of the men that we work with. If it means that we’re not going to run things that we’ve executed and spent time executing, then so be it. We’re going to live and work in the now with the people that we have and work to their strengths and work to minimize our collective weaknesses that we’re dealing with in the present time.
Press conference17WW
Good afternoon. We are excited about getting back to work, coming off of a bye week. It was a productive week for us. We are continuing to work on what we think are known, critical issues that have produced the record that we have thus far. Our minus-11 turnover mark has been pivotal in that. We have to do a better job of preserving the ball. We worked hard at that over the last week, and obviously getting the ball, we’ve yet to get a turnover. We acknowledge that. We’ve worked hard at improving in those areas. Offensively, we are looking to continue to work to strike a balance. As we get guys in defined roles in that area, guys like Le’Veon Bell and Heath Miller, we like the direction we are going there. Obviously we have to get to the point where it produces victory, and we feel like we are capable of doing that this week as we prepare for the Jets. Defensively, we have to minimize the big plays. I think that has been an issue for us. At times there have been breakdowns, but other times there have been missed tackles. We just need to get more solid in that area, minimize big plays and make people work to produce points against us. That’s how we’ve done it for a long period of time. We have to quickly get back to that. I think we are capable of that as well this week. We made a critical acquisition in Levi Brown, a veteran battle-tested offensive tackle. We are still working to establish a role and are still working to make him familiar with our football. Obviously, we just had one day of on the field work, but his presence is needed and valued. He’s a battle-tested guy. He worked at left tackle yesterday with Kelvin Beachum. We will continue to look at those two as we prepare and push forward toward the weekend. From an injury standpoint, some guys that were working on their injuries are continuing to do so. DaMon Cromartie-Smith is working with his left hip flexor injury. You can characterize him as questionable. Ramon Foster worked in a partial capacity yesterday with his left pectoral strain. We anticipate him continuing to do so as we push through the week. Obviously, what he is capable of doing in pads is going to be critical. We will get a look at that a little later in the week. Kion Wilson worked in a partial capacity as well. Markus Wheaton, with his surgically repaired finger, can be characterized as out for this game. He is the only guy that is identified as out at this time. The others will work or work in a partial capacity, and we will push forward toward the weekend, obviously with an eye toward getting the healthy ones ready to operate. Let’s talk about the Jets for a minute. The Jets are a 3-2 team. That was a big road victory for them last night on Monday Night Football, particularly for a rookie quarterback. Geno Smith, I was at his pro day. I’ve been close to him the last several years with the proximity of the program that he played at down in Morgantown. He is a very talented guy. He can make any throw on the field. I have seen that in person at his pro day. It was as impressive as any that I have seen from a quarterback standpoint. He is a poised guy. He is a physically and mentally tough guy. He is capable of absorbing punishment, standing in the pocket and delivering the football. He doesn’t get rattled, particularly for a young guy. I’m not surprised by that, having an opportunity to get to meet him, and see his demeanor and approach to football. He is very mobile, although I think he probably views himself as a pocket passer. He is very capable of getting out and creating. Obviously, if you give him free real estate, he is going to take it. They do some things on offense that highlight his mobility, some pocket movement, some read option-type things that make you defend the whole field, both vertically and horizontally. Their run game is of course handled by Bilal Powell. Mike Goodson is coming off a suspension. They are a formidable combination. Both guys are extremely talented but are a little different. Powell is more of a slasher. Goodson has the type of perimeter speed that can produce splash plays. He can get on the perimeter and get yards in chunks. You have to respect that. Aside from their core, fundamental run game, they do some things to make you work on it and to strike a balance in that way, some wildcat, some read option-type things and some jet sweep-type things. They mix in enough of it that you know that when you step into a stadium, you better be prepared to deal with it. From a passing standpoint, they have some threats out there as well. I don’t know the status of Santonio Holmes, but obviously he is a known commodity, one that we are familiar with. We are familiar with what he is capable of doing in stadiums. He’s shown that already this year in limited action. He has a 69-yard touchdown. Stephen Hill is a young, talented Georgia Tech wide receiver. He is a definite vertical, uphill threat. He is big, fast and plays big and fast down the field. Minimizing big plays is going to start with trying to keep the top on the coverage from a standpoint of what he is capable of doing. Jeremy Kerley is doing good stuff inside as their slot receiver. I think that Kellen Winslow has been a nice acquisition for them at tight end. He leads them in receptions. He has been a nice security blanket for their young quarterback. They are doing a nice job of finding a balance with the run game, the base run game, some of the gadget runs and the exploits and talents of Geno. Obviously, they should expect that he is going to continue to improve. It’s our job to make sure that he doesn’t. He had a heck of a ballgame and managed that ballgame last night. He made great decisions and made critical plays at critical moments to produce victories. We have our hands full in that regard. We are excited about preparing for it and ultimately playing it. On the other side of the ball, they have one of the best defenses in football. They are a talented, young front. Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple is a young, talented defensive lineman. Sheldon Richardson, out of Missouri, is a young, talented defensive lineman. They have a nice rotation there with about 4-5 guys. They use multiple fronts, have a lot of movement and are very tough to block, schematically. They get hats-on-hats. They do a nice job of being very multiple in that way. It makes them tough to deal with. From a linebacker standpoint, David Harris is a solid, veteran interior linebacker out of Michigan. He’s a man for all situations, both versus the run and the pass. Calvin Pace is a steady and solid guy on the outside. He is a capable rush man as well. He gets a lot of opportunities to rush, but he’s also a very capable coverage man. In their secondary, they have a talented, young group of cornerbacks, led by the veteran presence of Antonio Cromartie. They do some nice things there. In the kicking game, they’ve been solid for years. We have to contend with that. Obviously, their kicker, Nick Folk, is 6-for-6 beyond 40 yards. So, they are going to get quickly into scoring territory. We have to respect that as we prepare and play this game. Their kicker is doing a heck of a job, particularly from solid distances to this point in the season. But the focus is on us and our preparation, and ultimately our play. That’s where it has been throughout this bye week. I think it has been a productive one. I like the attitude, demeanor and approach to work that the guys have taken. That’s just part of the equation. Obviously, putting it together and producing victory is the most significant part of the equation. I look forward to working to do that with them this week. (Q: Was it hard to keep guys focused with the 0-4 record?) A: I haven’t sensed that at all, in regards to the focus. For obvious reasons, focus is required. We’ve got areas in which we need to improve. I like the demeanor and the approach of the guys in terms of addressing it and dealing with it. I don’t believe that focus has been an issue at all for us to this point.(Q: Has Cameron Heyward moved ahead of Ziggy Hood?) A: He has and he will play more and deservedly so. I think he’s been really solid, not taking anything away from Ziggy. Obviously, both guys will continue to play. We just want Cam to play more than he’s been playing and in order to ensure that, we’re going to put him in the starting lineup. (Q: How do you work on things in practice like tackling? You don’t tackle much. How do you work on that? And on the coaching side, clock management – how do you practice that?) A: From a player’s standpoint, even though we’re not practicing in pads, I think that ball security and getting to the football on defense are things that you can practice, regardless of circumstance. From a ball security standpoint, it’s mechanics – the points of pressure on the ball and making it as a point of emphasis. Defensively, obviously tackling, as big of a part of tackling as anything is the approach and making sure that you have correct angles to the ball, you have bent knees and ankles. We have an opportunity to do that every time the ball is snapped. Obviously from a clock management standpoint, we put ourselves in some situations, particularly situationally last week, we worked two-minute and other areas that are pertinent to clock management, just as a normal preparation phase of our bye week. We have and will continue to do that. (Q: A lot of times Ben Roethlisberger chose to spike the ball. You have to get the clock stopped but downs are valuable there. How do you manage the balance there? Did you like his decisions?) A: I did. (Q: You mentioned how much you looked at Geno Smith during his pro day. Where have you seen him make improvements from what you saw over the first five games of his career?) A: Evaluating somebody on pro day and then comparing that to improvements in-game is different. Obviously, I don’t have a lot of direct experience with him. At his pro day, his pedigree was very evident. This guy could make any throw on the field. He’s got great mobility, he’s got a good presence about him, I like his demeanor and his approach to the business of football. In terms of the game tape and evaluating where he is. Like all players and all young players, particularly at the quarterback position, I think he is growing by leaps and bounds each and every week and probably with every snap of the football. Probably the most important thing and the most significant thing about that statement and about where he is, is he is finding ways to win along the way. That’s what you’ve got to do in this business. He’s 3-2 to this point, I’m sure he’d like to be better than that, but it ain’t a bad place to be. (Q: You mentioned breakdowns accounting for the big plays defensively. The tackling, obviously. But in other breakdowns, were they mental breakdowns, missed assignments, or just getting beat physically?) A: A little bit of all the above. Obviously, a guy like Adrian Peterson doesn’t need much of a crack, but in some instances we could be in better positions and in other instances we could tackle better. (Q: Ryan Clark said over the weekend that he thinks Roethlisberger needs to tone down his improvisation because he is taking too many sacks and having too many turnovers. Do you think Ben needs to tone it down?) A: It just depends on the circumstances and situations. Obviously, sometimes game circumstances dictate that you take calculated risks associated with the position of quarterback. Ben plays a position that is open to criticism and he knows that and I know that, particularly when you’re not winning. I think he embraces what comes with it. (Q: Can you speak to anybody on the practice squad that has stood out since you broke camp?) A: No, not really. I do acknowledge that those guys are working extremely hard. We appreciate their contributions and their efforts. The most important thing is that they continue to work. Professional football is not a patient man’s business. They better work while they wait for their opportunity because you never know when it’s going to come. (Q: How does Jeff Cumberland factor into the Jets offense and how do you guys think you have done against the tight ends this year in your games so far?) A: He’s a very solid contributor. Their vertical passing game is a significant part of what they do, particularly off of play-pass. The tight ends are a big part of that. We’ve had our moments against tight ends. Obviously, we feel like we’re comfortable with the packages that we employ and the people that we utilize to cover them. The proof is in the pudding. Those guys are going to present a big challenge to us this week and we look forward to preparing and playing. (Q: Everyone understands that Mike Adams is going to sit, but do you still see something in him?) A: Absolutely I do. The most important thing is not maybe what has happened to him to this point, it’s how he responds to it and moves forward. I think it’s going to have an opportunity to define him and his career. There are a lot of solid professional players that have been through ups and downs, the emotions and so forth, and the guys that show staying power and the guys that respond to it appropriately, that roll their sleeves up and go to work, solid, steady players, even within our organization. Guys like Ike Taylor have gone through moments like that in his career. There are plenty of examples to choose from. But forget about the examples. It’s time for Mike to roll his sleeves up and go about working to find more consistency in his movement and technique so that he can be the player that we know and he knows he is capable of being. (Q: How often, percentage-wise, did you give him help against Minnesota? ) A: I don’t have a percentage. Obviously, that was a part of our game plan. Obviously, we knew what [Jared] Allen was capable of as a rush man and as a defensive end. (Q: Would you have liked to have given him help more frequently over there?) A: Yeah, under the circumstances, sure, looking at the tape. But we really didn’t anticipate him playing in the manner in which he did. I think it was a surprise to him and us. (Q: What did you think of Vince Williams performance and where do you stand at that position right now?) A: He’s been solid, not only in performance but in communication. I like some of the things that he’s done. Obviously, he’s a young player. He’s one that’s going to grow with reps. We look forward to him doing that. He needs to do it and do it in a hurry, but arrow pointed up in terms of his performance and the intangible things that he’s brought to the position thus far. (Q: Will he still share time with Kion Wilson there?) A: He will, but like over the last several weeks, he’s gotten the majority of the snaps and we feel like he’s earned that. He needs to continue to do so. (Q: Will you stick with a pretty strict rotation at left defensive end and right defensive end so that if Brett Keisel goes down or needs a play off, then Al Woods would go in? ) A: All of those guys are going to play, like they have. We just wanted to redistribute the snaps to make sure that Cam is getting more than he’s gotten to this point. That’s the reason for the change. (Q: Did you like what you saw out of Le’Veon Bell? ) A: I thought it was a good start. I think he’s capable of more. I’m sure he would agree with that and I look forward to him working to provide that for us. He’s a talented young guy, a guy whose contribution is needed, and we look forward to him continuing to do it. (Q: Is Zoltan Mesko what you thought? He’s known as a directional punter and didn’t have a lot of distance last time out.) A: He’s done a nice job with his placements in terms of keeping the ball out of the middle of the field. We value, of course, the fact that he’s left-footed. We feel that’s a weapon for us, but we’d like him to stretch the field a little bit more. He’s been somewhat inconsistent. He had a bad punt or two over the last several weeks. He’s looking forward to rebounding and responding coming out of the bye week. (Q: Are you getting what you need out of your nose tackle in terms of stopping the run?) A: I think that Steve has played some good games. He’s had some positive plays and I think he’s had some plays that he’d like back, like all of us. I like where he is. We expect him to continue to grow and get better into the position. The arrow is pointed up with him and that position in my opinion.
Press conference20WL
Good afternoon. We are excited about this week’s challenge in playing the Minnesota Vikings, and of course representing the NFL in London. Before I get to that, I will go through my normal protocol in evaluation of our last performance. We met yesterday, looked at the tape and studied the tape, really for the sole purpose of building on the positive from that football game, and identifying, acknowledging and working to eliminate the negative. Like I said after the game, there was some growth exhibited by our team in that game. Obviously, it wasn’t enough for victory. As we look at the tape and move forward, we look at it with that purpose, to build upon the positive. I thought we moved the ball with more consistency, both in the run and pass. I thought we had some nice contributions and continued evolution from some young players. I thought we had some solid contributions in the kicking game. I thought we did a nice job of working to neutralize Devin Hester and what he’s capable of. We continue to have a number of young individuals contribute and grow on defense, guys like Jarvis Jones and Shamarko Thomas. They provided quality work for us. We will utilize the lessons learned, obviously from a negative experience, and hopefully with work and an approach to our business this week, we will turn the negative into a positive. We are excited about having the opportunity to prepare and play in the game this week, and continue that. Hopefully the growth will produce victory. If you look at us from an injury standpoint going into this game, we are the best that we’ve been. The guys that recently returned, Heath Miller participated in the game. He really did a nice job. Obviously, we were on a pitch count, if you will, in terms of the number of snaps we gave him. He performed well. We will continue to move forward this week, hopefully with no restrictions whatsoever, and let him continue to work his way back to health and help us at the tight end position. Some other guys that are scheduled to come back this week, Cortez Allen is going to practice this week. His availability will be based on that participation but we are optimistic that he’s going to be able to play in this football game. The same can be said for Le’Veon Bell. He perked up dramatically at the end of last week. We are excited about watching him be a full participant this week during the course of practice. We will let that dictate his play, but we are optimistic about his availability. We have a few bumps and bruises from the game. Brett Keisel may be limited somewhat at the beginning of the week with a left hamstring injury. Steve McLendon is nursing a right hamstring injury. He might be limited somewhat at the early portions of the week. Neither one of these guys, we shouldn’t expect to miss any significant time at the latter part of the week, and of course in the football game. Looking at the Minnesota Vikings, obviously they are a team in similar situation and circumstance that we are, in that we are both 0-3. I know we will have two hungry football teams looking for their first win. They have a great deal of talent. A lot of the reasons why they are 0-3 are similar to some of the things that have produced our record. They haven’t taken care of the football in the manner in which they would like. That has put them in harm’s way and dictated some of the outcomes of these football games. If you look at them on offense, it starts with working and neutralizing Adrian Peterson. He is unquestionably the best in football. Every time he touches it, he is capable of going the distance. He is an inside runner. He is an outside runner. He’s combative. He has great hands. He is a man for all situations. We have played him in the past, thankfully not a lot. But we will see him this week. We have a great deal of respect for him and what he is capable of. He’s tentatively scheduled to have his fullback, Jerome Felton, back this week. They have been a lethal combination in recent times. I think both went to the Pro Bowl a year ago. Christian Ponder is a talented young passer. His mobility is something that we have to contend with. One of the critical plays in the game last week for us, we closed the game to four, and we had them in third-and-10. We allowed Jay Cutler to escape and get 13 yards. That was an eventual drive that made it a two-score game. We have to respect the mobility of this guy. He is capable of creating when plays break down, but also they utilize his mobility strategically, in misdirection pass, and they boot in both directions. He is very good at it. He does a nice job with it. His receiving corps is a talented one. Jerome Simpson is a vertical guy that we are familiar with. He’s a former Cincinnati Bengal. Greg Jennings is developing a great relationship with Ponder. He’s a former Green Bay Packer and a talented free agent pickup. They have a young rookie, Cordarrelle Paterson, out of the University of Tennessee, is a very talented guy. They work to get the ball in his hands in a multitude of ways, whether it’s vertical passing, bubble screens, and he’s also a kickoff return guy. He has one for a touchdown already this year. He is a guy that is a dangerous man. He runs reverses as well. It looks like they are utilizing him in a similar way they utilized him at Tennessee. We scouted him in preparation of the draft. He is to be contended with as well. They have talented tight ends. Kyle Rudolph, their young tight end out of Notre Dame, is a very talented player. Their offensive line is anchored by Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt at right tackle. He is a mammoth guy. Those are the book-end guys. They do a great job of setting the tone for that group up front. Defensively, they have some similarities to the Chicago Bears but they also have some differences. They are more multiple in terms of the way they are capable of applying pressure to the quarterback. They are a four-down team similar to the Bears, and they have some talented men up front. It starts with Jared Allen. Not only do the men that are preparing to block him have to do a great job, we have to do a great job to insure that we assist on him appropriately to level the playing field, because Allen is a perennial Pro Bowl-type player. Inside, Kevin Williams, is a talented guy that I am familiar with from my days there. He is a consummate professional. He is a big, power player that happens to be athletic. He has the type of ball skills and awareness of a skill guy. That’s always something that is unqiue about him. We have to be conscious of his rush lane, and how he gets his hands up to affect the passing game, even when he is not getting to the quarterback. He is a guy that is always touching balls, redirecting screens and so forth. I got a great deal of respect for him, his game and what he is capable of. Around those guys, they have a deep and talented group. Brian Robison plays opposite of Allen. They also have a number of guys, Sharrif Floyd, a talented first-rounder out of Florida, and Everson Griffen, a talented inside and outside guy out of Southern California. They play a lot of people up front. They keep them fresh. They ride the wave of excitement and energy that those guys provide. Their linebacking corps is led by Chad Greenway, a veteran player who has played in that system since 2006. He is a sideline-to-sideline guy. He is good both versus the run and pass. He is very good at quarterback keying in zone drops. He reads the quarterback’s eyes. He has already produced an interception this year. He’s a very active sideline-to-sideline football player. Their secondary is comprised primarily of a lot of young and talented players, good players. Harrison Smith is a guy that is really a standout on video. He does a lot for these guys in the passing game on the back end but also up around the line of scrimmage. He is the personal protector on the punt team. He has multiple interceptions. He is a really good, sound tackler. He appears to be a rising star in this game. From a specialist standpoint, they have rock solid specialists. Jeff Locke, their new punter, appears to be off to a great start. He’s a very talented guy out of UCLA. Blair Walsh, they acquired a year ago, is a talented young man. He is a Pro Bowler from a year ago. Obviously, both teams are working and fighting for an opportunity to get their first victory. We are excited about the work that is in front of us here before we go to London. It’s going to be business as usual and search for normalcy in the front part of the week, particularly from an installation standpoint and from a beginning of the week standpoint in terms of our Wednesday and Thursday practice. We will finish all of our normal work here, all of our normal work that we would do up until Thursday. Then we are going to travel to London. Obviously when we get to London, it’s not going to be normal. But we will deal with it. We will go through the necessary meetings and so forth. What we are going to do though is go through our normal processes in the last 48 hours in preparation for game time. That’s our Friday preparation and our Saturday walk through. We look forward to doing that. We look forward to representing the NFL, and hopefully acquiring our first victory in the process.(Q: Will Le’Veon Bell be on any sort of snap count?) A: We’re going to let practice dictate that to us. He’s been doing a nice job of working from a rehabilitation standpoint. We’ve got a better sense of his overall conditioning than we did Heath’s a week ago. We’ll let the practice process be our guide in terms of deciding how much work he gets in the football game. (Q: Along those lines, when Bell is 100% and he comes back, is he inserted immediately as the starter?) A: He’s going to play, yes. (Q: Jack Bicknell said a lot of the issues the offensive line had were mental issues rather than physical issues. Did you see more of that this week, or was it some of both?) A: It’s a little bit of both, but that’s always the case. I see improvement in the group. I see improvement in the unit. Obviously, not enough. Our quarterback is still being pressured too often, we’re turning the ball over some because of it. We’ve got to just continue to work and improve with those guys that are working at the positions. Obviously, Kelvin Beachum worked some at tackle last week. I thought that was positive, not only for him but for the other two guys as well. We’ll continue to look at those combinations in an effort to find the very best winning formula for us. I like the way the guys are working. I like the way their showing their mettle from a mental toughness standpoint. Obviously, we’re experiencing some frustrating times. But frustration doesn’t solve the issues, work does, and they are taking a nice business-like approach to that work. I met with Ramon Foster this morning. He’s committed to leading that group through these tough times. It’s good to have a veteran guy like him that has been around situations in these circumstances. But more than anything, we’re just going to roll our sleeves up, keep our mouth shut, take what comes with the position that we’re in and get prepared for our next opportunity to seek victory. (Q: With the Bears twists and stunts, was there some confusion on assignments, or was it sometimes just a matter of getting beat?) A: At a time or two there was a little bit of confusion from an assignment standpoint. Sometimes guys just physically got beaten and that’s a normal occurrence over the course of a football game. If you throw the ball 40 times in a football game with five to seven guys protecting and you do the math, there’s probably over 200 opportunities for people to do their jobs or not. All it takes is five to 10 of those instances to produce catastrophic-like results and that’s some of the things that are occurring. Obviously, we need to strive for more consistency to minimize those things, to get the type of consistent production that is going to be required for us to win football games. (Q: Are you getting enough pass protection help from your backs and tight ends?) A: I thought we all could have been better. In pass protection, the protection of the quarterback is an 11-man job, including the quarterback. Offensive line, receivers running precise routes and being available, backs on pickups, tight ends on pickups or in routes, and obviously the quarterback making quick decisions. We’re all falling short right now, and I mean that, coaches included. We’re not trying to throw anybody under the bus or identify anybody as an Achilles heel or weak link. The reality is that we all need to continually work collectively together to solve our issues. (Q: ) A: (Q: ) A: The passing game had more success this week than the first two weeks. Is that a change in play calling or more execution? (Q: think it was more and better execution, and part of that has to do with, we were more sound and consistent in the run game, particularly on first down. I think we averaged 4.1 or so per carry on first down and that creates, number one, you’re on schedule, and number two I think it creates opportunities in the play pass, which we were able to take advantage of at times in the game. Obviously, not enough for victory. ) A: (Q: ou mentioned Adrian Peterson is getting his normal fullback back. Have they been running a lot without a fullback or are they using other people in his place?) A: They’ve been utilizing other people. They’ve got a tight end/H-back/fullback in Rhett [Ellison]. I think he’s a second or third-year guy out of Southern Cal, who actually did both jobs in college. I think he’s served them well. There was a big short yardage, fourth-and-one play where they ran a weak side isolation and he showed what he was capable of against the Bears a few weeks ago. Zach Line has also played for them, a rookie out of SMU who just went on the IR I think after this past weekend’s performance. Obviously, Felton’s availability is right on time from that standpoint. We expect him to participate and provide a personality that they desire. (Q: What went into your decision to go to London later in the week and how do you plan to adjust the players to the time difference?) A: I think traveling on Thursday night and getting there on Friday morning will provide us enough opportunity to adjust to the time difference. A lot of West Coast teams that travel to the East Coast do two-day travels and that’s appropriate. I value normalcy in the early portions of the week from a preparation standpoint and from a practice standpoint – use of our facilities, the comforts of home if you will, and the installation of the plan and the development of the plan over the former. (Q: Will you operate on London time or East Coast time?) A: When we get to London, we’re going to be on London time. No use to trying to trick ourselves from that standpoint. (Q: What do you know about the turf, the lighting, and those types of things at Wembley Stadium?) A: From what I understand it’s an awesome venue. The turf is awesome. They play a lot of soccer in that venue. The turf is supposed to be awesome. We are looking forward to doing it [playing there]. Zoltan [Mesko] was over there a year ago. I had a brief meeting with him about it yesterday and he raved about the field surface. Looking forward to it. I don’t expect it to be a negative experience in any way from a facility standpoint, from a fan standpoint. We’re looking forward, obviously, to representing the National Football League and our game over there in London. (Q: Re: Vince Williams’ performance:) A: Vince is doing a nice job, not only in play but in communication and communicating in a timely and appropriate way. I think he’s winning the confidence of the veteran defenders from that standpoint. Obviously, there is a lot of communication that comes with that job and he’s done a nice job at that. He appears to be a natural, but we’ll continue to play he and Kion [Wilson] in an effort to get the best out of both until we get some clarity in terms of who is the guy that’s going to rise up and seize that spot. (Q: What went into the decision to have Wilson or Williams make the calls, rather than Lawrence Timmons?) A: We just want to work and ease to that transition. We want to minimize the amount of responsibility that we put on Lawrence because we need him to play great football. We’ve got other guys that have worked over the course of the preseason and in preparation for – guys like Kion and guys like Vince, who have been doing that since day one when they got here, and they’re proving to be capable in that regard. That’s obviously something that’s available to us, but to this point we haven’t deemed it necessary. We’ll continue to work in the manner in which we have. Obviously, when those guys aren’t on the field, Lawrence is making the calls and there are a number of defensive packages where he is the only linebacker on the field, when Troy plays linebacker and Robert Golden comes in, where he is the guy that’s making the calls for the entire defense at that time. (Q: What is holding Markus Wheaton back and what do you need to see from him to get him on the field?) A: He’s continuing to improve and get more opportunities. He played quite a few snaps in this past football game. I don’t have the exact number He actually had a ball thrown to him on third-and-nine. He’ll continue to work. We’ll continue to work with him. We like the talent, we like his approach to getting better. Hopefully, he’ll be making a contribution to our efforts here very soon. I like the process in which he is going about putting himself in position to do so. (Q: In the past when a player has fumbled, you haven’t hesitated to go with someone else who can hold onto the ball. When your quarterback turns it over three or four times, does the thought ever come into your mind to go with someone else?) A: If it’s carelessness, absolutely. I’m not opposed to that. Some of the turnovers that occurred in the football game, Ben’s got control over and I expect him to take better control of the ball, but obviously, they weren’t [because of] carelessness. The pocket was breaking down on him. The Chicago Bears did a nice job of not only working to tackle him, but working to disrupt the ball. Obviously we knew that that’s in their personality and their capabilities, but you still have to give them credit in that regard. I expect Ben to be better, Ben expects himself to be better. We’ll continue to work to do that. (Q: Re: Antonio Brown’s performance:) A: He provided quality plays for us, but we expect him to. I know he expects that from himself. Hopefully, we want those efforts to produce victory. We didn’t do it in the game and there’s a certain level of frustration that goes with that because he’s a legitimate competitor. Most of us share those frustrations. (Q: Is this a case where maybe Ben Roethlisberger is trying to do too much?) A: I don’t believe that. I really think a lot of what happened in the stadium has a lot to do with what the Chicago Bears did. I don’t want to take anything away from them. They’re 3-0 at this point for a reason. They made timely plays offensively. They showed it in our football game like they did in others when they put together their drive where they hit Bennett in the corner for a 17-yard touchdown. The defense produced turnovers and scores. They did it in the games prior to our game. They did it, unfortunately, in our game. Thankfully in our game, we worked to minimize Devin Hester. Largely, the formula that produced victories prior to our game for them, they were able to duplicate. You’ve got to give them credit. Obviously, it’s our job to not allow those things to happen. We were unsuccessful in an attempt to do so. Hopefully, we learn from it and move forward and utilize the lessons learned to produce victory this week. (Q: Has David Johnson proved to be another valuable number two option at tight end?) A: I like some of the things that he’s doing, both in the running game and in the passing game. Much like Heath Miller, he’s working his way back from an ACL and I see a dramatic improvement in him physically week-to-week and look forward to continued improvement in what he’s doing both physically and mentally. (Q: Late in the game down three scores, you decided to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the 25. It’s a field goal in Suisham’s range that could make it a two score game. What was the thinking in going for it?) A: We needed at least two touchdowns in what would have potentially been three possessions. We were down there in scoring territory. I thought it was better to go for a touchdown at that time than to put it off potentially in other possessions. (Q: Is this purely a business trip or do you allow yourself to experience something new?) A: It’s purely a business trip for me personally. (Q: Do you expect it to be a distraction?) A: Not at all to be honest with you. This is just a road game for us. We are happy to represent the NFL, obviously in international play. But in terms of what it is that we are doing, our level of focus and the things that we need to do in preparation and in play, it’s just a road game for us. (Q: Re: Veterans limiting the younger player’s interaction with games and games in the locker room:) A: It’s really no big deal from my perspective. Our locker room also doubles as a player’s lounge. I think everybody in this business has something like that available. These guys are competitors. They are competitors by nature. You provide outlets for them of healthy competition, provided that it doesn’t get in the way of work. That decision was made by our leadership. I respect it. I think our team respects it. It was done in the right spirit under the circumstances. We will continue with it. (Q: Is there any worry that it forms a separation between groups of players?) A: Not at all. I think our young guys understand very clearly the spirit in which that was handed down. (Q: Re: The Pittsburgh Pirates clinching a playoff spot:) A: I am happy for those guys. I just jotted Clint Hurdle a note this morning. It’s big for them. It’s big for our community. It’s just awesome. I look forward to watching him represent us in the playoffs and going to chase the big prize.
Press conference20LL
Good afternoon. I’ll start with a brief synopsis of where we are after last night’s performance. Obviously, we are 0-2 right now. There are several reasons for that. Probably the most significant of reasons is that we aren’t scoring enough points, 19 points in two football games is not going to win a lot of football in this league. If you would have told me we would have scored 19 points through the first two games, I would have told you we would have had an opportunity to be 0-2. We understand what that is. We are working hard to rectify that. Last night, there were some things that were better. But still not good enough is the reality of it. There were more positive plays and less negative plays than our first time out, really in all three phases. But it has to show on the scoreboard. We didn’t do that. I knew the game potentially had the opportunity to be a low-scoring affair. It was the last time we played them late last year. They are a very good football team. But we have to outscore our opponents. We have to do everything in our power to do that. We didn’t do it. Some things to build upon from the game, I thought special teams were a solid contributor to our efforts. We had an explosion kickoff return that gave us good field position to start the game. That was needed, with us starting slow and we have started slow this year. We had an explosion punt return that produced the first points in the game. I thought our punt team did a nice job against Adam Jones, flipping the field and keeping us out of harm’s way from a field position standpoint. I thought we had contributions from young people to build upon. Jarvis Jones started his first game. He was very active. We utilized Derek Moye in the red area with the physical skill set that he has. Our running game, obviously, is below the line. But I was encouraged by some of the things Felix Jones was able to do and probably will be able to do moving forward. Obviously, we are in this thing to win. We didn’t win last night. You have to give the Bengals credit for what they did in the football game. Like I talked about last night, I thought a couple of sequences were significant. We had an explosion play in the first half that flipped the field and put the ball inside their 20-yard line. David Paulson fumbled the ball. We can’t have that. Just as significant as that fumble, they took that opportunity and produced a score. So we are talking about a minimum of a 10-point sequence right there in the first half of the football game. That’s unacceptable in a hostile environment. I thought there was a significant play in the third quarter when we converted a third-and-10 and got called for tripping. That was a play that would have flipped the field and put us, I think, on the plus-30 yard line. Of course, it put us behind the chains in a long-yardage situation. We multiplied that difficulty by getting sacked on the following play. We produced a punt, and they produced a scoring drive. Those are two significant sequences in the game, one in the first half and one in the second half that, quite frankly, we weren’t good enough last night to overcome. We acknowledge that. We will continue to work and improve. That’s just where we are right now. It’s a frustrating thing but frustration is a very normal emotion. We can’t let that frustration prevent us from moving forward in getting ready to attack this week’s challenge. That comes in the form of a 2-0 Chicago Bears football team. Before I get to those guys, I will talk about some of our injury issues. Some pre-existing injuries, Heath Miller worked in a partial capacity last week. We expect him to work fully this week, and see where that participation takes us. Make no mistake, we are not expecting Heath to step out of a phone booth with a cape on, but we are looking forward to watching him work and let the result of that work guide us in terms of how we proceed throughout the week. Curtis Brown will be back from his illness. He should be fine. Le’Veon Bell is going to ramp up his activity with a minimum of at least individual work and maybe even more than that. Those are three guys that are scheduled to participate this week as we move forward. We had some bumps and bruises in the game. I don’t anticipate those things preventing the following people from participating in our game against the Bears but it may change how they work over the course of the week. Jarvis Jones has a heel contusion. Brett Keisel has a left calf strain. Steve McLendon has a hamstring strain, although it’s minor. That could slow those guys down at the early portions of the week. I’ll quickly talk about the Bears. Obviously, there is a lot to talk about. They are 2-0. Offensively, they are doing an awesome job of possessing the ball. They are converting 50% of their third downs. Jay Cutler is a guy that makes it go for them. He is doing a nice job of administering their new offense and really is getting into it very comfortably. He has a 95.0 quarterback rating. He’s thrown five touchdowns. He spreads the ball around to Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett, a new acquisition at tight end. He has proven to be a difficult matchup because of his physical skill set. Those guys are doing a nice job of moving the chains, converting significant downs and scoring. On the ground, Forte is a man for all situations. He is good in the run game. He is good in the passing game. He is good on blitz pickup. I think their gun-running game is really good. They’ve done a nice job thus far of keeping teams off balance in terms of some of the things they are trying to do in the passing game with their gun-running game. Defensively, schematically, they are tried and tested, a 4-3 team. They have some guys that have played in that system for a very long time, like we have guys here that have played for a very long time. When you have that type of continuity, you have an opportunity to play great. Guys like Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings at cornerback are splash play-capable guys. Both guys have produced plays this year and have produced plays in the past. They are savvy veterans with experience in that system. Lance Briggs is probably as experienced as any 4-3 will in football, and has played in that system for a long time. He is a very good player. Obviously up front they have some talented people. Stephen Paea is playing really good ball, and Julius Peppers is always someone to contend with. They play a multitude of people like a lot of 4-3 teams. Our work is going to be cut out for us. Their special teams unit is just that. It’s special for a lot of reasons, number-one being Devin Hester. You don’t have to turn the tape on to know what he is capable of. I think his reputation perceives him. But he continues to add to it. I put the game on from Sunday this morning. Boy, he flipped the field and created some advantageous field circumstances for their offense just this past week. We expect nothing but him being him. We have to manage the opportunities that we give him and be very thoughtful about what we do with our coverage teams, both from a kickoff standpoint and from a punting team standpoint. Their specialists, Robbie Gould and Adam Podlesh, are as solid as they come. Gould already has a 58-yarder this year. Podlesh was a highly regarded guy coming out of the University of Maryland. They got him in free agency. Again, they are 2-0. They’ve had two home games. They’ve executed well. They’ve done the things necessary to win close ballgames. I think both ballgames were inside of five or three points, with one game being decided by one point. You have to respect that. Our charge this week is to focus on us and the things that we are doing, and our mandatory, needed and continued improvement. We have to score more points. We can’t improve at the rate in which we did between Week 1 and Week 2. We can’t come out and score 11 points in this football game and expect to be successful. We have to do a good job of that. We have to continue to turn the stones over and look at the men we are utilizing, what we are asking them to do and put them in the most advantageous positions to succeed. We will do that. We are at the early portions of the week in that regard. I don’t have a lot of comments in regards to the division of labor or whose roles are going to be ascending or descending based on performances to this point. Obviously, we just got back. But we are open to all of those things, because we are open to changing the results of these football games. (Q: You said you were encouraged by some of the things you saw in the run game, particularly from Felix Jones. What are some of those things?) A: Specifically, I’m not looking for feel-goods. There’s not a lot to be encouraged about in terms of the run game. It’s been below the line and it was below the line last night. But I was encouraged by some of the things that Felix did, specifically – knowing when to bounce the ball to the perimeter, knowing when to stick his foot in the ground and get vertical and take what’s there, and when to challenge people. I thought he showed some natural run instincts and some things that are exciting and we can build from. (Q: Jonathan Dwyer had a 100-yard game against Cincinnati last year? Why wasn’t he utilized more?) A: He just wasn’t. We went into the game with a commitment to utilize Felix Jones and see what he was capable of. He had earned that and really with the opportunities that he was given, did a nice job representing himself. Obviously, when you’re snapping the ball in the mid-50’s the way we have over the last several games, you’re not converting third downs, you’re not getting enough snaps in general. You can talk about guys not being given an opportunity to show what they’re capable of doing, particularly those that don’t start or are not featured. I think the same could be said for Jonathan Dwyer in this game, or Felix Jones in the first game. When you’re not converting third downs and your snaps are in the mid-50’s, and included in that mid-50’s are no-huddle or two-minute-like scenarios, you’re talking about 30-35 snapped opportunities in the game. We’re just not getting enough snaps for anyone at this point to show what they’re capable of doing. So, when I speak about Jonathan not getting an opportunity or Felix not getting an opportunity in game one, it’s bigger than those guys just not getting an opportunity. It’s about what’s occurring when the ball is snapped and the fact that we’re not converting third downs and we’re limiting our opportunities because of it. (Q: You wanted to use Kelvin Beachum as a tight end. He didn’t seem to play much last night. Was that due to what the Bengals presented?) A: That, and us. Obviously, like I was just talking about in reference to Jonathan Dwyer, when you’re not establishing rhythm and earning first downs, you limit yourself in some opportunities and really his lack of play is a function of that. (Q: Is the trouble with the running game a matter of blown assignments a matter of execution or is it a matter of being out-physicaled by the defensive front?) A: I think it’s a little bit of all of those things and it can be at times. I think when guys are focused on details of their assignments sometimes they can lose a little energy and enthusiasm and get out-tempoed at the point. I think that’s occurred some and I do think sometimes we can do a better job of getting hats on hats. We’ve got a lot of young guys in there that we’re trying infuse and they need to get better in a hurry. They need to increase the rate of that improvement. We haven’t to this point, but I’m optimistic about our work moving forward. (Q: Is the trouble on third downs due to what is happening on first and second down?) A: Easily. Easily that’s scenario. If you just took a snap shot of the third down opportunities in the game, third-and-eight, third-and-nine, third-and-10, globally speaking, you’re not going to convert a lot of those or not going to convert those at the type of rate that’s going to allow you to be successful. When I’m talking about the Chicago Bears converting 50% of their third downs, it’s because largely they’re in manageable situations, third-and-medium if you will. We’ve got to get in more of those situations and largely because of what we do on first and second down. Obviously, we can’t be penalized. (Q: Re: Initial reaction to Fernando Velasco’s play last night:) A: I thought he was a positive contributor to our efforts. I thought he proved that he’s a professional. I loved his demeanor. It wasn’t too big for him. I thought he did a nice job of communicating for a guy who is new to us and the situation. A lot of things to build upon from that standpoint. (Q: ) A: (Q: There is a perception out there that the offense runs better in the no-huddle. Is that an accurate assessment?) A: I think it’s accurate based on what we’ve done to this point, but obviously sometimes when you get late in halves or late in games, you move the ball sometimes as a function of what defenses are doing or not doing. Obviously, when you pick the pace of the offense up, it limits what defenses can do from a personnel standpoint, from a communication standpoint, maybe even from a menu standpoint. But those things are short-lived. The reality is that we’ve got to get better offensively, and we’ve got to be able to function in all circumstances if we want to be able to have the type of balanced attack that we want and that we believe is going to help us win football games on a consistent basis. (Q: Saying that it’s short-lived, you don’t think it’s sustainable to go in no-huddle more or a majority of the time?) A: I don’t think it’s sustainable in the big picture of things. I think it’s an awesome weapon. I think it’s a sweeter service, if you will, that you can provide your offense in order to have balance. I think if you’re leaning heavily on it, obviously it’s going to be exposed in some form or fashion. (Q: On the end around to Jerricho Cotchery, was that a mix-up in personnel or was that a planned play?) A: It wasn’t a well-executed play. Obviously, we’re capable of using other people, but he was the guy in there at that time and they did a nice job of defending it. (Q: Has there been an unusual amount of mental errors? It looked like Ben and the receivers were not on the same page a lot.) A: No, it hasn’t been an exorbitant number of mental errors. Obviously, we haven’t had the type of success that we would have liked, and sometimes that creates frustration and strained communication, but not out of the ordinary in terms of miscommunication or mental errors. (Q: What did the tape show on the Marcus Gilbert trip?) A: It wasn’t a trip, but the reality is that sometimes those guys are going to miss calls or make incorrect calls. We’ve got to be good enough to overcome it, and last night we weren’t. We’re not going to utilize that poor call or inappropriate call as an excuse. The reality is that we need to be good enough to overcome those types of things as an offensive unit and as a football team, and we weren’t last night. (Q: Was that call made based upon “implied intent?” If he had rolled over and tripped the player without any intent they wouldn’t have called it, but in calling it you were implying intent.) A: You’d have to ask those guys regarding that. It wasn’t the correct call. (Q: When you get a letter from the league that apologizes for a call, what does that do for you? Does it just make you feel worse?) A: No, it does very little to be honest with you. I don’t have to wait for a phone call or a letter to know about that call. That’s just football. These officials do a great job. They work their tails off. They’re not going to be perfect. My charge as a coach is to make sure we’re the type of team that’s capable of overcoming those misfortunate or unfortunate calls or circumstances, and last night we were not. (Q: What you said about Heath not coming out of a phone booth, were you referencing coming out to save your offense or were you referencing coming out of the phone booth to play?) A: Both. (Q: Ryan Clark said last night that if things aren’t shored up this team may not win a game. Do you feel things are that dire?) A: I think that’s the appropriate mentality to have. Maybe that’s overstated, but that’s the appropriate mentality to have because we have yet to win a football game. I’m singularly focused on this next opportunity. I always have been and I always will be. (Q: You’ve never been 0-2 or two games under .500. What do you change?) A: Nothing. Nothing in terms of how we approach our overall readiness in an effort to put our best group out there and give ourselves a chance to win. We’re not going to push the panic button. We’re going to continue to work and continue to get better, like I said last night and said earlier in this session, there were things that were better. There was more positivity. There was less negativity. It didn’t show significantly on the scoreboard, and it needs to do that. That’s what this week’s work is going to be about for us. (Q: How much input do you have in putting together an offensive game plan? And, would you step in if you saw something that you wanted to change?) A: I answered that last week, and I’ve answered it in the past. I’ll continue to answer it in the same way. I’m highly involved and have no problem stepping in and intervening when I see fit, and do. (Q: Has there been a problem with the play calling?) A: There’s been a problem with our functioning. There’s been a problem with our production. There’s been a problem with our points. You can point to whatever you want to point to in regards to that, and obviously if the plays aren’t working well then we’re susceptible to that that judgment. I’m not going to lose a whole bunch of sleep over that. I’m not going to lose a whole bunch of sleep over any of that. What I am focused on is what we’re doing and the manner in which we’re doing it, who we’re doing it with and working within those confines to improve it. (Q: Despite the numbers, was the pressure on the quarterback decent in your view?) A: Under the circumstances, I thought it was improved but not good enough to win the football game. (Q: Was Shaun Suisham able to get through the game without any issues?) A: Yes. I was pleased with his return and performance. I thought he did a nice job for us. (Q: The heel contusion that Jarvis Jones suffered, did that keep him on the sidelines, or did he get all the snaps that you wanted him to get?) A: We were rotating him and we’ll continue to do so with Jason Worilds. He’s playing not only defense, but some quality special teams for us. He’s on kickoff, he’s on punt and doing a nice job in all the things that we’ve asked him to do to this point. (Q: Re: Cortez Allen’s status:) A: He hasn’t been evaluated yet today. We’re optimistic about his participation, but obviously that will be determined based on how he looks during the course of the work week. (Q: This is now eight games that you haven’t rushed for 100 yards. What are the problems?) A: How many games? (Q: Eight. Going back to last year.) A: I don’t go back to last year. (Q: Then in two games, you haven’t rushed for 100 yards. What are the problems?) A: The problems are many. Like we talked about, we lacked detail, we lacked finish, hats-on-hats at times – it’s popcorn. And not to say that with a discouraged mind state, I just say that’s a part of things when you’re not functioning well. We’re capable of fixing these things, and we can’t overreact. We can’t worry about things that are outside of our control. If each man continues to work and function better within the space in which he’s working, I believe that we’re a capable of improving these things. (Q: How did the two inside linebackers do? Was either one responsible for the last Cincinnati touchdown?) A: I thought they had their moments. I think there are obviously opportunities for growth with both men. We’ll continue to work with those guys. Specifically, with the last touchdown, we dropped the coverage there and it was miscommunication. They had a motion pre-snap, and we didn’t do a good job of adjusting and playing from there. But that’s life this time of year. We’re capable of overcoming that, and obviously in this game we did not. But specifically in regards to the contributions of Kion Wilson and Vince Williams, I like where they are, and I like where they’re going. (Q: There was a lot of 11 personnel. Was one of the thoughts coming into the game that you’d try to spread Cincinnati out and run the ball out of the 11 personnel package?) A: We’re going to try to have balance and do both. Obviously, we thought the strength of our offensive attack was our quarterback and potentially our receivers. It didn’t unfold in the manner in which we’d like. We were going to infuse the run game into that. Not enough of that. But largely, like I said earlier, when you’re not converting third downs and you’re only snapping the ball in the low-to-mid 50’s there are a lot of things that you can look back at and say you wish you could do differently in the football game offensively. (Q: Re: The Paulson fumble and how your players are supposed to react to the ball on the ground:) A: Obviously, Paulson didn’t think he fumbled. I think his mannerisms and his body actions indicated that. We had some guys hustling up to the line of scrimmage that maybe thought the ball was out. The fact that it was ruled not a fumble on the field and David’s response at the end of the play led us to believe that it was not. By the time that we had confirmation that it was, they did as well and they were able to challenge the play. (Q: It looked like you had some guys rushing up to the line and it looked like there was sub-package coming in.) A: There were a number of people on the field that maybe saw it and saw that it was potentially a fumble. Obviously, a number of us on the sideline including myself did not have that perspective. And David’s physical response to the end of the play would lead you to believe that it was not a fumble if you did not see it come out. (Q: Recent history says 0-3 and you don’t make the playoffs. Do you feel like this is practically a playoff game coming up?) A: I haven’t looked at it from that big of a picture. I’m largely looking at just preparing for this opportunity and working to win this opportunity versus the Chicago Bears. (Q: How would you evaluate your offensive tackles?) A: They need improvement in terms of their quality of play, like a lot of us. (Q: Do you see an opportunity for growth for Derek Moye?) A: I do. He was one of those guys that was a bright spot for us. He has an obvious skill set from a stature standpoint. We called upon him, and he delivered. There’s no need to underscore that. That’s something to build upon. Hopefully given the opportunity, he will continue to do so. (Q: Is there a reason Markus Wheaton hasn’t been called upon more? Do you like what you see from him?) A: I like what I am getting from him. He has played some. He hasn’t been a target a lot. Hopefully that will increase as we move forward. Much like some of the other discussions, when you are snapping the ball in the low-to-mid 50s, you can pick a guy and talk about his lack of exposure or opportunities to contribute positively to our efforts. We aren’t just getting enough balls snapped or offensive snaps, and it’s due to our inability to execute, particularly on third downs. Some of it has to do with the nature of those third downs that we are in. (Q: If Miller comes back this week, does that give your whole offense a settling feeling or security blanket?) A: No. Obviously, he is a good player and is going to be a positive contributor to our efforts when he comes back. But we aren’t sitting around holding our breath waiting for him to come back. That’s not the nature in which we are approaching this thing. The guys that are ready to play and are healthy are preparing to do so and are capable. If he is one of them, great. If he is not, we will continue to work. (Q: Re: Your player’s response post-game and today:) A: The guys that I had an opportunity to visit with expressed their response, which is frustration. I acknowledge that is natural. I am less concerned with the emotions regarding the outcome of games and more concerned about our preparation, and ultimately our play. That’s where my focus is. That’s where it needs to be.
Press conference22LL
Good afternoon. There are a lot of things to discuss today. I’ll start with a quick review of our performance from Sunday. Much like I said after the game, obviously it wasn’t good enough of a performance. Not all bad but obviously not good enough. I thought in the midst of it, as miserable as it was at times, we had opportunities. We didn’t capitalize on them. I thought we were an explosion play or two away from really being in the game. We had a couple balls thrown down the field that we weren’t able to convert. I thought we had an opportunity on the onside kick. We had a couple balls tipped up in the air on defense that kind of fell harmlessly to the ground on third-down stops. Their punter had a great day, so on the next snap, the ball went plus 45 yards down the field. I thought we needed a short field, under the circumstances. They got a short field. They had a turnover in the game and got the ball at midfield. That was the drive that they were able to score a touchdown on. In games like that, usually that’s the difference. Again, not good enough. We lacked detail in some areas, particularly in situational football. Oftentimes, that’s the difference between getting out of a stadium or not when the situation is less than ideal. From a personnel standpoint, we had three major injuries in the game that we are dealing with. Maurkice Pouncey will have surgery on Thursday. LaRod Stephens-Howling will have surgery tomorrow on his knee. Larry Foote had surgery on his bicep this morning. Those guys were replaced on our roster by Fernando Velasco. He’s an interior offensive lineman that spent a lot of time with Tennessee. He was a 13-game starter last year at center for those guys. Shayne Graham is a kicking option for us. Shaun Suisham sustained a hamstring injury in the game. It’s not a significant one. He has a chance. We are going to work him out at the latter part of the week to determine his availability. In the meanwhile, we will work with Graham. I think the extra day of work is going to help us in some of these areas. We were able to reacquire Jonathan Dwyer to replace Stephens-Howling. We will get him back into the fold. It’s a positive when you can add somebody that knows your culture and knows what it is that you are doing schematically. He will be a quick plug-in there. Some other injury news, Heath Miller will continue to work his way back. We will increase his work this week, and we will really have a better understanding of where he is after a full day’s work on Wednesday. Cortez Allen has an ankle injury that he sustained in the game. Obviously, he didn’t finish the game. We will watch him this week. He won’t work at the beginning portions of the week, but we will try to increase his activity towards the end of the week and see where it takes us. Le’Veon Bell is continuing to work his way back. I haven’t gotten an update as of yet in terms of what he is doing today, but we will be interested in seeing what he is capable of doing, particularly as the week goes on. Looking at the Cincinnati Bengals, obviously we are familiar with them, and they are familiar with us. They are coming off of a road loss last week. This is their first home game. On offense, Andy Dalton provides great stability at the quarterback position. I don’t think he can be considered a young guy anymore. He is very efficient with the football. I think his [completion percentage] was at 78% last weekend. He makes great decisions, and he makes quick decisions. His number-one target is A.J. Green. We have to contend with him. I think he had nine receptions for 150 or so yards last week with a couple of touchdowns. He is tall, fast and quick. He has all the elements that make him a dangerous receiver. He can get big on you down the field. He has good stop-and-go quickness for someone of his stature. He is going to be a matchup issue for us. We have to be conscious of where he is at all times and what he is capable of doing, in terms of stretching the field. Their tight end position is an interesting one that you have to match up with. They have two first-round picks in Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. They use them in a variety of ways, a part of the core and displaced from the core. Eifert, in particular, he did a lot of that at Notre Dame. He is not a fish out of water in that regard. You have some personnel decisions in regards to defending them, because of their flexibility. In the backfield, they have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who is a very stable and consistent runner with great ball security. They have a young, talented rookie in Giovani Bernard out of North Carolina that they are very excited about. They have solid contributors up front, Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth at tackle are stable guys for them. Kevin Zeitler has been around. He’s a promising right guard for them. Defensively, this is where some critical matchups are for us, not only because of our present circumstances, but also because of the talent and cohesion that they have with that group, not only from a personnel standpoint but schematically with Coach Zimmer. The guys up front really kind of make them go. It starts inside and up front with Geno Atkins. He is disruptive. He plays with a great motor. He plays with great pad level. They isolate him on centers and guards. He had very productive games against us a year ago. We have to be very conscious of where he is and work to neutralize him, not only in the passing game but in the running game. He is a tough guy to cut off on the back side of runs. He is a tough guy to zone-block on the front side of runs. He is just a very disruptive force and a good football player, not only for them but globally. Their ends are similar guys in that they are long, linear, they get on the edge and they both play extremely hard. I’m talking about Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. They create blocking issues for tight ends because of their size and length. Obviously, they are capable rush men, guys that play extremely hard. They supplement the guys that I mentioned with a deep group of guys that have played a lot of football, whether it’s Robert Geathers, Domata Peko or others. Like most 4-3 teams, they play with a number of people, and they do a nice job of doing it. At linebacker, Vontaze Burfict is their guy that’s a man for all situations. He doesn’t come off the field anymore. He played a lot for them as a young guy. You see the continued evolution of his game. He is a consistent competitor in the run game and the pass game. They acquired James Harrison. We know his skill set, what he is capable of and his mindset in regards to playing football. We better be sharp in terms of how we deal with him. They do a lot of things with him in base, and they even do some things with him in nickel, which is kind of different than the man he replaced. You didn’t see Manny Lawson that much in sub-package football. You will see James. Their secondary is a solid one. Leon Hall is the leader of that group. He is a top-notch corner, not only on the outside but on the inside. He made a significant play in the game here late in the season last year, intercepting a ball and running it back to give them a score. I think that was their only touchdown. He is a dangerous man. Reggie Nelson does a lot for them at free safety. He is in the middle of the field. He comes down and covers people as well. He is very good in the blitz game, and they utilize him in that way as well. On special teams, I think their punter, Kevin Huber, is off to a great start. He had a 48-yard net a week ago, 48-yard nets usually produce winners. He is doing a nice job. Adam Jones, as a punt returner, is somebody that we legitimately have to contend with and work to minimize, particularly from a space standpoint, in terms of limiting the amount of space he has in the middle of the field with the ball in his hands. (Q: Who will make the calls on defense?) A: Lawrence Timmons. Again, in regards to some of these things, it’s less significant than maybe it has been in the past because of the coach to player communication. We’ll follow the same protocol that we followed in the past. Lawrence will just have the radio in his [helmet] and we’ll communicate with him like we did in the latter part of the football game. (Q: Can Velasco get up to speed? Do you plan on starting him at center?) A: As we prepare right now, Beachum is going to be our starting center and we’re in the process of learning what Fernando is capable of in terms of details, the learning of assignments, not only him but Cody Wallace as well. (Q: Are you looking at adding a linebacker? If not, who will fill start?) A: Kion Wilson will fill-in as he did in the football game on Sunday. Right now, that position is being held by Shayne Graham, obviously because of the minor injury to Shaun Suisham. (Q: Is Dwyer right back in the mix in terms of being a significant contributor this week?) A: That depends on his dependability, his ability to get up to speed with the game plan and things. He’s been away from us for a couple weeks now. Obviously, I don’t anticipate that being a major problem but we’ll play it by ear and see how he looks on the practice field and in the classroom. (Q: Was it a mistake to let Dwyer go?) A: Like I said last week, we kept the guys that we kept because of the things they did, not because of the things Jonathan didn’t do. We were encouraged by the versatility of LaRod Stephens-Howling and what he’s able to do in spread packages and in the passing game. Obviously, he got hurt. That presented an opportunity to bring what we believe is a capable NFL player back. Thankfully for us, no one acquired him. Really, that’s the story in regards to running backs and Jonathan’s leaving and Jonathan’s return. (Q: What does Felix Jones have to show you before he can be more of an option moving forward?) A: He just needs to continue to learn. Obviously, he hasn’t been here as long as some of the others, being picked up late in the preseason. We got in some circumstances within the game, particularly as the game wore on, where we were down by two scores, we had to pick the pace of the offense up. Some of that requires non-verbal communications. We just thought it would be more sound to go with guys that have been around here longer and that have executed some of the things we were executing situationally better. (Q: If you were to do it again, would you still use that timeout at 2:02 in the fourth quarter or would you try to save it for the defensive side of the ball?) A: I thought that was significant. I thought it gave us another play. Obviously, we didn’t score quickly enough after that timeout. If I had to do it over, I would probably use that timeout in an effort to produce an extra play in the midst of the game. But, the thing that really kind of destroyed that sequence for us is that we took several plays – it was fourth down before we scored there in the red area and obviously that was significant moments and time off of the clock. (Q: What happened on the Redman fumble with the wrong personnel package in? Was there a thought to use a timeout there?) A: We were capable of using a timeout there but we felt comfortable that in the midst of the personnel issues, we were going to be able to get the play off functionally. Time was not an issue in regards to the execution of the play. Obviously, we’re not looking to turn the ball over and we did. It was a double whammy because it was a double situation. It was a third-down situation and it was in the red area. It cost us definitive points. It was unfortunate, but the miscommunication prior to the snap had very little to do with the execution of the snap. If we had any level of discomfort with that, we would have used a timeout. (Q: Will Heath Miller be involved in team stuff this week?) A: Yes, but that will be determined as the week goes on. As I sit here today, I’m comfortable with saying we’re going to increase his workload and we’ll play it by ear from there. (Q: Having Timmons making the calls and having either Wilson or someone else in there, does that restrict Timmons and keep him at the Buck primarily? Does that limit what he can do?) A: Because he is calling the signals doesn’t mean that he’ll be playing Buck. He’s capable of calling signals from Mack like he did in that football game. (Q: How much of the struggles on the offensive line can be attributed to Beachum taking over for Pouncey versus guys just not getting their assignments done?) A: We didn’t play well. Not only in the offensive line, but just as an offensive unit or as a football team. That’s something that we have to accept and embrace. The good thing about the NFL is redemption Sunday, or Monday in this instance, is only a short number of days away. Obviously, losing Maurkice Pouncey was a blow to the group, not only in terms of what he’s capable of, but emotionally, the manner in which it happened. Hopefully, we’ll put those things behind us and execute at a high level, a winning level. You think back to 12 months ago, we were without Maurkice Pouncey in that football game. I think Doug Legursky started for us at center. We’ve got a week to prepare. We’re comfortable with the men that we’re working with. We’ll use that time to prepare and there will be no excuses in regards to how we perform. (Q: How much input do you like to have in the offensive and defensive game plans for the week? During the games, do you ever hesitate to order changes?) A: I’m very involved in all three phases and I won’t hesitate under any circumstances in all three phases in game, and do. (Q: How much of a loss was Stephens-Howling?) A: It was a significant one in that football game because of what we had prepared for him. But, it’s less significant as we prepare for this game, obviously, because we can make the necessary adjustments and preparation. But in that game, it was a significant one because we had hoped to utilize him. (Q: Re: Playing against James Harrison and his ability to do things in the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet:) A: James is one of those guys and not just specifically in that game because it’s one performance and we’re talking about a guy that has a decade body of work, if you will. James is a guy that can have a positive effect on the outcome of the game, regardless of whether or not he registers statistics because of the nature in which he plays. People feed off of his energy. He’s a very physical guy and I think that’s something that’s contagious. (Q: Watching the game tape, were there any positives to take away from Sunday?) A: Obviously there were. It wasn’t all bad. I liked the way we started the game from a third-down standpoint. I think we converted three or four third downs in that first possession prior to turning the ball over. I liked some of the things that we were able to do defensively. They ran the ball on us quite a bit. They snapped the ball 42 times and ran it, which is a good thing for them, but is also a good thing for us when you’ve got an explosive back like Chris Johnson is. Their longest run was 11 yards and they were at about 2.7 [yards] per carry. So, I liked the overall run stopping ability of the defense. We had our chances at the end of the game. We had an opportunity to get the ball at the end of the game. We didn’t do it. All of those things are things to build from I think. (Q: The onside kick looked like it was a near miss for Chris Carter. Is there anything you’d like to see him do differently?) A: I’d like to see him get the ball. We were in a two-on-one situation right there. Their veteran special teamer Wilson came up with the football. We had two guys right there at the point. (Q: Is Jason Worilds still your starter at right outside linebacker?) A: Like we did in that game, all of those guys are going to play. I thought Jarvis did some nice things. I thought Jason did some nice things. We’re going to continue to look at that group and utilize all three guys, the third guy, of course, being LaMarr Woodley. (Q: Was Jarvis Jones on any type of two-on, one-off rotation? Or was he just kind of in there by feel?) A: There was rotation but there was also the ability to adjust the rotation. I don’t want to say definitively that it was two-on and one-off. It was a snap count, if you will. (Q: What did you think of the play of Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden? They got some more snaps on defense with the injury to Cortez Allen?) A: I thought they did a solid job, but equally as important, I thought both guys did a solid job in the kicking game. Shamarko had a punt team tackle. I think Robert Golden had two punt team tackles as our personal protector. Our backup defenders are just that. They need to be capable of stepping it up and contributing defensively. They did that, but more importantly they need to be key cogs in our special teams unit. I think those two guys fit the bill. (Q: Do you take any solace in the fact that the rest of the division lost so you’re sort of right back where you were?) A: I don’t. (Q: This is supposed to be a very competitive division. Do you make anything of the fact that the other three teams lost too?) A: I don’t. (Q: Re: The Pouncey injury play:) A: It’s just one of the unfortunate elements of football. We’re working a zone scheme block against their interior defensive lineman and Maurkice was trying to escape and work his way to the second level. The defensive lineman did a good job of not allowing that to happen and holding Maurkice there at the line of scrimmage. As David worked to get his head in front of the defensive lineman and execute a legal block he contacted Maurkice. You see things like that happen from time to time. You never want it to happen but you acknowledge that it’s part of the game. A year ago, David DeCastro was injured in a similar circumstance when Marcus Gilbert fell into him. A week before that, David Johnson was hurt in the preseason in Philadelphia in a similar circumstance. It happens in football. You won’t accept it, you don’t like it, but you acknowledge that it’s a part of the game. (Q: Are you a proponent of the league changing the rule where you’re allowed to cut block within the parameters of the line of scrimmage and get rid of that?) A: No, I like the rule as it is. I think the game is competitive. I’m not one to buy into wholesale changes in terms of the game of football. I like to proceed slowly in that regard and to look at the byproducts of rule changes and how it might affect the game largely, as opposed to looking at the direct result of rule changes. (Q: Re: Not throwing the challenge flag on the non-catch by Emmanuel Sanders:) A: I got a good look at it. It was right in front of us. He has to maintain possession of that ball through contact with the ground, and he didn’t. (Q: Re: Possibly dressing eight offensive linemen:) A: We will decide that at the latter portions of the week. That’s nothing we have to decide at the early portions of the week, because all guys working will be viable options for us. We will look at who gets a hat and who doesn’t at the eleventh hour when it’s appropriate. (Q: How do you approach the team after a performance like that? Is it anger and volume or is more of a teaching moment?) A: It’s all of the above. It’s whatever the group needs. I think all of us as coaches, not only here but at any level, our job is to provide the guys with what it is that they need to perform with. In some instances, it is both. (Q: How important is it to have an effective running game? Or can you spread the field and use short passes as your running game?) A: I think a consistent running game is really important, not only to be good offensively, but to strike a balance. We haven’t been able to do that to this point. Obviously, we are working hard to do so. (Q: Do you still have confidence in Isaac Redman as a starter?) A: Absolutely. Obviously, he played a bad game. A lot of us did. He will be given an opportunity to redeem himself. We will see where that takes us. (Q: Re: Zoltan Mesko:) A: I thought he was solid. I would like to see a little bit better placement in some of our directional stuff, but his distance and hang time was above the line. (Q: Did you get a chance to see Chip Kelly’s new offense? Any first impressions?) A: I did not.
Press conference17LL
Good afternoon. I am excited about the start of the 2013 season for us against the Tennessee Titans. Preparation has already begun. We had a very productive day here at the South Side facility yesterday. We had a bonus-type day. We introduced some core things regarding our plan, introducing our guys to the matchups and significant matchups that could be important in terms of determining the outcome of the game. We also made some roster moves. I’d like to outline a few of them. We acquired Zoltan Mesko, a punter from New England. He is a high-pedigree guy, one that was highly regarded out of Michigan, a fifth-round pick. He’s a long guy, a left-footer. He is no stranger to the elements, having kicked in New England in the professional ranks and at the University of Michigan in college. He is an Ohio native. All those things were attractive to us. We are excited about getting him into the fold and him being a reason why we are successful here this weekend and beyond. We also picked up a special teams guy, Antwon Blake, from Jacksonville. He has upside as a defender. He has great speed. But really he has earned his keep to this point in the NFL as a quality special teams player. He’s made some quality plays for those guys down there last year. We will continue to compare the bottom side of our roster versus the field, like all teams do at this time of year. You would like to think that it would get off on a fluid manner in terms of the 53 [man roster] but that’s just not the reality of today’s NFL. There are a lot of quality players out there. We are in the process of evaluating them, and yesterday we acquired a couple of them. Also on that front, yesterday we voted for and elected our captains for the 2013 season, men that I think will represent us well. Obviously, beyond these four men, we have some high-quality leaders, and I expect leadership from all of those that understand what we are doing here and are capable. The captains are Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Keisel, Ryan Clark, a first-timer, along with Maurkice Pouncey. I am happy for them. I am proud of those men, and I look forward to watching those guys lead us into battle this year. Onto the Titans, I’ll start offensively. Jake Locker, their quarterback, is a third-year man and a first-rounder. He has been with them for that length of time. We didn’t see him last year. He is a talented guy. He has tremendous arm strength and great mobility. He has escapability. He’s good at moving in the pocket. He is also good in terms of some of the designed misdirections that are associated with the passing game, bootlegs and otherwise. He can create as the pocket deteriorates. He can buy time. He can also do it with his legs. He has proven that already in the preseason, and last year, it was a significant part of some of the things that they did, particularly on third downs. You have to be ready for designed quarterback runs and things of that nature. I’d imagine they’ve worked some on the read option, stuff that is in vogue in today’s NFL, because he definitely has the skill set to do so. The running game starts with Chris Johnson. He is one of the best in the business and has been for a number of years. We’ve had our battles with him. The thing about stopping him, and a lot is talked about his speed, and believe me, he’s as fast as anybody in football at any level, but his lateral quickness and bursts, added to that, is what makes him extremely dangerous. He is very patient. He has good vision. He can cut back. He is a D-to-D type player as we call it in the business. He is capable of putting the ball anywhere and does. We have our hands full there. Every time the ball snaps, we have to be prepared to get 11 guys to the ball in an effort to stop him. They’ve added Shonn Greene from the N.Y. Jets to supplement him. This is a physical, downhill runner, a guy that appears to be comfortable in the role that they’ve prescribed for him. He’s already showing signs of the type of complement that they need to Chris Johnson. We are familiar with him but not in this setting. Their offensive line, they have a veteran tackle group that has been around a number of years. They are not new to us but their guard tandem is. Chance Warmack is a first-rounder out of Alabama, an All-American and highly regarded. Andy Levitre, from the Buffalo Bills, is a guy that they picked up in free agency that is a really good professional football player. He has proven that. At tight end, they’ve added Delanie Walker in free agency. He’s solid both in the run and pass. He really prides himself in terms of finishing in the run game from a blocking standpoint. He plays with good, natural leverage. We better be prepared to deal with him. Their receiving corps is a talented bunch. Nate Washington, we are familiar with from a number of years ago. He has put together a nice career down there. Kenny Britt is a big former first-rounder out of Rutgers. He is a tough guy to get on the ground. He is big and strong. He is 6-3, 225. He runs like it once he gets the ball. He has a strong stiff arm. We better be close to him when he gets it in order to increase our chances to get him on the ground consistently. They have a former first-rounder from Baylor, Kendall Wright. He is another wide receiver. They have a talented, young rookie out of Tennessee, Justin Hunter. He also creates some size issue matchups. He is a 6-4 guy with great speed. He is also a great leaper. You have to respect what he is capable of in that regard. You can’t talk about their offensive weapons without talking about Rob Bironas, their kicker. He is one of the most accurate guys in the history of the NFL. He is always a big-time asset to them in that regard. On defense, up front, they are a four-down group. They play a lot of people. They play with great motors. They get multiple people to the ball. The most impressive guy to me from their preseason tape is Jurrell Casey, a third-year man from Southern California. Man, he is disruptive. He penetrates. He creates mayhem in the backfield in the run game. He is ball-aware and is doing good things in terms of rushing the passer in the passing game. He appears to be a really good player. He is supplemented by Sammie Hill, who they picked up in free agency. Mike Martin is a rotational interior player along with Karl Klug. Derrick Morgan is on the outside. He is a guy that leads the charge for that group. In the linebacking group, Akeem Ayers has been in the program for a number of years out of UCLA. He is an all-down and all-situational linebacker. He is good on his feet. He is also good in terms of rushing, whether it’s in the interior or off the edge. He has a unique skill set in that he can do a lot of things for them defensively. And they ask him to. Probably the biggest acquisition for them on defense is Bernard Pollard at strong safety. We know what kind of player he is. He is a quality player. But he is also the type of player that infuses a certain type of enthusiasm into a defense that I think is helpful to any group. He plays with a great demeanor and passion. He appears to be a natural leader. I expected that group would follow him from that standpoint. They have some other known commodities back there, Jason McCourty, Michael Griffin, who has been there probably seven years or so. On special teams, they have a good core group. Former Pittsburgh Steeler, Patrick Bailey, is a good player on their coverage units. Darius Reynaud is a dual-threat return man. He had three returns last year, two punt returns and a kickoff return. We have to be rock solid there. That’s going to be the story for us over the course of the season. I’m talking about top-quality return men. We get started with one that is extremely hot and had a great season last year. Those things and others are a lot of reasons for us to be excited and focused in terms of how we work. I am excited about pushing toward game day with this group. Along those lines I will talk about some injury notes. Will Johnson is nursing a hamstring injury. He is participating partially. He did so yesterday. He will continue to do so. We will leave the light on for him and make a determination regarding his availability at the latter part of the week. I think that is appropriate. Same thing for Jarvis Jones. He participated yesterday. He is feeling good. We will see where he is at the end of the week. Heath Miller did individual drills yesterday after he was pulled off the PUP List. We will keep a close eye on him. I think, not only in terms of what he does, but how his body responds to it, is going to be an indicator of his readiness. We will monitor that day-to-day but he did work in a partial capacity yesterday to kind of get started. Isaac Redman has a clean bill of health and he is ready to go. Le’Veon Bell is out of his boot and he’s started some activity. He probably can be characterized as out this week, not necessarily from a health standpoint, but young guys like him have to practice in order to be able to participate. At the very best, he would be a partial participant this week. We are going to prepare those others that are closer to health and with better experience in terms of helping us win the game this weekend. Matt Spaeth is still out. But all other nagging injuries and bumps and bruises are very positive. We look forward to having a great practice to start our fundamental week tomorrow. (Q: Does Zoltan Mesko hold? Do you plan to use him in that role? If so, do you have any concerns about very little preparation time with Shaun Suisham?) A: He does hold. He has held in New England. There guy has been one of the most consistent guys in the NFL during the time period that he was there. I’m not overly concerned about it. Shaun Suisham is not a high-maintenance kicker from that standpoint. I think he has already had three holders in the short period of time that he’s been here, due to instability at our punting position. We’re going to work at it this week. Obviously, we’re going to give it its due diligence, but not something that’s overly worrisome. Mesko is a professional and that’s one of the reasons why we acquired him. (Q: Brian Rolle and Marshall McFadden were running with the second team during the preseason. Did something happen in the last preseason game that caused them to lose a roster spot?) A: I wouldn’t characterize those guys as running with the second team, to be honest with you. We mixed and matched a lot of people. We rolled a pool of about five inside linebackers that were working. Sometimes we wanted to see them with two’s. Sometimes, of course, if you don’t you see them with threes. That really wasn’t an indication of their position. (Q: Will Isaac Redman be the starter Sunday?) A: He will, and we know what Isaac is capable of. He’s answered the bell for us in the past and we expect him to do it in a big way moving forward starting this weekend. (Q: Re: Kickoff return rotation:) A: Yes, we’re going to start the kickoff return with LaRod Stephens-Howling and, of course, [Felix] Jones will also be back there with him. And in the punt return game, we’ll have Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton. (Q: Have you thought about a rotation at running back? Will you spell Redman with Felix Jones?) A: Yeah, obviously we’re going to spell Isaac. We haven’t detailed the rotation or the nature of the rotation at this point. But, obviously, we’re going to have some guys in uniform that we believe are capable of helping us that have a unique skill set. LaRod Stephens-Howling has proven that he’s a capable back for us situationally. He did some third-down things in the Carolina game and, obviously, we’re continuing to get to know Felix. We like his natural run instincts. We’re going to continue to work those guys this week and sharpen that up as we get closer to game time. (Q: Was there something beyond football that led to Jonathan Dwyer’s release?) A: No, really it was about what we thought the other guys could give us. Obviously, we drafted and acquired Le’Veon Bell in the second round and he has that type of pedigree. Isaac Redman has done some nice things situationally for us, short yardage and goal line. LaRod Stephens-Howling has some really consistent hands and showed some third-down capabilities and Felix Jones has a first-round pedigree. He quickly proved that he can do some positive things, in terms of running the football and placing the ball where it’s supposed to go. We base our decisions based on what we see and what guys do. We like the guys that we kept and really our focus is on those guys. (Q: Was Cody Wallace’s ability to play center the reason for bringing him in?) A: Really, it’s the chief reason why he’s here. He’s a known commodity from a professional football standpoint, in terms of snapping the ball. He’s also guard-capable. This is a guy who was a three-year starter at Texas A&M as a center and has been in the league with several different teams in that capacity. He’s a sharp guy, he’s got good quickness. We believe he’s going to be a positive asset to our group. (Q: Do you expect to see any sort of change in preparation now that you are in the regular-season and the winless preseason is over?) A: Not in terms of the preparation. I like our preparation. Obviously, preseason is preseason and I’m not going to delve too much into that. It will be irrelevant in about four days. We are focused on what is going to be required for us to do to win this weekend. We’re going to take a business-like approach to it like we did in the preseason. (Q: Do you expect to see a similar scheme defensively? Do you think Gregg Williams has an influence on what they’re going to do?) A: I’m sure they didn’t bring in Gregg Williams to hold cards. I’ve looked at the old New Orleans game from a few years ago. They had some good pressure packages and some success, particularly, on third down in that game on us. Gregg Williams is Gregg Williams. Everybody in this business knows what he’s capable of, knows what he brings to a defense, the mentality that he brings, the schematics that he brings. But Jerry Gray is also an experienced and capable coordinator. To be honest with you, we’re preparing ourselves to work against both of those men. Those guys have worked together in the past, so I’m sure it’s not anything that’s uncomfortable for them in any way. We’ve got to be on our toes. They’re going to be a formidable group to deal with. (Q: Could you talk about the depth along your defensive line?) A: Sure. We feel very good about Cam Heyward. I think he’s had a very good preseason and training camp. We’re going to feature him in some sub-package football. You’ll see him out there in the game. He’s going to play in a manner in which he’s played in the past. He’s going to get a number of snaps. Al Woods is a guy that we think is continually evolving and has really done some nice things, not only at end but he’s also worked at nose. [Hebron] Fangupo is a guy that we’re excited about at the nose guard position. He’s shown to be very strong and stout, and has got a unique motor for his body type in terms of hustling and running to the football and showing range. We’re excited about that group. (Q: Brett Keisel and Isaac Redman talked about the Tennessee game last year as an opportunity lost. At any point during the offseason, did you have exchanges with your players about seizing the memories of those games and using that as motivation this year?) A: Not really. It would be disrespectful to them to characterize that game as one that got away. They beat us, just like everybody else that beat us. We don’t live in the past, to be honest with you. We learn from it. We understand that it’s part of the fuel moving forward, but we’ve had enough things in ’13 to talk about, issues regarding this group and its development and the challenges that await us. I’m sure those guys were just responding, potentially, to questions in that regard. I believe that this group is one that is singularly focused, and rightly so, on the things that it needs to be, and that’s the challenges of 2013 and, specifically, the Tennessee Titans this week. (Q: Was the preseason enough for the young guys to get that experience under the lights?) A: No, it wasn’t. But, we’re out of opportunities. [Laughs] Sometimes you can’t get enough looks at young guys and they can’t get enough snaps and experience. That’s why the sense of urgency regarding the work that they do get is very important. But, that’s in our rear-view now. It’s now or never, ready or not, and I’m sure those guys are excited about having an opportunity to contribute to us. (Q: As of today, who is your starter and tight end, and what does that position look like?) A: Much like we’ve done through the majority of the preseason, specifically the third preseason game, that’s going to be a committee-oriented group based on their skill sets. I think that’s an appropriate way to do it. We have Kelvin Beachum who is an offensive tackle that is capable in that area. David Johnson continues to work his way back and I like the direction in which he’s moving. Obviously David Paulson has distinguished himself through the preseason in the passing game. I’m sure you’re going to see all of those guys, and then some. We also like Mike Palmer. Mike Palmer is a guy with NFL experience and got on a moving train, if you will, in terms of when he came to us, but really quickly proved that he’s an NFL-capable guy and made NFL-quality plays throughout the preseason. (Q: You said you wouldn’t get Le’Veon Bell ready just to be a partial participant. Would you get Heath Miller ready to be a partial participant?) A: Really, it’s just going to be determined by how he responds to the work that we give him. Like I said earlier, he worked yesterday and we’ll continue to work him and see how his body responds to that work and let that be our guide as we make the decision later in the week. (Q: Do you plan on rotating your outside linebackers – LaMarr Woodley, Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones?) A: Jones is going to play. (Q: So, Woodley might come out on some snaps?) A: Yes. (Q: How about at safety? ) A: No, we’re going to stay with those guys. (Q: No Shamarko Thomas? ) A: No, they’re going to play a little teams though. (Q: Does Worilds start?) A: Yes. (Q: With the IR-designate opening up at four today, can you talk about your approach to that? Is Matt Spaeth a candidate to go on that?) A: Spaeth is an option there, yes. (Q: Does Troy Polamalu look as good as he has looked in a few years?) A: He’s had a good preseason. I really don’t compare him to in the past. I really just look at the readiness relative to what we need him to be right now. He fits the bill. It’s been a good preseason and training camp for him.(Q: Does Woodley look to be a different player than he was last year?) A: He doesn’t. When healthy, he’s a force. Obviously, he wasn’t healthy a lot last year. He has been to this point so I like what I see. (Q: You’re coming off an 8-8 season and a 0-4 preseason. Where do you feel this team has improved from last season?) A: I think that’s going to be determined once we step into the stadium. I’m not in the business of measuring it or comparing it. I’m in the business of getting this team ready to play a football game and I’m excited about doing so with the group of guys that we’re working with this year. Again, I’m not into all the comparisons and so forth. That’s not high on my priority list. What is high on my priority list is preparing these guys to beat the Tennessee Titans.
Press conference9L
Good afternoon. This being the last press conference of the 2012 season, there are a few things that I'd like to outline in terms of what I will talk about. I will wrap a bow around our last performance yesterday and summarize that. I will talk about the status of some injuries coming out of the game. I will give you a quick assessment or feeling of the 2012 season, and outline the plan moving forward, and how we will go about pushing into 2013. Lastly, I will be happy to field any questions. In regards to yesterday's game, I was really pleased with the effort of the men. I thought they played extremely hard. I thought in many ways, it mirrored a lot of the challenges that we've had this season. I was really proud of guys like John Malecki, who stepped in and played a substantial amount of guard for us. Ramon Foster ended up playing quite a bit of right tackle. Guys like Ramon, who have played right guard, left guard and now right tackle, I just really appreciate their efforts. On the other side of the ball, we had some young cornerbacks that played quite a bit of football after Keenan Lewis went down. We essentially had two cornerbacks up in the game, Cortez Allen and Josh Victorian. They had responsibility on defense but Victorian played a lot of special teams for us. There were a lot of unique efforts by a lot of people to produce that victory. I am just appreciative of their efforts and proud of them. It wasn't a perfect game by any stretch but we made the necessary plays. I thought the defense did a nice job of providing short fields. I thought the offense did a nice job of capitalizing on those opportunities, not only in terms of putting points on the board but putting seven points on the board, to maximize the turnovers. I thought that was big for us. I thought it was the deciding factor in terms of the outcome of the game for us. It's good to go out on a winning note. We talked a little bit about that yesterday. I don't have any preconceived notions about this being a building block pushing forward into 2013 for us collectively. 2012 is 2012. 2013 is 2013. But I did think some of the things that transpired in the stadium can be helpful to individuals as they grow as professional football players. Hopefully that can be a springboard for them as they push into the offseason and ready themselves to expand their roles and etch out their roles for us in 2013. I thought a lot of young guys got an opportunity to play. Some special teams guys, guys that can singularly be described as special teams guys, got an opportunity to play on offense and defense. Some inactive-types got an opportunity to be active. Some practice squad-types got an opportunity to put their hand in the pile and contribute. All of those can be positive things for the men that I talked about, if they use it as a springboard and move forward. Obviously, those will be our intentions as we get into the offseason as we get into the process of signing futures to the roster, and as we attack our offseason opportunities. Some of the in-game injuries and some of the recent surgeries, I will talk about some of the prospects and overall health as we push into the offseason. Kelvin Beachum sustained a concussion in the game. We don't expect any long-term effects from that. David DeCastro had a severe stinger. We don't expect any long-term effect from that. Cameron Heyward probably has a rib fracture. Brett Keisel has an MCL sprain. Surgery will not be required for him. Keenan Lewis, same thing. It's his MCL, a right knee sprain. It won't require surgery. Ryan Clark had a contusion to his left quad, and it was a pretty severe one. He spent the night last night in the hospital from a precautionary standpoint. I've touched based with him this morning. He has been released. He is resting comfortably at home. We did want to exercise precaution with his left quad contusion, to make sure nothing unfortunate developed over the course of the night. He said it was uneventful. He is rested, and he has been released. Some other recent guys that had surgery, Heath Miller had his MCL and ACL reconstructed. There is no timetable on his rehabilitation or the steps to that at this point. DeMarcus Van Dyke had his shoulder reconstructed. That appears to be positive. Again, it's too early to have a timetable in terms of what is going on with him. The same can be said for Baron Batch. He had a plate inserted into his arm from his broken arm the other week. That surgery was completed. Really, there is no concrete timetable on him. Some of the other preexisting injuries to guys like Mike Adams, Curtis Brown, Ike Taylor and others, they will be able to get healthy without surgery. We will continue to monitor these guys. They will have exit interviews and physical examinations. They are a critical component of wrapping a bow around this 2012 season to make sure that we got off on 2013 in as positive of a manner as we can. Quickly, just assessing the 2012 season, it was what it was. Obviously, there is a certain level of disappointment that comes with sitting here, even right now, having an end of the season press conference. Those are never our intentions. Obviously, we desire to be a team that is consistently in the battle for the Vince Lombardi trophy. That didn't transpire this year for a number of reasons, primarily that we didn't do enough in the closing moments of close football games. I think we outlined it here a few weeks ago. We've been in eight or so games that have been decided by three points or less. I think we were 3-5 in those games. That will produce an 8-8-like record that will have you on the outside looking in. those of us that have been in this business for any length of time, we understand that and embrace that. The good teams, the dominant teams, aren't necessarily dominant inside stadiums but they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn't do that consistently enough. We didn't. If you look at us as units, offensively I thought we started off on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs. We did what was required in those areas to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn't ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles' heel for us. Defensively, I thought we didn't start out very well, particularly in situational football and getting off on third downs, and the end of the half and end of the game type of things. I thought we grew into those roles and improved over the course of the season. It was a really good defense in the latter portions of season, particularly in those settings. I think the statistics show that. But again, not enough significant plays in those moments at the early portion of the season that produced wins, such as Tennessee and others. It is what it is. On special teams, I thought we had some positive things, particularly on kickoff returns. I thought we were in the top 5-10 in that for the better portion of the season. I thought Shaun Suisham was rock-solid all season. I thought our punt return game had potential but it never really developed. We had some explosion plays called back due to penalties, ones that we are responsible for. Then, Antonio Brown was limited with his injury for the better part of the second half of the season. That never really materialized. It is what it is. Like I said, we are an 8-8 team. We are on the outside looking in. we don't feel great about it. As a matter of fact, we dislike it. We are committed to doing what is required for us, in terms of moving forward, to ensure that we are not having similar conversations in the future. Moving forward, I will quickly outline a plan for you guys as we sit here today. We have a 60-day calendar to get this offseason started. We have a 2 p.m. team meeting today. We will summarize and start the exit procedure for our players. I look forward to having exit interviews with those guys. That will take up the bulk of this week and maybe even into next week. I always value those interactions. Those sit-downs, I have an opportunity to review, evaluate and plan, and just to hear from the men. Also, I will have an opportunity to sit down with coaches and do similar things with them. That probably won't transpire at until the very earliest, the latter parts of this week, but more probable next week. All of those things, the natural procedures, wrapping a bow around 2012, I expect our coaches to be doing the same things schematically, setting up schedules in terms of reviewing what it is that we do from a schematic standpoint and watching cut-ups. They will have exit interviews with some of the players that they work with. All in an effort to summarize, evaluate and think critically about what has transpired, so we can gather information to be better in 2013. I know there are some common business things that are transpiring this time of year, some questions that you might have, whether it be about coaches, players whose contracts are up, potential free agents and draft planning, I acknowledge that we are multi-tasking and working in all those areas, but I will also acknowledge that I don't have any concrete answers as I sit here today in regards to those things. I think a big component of us moving forward and being as good as we can be in 2013, is doing a great job of evaluating what has transpired here over the last 6-7 months. I intend to do that, first and foremost, over the course of the next week or two weeks. (Is the evaluation process intensified this offseason because of how the season went?) No, I take it very seriously, even in seasons where you could characterize it as success, even after the 2008 season where we were World Champions. This is a critical part of getting started in the right frame of mind and with the right vision with complete clarity for 2013. I can't tell you that my mentality regarding this process is any different than it normally is. Obviously, there is some urgency that's involved with what is happening. (With QB Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder and rib injuries, is any surgery required?) No. (Why did the offense struggle in the second half of the season?) We weren't as good as we were initially. We didn't coach as well, we didn't play as well. That's obvious. The result clearly exemplifies that. There were injuries at multiple positions. Obviously, we never use injuries as an excuse but we acknowledge that it was a component of maybe the degree of our success. I still thought we were capable of playing winning football because as professionals that's what we're expected and required to do. But it was myriad of things and I think that's what these upcoming days and weeks are about for us, taking the emotions out, looking at it critically and doing the type of self-examination necessary to move forward in a positive manner. (Did the lack of having a number one, go-to running back part of that equation?) Sure. I'm sure that would be a fair assessment. But there are also several reasons why that didn't occur, and just general ineffectiveness being one of them. (Are you happy with Dick LeBeau's performance this season?) I think everybody is aware that I'm happy with the work of Dick LeBeau. He's a special guy, a special man and a special coach. (Would you like to expedite the process of finding a new offensive line coach?) I'm not on any timetable there. I think it's important that we hire the right man. We're going to work swiftly but diligently. We're not going to put any time constraints on it. The big thing is that we come out of it with the correct man to move forward with that group in 2013. I don't have any preconceived notions in terms of the number of people I might interview and things of that nature or how it could transpire. Obviously, I've been gathering information informally. I'll continue to do that in a more formal manner here moving forward. (Do you expect Sean Kugler to take any coaches with him?) No. (How would you evaluate Todd Haley's performance this season and his relationship with his players?) It was about 8-8, like all of us. I'm a black-and-white kind of a guy. He was an 8-8 coordinator. I was an 8-8 head coach. I don't think that's what either of us desire to be. I don't think that we have players that desire to be 8-8 players. We're going to proceed with that understanding and with a mentality toward being better and maximizing our talents here to the best of our capabilities. (You went over and talked to NT Casey Hampton and LB Larry Foote at the end of the game yesterday. Do you appreciate the contributions of those guys who may or may not be back next season?) I was trying to figure out what they were doing, is why I went over there. I said, “Let's get out of here. What are you guys doing?” They were taking it in. They're veteran guys. They don't take any of this for granted, and rightfully so. Obviously, it's a very fragile business and an ever-changing business that we're in. It was a funny little exchange there but really nothing more than that. I've always wanted to appreciate the now. Hopefully, I'm the type of person that appreciates the contributions of men while I have them in the midst of it, the excitement that is the National Football League and the now. I've been around long enough to do that and I'm thankful that I have. (How do you take the emotion out of what you have to do now with evaluation process?) It's tough but necessary. Tough but necessary. It's a part of the job. It's a part of the business. I don't run away from it. I embrace it. (Has NT Steve McLendon shown that he is capable of being a starter? ) We thought [McLendon] was solid enough and proved that he was solid enough to be a reason why we won this year. Nothing has transpired to change my feelings about Steve in that regard, and that's even with the inclusion of Casey on our team. (When guys who have been Foote's backup at inside linebacker get healthy do you see them being able to fill a starting role?) We've got some questions in that area. We've got some guys that are injured. We've got some guys that are free agents, so free agency could be a part of the discussion. So, I don't have great clarity in regards to that position and the depth at that position as I sit here. (Were there growing pains with the offense this year?) Certainly, but not that it is unexpected and not that it is an excuse, much like the injuries. I acknowledge that growing pains are a part of transition but I didn't believe that it would be significant enough to prevent us from winning and I still don't. It's not an excuse, much like the injuries. (What was the risk with Ryan Clark going to the hospital? Was it a blood clot?) It was a severe quad contusion and the potential things that could come from that. Of course, I don't want to speculate. That was the information that I received and that was the course of action that was taken. I'd be presuming if I went so far as to say blood clot or anything of that nature. (Do you feel like you were able to replace the leadership that you lost after last season?) I think we have quality leadership guys on our football team. Obviously, when you finish 8-8 after the transition that we had in that realm, it leaves you open to some questions. But I'm comfortable with the quality of leadership and players that we have on our football team. Obviously, I'm not comfortable with the result of our season. But I do think we have strong leadership candidates, strong professionals, guys that know what this thing is about and exemplify it on a day-to-day basis. (What are your thoughts on Bruce Arians and the situation with the Indianapolis Colts?) I'm happy for him and I'm happy for Chuck [Pagano]. Obviously, that's something that's transpired out there that is bigger than football and to see something as difficult as the situation that Chuck has gone through galvanize their team and maybe be a positive contribution to their efforts in some way, is encouraging and positive. But make no mistake, the fight that Chuck is going through is a significant one and is bigger than the job itself. (Re: S Troy Polamalu and LB James Harrison being healthy heading into the offseason:) I hadn't thought a lot about that but I will say this, it's good for any player to go into the offseason healthy, as opposed to going in the offseason with an injury situation to deal with it on any level. Whether it's a surgery, whether it's rest and recuperation, to go into the offseason with health is a positive thing in the National Football League. It's a good springboard for 2013 for those two. (Do you have any comment on the change at special teams coordinator right before the season began?) Nothing to add, other than what I said originally when it transpired. My feelings in that regard have not changed. I'll look at that area of our football team like I will look at any other area, in terms of reviewing the season and planning for 2013. (Do you consider the special teams coordinator an unfilled position? Will you be looking for a new one or are you going to keep things as they are?) I'm going to have a blank canvas in that regard. It's going to be a part of the evaluation process of the 2012 season, assessing the differences between that and multiple men moving forward. (How do you approach this offseason and the future with WR Mike Wallace?) Like we will all other potential free agents. We're going to communicate with them and make a decision whether or not they fit or he fits and kind of go from there. Obviously, free agency is what it is. It's a two-way street. They'll have an opportunity to decide where it is they'd like to continue their career. It's going to require some discussion, but discussion is not different than any other discussion we might have with any other potential free agent. (Does Wallace fit this offense and what Haley wants to do?) Certainly.
Season wrap-up12W
Good afternoon. Obviously it was a disappointing day for us yesterday on a lot of levels. We weren’t able to secure a victory in the game, but also what it meant for us in terms of our goals for the season. We’ve been in a lot of close football games. We just consistently haven’t made the necessary plays to win those games. I think we are 3-5 in games decided by three points or less. That’s just not good enough in the NFL. A lot of games unfold in that manner. You have to make the critical plays down the stretch in those games if you want to be a consistent winner. We haven’t done that, and that’s why we sit here in the position we are in. In the game, third downs were an issue for us on offense. We have to perform better than that, and we didn’t. We had some scoring opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on. We missed a field goal. On the first possession of the second half, we got the ball on their 32-yard line. We missed some other opportunities. They are what they are. We accept responsibility for them. Cincinnati made the necessary plays and we didn’t. From an injury standpoint, we have a number of them. Some of these injuries will dictate transactions and movement, given the circumstances as we push into the last week. We haven’t made any final decisions in regards to those, but some of them are quite obvious. Baron Batch had an arm fracture. He had surgery this morning. Obviously, he will be a transaction for us, a Reserve/Injured List guy. Heath Miller has an ACL and MCL injury in his right knee. Unfortunately his season comes to an end. He’s been rock-solid for us, and we really appreciate his efforts. He will be facing surgery. There were a few other injuries in the game. Mike Wallace has a hip rotator strain. David DeCastro has a left hamstring injury. Curtis Brown has a left ankle injury. The few others are bumps and bruises that go along with playing. We will assess these injuries. We will get healthy bodies up and ready to roll, and we will formulate a plan around that. As we prepare this week, it will be our last football game for the 2012 season. We look forward to preparing for it, performing in it, performing well for our fans and finishing on a positive note here at Heinz Field and within our division. I fully expect the guys to do that. I know that they are capable. We will start the process of putting together a plan. That is ongoing right now. We will get back on the practice field on Wednesday. In games like these, you have to win the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. I am sure Cleveland wants to do the same. We have to have good plans in place in that regard. Our situational football is going to have to be big. We have to be better on third downs than we have been. I thought our young defensive backs responded positively in the past game, particularly in situational football, from some of their growing pains in the Dallas game. We had a number of young people playing, and I saw growth in yesterday’s performance that needs to continue in an effort to win this football game versus Cleveland, and obviously, given the fact that we turned the football over the number of times we did the last time we were there. The possession of the football is going to be big. Gaining possession of the football is going to be big. If you look at us over the last 5-6 weeks of the season, you can point to that as one of our many issues, at the forefront in terms of us being where we are. We haven’t done a good job of maintaining possession of the football. We’ve turned the ball over, and we haven’t gotten enough turnovers. When you are turning the ball over, and you are heading south in terms of your third-down play on offense and defense, obviously you are going to have an opportunity to lose close games, as we have done. (Q: How do you prepare for Sunday’s game with nothing really to play for and nothing on the line?) A: We take pride in our work. We take pride in our opportunity to come together and compete again as the 2012 Steelers. To perform for our fans, to perform for them at Heinz Field. Obviously, we lost the game against these guys the last time we played them so there’s some motivation there. But more than anything, it’s about the personal, individual relationships that we all have, players and coaches, with the game of football and doing things in the appropriate manner and the competitors that we are. I know I’ve got a group that exemplifies that and I expect them to show that regardless of the circumstances. (Q: Was TE Heath Miller originally injured earlier in the game?) A: He was shaken up. I don’t know if you could classify it as an injury, but he was shaken up earlier in the game, as often happens. He was able to collect himself and come back and continue to play. It’s just an unfortunate injury to a man that’s given us everything that he’s had all season. We appreciate his efforts. At the same time, we acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game and, unfortunately for him, it brings his season to a close. (Q: Is there any prognosis and standard rehabilitation time for Miller’s injury?) A: I haven’t received any information in regards to what his rehabilitation is and, specifically, what the minute details of his injury are. He’s got an ACL and he’s also got an MCL and maybe even a partial PCL. When we’re talking about hours after a performance, I think we need to let the dust settle to know exactly what it is we’re dealing with before we start framing his recovery or his rate of recovery. (Q: Is QB Ben Roethlisberger playing with some sort of lingering injury?) A: Not to my knowledge, no. But, I’m sure he, like all guys, is less than 100% this time of year. That’s just the nature of the game itself. (Q: If you look at Roethlisberger’s play before he was hurt versus after he was hurt, can we attribute the struggles to him being hurt?) A: You can attribute it to whatever you want to. Obviously, the play is what it is. It hasn’t been consistently good enough for us to win. (Q: Have you been able to find reasons why the offense has struggled on third-downs recently?) A: It’s a myriad of things like it usually is of late. We haven’t consistently run the ball so that affects the type of third-down situations that you’re in. I thought we got exposed a little bit with some pressure packages in the last number of weeks that have repeated themselves. We’ve improved in terms of how we’ve handled them but not above the line in order to win consistently, particularly in a number of ones that we’ve been in of longer yardage. Usually, it’s a myriad of things. Not only that, but also our personal play and technique and ability to deliver in those moments. It’s kind of been a myriad of all of those things and maybe a few others. (Q: Re: Relationship between Roethlisberger and Todd Haley and what is needed to get the offense back on track:) A: I know both guys are committed to being reasons why we’re successful. They understand their roles within that and I expect them to work and work hard at rectifying our issues in the areas where they have an opportunity to impact it. That’s just black and white to me, as I’m sure it is to them. As we sit here today, there’s a certain level of disappointment for obvious reasons, but we’ve got to put that aside and get ready to play this week. I’m excited about doing that and maybe the result of the performance that we put on during this upcoming week in our stadium will be a springboard for growth in that area that you mentioned. (Q: Would you consider doing some sort of send-off for guys like LB Larry Foote who said there is a possibility that they are playing their last game?) A: I haven’t thought about that at all. (Q: Has CB Ike Taylor’s status changed at all?) A: We’re going to look at where he is and his overall level of health and make a determination. He’s either going to be in and playing or out and not playing. But, again, I haven’t had those meetings to this point in the week, just coming off a number of hours since the football game. He could be put in the category with some others that we’re going to evaluate their health and relate that to their overall availability. What we don’t want is to have a bunch of dead weight from an injury standpoint, not only on our 53 [man roster], but on our game day roster. Being the situation that it is, we have some capable guys that could help us and we’re going to utilize them. (Q: Are there any changes to the running back rotation and how would you assess RB Rashard Mendenhall’s performance?) A: We’re going to look at it and have discussion. We haven’t even begun the process of formulating a run game plan and so forth for this week. That’s going to be a critical part of our discussion. I like the response that Rashard had to his circumstance. I thought he was positive contributor to our efforts. We’ll look at it and do what’s best for us as a football team that increases our chances of winning for this football game. (Q: Re: Roethlisberger not being able to lead comebacks the last few games:) A: Just not making the critical plays. Not a lot has changed in terms of structurally for how we prepare for those moments and how we deal with those moments. They’re not coming together for us and I’m not going to try to make excuses in that regard. We just collectively have not made the necessary plays at critical moments to win enough of these close football games to not be having to this discussion. Of course, at the quarterback positions you’re always a central part of those discussions. (Q: Is Maurkice Pouncey okay? I know he finished the game but you mentioned him in the injury list after the game yesterday.) A: He was able to finish the game. I don’t have a complete report on the post-game injuries and so forth as I sit here today. There could be several bumps and bruises that could limit people at the early portions of the week or maybe effect our planning. I’m sorry I don’t have it at this time. (Q: Re: Decision to play Cortez Allen on A.J. Green:) A: He was healthier than Keenan Lewis. Keenan was limited somewhat during most of last week’s practice and preparation. As we got toward the end of the week, Friday and Saturday, we recognized that he was healthy enough to play, but probably not in the best condition to absorb that challenge. Cortez was. He was up to the task. I thought he did a nice job of representing himself in most instances. (Q: Re: Lewis’ performance on Sunday:) A: It was gritty. We appreciate it but at the same time we expect it, not only from him but from all our guys. That’s what these moments are about for us. This time of year, when you are fighting for positions and opportunities, he recognized the gravity of the moment, and he gave us what to give, and we appreciate it. (Q: Re: Keenan’s progression from last year to this year:) A: He’s done a nice job from a growth and development standpoint. Coach Carnell Lake has done an awesome job with him. If he continues, the arrow is pointing up. I can’t see a reason why he can’t grow and be a dominant player. There is no question he improved his game from 2011 to 2012. (Q: On the last play of the game, did Cincinnati put Green on Lewis since he was banged up?) A: No. It had been occurring in similar forms and fashions throughout the course of the game, when they use multiple-wideout personnel groups. They made a nice play. We still like the coverage call that we had. He ran a nice route. Andy Dalton dropped the ball in there. You have to give those guys credit in terms of executing at the critical moments. Obviously, we would have liked to defend it better. I am not going to not acknowledge the quality of play by those guys. (Q: Re: Dressing Charlie Batch and not Byron Leftwich:) A: Charlie has earned the right to dress based on merit and based on his performance when he was given the opportunity to play. Of course, he was above the line and gave us a chance to win. We acknowledge that with how we’ve dressed those guys and moving forward. (Q: Is there any correlation between Roethlisberger’s drop-off and whatever questions he may have about the offense?) A: I don’t think so. I don’t believe that. I believe that for us to be able to operate, particularly in situational football in the manner that we were doing at the early portions and through the middle portions of the season, you would think there would be an opportunity of growth there, in terms of our player’s ability to assimilate into an offensive system. Obviously, it hasn’t done that. We aren’t looking to make excuses but I don’t think that is central to the reasoning. (Q: Re: Uncharacteristic things happening to the team this season:) A: That just comes with losing. It seems like when you are losing football games, things of that nature are always a part of it. That’s why I always try to focus my efforts on where they should be and what is important for us, which is putting ourselves in a position to win football games. When you do, all those things may be less than ideal. They don’t get magnified to the degree that they do when you are losing. (Q: Re: Possibly playing younger players since the game doesn’t mean anything:) A: I think injuries are going to be the primary reasoning that drives personnel moves for us. This is an opportunity to play and play to win, to get this sour taste out of our mouth. I am not going to approach it with that mentality.
Press conference8WL
Good afternoon. It’s an enormous week for us with a big home game versus a division opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals. There are a lot of ramifications on this game, for both teams. It is really creating an exciting environment around here as we prepare. I am sure it’s the same for them. We started that process yesterday with our football team as we reviewed Sunday’s performance. I’ll give a quick assessment of Sunday’s performance. We didn’t make enough significant plays in the waning moments to secure victory. There were a lot of positive things in the game. It was a hard-fought, close football game, in a hostile environment, versus a team that had things on the line as well. Again, we didn’t make enough significant plays. We really had opportunities to in all three phases. I saw some glimpses of some good things. Obviously, I thought it was a positive sign that we played virtually penalty-free football. Again, we need the significant plays at the moments, particularly when you are in a hostile environment to secure victory. I was starting to believe we were capable of doing some of those things, after starting the season 0-3 on the road. I thought that we had an opportunity to finish strong with a 4-4 record at the end. We didn’t do it. We move on to this week’s opportunity. From an injury standpoint, we have a few to mention. There were some in-game injuries. Emmanuel Sanders had a rib injury. He will be monitored this week. Obviously, he will be limited in the early portions of the week. We will gauge how he works and if he is going to be able to participate. Ike Taylor will remain out with his ankle injury. DeMarcus Van Dyke is out with a shoulder dislocation. He will be placed on the Reserve/Injured List. He will be replaced on our 53-man roster by Justin King. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State man. He is a veteran NFL cornerback. He is in the building as we speak. He’s kind of getting up to speed on what it is that we do. He was a short-list guy for us. We worked him out a number of weeks ago. We had been in pretty good communication with him. He should be a quick study and a guy that fits in quickly. We will get a sense of what he is capable of doing throughout the course of the week. Maybe he is able to help us in this football game. Mike Adams appears to be ready to practice. We will gauge and watch him during the course of the week to determine whether or not he can help us. Cortez Allen is scheduled to practice and participate. We will watch him throughout the course of the week as we prepare. Keenan Lewis, although he reinjured his hip flexor and wasn’t able to go back in the game, we are optimistic that he is going to get some work. He is probably going to be limited early in the week but he’s going to get work and participate in the game. Largely, that’s good news from an injury standpoint. That’s of course much appreciated, given our challenge this week. On offense, I think it starts with BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He is a 1,000-yard rusher and consistent ball carrier. He has consistent run demeanor. He always falls forward. He is kind of a one-cut runner. He’s had explosion plays for them over the last several weeks, as they have been a very hot team. He has been a significant part of that, providing a consistent run game for them but also providing some splash plays. He’s had a number of big carries. He is their primary ball carrier with more than 250 carries for the season. He has six touchdowns. Their leading receiver is A.J. Green. He is a 1,200-yard receiver. He is extremely talented. We are familiar with him and what he is capable of. He is big, fast and quick to speed. He plays to his size down the field. He plays the ball above eye level. That’s going to be a challenge for our defensive backs. I like the developing rapport with their tight end Jermaine Gresham and Andy Dalton. He is at 700 yards receiving for the year. He is a big vertical threat. He’s going to be a matchup issue. That’s any time you talk about a tight end with a skill set like his. It’s a matchup issue for linebackers and a size issue for safeties. Andrew Hawkins, in the interior, has been a big component of what they are doing, particularly on third downs. He has created issues for us in the past on third downs. He is also a good gadget guy, reverses and wide receiver screens and so forth. He’s been a consistent weapon for them. Dalton is a guy that distributes it. He does a nice job of making quick decisions. He takes care of the football. He can escape and has good mobility, very underrated in that area. We are going to have our hands full, not only in terms of rushing him, but containing him and keeping him in the pocket. They utilize all of his skill set with misdirection passes, and they will throw a screen pass to anyone, tight ends, running backs or wide receivers. On defense, it’s about their front and their ability to break pockets down. Geno Atkins is having an exceptional year as an interior rusher. He has over 10 sacks. He breaks down the interior of the pocket. He doesn’t allow quarterbacks to slide up in the pocket to deliver passes. It makes for a nice edge for their edge rushers in Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Robert Geathers and others. They play a 7-8 man rotation in their front. They have a nice system in how they rush the passer. Their rush is highly coordinated, and those guys work well together. In the secondary, they have a veteran group. Since they reacquired Chris Crocker, things have been rock-solid for them. He has three interceptions. He is partnered with Reggie Nelson, who is doing a rock-solid job for them, not only in terms of pass defense, but they have some pressure packages where they bring him off the open side. He has made a significant number of plays since the last time we played those guys in that area for them, on third downs in some pressure packages. They have a rock-solid cornerback tandem in Terence Newman and Leon Hall, and other savvy veterans like Nate Clements. They have a solid return game on special teams. We have to be ready to deal with Adam Jones. He averages more than 14 yards per punt return. He already has a touchdown. He is always big-play capable. Brandon Tate has distinguished himself right around 25 yards per kickoff return. We have a lot of work to do. We are excited about doing it as I am sure they are as well. (Q: Are you concerned about a lack of significant plays coming from some of your more trusted players?) A: Usually they are the ones that deliver them and when they don’t, usually they’re the ones that don’t. That’s the difference between winning and losing. I think our front line players, if you will, our established players, accept responsibility for that and really embrace the responsibility that goes along with that. (Q: QB Ben Roethlisberger questioned some of the play calling after an emotional, frustrating loss. Is he on the same page with offensive coordinator Todd Haley?) A: Yes, he is and it’s just as you stated. That was a tough, hard-fought football game, an emotional one, and when you come up short there are frustrations associated with that. I’m sure if anything was read into his comments, it was just that. I met with Ben yesterday and he’s ready to move forward with this week and he’s on-board with what it is we’re doing. (Q: Re: TE Heath Miller not getting the ball more often in the second half:) A: Obviously, he was an eligible receiver on a number of pass routes. Maybe in some instances he was covered. Maybe in other instances, Ben chose another option. Maybe sometimes other options were dictated by coverage. Heath is a big part of what we do. He was an effective weapon for us, particularly in the first half of that football game and he will be moving forward. For us, it’s just about finding the necessary combination of plays to win. That needs to be our focus and had we done that, that might not be a topic of discussion. That’s where we’re going to focus our energies. (Q: Is there any timetable on CB Ike Taylor’s return? Is it not progressing as quickly as you thought?) A: It is progressing rather well. I saw him yesterday and he wasn’t in his boot. He’s been given permission to move out of that and start some other things. It’s progressing nicely and I hadn’t received an update officially for this week, but obviously he’s out. But I like the nature of the progress that he’s attaining. (Q: With the cornerback injuries that you’ve sustained, what is the best way to deal with a guy like Bengals WR A.J. Green?) A: Right now, we anticipate having Cortez Allen and Keenan Lewis, and they’re very capable professionals, guys that have played a lot of ball for us, guys that are capable of standing up and covering people regardless of circumstance. Obviously, we’ll have a contingency plan if one or more of those guys are unavailable. But as we sit here, we’re anticipating having those guys and we’re going to do what we normally do. (Q: Re: Changes to the running back rotation with Rashard Mendenhall coming back:) A: I’m happy with the rotation as it is now. I look forward to getting Rashard back in the building and participating with his teammates and kind of letting that participation lead us in terms of etching a potential role for him. (Q: Re: Additional involvement for WR Plaxico Burress in the offense:) A: Again, that depends on helmet availability at this point and to a degree, some of that availability has been dictated by injury, not only at his position but others. We’d like to include him in the plan. Obviously, he has a skill set that we could utilize but all of those things are kind of interwoven as we put together and formulate a game plan. Usually, health and health of the team is a factor in that. So, I can’t answer that at this time. (Q: Would you like to see the running game used more or is it just a product of them not being productive?) A: I would like to see them get it more, particularly a defined, featured runner. We haven’t [been able to do that] for a variety of reasons. We’re not going to make excuses for that, but we’re excited about the plan that we potentially have put together this week. We were successful in running the ball against these guys the last time. We don’t anticipate that it will be easy just because that has been our past experience. But we are comfortable with the formulation of a plan and we look forward to having those guys being a big part of what it is we do. (Q: How much do the injuries and changes on the offensive line play into the use of the running game?) A: It’s all interrelated, not only injuries with the offensive line but in the backfield itself and, of course, game circumstance. They are what they are. We’re excited about the plan that we’re putting together today. (Q: Was the frustration after the game one of the reasons you talked to Roethlisberger yesterday?) A: No, I meet with Ben every Monday after football games, regardless of the outcome. (Q: Roethlisberger mentioned that he changed the play on the touchdown pass to Miller. Were you okay with that?) A: He changed the play? (Q: Re: Roethlisberger’s ability to change plays at the line:) A: That happens all the time during the course of football games for us, particularly with a veteran quarterback. That’s really a non-issue. (Q: What are the circumstances that make you decide to use or not to use the no-huddle?) A: It depends on what it is that we’re doing. It depends on how the teams that we play respond to the utilization of it. If it reduces their menu in anyway, if it reduces their personnel packages in any way, if they struggled to make diverse calls under those circumstances. There’s a myriad of reasons why we go to it and usually it’s interrelated, based on game circumstances and some of the things that I just mentioned. (Q: Is part of it the quarterback’s comfortability with running the no-huddle?) A: Oh certainly, particularly based on the looks that we’re seeing in any given game. In some games the utilization of it is easier than others, particularly on the quarterback. (Q: Re: WR Antonio Brown’s fumble and mental error by running out of bounds and stopping the clock late in the game:) A: That was a mental error on his part. Although he’s an accomplished player for us, he’s a young one. We’re just going to continue to work with him and help him gain a better understanding of situational football. He acknowledges it as such. In regards to the fumbles, he’s got to do a better job of hanging onto the football. That was a significant play in the game. He’s a dangerous return man, one that can be an asset to us. We’ll continue to work with him in that regard, as well. (Q: Will you continue to use Brown on punt returns?) A: Absolutely. (Q: Re: The performance of G David DeCastro and T Kelvin Beachum, considering their extreme inexperience:) A: Thanks for “extreme inexperience.” [Laughs] I thought they did a nice job. Both are sharp, intelligent young men that did a nice job of communicating during the course of the football game. Very few, if any mental errors, not only from DeCastro, but from Beachum. That’s arrow pointed up on those two. We’re really excited about their contributions. Obviously, it’s less than ideal circumstances. They’re getting on a moving train, if you will, but I like how they’ve represented themselves to this point. But they’ve got a ridiculous challenge this week in Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. The jury is still out on that group. (Q: Why did you have to call a timeout at the end of the game to switch your units when Dallas changed from field goal formation to punt formation?) A: At one point we had the defense stay on the field for obvious reasons. The ball was at or around midfield. During the course of that timeout when they made the decision to punt, we decided to take our defense off the field and put our punt return team on the field. Minor adjustments schematically, the difference between some defensive linemen on the field and some pure special teamers, simply schematics. (Q: If you had two timeouts left, would have gone for anything after the punt with 25 seconds left?) A: Really, that’s what constituted the timeout. We were going to take maybe an opportunity to return the punt and let the result of that punt return dictate how we play. But we’re not going to get a great return with defensive-stay personnel out there. That’s why we called it. Were you concerned about a fake? A: Initially, just based on field position. But once they went to punt formation, we were comfortable with the fact that they were going to punt the football, given the games circumstances. That’s why we went to the punt return in an effort to get a good return. (Q: Who decides how far the punt returner stands from the line of scrimmage?) A: It’s formulated in two ways, based off of tape study leading up to the game, but also some of the pregame warm-ups in terms of some of the kicking that the specialists do. So you get an in-stadium perspective with weather conditions, wind and so forth, and you also have the video. It’s a combination of those two and it’s subject to change during the course of a football game, of course. (Q: Was Brown lined up where he should have been on the last punt in the fourth quarter?) A: He was. I still think he had an opportunity to close the distance on that ball and fair catch it. We don’t want those balls on the ground, if at all possible. (Q: Re: CB Josh Victorian’s performance:) A: I thought he was solid at times. I thought he did a nice job of staying close and tackling the catch and minimizing yards after the catch. Obviously, they were throwing a number of balls at him. We anticipated that. They’ve got a veteran receiving group and quarterback. They realized that he was an inexperienced guy. But largely, I thought he answered the bell for us, particularly with his ability to absorb the number of snaps that he was able to. With the injury sustained by DeMarcus Van Dyke in the early portions of the game, obviously a young man in his position ended up playing a lot more defense and special teams than we anticipated in that football game. (Q: Does your message to the team change on Mondays change a lot from week to week depending on the circumstances?) A: The structure of it really doesn’t change. The subject or what’s discussed is pertinent to where we are. But the structure in which we go about it is relatively the same on a week-to-week basis. (Q: Is the offense where you expected it would be after 14 games?) A: I like the direction that we’re moving. I’m not satisfied with where we are but I could use those words to characterize our team and our record, as well. We’ve gotten a lot of the things that we desire to get accomplished accomplished to this point. But, obviously, winning games is chief among those and we’ve got a big one this weekend. That’s where my focus is right now, as opposed to evaluating hires or units. (Q: Are you satisfied with the rest of your team’s game aside from turnovers?) A: The turnover element and the turnover ratio is a big element of the discussion for us, in terms of us being where we are right now and recently where we are. You can’t remove that. We have to do a better job of protecting the football. And when we don’t, we’ve got to do a better job of overcoming it in other areas and we haven’t done that. (Q: Re: The offense being able to highlight TE Heath Miller more:) A: The guy caught seven balls in the game. That’s pretty good. (Q: What did you see from CB Justin King that made you want to bring him in?) A: We’re very familiar with him. Obviously, with his background he’s played a lot of football. He’s got youth and experience and he was available. We worked guys out that are on those lists, short lists if you will, periodically and we were impressed when we worked him out a number of weeks ago. So, when the opportunity presented itself to acquire someone in that position, it was a no-brainer for us.
Press conference11LL
Good afternoon. As always, I will start with a review of Sunday’s performance. Obviously, it was a disappointing one. In reviewing the tape with the staff and players, when you look at it, it really is quite simple. The first half was a game of field position. We didn’t convert third downs. We had a couple of tipped passes. We had a bad snap on one third-down. They stopped us in a couple of short-yardage situations, so we never established a rhythm on offense. They were able to, even when they weren’t producing scoring drives. I thought every time they possessed the ball, they converted a third-down or two, and it really created a situation where we played the entire first half on our side of the field. When that happens, sooner or later the dam will break, as it did on a third-and-one. They had a big play and were able to get a touchdown. We were able to put a field goal on the board before the half and establish some momentum. We came out in the second half, and they put together a nice drive where they converted some third downs. Then we had that lateral play that was a turnover. That drive, coupled with two negative, turnover plays, created a deficit that we couldn’t overcome. The two turnover plays were the lateral and the interception that gave them the ball on a short field, at our 17-yard line. We are disappointed but at the same time we accept responsibility for it. We realize we cannot start games off slow. On third-down, we have to do a better job of winning in situational football than we did on Sunday. We were 0-3 in short-yardage situations in the first half. Two were on third-and-one and the third was on a fourth-and-one. You have to win those down and distances if you want to be a team that has a stake in this tournament. We will go back to work this week in an effort to correct those mistakes. Largely, we need to understand the position we are in. we have to play consistently better than we have played. From an injury standpoint, I will talk about a couple of guys. Willie Colon had surgery on his knee yesterday. He will be out for several weeks. There is no real update on him. I think we need to let a day or two go by before we look at the totality of a possible return. Just know that he had surgery yesterday to repair his left knee, the one he’s been dealing with. Mike Adams will still be out this week with his ankle sprain. Cortez Allen has a hip flexor injury. He is going to be definitely limited at the early portions of the week, and it may put his participation in question. Keenan Lewis has a hip flexor injury as well. It’s going to slow him down at the early portions of the week but we expect him to perk up. Ike Taylor will remain out with his ankle injury. Byron Leftwich is back. We look forward to getting LaMarr Woodley back on the practice field, and hopefully he is moving toward participation. Obviously, we are running short at cornerback. Those guys that had the opportunity to step up and log a bunch of snaps over the last week and a half, that looks like it is going to continue. We will continue to work with those guys and build a plan around what they are capable of executing and executing at a high level. More than anything, it’s not about what we call. It’s about what those guys are capable of executing. As we prepare this week, we will have that in mind, in regards to some of those young cornerbacks that are going to participate, guys like Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Josh Victorian, who played a substantial amount in the second half of our game on Sunday. Looking ahead to the Dallas Cowboys and the challenge they provide. On offense, it starts with Tony Romo and the quality of eligible pass catchers that he has. The rapport and relationship he has had with Jason Witten is extraordinary. He is a tough guy to deal with. He is a savvy route runner and is always quarterback-friendly. He works back toward the football. He is a vertical threat. He is an easy guy to throw passes to, because he is such a large target. He does quality work in the slot against interior defenders, particularly as he works between the hashes and numbers. He has been very effective. You can also say similar things about Miles Austin, who works primarily in the slot opposite of Witten in their multiple wide receiver personnel groups. He wins in similar ways that Witten does. He is quarterback-friendly. He works back to the football. He can create space for himself at break points. He is a very crafty and veteran route runner. Dez Bryant is a serious matchup problem, particularly on the backside of trips formations. He gets into single-safety defenses, which gives him one-on-one matchups with cornerbacks, and he wins more than his share of those. Not only does he have strong hands, it is tough to prevent him from getting the football. He is equally as dangerous once he gets the football, in terms of getting him on the ground. He is a big, strong, run after the catch guy that is going to require good, sound tackling to get him on the ground after the catch. Their run game features DeMarco Murray, a young and talented runner out of the University of Oklahoma. He has great straight-line speed, a deliberate one-cut guy or a shuffle guy. He has a nice little shuffle-step that creates space, and boom, he accelerates and hits holes. He has great hands. On defense, for us, we are playing a 3-4 team. Most of the time when you play a 3-4 team, you talk about an outside linebacker tandem. This might be the best of the bunch with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. They are highly disruptive. Both of our tackles have to be prepared to see them both. They aren’t right or left outside linebackers. They swap. You will see both guys. Both tackles have to prepare to block both guys. Both guys can also drop into coverage, be it zone coverage or fire-zone coverage. They are very versatile in terms of skill set. They have a talented group up front. If Jay Ratliff is available to play, obviously he is one of the best in the business. He is very active and disruptive. He is a chore for most or all centers. I like the work I am seeing from Jason Hatcher. He’s been around there for a number of years. I think he is having his best year yet, particularly in the rush game. When paired with Ware, they do a nice job of breaking down the left side of the offensive pocket when they work in tandem. Their cornerbacks are talented. They went out and spent good money on Brandon Carr from Kansas City. He is a quality veteran player. They have Morris Claiborne, a first-rounder at the other corner spot. They have Michael Jenkins, another former first-rounder as the other cornerback. All guys are extremely talented. They are zone-corner capable but they are also very salty and capable of playing man-to-man coverage. They have a veteran, Gerald Sensabaugh, that’s been around the league for a long period of time. We understand the challenges that face us this week. We have two football teams that have had ups and downs but still have life. This is a big football game. I expect our guys to perform as such. I am sure the Cowboys are preparing in a similar manner. Again, given some of the things that we are working with, I think it’s appropriate that we build a plan around the guys having the capability to execute and execute at a high level. That may mean a smaller menu. We are fine with that. We are worried about execution. We need to execute at a high level and a more consistent manner than we have in recent weeks. We are excited about the challenges that face us this week. We are busy in terms of our preparation. We look forward to that preparation and ultimately our play. (Q: Was there any setback with S Troy Polamalu’s injury?) A: No, I don’t think there was any setback with him. He experienced a little tightness in the game at different points, but, largely, I think it’s arrow up in terms of his overall health. Obviously, we’ll continue to look to maybe spell him some in an effort to preserve him and keep him moving in the right direction, but as we sit here today, I don’t think there are any major negatives in response to his performance from a health standpoint. (Q: You mentioned after the game that Polamalu was dealing with discomfort in his Achilles during the game. Does that have anything to do with the calf injury he suffered earlier in the year?) A: I’m sorry. I probably misspoke if I said Achilles. I got a couple Achilles going on and calves going on as well. It was a calf. (Q: Does G David DeCastro figure into this week’s game plan at all?) A: Our plan is to work David. David has worked his way back to health. He’s been available to us the last several weeks in a backup capacity and participated on PAT and field goal. We believe that his health is at a level now that we can put him in and watch him prepare during the course of the week. If we like what we see, he may have an opportunity to play. If he does, of course, we’ll swing Ramon [Foster] over to left guard, which he has experience at and is very capable at. We’ll leave Maurkice [Pouncey] at center. Obviously, if a guy like Ratliff is playing, it would behoove us to have a guy like Maurkice Pouncey at the center position. (Q: What have you seen from cornerbacks Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke?) A: Both guys aren’t afraid of the competition. Josh, particularly, is very ball-aware and has good ball skills. Van Dyke has played a lot of ball, particularly prior to getting here. He’s game-tested. Maybe not game-tested here, but I think he played in 14 or 15 games defensively with two or three starts with Oakland, prior to us getting his services. Both guys have worked extremely hard on the practice field, getting an opportunity to compete against the likes of Antonio [Brown] and Mike Wallace and represented themselves rather well. But practice fields, of course, and game fields are two different things. We’re excited about watching those guys prepare and, more importantly, putting them in a position where they can execute with great detail as we go into the stadium on Sunday. So, it’s more about what they understand and understand very well and are able to display on a game field, than maybe necessarily what we would like to run or are comfortable with. (Q: Are you planning any changes to your running back situation and perhaps using Rashard Mendenhall?) A: No, not as I sit here right now. Obviously, we didn’t run the ball in a manner in which we would have liked on Sunday, but really it was more of a function of situations than our ability to run the football. We didn’t convert third downs in the first half. They did. It led to a lopsided time of possession, obviously. Then the explosion plays that happened in the second half, the lateral that was ruled a touchdown and the interception that gave them the ball on a short field, put us behind to the point where we became one-dimensional and really weren’t able to establish any semblance of a consistent that we desire to establish. So, as we sit here today, we intend to utilize the same people that we did last week. Hopefully, those situations won’t arise where we get one-dimensional in the manner in which we did last Sunday. (Q: What went into the decision that Foster would move to left guard if DeCastro plays?) A: He has more position flexibility, more comfort in doing so than DeCastro does at this point. So, that’s the chief reason. (Q: Have you had a chance to revisit the possible two-point conversion situations, and would you do the same thing if presented with that situation again?) A: I really have and I really kind of do feel the same way that I did. The reason why I said that was I thought we had a better chance, and again what we’re talking about are tough situations, but I thought we had a better chance to sneak back into the game if we didn’t. If they went into a chew-the-clock mentality in terms of running the ball, I thought we could get the quick stops necessary to get back in the game if they did that. I thought if we started going for two, and particularly getting them, that they would leave their playbook open and, obviously, with the way they started the second half, converting maybe five or six third downs, I didn’t like our chances in those circumstances. We didn’t. We kicked the one. They went into clock-killing mode and we were able to get the quick stops associated with that because we were stopping the run. I think they were running at 2.6 [yards] per carry. So, we were able to get the quick turnarounds and get the balls back in our hands and maybe create the momentum necessary to sneak back into the game. Obviously, it would have been tougher to sneak back into the game, had we started going for two earlier than I was comfortable with. (Q: What do you say to a guy like CB Curtis Brown, and do you feel comfortable using him in the same role or are your options now limited because of other injuries?) A: More than anything, this about it being an awesome opportunity for him to show that he’s capable and to show his preparedness, to deliver for our team. Not the results that we were looking for last time out for him, but you could say that about all of us. Of course, we don’t live in our fears, we live in our hopes. We are all eyes moving forward, in terms of our preparation and opportunity this week. He has an opportunity to respond to a less than ideal performance the last time out. (Q: Is the decision to dress five wide receivers like last week one that is made week-to-week?) A: It is, given the health of our team at other positions. It’s not exclusive to the wide receiver position. It’s about getting the best, healthy combination out there ready to play. So, five wide receivers was an opportunity last week. I don’t know that it will be the case this week. We’ll see. (Q: How do you fix the holding penalties on returns that give you poor field position?) A: We’re going to continue to stress proper technique and angles and blocks in relationship to the ball. We’re going to continue to coach fundamentals. But, at the same time, we’ve got to accept responsibility for the plays that were out there. One was marginal, one was definitive. That’s football. I also acknowledge that when you’re kicking the ball in the kicking game there are generally some penalties on those plays, but we’ve got to do a better job. When you’re running as thin as we’re running, our margin for error is minimal. We’ve got to take those opportunities and create splash plays for us and flip the field. We didn’t do it and that’s the bottom line. In the last game we didn’t do it in the return game, but we also didn’t do it in the kicking game, either. Our net punting was not impressive in the first half of that football game and that led to the field position issue that created the deficit at the half. (Q: DE Brett Keisel and some other veterans suggested that the team wasn’t ready to play and Keisel said he sensed it before the game. Do you mind when a player says something like that after a game, and with a lot of younger players who haven’t been through the stress of December football, how do you prevent that from happening?) A: I don’t mind a guy speaking the truth as he sees it under any circumstances. I’m a result-oriented guy and the result of that performance would lead you to believe that that’s a possibility. So, I don’t run away from that. The proof is in the pudding. I felt good about our preparation and our overall game-readiness but our play didn’t display that. I agree with him. We’ll go back to the lab and work in an effort to put it on tape this week. (Q: What, if any, feelings have you noticed on game day when you lose as compared to when you win?) A: Other than our inability to establish rhythm and convert third downs and their ability to do it and to play on our half of the field, obviously that’s a concern. That’s not a good feeling when you’re not establishing rhythm and moving the chains and possessing the ball. The defense was put in some short field circumstances, most of which they stood up to in the first half of that game. When you’re working on your half of the field and the defense is taking the field with that level of sense of urgency, obviously those feelings are associated with it. I like the way that we dealt with it, for the most part. I still thought we had an opportunity to get back in the football game, particularly when we were able to end the half by putting points on the board. But, obviously, when they put together a drive to start the second half, and then we had the lateral that was ruled a touchdown that created a deficit that was tough for us to overcome. (Q: To clarify, has DeCastro been 100% physically ready?) A: With a guy like him, it’s more than health because he doesn’t have a lot of playing background. So, although he’s been healthy, practice has been good for him, the technique growth and development has been good for him, just simply playing professional football has been good for him. So, although he’s been healthy, we still thought he had room for growth from an overall readiness standpoint. We’re ready to take the next step, potentially, this week again, depending on how that preparation looks. (Q: Why wasn’t the re-shuffled line combination as successful against San Diego as it was against Baltimore?) A: Probably more than anything, in preparation for the Ravens, we prepared that combination of guys all week, as opposed to last week we prepared Willie [Colon] some. We fell into that. That’s the nature of in-game injuries and that’s why most of the time, when people know that people are going to be unavailable, combinations, regardless of who they are, have a better chance to play above the line in preparation than you do when you experience in-game injuries and some of the adjustments that are associated with it. Again, not an excuse, just a reality. I think that we’re capable of playing better than the way we played, regardless of rotations and preparation and things of that manner. (Q: You said after the game that you thought the lateral was a forward pass. Have you been able to figure out what WR Antonio Brown was doing with the ball in the end zone?) A: No, I [haven’t]. He didn’t do a good job of falling on it, obviously. It looked like he attempted to pick it up, and unsuccessfully so. Again, another error in judgment on our part in that football game. One of many. (Q: You said you were worried about losing time and the Chargers going into clock-killing mode. There was about six minutes left when Mike Wallace scored. If time was a factor, wouldn’t it behoove the team to have it be two-possession game as opposed to three?) A: I was actually talking about earlier than that when we got ten points and it was 27-10. That’s the scenario that I was talking about. Once you get into the six-minute scenario, you’re long-ball hunting at that point. I was talking about when it was 27 maybe to 10 or something like that, when we got that first touchdown. (Q: So, when you needed three touchdowns and three two-point conversions, you didn’t see that as a viable option?) A: It was bleak at that point, yes.
Press conference13LL
Good afternoon. Like always, I will start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance. It was a necessary victory for us. It was a great effort. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a great performance. It was a necessary performance. We made enough plays to win the game. After the game, I was really proud of the guys in terms of the way they displayed their mettle and their willingness to stick together through adverse circumstances and conditions to pursue victory. As I went back and studied the tape, I thought the sequence of events at halftime was significant for us. Chris Rainey gave us a big jolt after their score. He returned the ball to around midfield. We were able to get three points prior to halftime. We had an opportunity for seven but we missed it. We were able to get some points and some positive momentum going into halftime. Coming out at halftime, we put together a scoring drive to start the third quarter. I thought that put us back in the football game, not only in terms of the scoreboard but simply emotionally. I thought it was a lift for us. It was one that created a wave that the guys were able to ride and make enough plays down the stretch to secure a victory. Obviously, we are happy for and proud of Charlie Batch. He made all the necessary plays for us, not only in terms of what he did physically but he was solid throughout emotionally. He did an awesome job of communicating but we’ve come to expect that from him. I am not surprised but I am excited for him and proud of him and his contributions. But the contributions came from a lot of people in all three phases. I don’t want to make too much out of the performance. I would like to think that it is evidence of something we can build upon but obviously what we do, specifically this week, is going to dictate that. We turn our eyes on the task at hand, which is preparing for and playing the San Diego Chargers. From a health standpoint, there are a number of things to talk about. I will go through a list of some guys that have been injured, recently returned and some guys that are dealing with nagging things, and also the appropriate personnel things that come along with it. Will Johnson did sustain a concussion in the game. He has already started the process of going through a battery of tests. He has done well on those. He may be limited at the front portion of the week but we are confident he will play. Emmanuel Sanders has an AC-sprain in his shoulder. That will limit him in the front part of the week but he should be a full participant. Mike Wallace has some inflammation in his right knee. He jammed it. He could be limited at the early portions of the week but it won’t prevent him from participating. Mike Adams is still out this week with his high ankle sprain. Ryan Clark might be limited at the front part of the week with a hip contusion. We expect Willie Colon to be back but at the same time we realize he could be limited, particularly at the early portions of the week. I thought Troy Polamalu’s return was a positive thing. He didn’t take any steps backwards, and we expect that to continue. We still may preserve him, particularly at the early portions of the week in an effort to keep him moving in the right direction. It has been reported that Ike Taylor has a right ankle fracture. He will be out for at least a couple of weeks. Obviously he is not in play this week. Cortez Allen will start. Curtis Brown will be in sub-package football, like he did on Sunday. I thought both guys did a really nice job. They proved that it wasn’t too big for them. Cortez Allen has played a lot of defensive football for us this year over the course of the season. I was not surprised by his performance but I was pleased with the defensive contributions of Brown. He has proven to be a very stable and reliable special teams player. It was good to see him get a substantial amount of defensive work, and stand and deliver, particularly on get-off downs. I thought they went after him early on in third-down opportunities and I thought he withstood the challenge. He will get many more opportunities to prove that. That’s what the NFL is about. We have some young cornerbacks that we have been excited about. Guys like Cortez Allen, Brown and DeMarcus Van Dyke. They will get an opportunity to show why we are excited about them. The next man will be up and will have an opportunity to put their hand in the pile to show why they can be reasons why we can be successful. LaMarr Woodley is questionable at this point. We will give him some snaps and see how his body reacts. He is definitely and potentially in play as we work this week. Antonio Brown may be limited at the early portions of the week. I thought it was a good start for him in terms of a return standpoint. He is still working his way back to complete health, if there is such a thing at this point in the NFL season. Jerricho Cotchery is expected to be a full participant. Byron Leftwich is getting closer towards being healthy but he might not get an opportunity to prove that this week. We have two known and healthy quarterbacks. We have to prepare those guys. Ben Roethlisberger is getting closer to being healthy. He threw yesterday. I guess it can be described as successful. We will see what it looks like on a football field. Tomorrow, he will be given an opportunity to prove he is healthy. We will let that progress go from there. In the meanwhile, Batch is our guy. We will prepare and plan with that in mind, just like we did a week ago. We will continue to work to get Brian Hoyer some work. The reps we give Roethlisberger will primarily come from Hoyer, and there just won’t be that many opportunities for a guy like Leftwich to prove that he is getting healthy even though he is. We will focus on the two healthy quarterbacks and Roethlisberger, who is trying to prove his health. We will see where the week takes us, particularly tomorrow. I think once we get out there tomorrow, it will provide some clarity for us and we will be able to make firm decisions. As we sit here today and prepare to put together a game plan, we are doing so in the same manner we did a week ago, in that Batch is our guy. We are building our plan around what he is capable of. We will see what Roethlisberger can prove to us here in the early portions of the week. In a nutshell, that’s kind of where we are from a health standpoint. Again, we don’t complain about the health. We simply acknowledge it and begin the process of preparing the guys that we deem healthy, to put together a winning performance. Moving on to the Chargers and what they are capable of. Philip Rivers is an elite quarterback and has been for a number of years. He’s a very capable guy. He is the center of what they do on offense, and rightfully so. He spreads the ball around to a variety of guys. Their wide receivers are unique from where we sit. If you look at Malcom Floyd and Danario Alexander, they are very big guys. Floyd is 6-foot-6 and Alexander is 6-foot-4 and change. They provide a unique issue and concern for us. I don’t know if we’ve seen a tandem as big and imposing as these guys. They are capable of getting down the field. Floyd averages 15 yards per catch, and Alexander has really rock-solid, vacuum-like hands. I remember when he came out in the draft. I thought, unquestionably, that he had the nicest hands at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Antonio Gates is a legendary tight end, one that is a matchup issue and has been for a decade or so in the NFL. He is generally too athletic for linebackers to cover, and too big and wide for safeties to cover. He does a nice job of utilizing his body when he is matched up against smaller defenders, safeties. He just has too much wiggle and he’s route savvy. He has too much experience for linebackers. We have an issue to deal with in regards to defending him. I look forward to sitting down with the defensive staff this afternoon and starting that readiness process. Their running backs, I’m impressed with what they are able to provide. Ronnie Brown, I think has 45 catches. He has been known since he’s been in the NFL as a solid-catch guy. He continues to prove that. He is their second-leading receiver. Their running back, Ryan Mathews, is a young and talented guy. I haven’t heard much about him in mainstream media but when you turn the tape on – obviously, he was a high-round draft pick, and the tape tells you why. This guy has really quick feet, really good contact balance, has natural run skills, has good pad level and I think he is a quality and emerging player in the NFL. On defense, we have issues with their group, and I think it starts with the unique depth they have at outside linebacker. Shaun Phillips and Jarrett Johnson are their starting tandem. We are familiar with what Johnson is capable of. He spent quite a few years with the Baltimore Ravens. Phillips has been to Pro Bowls. What is behind them, I think is what is unique. Melvin Ingram is a first-rounder from South Carolina. You can see his pedigree on tape. He has proven he is capable and worthy of the draft selection. Antwan Barnes is another former Baltimore Raven. He has provided a spark for them in terms of what he is capable of in the pass rush. And they have another first-rounder, Larry English, who is the fifth man in that rotation. That just speaks to the depth at that position. They have a quality front with young and quality guys like Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes. Obviously, their linebackers are led by Takeo Spikes. He’s a guy that appears to be an ageless wonder. You can compare him to London Fletcher in terms of his body of work and level of consistency associated with it. He appears to be an emotional leader for those guys. They rally around his presence, similar to how they have done in every city he has been in since he’s been in the NFL. I have a lot of respect for him. Under his leadership, they are fifth in the NFL versus the run. They smash the run, particularly in situational football. I was just looking at their game versus the Ravens. They had third-and-one stopped and fourth-and-one stopped. They really had control of that football game. They do a nice job in that way. In the secondary, I think they are opportunistic. Of their 11 interceptions, five of them have been returned for touchdowns. They produce the splash plays. That group is led by Quentin Jammer. He has been in the league and been rock-solid for them for a number of years at cornerback. I really am impressed by the play of Eric Weddle. I know he has gotten a lot of notoriety over the past couple of years but I’ve gotten an opportunity to study the tape and see him. I see why. He is a good, fundamental tackler. He is very aware. Very rarely is he out of place. His angles to the football are excellent. You see why he gets the turnovers that he does. Very rarely does he misstep. He has good vision and ball skills. Their special teams unit is rock-solid. I had the pleasure of working with Richard Bisaccia, their special teams coordinator, for a number of years. I have big-time respect for him. He is one of the best in the business. Their tape illustrates that. Their punting game is spectacular. I think their punter is number-two in the NFL. They have the ability to flip the field. I think one of the things that have bitten them in the past several weeks is turning the football over. Obviously, we haven’t distinguished ourselves in getting them, although we did do a nice job, specifically in a few instances last Sunday. We haven’t distinguished ourselves in that way consistently over the large part of the season. Their punter is capable of doing what he showed he can do. Obviously, they are capable of flipping the field and making us work on a long field. We have a lot to chew on and things to worry about but we are excited about building upon a good performance last Sunday, and preparing this week and getting back at home in front of our fans.(Q: Was there anything unusual about the postgame handshake between you and Ravens Head Coach Jim Harbaugh?) A: Nothing really unusual other than the fact that I was kind of in a hurry. As I moved toward the middle of the field, I noticed to my left the number of guys that were headed toward our locker room. Maybe that happens all the time, but given the amount of effort it took to get out of that stadium with a win, I wanted to get there as quickly as I could. It’s a normal practice for me to welcome guys into the locker room and thank them for their efforts after games and, really, the results of games don’t matter. It’s a general practice for me but, obviously, it took special effort to secure that victory and when I noticed that guys were headed to the locker room I was in a hurry to get there. (Q: Do you plan on bringing any defensive backs in for a workout?) A: We potentially could do that and maybe not even necessarily to make a specific move right now but when your lines get thin, you evaluate people for potentially the next injury. We’re open-minded to potentially bringing in a corner or two just to see what’s out there, to see what the short list looks like and see what people are capable of. But at the same time, we may be ridiculously impressed with what we see and we might do something. So, I’m not closing the door on that in any form or fashion. (Q: Is the door more open for QB Ben Roethlisberger to play this week than it was last week?) A: Certainly. But you can say that about anybody that was injured a week ago. Seven days does wonders for injuries. (Q: o you anticipate dressing Roethlisberger as a backup or if he can’t start will he not be in uniform?) A: It depends on what the week tells us. I understand the elements of those things but a lot of those potential thoughts and processes are in place. But really, it would be premature to start to make those kinds of judgments until what he looks like throwing the football, and particularly in throwing the football in 11-on-11 type or seven-on-seven type settings. (Q: Roethlisberger’s injury was explained as life-threatening should he take a wrong hit. Is that how it was explained to you and is that still the case now?) A: I guess you could describe it in that way, but the chances of that were extremely rare and minimal. So, percentages, yes. To what degree, I don’t know. We talk more about the nature of the injury and what’s going to be required for him to return. I wasn’t privy or a part of discussions along those lines. (Q: Has that portion of the injury healed up where it’s no longer a concern?) A: Obviously, if we’re talking about him playing. (Q: Re: Thoughts on the progression of CB Cortez Allen and CB Curtis Brown:) A: I compare those young men to the way I compared Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown who are a year older than them. They’re talented young people. We’ve pitted them against each other, in terms of the production they provide. Both are experienced and can be described as experienced special teams contributors to this point. Cortez took a step in terms of being able to distinguish himself as a defender. He’s grown over the course of the season. I think more than anything, the physical talent has been there. I think he’s grown in terms of awareness, and particularly awareness in situational football and being able to put himself in position to make the necessary plays to get us off the field. We understand what comes with his position, particularly in third down situations. Curtis, of course, is being given an opportunity to show what he’s capable of. He’s continued to work and improve and made some plays for us a week ago and we expect him to do the same. They’re both talented young guys who are continuing to improve and prove that the stage isn’t too big for them. Obviously, we need them to answer the bell as we continue to push into a territory that we haven’t been in since I’ve been here. You can say a lot of things about Ike, and a lot of positive things, but probably the thing that sticks out the most is his durability and availability. This guy hasn’t missed practices, let alone football games, since I’ve been here. We’re in a unique territory in that regard but we’re not going to make more of a deal out of it than what it is, obviously. He’s injured. Injuries are a part of the game. We’re going to work with the healthy ones. (Q: Does Taylor need any type of surgical procedures?) A: No, he does not. (Q: Re: OT Kelvin Beachum’s performance and the flexibility of the offensive line:) A: Just really pleased with the contributions of those men, obviously [Beachum] being the third guy to play right tackle for us this year. But he proved what we knew in that he’s a mature kid, he’s a stable young man, he was going to be prepared and there hadn’t been anything that he’s shown us since he’s been in here or even in researching him in preparation for the draft that would lead us to think anything else. He’s a special guy. He’s a smart guy. He’s very cerebral in his approach. He’s steady Eddie. He’s got some talent, obviously not a lot of experience, particularly experience at right tackle. Our concerns lied in those areas, and not mentally or emotionally. He proved physically that he could stand up and good for him and good for us. But he’s got a new challenge awaiting him this week. I talked about the unique depth of the outside rushers of San Diego, so I’m sure that they’re going to take turns getting to look at him like the Ravens did, whether it’s Phillips or Johnson or Ingram or others. He’s going to have another opportunity and that’s the great thing about the National Football League, you can’t wear yourself out patting yourself on the back. The new challenges are usually less than seven days away. So, we’ll see if he’s up to these ones. (Q: Are you going to anything differently at running back and what is RB Rashard Mendenhall’s role?) A: We don’t intend on doing anything differently in terms of Jonathan [Dwyer] being the guy and of course, [Isaac Redman] supplementing him because Red is capable of distinguishing himself in situational football, short yardage. He’s a good blitz-pickup guy. Rashard will get an opportunity to redeem himself, I’m sure, at some point along this journey. That’s the nature of this thing. There’s ebb and flow and opportunities are presented. Obviously, he’s not being given one right now and due to a lot of reasons, most of the reasons not having anything to do with him or the running back position. We’ve got thin lines at a lot of other positions. We carried eight offensive linemen a week ago. We’ve got nicks at the wide receiver position. So, a guy who’s feature runner capable like Rashard who has very little contribution in the special teams game is probably not going to get an opportunity to show much if he’s not the featured runner. (Q: What was the biggest difference in the offense from the Cleveland game to the Baltimore game with Charlie Batch? Was it timing, comfortability, being able to work with the guys for a whole week? ) A: I’m sure some of those things play into it but we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot as much. Notice that I said as much, because I acknowledge that we shot ourselves in the foot some in Baltimore. We turned the ball over twice in scoring territory. We missed a touchdown opportunity there at the end of the first half. We fumbled the ball on a third down conversion down the field in open grass. I don’t know if anybody would have tackled Emmanuel. We still have our ills, but we were better. We need to continually be better. We need to continually be whatever it is that we need to be to secure victory. (Q: What is the coaching point on transferring the ball away from the defensive pressure? Are they taught only to do that when they feel pressure? With Sanders where he has open field in front of him, should he just hang onto it and run as fast as he can?) A: He caught the ball in the middle of the field moving from right to left. He put the ball in his left hand so his inside hand could be free and could fight off defenders. Very fundamentally sound protocol. In terms of how or why he lost the ball, I have no idea. Hold onto the ball is the coaching point as you transfer it in open grass. It’s kind of like how do you teach somebody to dance? Dance. That’s my reaction or response to that. (Q: How did you think the rest of the offensive line performed with all the reshuffling that took place and would you go forward with that line again if injuries do not heal up?) A: I thought everybody did an awesome job and really it’s contributions from all parties involved. Ramon [Foster], I thought, did a unique and excellent job in terms of communicating and just being there for Beachum as the guy that played beside him. Obviously, Doug [Legursky] has proven to be a very capable center. He did a nice job of identifying people and getting Mikes declared and re-declaring as needed. [Maurkice] Pouncey continues to show that he’s a special football player, regardless of where you play him. I might play him at tackle this week. I shouldn’t joke like that because stranger things have happened. But Maurkice is a talented guy. It doesn’t matter where you play him. I think his performance proved that on Sunday. (Q: Is tomorrow the key day for Roethlisberger? Or is there a situation where he doesn’t practice but could play on Sunday?) A: I don’t know how many ways I can tell you. He’s got to prove it to us that he’s capable and ready to play. So, we practice tomorrow. See you tomorrow. (Q: Do you have a certain menu of throws that Roethlisberger has to prove that he can make?) A: I’ve got a myriad of things, most of which are not certain as I sit here because I’m trying to prepare a schematic approach to winning this football game. We’ll deal with tomorrow tomorrow. (Q: With injuries in the wide receiving corps, do you see an expanded role for WR Plaxico Burress?) A: Potentially. Again, like talking about the quarterback situation or others, we’re not going to be too impulsive in our thinking. We’ll see what the practice looks like and adjust accordingly as we get toward the end of the week. The great thing about it is that areas where we know he’s capable of helping us situationally, redzone and so forth, those things are done and addressed at the latter part of the week. We’re just simply laying a fundamental base of our plan tomorrow. That decision doesn’t have to transpire in the next 24 to 48 [hours]. (Q: When you have picked up wins over potential playoff teams this season, have you noticed that practices have been much more crisp than weeks when you weren’t as successful? Or has it been more gameday management and execution?) A: I really haven’t. I judge weeks based on performance, as we should .You prepare to play and play to win. I hadn’t noticed anything. I could probably trick myself into something but I hadn’t to this point, no. (Q: Does Batch playing so well buy you extra time with Roethlisberger or are they totally separate issues?) A: Totally separate. Obviously, Ben is our quarterback and if he’s capable of playing then we’re going to play him. But we appreciate the efforts of Charlie and all the other men that step up when given an opportunity due to injury. (Q: As you enter the last quarter of the season, how much stock do you put in confidence and momentum and the mindset of your team?) A: I acknowledge all of those things exist, but at the same time they’re almost mystical because you can’t measure them. I acknowledge that it is part of it as you push in. I do think our team has some unique characteristics that are kind of born out of unique circumstances or situations. Quite frankly, it’s always 20-20 looking back at it. If we’re able to put together a run and win necessary games and get some momentum, then you can say it was unique. If we don’t, then you can say it was irrelevant. More than anything, it’s about preparing us and working in the tangible, the measurable things and preparing to play and understanding that we need to be as teammate friendly as we can be and maybe some of those things that you can’t measure will be an element in the outcome of football games as well. (Q: Is the next step for Polamalu to go back to being an every down guy or is there still another step he needs to take?) A: We’ll play it by ear and look and see how the week goes. Obviously, we didn’t want any steps backwards and we thought it was successful. In the interim Will [Allen] proved that he was a capable guy so we don’t have any qualms about playing him and we didn’t have any qualms about resting or keeping Troy fresh, however you want to phrase it. (Q: What has been the problem for Chargers QB Philip Rivers this year in throwing 15 interceptions and being sacked 36 times?) A: You can just look at the shuffling that’s gone on in the offensive line and what was reported yesterday with the number of injuries. You could point to that. I know Ryan Mathews has missed some time. We know what injuries at the running back position can do to the quarterback position, in terms of responsibility because we’ve experienced that ourselves. They’re better equipped to answer that than I. I just know what he’s capable of and I respect what he’s capable of. We better be prepared to defend what he’s capable of.
Press conference17LW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance. Obviously, it was a failure. It still looked that way yesterday as we reviewed it, both as a staff and as a football team. Very rarely do you lose a game and are able to clearly point to a few areas of failure being the reason why you lost. I think you can do that based on this performance, with the way we turned the ball over and we were highly penalized on offense. Those were two critical areas that led to the performance. I mentioned very rarely, because very rarely are there such extreme failures in those areas. We turned the ball over eight times. It quelled any drives that we got started and it created negative field position. We talked all week about being backup quarterback friendly. Those two things, particularly in combination, are not very backup quarterback friendly. That being said, we did not have a positive performance. We looked at it yesterday. We accept responsibility for it. I chiefly accept responsibility for the lack of ball security. There were two legitimate things that caused the outcome in that area, the quality of play by the Cleveland Browns, physical, and really poor ball security and lapses in ball security and ball mechanics by us. It created the perfect storm when we turned the ball over as often as we did. Really, it eliminated any chance for rhythm or eventual success in the game. When you go back and look at it, it’s quite amazing we only lost by six when you provide that type of leg up we did for the opponent on Sunday. We will be prepared to move on. We will get back to some fundamental things, some things that are us-oriented, because that is what is upmost important as we move forward. We need to do a better job of complementing our strengths and minimizing our weaknesses, and not beating ourselves. That will be the supreme focus for us this week. From an injury standpoint, we have some guys that can work themselves back into play this week. Jerricho Cotchery ran yesterday. He will participate partially tomorrow with an eye toward playing. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball yesterday. He will take steps maybe towards playing this week. We will leave the door open for him. He has a chance. Mike Adams has an ankle sprain. He is out. He will be replaced by Kelvin Beachum, who replaced him in the football game. Willie Colon looks a lot better. He may need a day or two at the early portions of the week but the knee that got him at the latter part of last week is much improved. He has a strong chance of playing. Byron Leftwich threw yesterday. We will take a look at him and check on his availability. While I talk about the quarterbacks, I will be clear in regards to our plan right now at quarterback. Right now, Charlie Batch is our quarterback. We are working offensively to put together a game plan that complements his strengths. That’s our plan until otherwise. Obviously Leftwich and Roethlisberger will be participating in some form or fashion. We will let that participation and the results guide us in terms of their availability as we push toward the latter part of the week. We will see where those guys are later in the week. As we sit here today, and as we prepare to put together a plan today, we are doing so with Batch being our quarterback. LaMarr Woodley can be characterized as doubtful with his ankle sprain. If he is unable to play, he will be replaced by Jason Worilds, who has done a solid job in relief of him and has done a solid job all year in relief of him and James Harrison. Antonio Brown is going to practice tomorrow, and he is scheduled to play. Troy Polamalu is going to practice tomorrow with the possibility of him playing. We are encouraged by his status as well. We are looking to get some guys back potentially but we aren’t going to hold our breath in regards to that. We are going to continue to focus on readying the guys that are healthy and hold those guys to the standard that we are accustomed to, which is winning football. It’s important that we get back on that side of the ledger. This is a big football game. It’s division football versus our division leader. Let’s talk about the Baltimore Ravens briefly. There’s really no need to get in depth with a description of this group. We just played them here a couple of weeks ago. Not much has changed with that group since then. Really, if you look at what happened this past weekend, it’s really a capsule of what they are capable of. They are a balanced group. Ray Rice is special. He is a guy for all situations, as I have said before, even on fourth-and-29. That’s a special football play but it also not only highlights his ability, it highlights the abilities and belief that they all have in one another. For Joe Flacco to dump that ball off to him, and for him to do what he did, pick up a block, the type of block he picked up from Anquan Boldin, it’s really just a snapshot of what the Ravens have been about this year. They have found ways to win. That’s what winning teams do. We better be prepared to match that level of intensity and camaraderie. At tight end, Dennis Pitta has been exceptional. He continues to find ways to show what he is capable of doing, sometimes at the expense of Ed Dickson. He went down in the game. Pitta really shows what he is capable of. They really do a nice job of continuing to include Jacoby Jones in their offense. He has shown that he is a viable receiving option, as has number-17, Tandon Doss. They complement their normal arsenal of guys, led by Boldin and Torrey Smith. On defense, for us, like I talked about earlier, it’s more about focusing on what we do well. Our readiness and making sure we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we can’t turn the ball over. We can’t be highly penalized. Within that, we do have some matchup things that we need to be concerned about because of what these guys are capable of. We will have Beachum at tackle. We have to do a good job of schematically helping him protect the passer, particularly in situational football, third downs. Paul Kruger, their edge rusher, along with Terrell Suggs, those guys flock. We have to be prepared to block those guys. Kruger did a nice job against us last time. Suggs has done a nice job against us historically. I think it starts there in terms of formulating a good plan against these guys, making sure we can keep those guys off our quarterback, along with the usual suspects, Haloti Ngata and others. On special teams, I thought Jones’ return last time was significant. It really was a winning edge when you looked at the game. That was the difference in the game. We have to do a better job in defending Jones. He is a known threat. He was known before we played him last time. He simply added to his resume against us. We have to be better in coverage this time than we were then. Their punter, Sam Koch, is doing an awesome job. He is averaging 47 yards per punt with a net of 40. They do a nice job of flipping the field position when they are not successful on offense. Hopefully that provides an opportunity for us to get our return game going. For us, it’s about focusing on what it is that we do, playing to our strengths, minimizing our weakness and stop doing the things that have shot ourselves in the foot as of late, namely the turnovers and the untimely offensive penalties. (Q: What did you learn from Roethlisberger when he threw and what would it take for him to be able to play Sunday?) A: I didn’t really learn much. I didn’t view the throwing myself. I was just informed that he threw and it was a step in the right direction. We’ll continue with those steps as we proceed throughout the week and we’ll let the results of that work lead us into the direction we could potentially go. (Q: Have you decided on who the starting running back is and how you will handle the rotation this week?) A: I have. Jonathan Dwyer is going to start for us at running back. He’s been consistently the most productive guy. I think we’ve got a large enough body of work to be able to identify that at this point. Obviously, we’ve been working in less than ideal circumstances with the rotation and shuffle of those guys due to health and lack of production. But over the course of the last several weeks it’s obvious that he, one, is healthy and, two, is the most productive of the group. He’ll start for us and get the bulk of the carries. Other guys will supplement him in some form or fashion based on the situation and how we formulate our game plan. (Q: Will Dwyer remain the starter should he fumble in the upcoming games?) A: I deal with things as they arise and particularly the circumstances surrounding it. I try to stay away from the hypotheticals. (Q: What made you go so quickly to the next back each time someone fumbled?) A: Because fumbling is unacceptable. We talked all week about being backup quarterback-friendly and turning the ball over is not that. We made that very clear, even prior to kickoff. That’s why we did what it is we did last week. It has no bearing on how we might conduct ourselves this week. (Q: In regards to the roster moves you made yesterday, is G David DeCastro that ready that he is able to play and is OT Marcus Gilbert’s ankle not ready?) A: What we did, and I should have mentioned that earlier, what we did with Marcus, we put him on IR. We gave him up to six or seven weeks for that ankle to perk up. We knew that it was a possibility that it would not. It has not. Surgery is a strong option that would require him to go on IR. That created a spot, or an opportunity. David DeCastro has been working here for a week in terms of practice. He’s healthy enough to proceed. We slotted him and moved him up and we’ll just continue to work him in practice and see what he’s capable of doing. (Q: Is there an option to put Ramon Foster at right tackle and play DeCastro?) A: That is potentially an option but based on our strengths and what we know right now, Kelvin Beachum has played and DeCastro has not, other than preseason football. So, we feel that that’s the best mode at this point. Obviously, position flexibility has got to be an element in this thing as we push forward through the week. With Mike Adams being down, Ramon is going to have to be tackle-capable. He could be the third tackle as I sit here right now, but that’s just normal football for us. We value position flexibility. We acknowledge that guys are going to have to show multiple skills in order for us to be the type of team that we desire to be. (Q: Batch performed well in the no-huddle last game. Would you consider doing more no-huddle to keep him sharp?) A: That’s a possibility, but not based on anything that we’ve seen on tape or anything that’s transpired. It’s just that we’ve worked it and it’s part of what we do. (Q: Re: WR Mike Wallace’s performance against Cleveland:) A: Mike was frustrated, and rightfully so. He’s not producing in the manner in which he’d like to or which we’d like him to. It’s the function of a lot of things. He’s just going to be committed to continuing to work and we’re committed to that as well. (Q: Are any of Wallace’s struggles a result of a lack of effort?) A: No. (Q: You have two guys in Wallace and WR Emmanuel Sanders listed as starters at one wide receiver position. What will determine who starts?) A: Situations. (Q: Re: Being able to trust Roethlisberger when he tells you he is healthy enough to play:) A: Just like I told you last week, I’ve got relationships with these guys. So, it’s more than just what comes out of their mouth. There’s also how they say it and what it is that we see. And what it is that we see, being probably the chief element in terms of decision-making. He’s not going to be allowed to play unless he shows us that he’s capable. (Q: How is QB Brian Hoyer picking up the playbook and is he still in a situation where he would be used only in an emergency?) A: He’s doing a nice job of picking it up and right now I guess he could be described as an emergency guy, just not enough exposure. Hopefully, that changes over the course of this week and I think that is a possibility. (Q: You said after the game that Batch’s performance wasn’t good enough. What have you seen from him that leads you to believe that he still has it?) A: Just his body of work, not only that singular performance. Just his body of work, not only through this season on the practice field and in training camp and in preseason settings, but what he’s done since he’s been here. He’s a capable, veteran guy, one that the guys believe in, one that we know is capable of providing a winning-type performance for us. That didn’t occur on Sunday, but he wasn’t alone. (Q: How and why do you accept responsibility for the issues with ball security?) A: Because it was poor and, in some instances, fundamentally. Carrying the ball on the inside arm on a couple, not double-arm wrapping the ball when we’re backed up, situational rules that we live by. Evidently, they’re not being relayed strongly enough because it’s not getting done and we put the ball on the ground. Ultimately, coaches are responsible for those things and, obviously, I don’t run away from those responsibilities. (Q: How did Beachum adjust after a holding call?) A: I thought he represented himself very well. (Q: From a coaching standpoint, are there certain circumstances where a fumble is understandable, if not acceptable?) A: There are certain circumstances that are more understandable. I don’t say that any turnovers are readily embraced by competitors or coaches. (Q: What have you seen from WR Plaxico Burress and how will you use him moving forward?) A: I thought he provided a shot in the arm, particularly there at the end of the first half for us. We targeted the red area as a place to utilize him and a place to begin teaching him what it is that we do and fitting him into what it is that we do. We’ll continue with that process this week and obviously there is a chance his role could expand outside of that area as well, and should. (Q: Is RB Chris Rainey okay after being shaken up at the end of Sunday’s game?) A: He is. He was just seeking comfort.
Press conference6WL
Good afternoon. As always, I will start with a quick review of our performance on Sunday. Really, many of the elements that determined the outcome of the game were what we thought they would be. It was unfortunate for us that they didn’t unfold in the manner in which we would have liked. They won the turnover battle. They got two turnovers in the game. Both of them led to field goals. The one early on, Mike Wallace fumbled and gave them the ball in our territory. I thought our defense did a nice job of holding them to three points. The turnover battle produced six points for them. They got the splash play in the return game as opposed to us. That put another seven points on the board for them. Their defense did a nice job of standing up in the red area late in the football game when we put together a drive. Last week I talked about those guys being the number-one team in football in redzone defense. It unfolded in that manner and in that instance, their ability to stand up on third-and-two with the ball on their four-yard line. That was kind of the difference in the game. There were a lot of great efforts and a lot of positive things to build on but we are not searching for those types of things at this juncture of the season. We are searching for wins. We didn’t get it done. We turn our focus to this week’s challenge. We will remain in the AFC North and prepare for the Cleveland Browns. From an injury standpoint, I will roll through some injuries and some of the likely discussions that come along with that. Jerricho Cotchery is out with multiple rib fractures that he sustained late in the football game. Byron Leftwich is out with a rib fracture that he sustained at some point late in the game. Ziggy Hood will be questionable and his participation will be limited at the early portions of the week. He has a lumbar-spine sprain. We expect him to perk up by the end of the week. Isaac Redman sustained a concussion in the game. He is performing well on the battery of tests that come along with that. He may be limited at the early portions of the week but we have an arrow pointed up at his participation as long as his testing continues along the line that it is at this point. Some existing injuries, guys working their way back that are noteworthy are Antonio Brown and his ankle injury. He did good work today. He will be limited at the front part of this week but he could be characterized as questionable. Marcus Gilbert is ready to work some in individual workouts in a limited capacity with his ankle injury. He can be characterized as questionable. The same thing can be said about Troy Polamalu. He is going to run tomorrow. He will be limited, and we will let his participation lead us in terms of where he might be this week. He can be characterized as questionable. Lastly, Ben Roethlisberger could be characterized as doubtful with his SC-sprain as we sit here today. He had additional tests done today. All things are very positive in terms of where he is. We are encouraged about his status. With the list of injuries, particularly at the quarterback and wide receiver positions, we brought in four candidates that we just worked out today. At quarterback, we brought in Brian Hoyer, a veteran backup that spent some time in New England and Mike Kafka who spent some time in Philadelphia, and someone that we saw in the preseason. At wide receiver, Plaxico Burress worked out for us, along with Derrick Williams, a veteran guy out of Penn State that we had in training camp. We are looking at these guys with the potential to sign at least one guy at each position. We have a myriad of things going on in terms of the health of our own men with workouts today. That process is continuing to run its course but we are looking to add two men to simply fortify our depth. In terms of us being able to win this football game and preparing to win this football game, those answers largely remain intact in terms of the guys on our football team as we sit here now. But I will acknowledge that due to our injuries to a number of positions, we feel that we need to fortify our depth at those positions. That process is running its course. I am sorry I don’t have more information for you as I sit here but that’s what days like Tuesday are all about. Turning our attention to the Browns and preparing for them, on offense, if you are having a discussion about these guys, it starts with their runner, Trent Richardson. I was hopeful that the legendary Jim Brown was correct in his initial assessment of Richardson but I am disappointed. This guy is a talented runner. He has great contact balance. He is strong willed. He is highly productive. He has a downhill run demeanor. He finishes off runs. He has soft hands. He is their leading receiver as well. He is their feature ball carrier. He really is just living up to the expectations that come with being as high of a draft pick that he is. He is good for them in all circumstances, first, second and third-down, short yardage, goal line and in the red area. I mentioned what he is doing in the passing game. That’s probably as surprising as anything to me. Obviously, I don’t spend a lot of time evaluating guys that go that high in the draft, based on where we picked in the draft. But I did get a chance to look at him and he is as good as advertised. At wide receiver, they have young talent. Greg Little was their leading receiver a year ago. He is back. They also have Josh Gordon that they picked up in the supplemental draft. He is a talented, young, high-round guy. Those are their two lead receivers. They are supplemented by some quality other veterans. Mohamed Massaquoi has been there for a number of years. Joshua Cribbs can be characterized as a guy that is gadget-capable. We know what he has done to us in the past in the Wildcat offense. He still has those capabilities. He has a young understudy in Travis Benjamin. He is a rookie from the University of Miami. He has a similar skill set in that he is reverse-capable and gadget-capable. They use him in that way. Brandon Weeden has done a nice job at quarterback for a rookie. This guy has thrown every pass that the team has thrown this season. He has shown great moxie. He has spread the ball around to a number of receivers. He is not opposed to checking the ball down to his running backs and tight ends. I like the tight end tandem of Benjamin Watson and Jordan Cameron. They do a nice job, along with Alex Smith, their tight end/move-full back/h-back. Weeden does a nice job of utilizing all those guys as well as the receivers. They do a nice job of keeping you off balance with their screen game, quick game and misdirection passing. I think he does a nice job of getting the ball out, the boot game. Their offensive line is intact, led by Joe Thomas at left tackle. We are familiar with competing against those guys. Defensively, I look more at their recent body of work more than their complete body of work because I think the arrow is pointing up in one specific area for them, their interior front of their defensive line. Since the return of Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin, I think that they have been extremely difficult to run on. That was evident in their game last week versus Dallas. Those guys are big, stout men who specialize in shutting down. Those two recent additions have been an awesome shot in the arm for them on defense. I think their front is a big time strength of theirs. I have big-time respect for Jabaal Sheard, the young man from the University of Pittsburgh. I think he plays not only in a productive manner but the type of motor that all coaches desire. He is putting together a nice body of work in his second year. Also in their rotation, and opposite of Sheard, is Frostee Rucker, a free agent they acquired from the Cincinnati Bengals. We are familiar with him and he is familiar with us. He has played a lot of AFC North football. They supplement him with Juqua Parker, a situational rush specialist who has distinguished himself over a long career in that manner, most recently in Philadelphia. Their linebacking core and defense is led by D’Qwell Jackson. He is a solid veteran in the middle. He is a three-down football player. He plays in all packages, nickel and in dime. He is a good sideline-to-sideline football player. He is really good at running down the middle in their version of the Tampa-two stuff. In the secondary, Joe Haden is a top-flight, young cornerback for them. He has played really good football for them and always has. He has been limited for them due to a variety of reasons this year. I think he has only played in five games. But when he does play, he is Joe Haden, the guy we are used to going against. They have Sheldon Brown, a savvy veteran at the opposite cornerback position. Buster Skrine is a young cornerback that I think has done a nice job of distinguishing himself. He has great short-area quickness. He is combative. I think he may even be their leading tackler. He plays inside and outside. A lot of times his participation and where he plays determines on whether or not Haden is playing or not. T.J. Ward is consistently physical at safety. He is a guy that has been back there now for a number of years. Their special teams, we have our hands full as always with these guys. Phil Dawson is a model of consistency. I don’t think he has missed a kick this year, and he is 5-for-5 from 50+ yards. This guy is a consistent shot in the arm for them when it comes to field position and scoring opportunities. He has been for a while. I interned there in the late 1990s into the 2000s and he was their kicker then. I am sure his record of longevity rivals just about anybody in football. Cribbs is a dynamic return man. Given our recent performance in that area, we need to be ready to perform there. You could classify Benjamin as his understudy in that area as well. Benjamin has done some gadget things for them on offense. He also has had a nice history in college football as a return man. (Q: What makes Plaxico Burress intriguing?) A: He’s in really good physical condition based on the workout I just saw. He’s got very good body control for a big man. He can drop his weight at break points. Obviously, he’s no stranger to football. (Q: If you sign someone, how soon do you need them on the roster?) A: Like I just said earlier, the guys that are going to lead us to victory this week are the guys that are here. We need the potential addition of those men to fortify our depths at two positions particularly. (Q: Are the injuries to Leftwich and Cotchery potentially season-ending?) A: No. I don’t believe that to be the case. (Q: When you look at signing players in circumstances, do you give any thought to how they may be able to help you in the future?) A: I think that all of those decisions are made with a good eye-bad eye approach. What are your immediate needs and where can it potentially lead? I think that’s something that we bounce around in all the decisions that we make so it’s definitely a possibility. (Q: Would a guy like Kafka, who played in a West Coast offense in Philadelphia, be a better fit with this offense?) A: More than anything, with the two quarterbacks, we’re looking at two guys who have earned their livings as backups and that’s specific because they’re capable of being able to put together an above the line performance on a limited number of snaps. Obviously, Charlie Batch is going to get the bulk of the snaps this week and rightfully so. Those guys have earned their living in this league as backups, being ready to participate on a limited number of snaps and that was part of the decision that came to bringing those two men to the forefront today. Not only that, but they have reputations as football smart and intelligent people. (Q: Was the encouraging news you said you received about Roethlisberger about both the rib and the shoulder injuries?) A: They’re one in the same from my perspective. (Q: Was Leftwich hurt bad enough during the game that he should have left the game and at any point did you think about replacing him with Batch?) A: Those were things that were up for discussion. Obviously, like I said after the game, he did a nice job of communicating with us where he was. The doctors did a nice job of communicating with him. There was no real serious discussion about pulling him from the game. Obviously, we didn’t know that he had rib fractures but that’s just part of football. We appreciate his willingness to battle. He’s always kind of been that guy and he did a nice job in the football game. (Q: Do you have any idea when Leftwich hurt his ribs?) A: I do not. If I had to guess, I’d say the last sack might be something that you could point to, potentially. (Q: Batch was starting to warm-up later in the game. Did Leftwich tell you that he was good to go during the game?) A: He did, but again, like I said, those conversations were ongoing. He actually fell on his shoulder awkwardly on the first series of the game when he ran that touchdown. That might have been one of the reasons that Charlie was warming up when you referenced he was warming up. Again, I don’t know when that transpired or how that related to the conversations that were ongoing with Byron. (Q: What is the bigger injury with Leftwich, the shoulder or the ribs?) A: The ribs. (Q: Could you see when Leftwich was in pain during the game?) A: Sometimes you see, Sometimes you don’t. That’s just part of it. Obviously, as a head coach, I’ve always got 11 [players] on the grass. My focus is on the men that are on the grass. I have no qualms with the level of communication, not only with all parties involved, but from Byron, specifically, in regards to his health on Sunday night. (Q: Has RB Jonathan Dwyer earned a start?) A: He’s doing a nice job. Those decisions are ongoing. We haven’t talked about who’s going to get the bulk of the carries or who is going to run out of the tunnel, per say. Obviously, we’re going to need good, solid contributions from all the backs that we put helmets on. (Q: Do you prefer rotating running backs or giving one guy the majority of the carries?) A: My preference would be to have a healthy, solidified featured runner but I don’t always get what I want in this business, obviously, for a variety of reasons. All of those guys have been nicked in some form or fashion. We’ve dealt with it to the best of our abilities. They’ve done a nice job of being productive when given an opportunity, but the circumstances themselves have created what we’ve done with the running backs at this point. We’re not making excuses for it, that’s just the reality of it. We’re not looking for relief, either. We’re going to continue to make the decisions based on the healthy people that give us the best opportunity to win. (Q: Will Marcus Gilbert step back into a starting role when he’s healthy?) A: He’s not healthy yet so we’ll deal with that when we get to it. (Q: Is there any thought to why you didn’t use the running game more on Sunday when you had a backup quarterback who attempted 39 passes in the game?) A: I’m comfortable with the play selection. If we make another play or two we win the game and you don’t ask that question. I’m not worried about it. My focus is on winning. (Q: If Antonio Brown is healthy, will the receiver you add have to be someone who is flexible and can be a special teams guy?) A: Again, it’s based on Antonio’s available health. So, we’ll make that decision when it’s appropriate. But obviously we’re looking for somebody who is capable of helping us in a multitude of ways. (Q: How, if it all, have coverages changed when Antonio Brown is not in the lineup?) A: I don’t think necessarily that they have. Again, I haven’t done a self-scout in regards to that. We’ve got capable guys. We believe that Emmanuel Sanders is a viable guy. We believe that Jerricho Cotchery is a viable guy. We haven’t necessarily looked for changes whether or not Antonio is in the game or not in the game, based on what our opponents do to this point. (Q: Does the offense change at all with Batch at quarterback and how much confidence do you have in him?) A: The changes will be subtle and they’ll be made with an emphasis geared toward maximizing his strengths and minimizing his weaknesses. We’ve got a great deal of confidence in Charlie. One thing that I can say about this quarterback situation, as uncomfortable as it may be or may appear to be, it is not something that we’re foreign to unfortunately. We’ve been as far as three and four deep, in terms of playing quarterbacks in recent years. Definitely in ’09 and ’10. Those guys do an awesome job of rallying and answering the bell. We expect them to. So, we’re excited about him preparing and leading us this week. (Q: Did you think about bringing in a quarterback like Dennis Dixon or Tyler Palko who have experience with this organization?) A: I’m just talking about the guys that we had here working out today. I’m not talking about why we didn’t bring others in. I don’t think that’s fair to them. (Q: Do you have to guard against making a knee-jerk reaction after allowing a special teams touchdown?) A: I don’t generally make decisions in a reactionary mode. Those are the type of processes that we go through on a week-to-week basis to try to keep the dogs off of us, not only in coverage but in all three phases of the game. But we acknowledge that we broke down in that area last week and we acknowledge that Josh Cribbs has made a living hurting people. Obviously, it’s going to be an element of preparation for us and we’ll kick those things around and discuss them and prepare for the game. (Q: What did you think of WR Derrick Williams when you had him in camp?) A: He was a multi-talented guy that showed he was capable of being able to help in a number of areas. He still appears to be healthy and in good physical condition, which are all positives. (Q: What is your assessment of the defense after only giving up one touchdown in the last two games?) A: Again, they did a nice job but we’re not searching for feel-goods. I would have appreciated a splash play that produces a score or provides a short field for the offense that would’ve potentially produced a score, because that may have been the difference in the game. That’s why we play. We play to win. (Q: If Antonio Brown is healthy and could play on Sunday, would that affect your decision on signing a receiver?) A: Potentially, but as we sit here today he is not deemed healthy. So we have to go through the processes that are professional and appropriate. (Q: Is it difficult to read how injured players are since a lot of them want to play through injuries?) A: If I didn’t know them, that would make it difficult. But obviously, I have personal relationships with these guys. So, it’s not necessarily what the answer to the questions are but how they answer the questions and, of course, how they perform. Obviously, Byron did a nice job of communicating with us. I knew that he had a certain level of discomfort but I didn’t see anything in his performance, coupled with those discussions, to lead me to believe that he needed to be pulled. As a matter of fact, at the end of the game, he threw a ball down the middle of the field to Heath [Miller] that I thought was an accurate and appropriate throw and the throw he made to Cotchery on the sideline on, maybe the second to last play of the game, was thrown with great velocity and accuracy. I didn’t see anything transpiring on the field, coupled with the discussions that we had, to lead me to believe not to believe what was being said. (Q: Do the way teams play the gunners on special teams change during the game?) A: It changes, generally, in game. Our standards are simple, if they’re in one-on-one’s we expect the gunners to win. We don’t want returns, we want fair catches. If they’re in two-on-one, they have to get down the field and be disruptive at the very least. (Q: Is that hard to do?) A: Yes, but there are a lot of things in football, particularly professional football, that are difficult to do. That’s why we employ capable men. (Q: How has Cleveland managed to stay in a lot of close games?) A: Again, I’ve really focused my efforts on their recent performances and obviously, over the last four or five games, they’ve been in some highly competitive games. They beat Cincinnati, they were in the Indy game, it was 12-14 in the fourth quarter of the Baltimore game and the game last week went into overtime. Such is life in the National Football League. They’re a competitive bunch. They play for 60 minutes, we respect them and our focus is on our preparation and ultimately our play. (Q: Do you use Ed Reed getting suspended as a teaching lesson to your team?) A: No.
Press conference13LL
Quickly I will get down to business. We slept fast last night. In review of the game, obviously we were pleased to get out of the stadium with the win. It wasn’t a perfect body of work by any stretch but that’s not our concern, getting the win is. I thought there were very few positives but the positives were significant. We made significant plays to get us out of the stadium. Lawrence Timmons’ interception in overtime was big. Shaun Suisham has been big for us all year. We also had a lot of small contributions from a lot of people. More than anything, it was just a gritty performance by our guys. They made the sufficient plays to secure a win for us. From an injury standpoint, I will talk about how we came out of the game. Starting with Ben Roethlisberger, he has a shoulder sprain. It can be classified as an SC sprain. That’s all the information I have for you at this time. He’s being evaluated. Obviously this injury puts his participation in the questionable category for this week. I will have more information for you guys as I get it as the week unfolds. Antonio Brown is still rehabbing his ankle sprain. He can be classified as questionable. Marcus Gilbert, with his ankle tendon injury, started some preliminary work last week. He can be classified as questionable. Troy Polamalu, with his calf injury, can be classified as doubtful. Stevenson Sylvester has a hamstring injury. He is questionable. Ryan Clark will be evaluated in terms of his participation. I saw him. He appears to be fine. We will see where the evaluation process takes us during the course of the week. Rashard Mendenhall, coming back from his Achilles injury, is starting to work and work significantly for us. I can classify him as questionable as we sit here today. It’s Ravens’ week for us. This is going to be an awesome game. It always is. They are a talented bunch as they are perennially. They are a very good football team. I will start talking about some of the things they are capable of. First and foremost, if you look at their complete body of work and what type of team they are, they distinguish themselves in situational football, which makes them a difficult team to beat. They are number one in the NFL in redzone defense. I know a lot has been written and said about their statistics on defense but they are number one in the NFL on redzone defense and are number-five in redzone offense. That’s significant in terms of scoring. We are about in the middle of the pack in both those statistics, so obviously that weighs heavily in their favor in terms of the output of points. We need to be better than we’ve been in that area. We have to make sure they are not as good as they have been in that area on offense and defense. We are even in the turnover margin for the first nine games. They are plus-nine. They do a nice job of taking care of the ball and getting the ball, as they always have done. That’s another element of situational football that is going to be difficult for us. More than anything, we understand what this matchup is all about. It’s about physicality and playing good, hard-nose football. We expect them to do that, and we better be prepared to do it. They are continuing to grow on offense and mature with their quarterback. The offense runs through Joe Flacco. They do a lot of no-huddle. They have a lot of autonomy for him, and rightfully so. He’s a great decision maker. He spreads the ball around to a variety of guys. He does a nice job of highlighting the talents of people. Torrey Smith is a deep-ball threat. He has seven touchdowns. Flacco does a nice job of putting the ball in play for him. Anquan Boldin is a tough-combat catch guy, a chain mover. He does a nice job playing to his strengths. Ray Rice is a man for all situations. He can run it. He is great in the passing game, check-downs and blitz pickups. He is a tough competitor. He has a nice stiff arm and he finished runs. He is his usual self. Added to that mix, you have to acknowledge Jacoby Jones and what he is developing into in terms of his big-play ability, not only on special teams but on offense. He has provided a shot in the arm for them. I think the tight end tandem of Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson is really good. They are a tough matchup in the pass game, and they get after you in the run game. They finish plays. Their ability to displace themselves from the formation in the pass game and play out of two-point stances like big wide receivers makes them tough to deal with, particularly in the vertical pass game. Their play-action passing is as good as it has always been. On defense, they are without Ray Lewis but they still have some guys that have historically been issues for us. Haloti Ngata is a guy that has created issues for us in the past and anyone else that suits up against him. He is tough to deal with. Terrell Suggs is back in action. He has had big games against us in the past. Ed Reed kills everyone. Along with those guys, they have some additions. Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams are all playing really good football for them. These are guys that have grown in their program and have been playing for them for a number of years. They are familiar names to us but might not be familiar to others. When I watch them on tape I see the emergence of this group and their ability to deliver crucial plays for them. They step up when needed. They have a new kicker in Justin Tucker but he appears to be a rock-solid professional. Sam Koch is their punter and he’s been around. Jones is a dangerous kick and punt returner, particularly on kickoffs. He has returned two for touchdowns, 108 and 105 yards already this year. Our kickoff coverage units will have their hands full in terms of slowing him down. (Q: Is there any indication Roethlisberger’s injury is an old one that flared up?) A: Not to my knowledge, no. (Q: Is it alarming that Clark has head injuries in the past few weeks?) A: It’s not alarming for me. I just lean on the understanding of our medical staff and the battery of tests that not only he but anyone that has those types of injuries has to go through. If he’s deemed cleared and ready to play then of course we’ll play him. If he’s not, we won’t. (Q: If Roethlisberger isn’t able to practice all week could you still play him Sunday?) A: I have before. (Q: Would you rule Roethlisberger out early so the next guy can get as many reps as possible, being that this is a difficult game?) A: I don’t care about the opponent. They’re nameless, grey faces to me. I’m not going to change protocol because of who we’re playing. (Q: Is there a need for a third QB if Roethlisberger is out for awhile?) A: That’s something that we’re capable of discussing. We haven’t discussed it to this point. I haven’t discussed much of anything to this point. More than anything, I’ve been in dark rooms readying ourselves for the Ravens. I’m sure that those discussions and others will potentially come up here in the next 24 hours or so. (Q: Is there a general timeline for a shoulder sprain?) A: Not to my knowledge to this point. (Q: Is this injury more concerning since it is his throwing shoulder?) A: Again, I gave you guys all the information that I have. When I get more, I’ll give it to you. I don’t deal in levels of concern and things of that nature. I focus my energy on the healthy ones and their preparedness. (Q: Is Leftwich the active starter as of now?) A: Yes, he is. (Q: Just for clarification, did you say it was an LC sprain for Roethlisberger?) A: SC. Whatever that is. I coach football. [Laughs] (Q: Is that the same thing as the AC shoulder sprain?) A: It is not to my knowledge. But don’t quote me on that. [Laughs] (Q: Do Leftwich and Charlie Batch both fit Todd Haley’s offense well?) A: I’m not worried about the capabilities of either man. If called upon, they’re proven veteran players, they’re capable of performing in whatever offense or whatever personality we choose to have. More than anything, if either are to play, obviously this week’s preparation will be big and having an opportunity to take snaps and prepare will be big. (Q: How is Roethlisberger handling this? I assume he’s disappointed.) A: He’s great. (Q: Were you given any explanation for the Kansas City getting a fourth timeout? Why wasn’t there a time runoff late in the game?) A: I don’t know the answer to that. I think it has something to do with the fact that we also had someone injured simultaneously. But I haven’t had confirmation of that. I just really haven’t had enough hours in my day to this point. (Q: How does the offense change if Leftwich is running it?) A: I don’t know that it does. (Q: Did the Kansas City defense devise a way to protect a special player like Derrick Johnson so you couldn’t get to him?) A: No, I just really think, more than anything, it’s how they’re built. They’ve got some stout men upfront. [Dontari] Poe, their first-rounder, is a big man. He’s tacked behind him and they’ve got some others. They do a nice job of utilizing the men to the best of their abilities and Johnson played good ball last night. There’s no question about that. I talked earlier in the week last week about his ability to hit gaps and run under blocks and do the things that he does that make him a very functional player in today’s NFL. He proved that last night. (Q: Leftwich said he was rusty last night. Is that what you saw and what are some of his assets?) A: I’ll trust his assessment if that’s his assessment but I’m not overly concerned about it as I sit here today. We got a lot of ball in front of us this week. If he is the guy, he’ll get a great opportunity to prepare and we’ll expect him to play winning football. (Q: Re: Brett Keisel’s performance last night:) A: It was a timely performance and kudos to him. I’m sorry I hadn’t mentioned him to this point but he was one of the many guys that delivered timely plays for us in the football game. (Q: Did the run game take a step back or was it all what the Chiefs were doing?) A: I’d like to think that they did some nice things but I also think we could’ve done some things better. Such is life and that’s the nature of football. But more than anything, you have to acknowledge that group did a nice job. They came to play and played hard and they made plays. We need to do better. (Q: What factored into the decision to release Alameda Ta’amu and will he be back?) A: It was strictly a personnel move. We needed to get [David] Gilreath up and that was a means in which to do it. We’ll make the necessary moves to put our very best team on the field this week, whether it includes Alameda or not. (Q: Is this team better equipped to overcome Roethlisberger’s injury because you’ve had so many other injuries to players like Troy Polamalu and Rashard Mendenhall?) A: We just focus on the healthy guys. The injuries are what they are. We’re not looking to make excuses. Excuses are the tools of the incompetent. I believe we have a competent football team. The ones that are healthy will prepare, will step into the stadium and the level of expectation will be the same. (Q: Did the inability to convert on fourth down at midfield earlier in the game factor into your decision not to go for it right outside the two-minute warning?) A: It did, if I remember correctly. Obviously, our defense was doing a nice job of stopping them and stopping them quickly and that also weighed into that decision as well. (Q: Is the way the Raven’s deploy tight ends similar to what you saw Denver do earlier this year?) A: A lot of teams do it. New England does it tight-end oriented teams. It’s en vogue in today’s NFL. (Q: What do you make of Ravens QB Joe Flacco playing better at home than on the road?) A: He plays better at home than he does on the road. (Q: Does that say a lot for home field advantage?) A: It’s an element of the game. The play ultimately determines how games unfold and statistics and things of that nature. I’m a proponent of that. I will acknowledge that some variables are factors but not significant ones. I’d like to think that when step into a stadium, our preparedness and ultimately our play determines the outcome of football games, regardless what stadium we’re stepping in. (Q: Is Baltimore a different team because of the injuries they have had?) A: I just think that they’re evolving like all teams evolve, like we’ve evolved. They’re not the same team that they were in 2011 or 2010 and for obvious reason. Players ascend, players descend, just like on our football team. Teams usually try to play to their strengths and work to minimize their weaknesses. I think they’re doing a nice job of that.
Press conference5LW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance. Obviously, it was a good performance for us in all three phases. We got good contributions from all people involved. Some of the big themes that we started to focus on the past couple of weeks we saw develop in our play, which is a good sign for us. We talked openly about improving our yards per carry on offense. I think we have done that over the last month or so, and I think it has helped us become more balanced, made us tougher to defend and made us possess the ball. On defense, about a month ago, we looked back and opponents were converting 49% of their third-down opportunities. We challenged ourselves in that way. Since that time we’ve grown. We only allowed 2-of-10 third-down conversions in the last game. I think we got the cumulative number down to 41%, which is closer to what we are more comfortable with. Obviously there is still room for growth in that area. In the special teams game, we felt like we had dangerous return men when we weren’t shooting ourselves in the foot. I think largely we were able to do that on Sunday. I think the field position our return game provided was an asset to us in the game. I like the quality of depth at the return man position. I thought Emmanuel Sanders was helpful to us as the third man on returns. His play was much appreciated. We will take these lessons and our ability to battle through obscure circumstances, and hopefully it will be something that strengthens us as we move forward. I know that will be our intentions as we prepare for this opportunity. From an injury standpoint, Antonio Brown has an ankle sprain, which leaves his participation very much in doubt this week. We will see where the week takes us. We will leave the door ajar but usually those are not positive things, particularly for someone that earns a living the way he does with his short-area quickness and change of direction. Rashard Mendenhall will get some work this week. We will see where his work leads us. He is characterized as questionable. I think it will be one more week for Marcus Gilbert and Troy Polamalu. I think they will both participate at a limited capacity but I am less optimistic about them. Stevenson Sylvester is questionable with a right hamstring injury. I think Jonathan Dwyer has a strong chance to play. We will take it day-by-day and see where the week takes us. Guys coming off an injury, Isaac Redman and LaMarr Woodley were no worse for wear. We expect those guys to continue to move forward. I thought there were no setbacks during the game or even after the game from a health standpoint for those guys. We are excited about playing Monday Night Football here at our place [Heinz Field]. We don’t take that lightly. We are getting an opportunity to play a primetime game in front of our peers and the nation. Obviously, Kansas City has gone through some tough things and transitions, being at quarterback, who is calling defenses and who the starting cornerbacks are. That’s not our concern. Our concern is our level of preparation and ultimately our play. On offense, the first thing you talk about when defending these guys is that we have to be sound against the run. They are third in the NFL in rushing, and I think they are fifth in yards per carry. They have quality guys that can run the football. Jamaal Charles leads the charge. He is in the top-five or top-six in the NFL in rushing. He is one of those one-hit guys but any time the ball is snapped he is capable of scoring from long distance. He has already had a 91-yard touchdown this year. They picked up Peyton Hillis, somebody we are very familiar with. He is a contrasting runner to Charles but a great complement to him. He is a powerful, deliberate, one-cut and downhill runner. He finishes with a strong run demeanor. He supplements Charles and supplements him well. Dexter McCluster is a wide receiver, a running back and a Wildcat guy. We better be prepared to defend him. When you look at their coaching staff, Brian Daboll, their offensive coordinator, spent some time in Cleveland. We are familiar with him schematically. They’ve had a great deal of success against us in the past with Wildcat-like attacks when he utilized Joshua Cribbs. We expect them to potentially use McCluster in a similar manner. They have in recent weeks. They have against us in the past. He is a talented guy. We need to get that squared away to stop him. At quarterback there is some unrest between the two guys, Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. We will follow the reports just like you guys will during the course of the week. Obviously, we will watch and study them both to see what they do in a similar way and what they do differently schematically when they are in there. We will prepare to the best of our ability to defend either one of them. At wide receiver, it starts with Dwayne Bowe. He is fifth in the NFL in third-down receptions. He is a big, strong and combative guy. He is probably one of the best combative catch guys in football. He draws a lot of defensive pass interference penalties. He is strong at the catch point, and he is tough to get on the ground. I think the same thing can be said for Jonathan Baldwin, a young and talented first-round pick from next door at the University of Pittsburgh. He is playing opposite of Bowe. I know he is not unfamiliar with Heinz Field and playing in that environment. He is a big guy. He plays big. He is tough to deal with down the field, and he is also tough to get on the ground. We have our hands full with those guys, particularly in combat situations. Looking at them on defense, what stands out are their linebackers. Tamba Hali is an impressive guy when you watch him on tape. He has a relentless motor. His partner in crime is Justin Houston. Together they have 11 sacks. They put consistent pressure on the quarterback. You don’t know what side they are coming from, they flop. Both guys play on the right and left side. Derrick Johnson is their inside linebacker. He leads the charge. He is a sideline-to-sideline tackler. He is very quick. He reads and reacts. He takes the calculated risks associated with inside linebackers. He will run through gaps. He will run underneath blocks and still make consistent plays. He is very good in coverage, particularly in underneath coverage and man-to-man versus running backs. Up front, they have three first-round picks in Tyson Jackson, Dontari Poe and Glenn Dorsey. I don’t know if Dorsey is going to play but he is a first-rounder. They have some top-quality and young pedigree talent up front. They have some young talent in the secondary in Eric Berry and Javier Arenas. Arenas will play at cornerback since they released Stanford Routt. Arenas is a guy that we liked in the draft. He is a very aware, tough and instinctual football player. He is playing outside and inside. Their other cornerback is Brandon Flowers, a veteran from Virginia Tech who has some rock-solid ball skills. In the kicking game, Dustin Colquitt is one of the more solid and established punters in the business. Ryan Succop, their kicker, is 14-of-15 on the season. I think he hit 22 field goals in a row last year. He has been highly consistent. They have dangerous return men, whether it’s McCluster, Arenas or even if they choose to go to Charles, who ran a kickoff back against us a few years ago. They have very capable men. You ask why they are 1-7, quite honestly it’s because they have turned the ball over and have significantly lost the turnover battle. They are minus-21 on the season, which puts them last in the NFL. I’d like to think that is something comforting for us but it’s not like we’ve been a juggernaut when it comes to getting turnovers. We’ve done a better job getting off the field but we haven’t done a great job getting turnovers. We are probably one of the worst in the league in that area. We are preparing for Monday’s opportunity and we are excited about doing it. (Q: Re: Injury status of RB Chris Rainey:) A: Rainey has a rib injury. It’s going to be big-time uncomfortable but he has an opportunity to play. We’ll see where it takes us as we push through the week. His participation might be limited in the early parts of the week. (Q: What are your options in the return game with Rainey and Brown?) A: Emmanuel Sanders looked like a pretty good option to me last week. The ball will be in his court first. (Q: Would that go for both kickoff returns and punt returns?) A: Certainly. (Q: How did Rainey get hurt?) A: Specifically, I don’t know what happened. I think he looked like he got hit there at the end of the play, which could’ve been a possibility. I haven’t talked to him directly about it. I’ve been more focused on getting injury information in regards to how to go about getting him well as quickly as we can. (Q: What are you doing differently on defense on first and second down that is leading to more success on third down?) A: I don’t know if we’re doing anything differently. I just think that we’re growing and doing it better. Over the course of a football season, you’d like to think that defenders have an opportunity to grow, not only in terms of what they do but in terms of understanding how what they do fits into the big picture. We have some young guys playing significant components of situational football for us, specifically third down. You look at a young second-year player like Cortez Allen infused in the middle of that as a nickel corner. I just think over time we’re playing better football, specifically situationally and not that we’re doing anything differently or dramatically differently schematically. Of course, over the course of eight games or so as you go through the course of a season, your packages are going to grow as you add to and you keep some and so forth. The packages are probably bigger now than they were at the early portions of the year, but nothing dramatic. (Q: Is the reason Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles has seen a dip in production because teams are keying on him more, is the blocking not as good, is he dinged up?) A: It’s probably a myriad of those things. They’re probably better equipped to answer that than myself. I know they’ve been behind some and sometimes game circumstances dictate how often your featured runner gets touches. (Q: How much different is the Chiefs’ offense compared to last year when offensive coordinator Todd Haley was the Chiefs’ Head Coach?) A: They’re different. I can relate them to the Cleveland group that we’ve been familiar with schematically when Coach Crennel and Brian [Daboll] were in Cleveland. I draw correlations to that as opposed to looking at what they did with Todd a year ago. (Q: Is it helpful having Haley on the staff since he Is familiar with the Kansas City personnel?) A: I think it can be. But make no mistake about it, it’s not changing our process in terms of how we prepare and the manner in which we put our plan together. It’s not going to change at all. Todd’s not going to stand up and give any grand speeches about their personnel or things of that nature. We’re going through our normal processes in terms of preparing ourselves. If anything, he provides a nugget or two or some clarity when we get mixed signals in terms of what we see on tape or maybe what we perceive they’re capable of. (Q: Can you talk about the play of S Will Allen and has his play allowed S Ryan Clark to play more like a strong safety?) A: Will’s done a nice job for us playing in place of Troy [Polamalu] over the last couple weeks. The assets of his game are he’s a deliberate run-force guy, he’s got good range and he’s consistently physical. He’s flexible positionally but we’re not doing anything different with Ryan because he’s in there. Ryan has the ability to play both strong safety and free safety and does quite often when paired with Troy. He’s still able to do that with Will because of his versatility. (Q: Re: CB Keenan Lewis’ performance:) A: I think the arrow has been pointed up with Keenan. More than anything, he’s been consistently challenging and competing with just about every throw. I think that’s a great place for solid corner play to begin, to challenge throws consistently. He has done that, has been productive, and has been a big component of why we’ve been hot, particularly on the back end in recent weeks. (Q: Re: The offensive line’s performance:) A: I like what the group has done to this point. We were just talking about Will Allen and the stability he has provided while filling in for Troy, I think you can say the same thing about guys like Mike Adams in place of Marcus Gilbert. I think we’re finding good group cohesion. I think that we’re developing a consistent personality and demeanor. More than anything, I think that guys are growing and working over the course of this journey that is the season and we’re getting good solid leadership from guys like Maurkice [Pouncey] and Willie Colon. (Q: Are you able to be more careful with bringing RB Rashard Mendenhall back from injury because of the performance of RB Jonathan Dwyer and RB Isaac Redman?) A: No, we don’t base our judgments regarding health on production of others. We base our judgments on health regarding the health itself. When he’s ready to go, we’ll proceed with him but it is comforting to know that we have capable people ready to take the charge when given the opportunity. (Q: Who is behind Sanders in the return game?) A: We’ve got capable candidates, some of which are limited in terms of what we will allow or ask them to do. Jerricho Cotchery has caught punts for us and in his career in the past, more of a fair catch type guy. But we have capable guys. Mike Wallace has returned kicks in the past. We’ll leave no stone unturned in terms of being competent in that area and I know that we have a lot of guys that are willing and capable volunteers. (Q: How much of a luxury is it to have a guy like Jerricho Cotchery who can fill in when another receiver goes down?) A: Not a luxury, a necessity. We need quality guys that are capable of upholding the standard when given an opportunity. Jerricho is one of the first one’s you think about when you think about that mantra. This is a guy that’s consistently professional in preparing, capable of playing multiple positions and really, when one of three guys at the wide out position goes down, you really don’t bat an eye. (Q: Will you have to add a wide out to the roster?) A: Potentially. One of the things about offense and offensive personnel groups, you dictate what it is that you choose to use. Obviously, that’s something that we’ll consider but definitely something that’s a necessity at this point. (Q: Has the increase in gadget plays this year been an influence of offensive coordinator Todd Haley?) A: I like to think I’ve been aggressive since I’ve been here. I know that I’m not going to apologize for turning over any stone in search of victory. (Q: How will you use the running backs when everyone is healthy?) A: Whoever’s being productive when healthy is going to get the totes. I really think it’s that simple. I’m not going to make it any more complex than it has to be. At times this season we’ve had a running back by committee approach because none of them had been overly effective at that time. When someone’s effective, they’ll get the ball. (Q: When you are able to run the ball like you have, does that infect the team with a swagger?) A: I think it’s one of the many things that does that. I think that when you’re moving the chains consistently and getting first downs and possessing the ball, it does that. I think when you’re smashing the run defensively and getting off on third down situations defensively, it does that. When you’re aggressive in kick coverage, I think it provides a certain amount of swagger for a football team. When you’re explosive and opportunistic in the kick return game, it does the same thing. There are many ways to produce that swagger and that’s just one of them.
Press conference5WW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance. Obviously, it was a victorious one. It was our most complete performance to this point this season. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. We played 60 minutes in all three phases. There were errors. There were a lot of positive contributions from a lot of people. It was just a great overall team effort, one I hope we can build upon moving forward. Obviously, with the challenges facing us this week, hopefully it was a good springboard for us as we continue to grow, work and prepare on a day-to-day basis with the men that we are working with. I will quickly give a rundown of the injuries. Nothing has changed on the status of Ryan Clark. He sustained a concussion in the game. We will continue to monitor him throughout the week. There are a battery of tests that he has to go through in order to get clearance, and rightfully so. We will proceed with that protocol tomorrow. Rashard Mendenhall will be cleared to start individual work tomorrow. That’s a step in the right direction for him. Jonathan Dwyer has a right quad strain. He is tentatively scheduled not to practice tomorrow. He is being evaluated today. Hopefully Thursday will be a practice day for him. Marcus Gilbert and Troy Polamalu will not play. Stevenson Sylvester is very questionable with a hamstring injury. LaMarr Woodley’s hamstring injury looks more promising. He might be limited at the early portions of the week. Obviously his participation and how he looks over the course of the week will determine his availability. Isaac Redman is scheduled to practice. Brandon Johnson, who missed the last game with a hamstring injury, is also scheduled to practice. David DeCastro is working individually and working his way back to us. As always, we will focus on the healthy ones and their overall readiness and preparation. We will work with them and plan accordingly. Looking at this week’s challenge, obviously we are playing the defending [Super Bowl] champions at their place. That is varsity football, as we say in our business. Looking at what they have done this year, it’s equally as impressive. They are 6-2. They’ve won their last four games. They do things that winning teams do. They protect their quarterback. Eli Manning has been sacked six times on the season. They get after opposing quarterbacks. I think they’ve taken them down 21 times. They take care of the football. Their opponents have turned the ball over twice as many times as they have or more than that. I think their opponents have turned it over 24 times and they’ve only turned it over 11 times. That’s a recipe for winning football. They’ve outscored their opponents by more than 40 points in the fourth quarter. That’s another recipe and component of winning football. They do what is required. They have a bunch of guys that have been on big stages. They know how to win. They are very well coached. They have a stable work environment. We are looking forward to measuring ourselves against a group like this. We need this challenge. Obviously, we won the last time we were on the road. That has been an issue for us in the past. We anticipate this environment being a hostile one, as it should be. Hopefully we are up to the task. From a personnel standpoint, on offense it starts with Manning. Like their football team, he is a winner. He delivers in critical moments. He is good above the neck. He does a good job of protecting himself and he makes quick decisions. He can make any throw on the field. He looks people off. He has the savvy that comes with the experience he has. He throws the ball around to a variety of guys. I think his number-one target is Victor Cruz. He plays outside and he plays inside. He has ridiculous stop-and-go quickness. He is instant in terms of building speed. He has great hands. He is just a complete player in his third year out of the University of Massachusetts. Hakeem Nicks is in his fourth year, a former first-round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina. They like to match him up on the single receiver side. He has good, strong hands. He is a tough guy, a physical guy, and one that challenges cornerbacks on the weak side of formations, the back side of three-by-ones, and the route concepts that go with it, go’s, stops, slants and posts. He does a nice job excelling in that area. Domenik Hixon is another wide receiver that they have. He does a nice job. He is big-play capable. Their tight end, Martellus, Bennett, is a great route runner. He is a tough, physical matchup for obvious reasons. He is big and athletic. He provides problems for safeties with his size and for linebackers with his speed and quickness. They are a very good group of receivers. Their running game is rock solid. Ahmad Bradshaw is a tough and competitive runner. He finishes plays. I have a great deal of respect for how he plays and what he is capable of. He is their lead dog. Andre Brown is a supplemental runner for them, who happens to have five touchdowns. Their third-string runner is third-round draft pick David Wilson, from Virginia Tech, he also excels at kickoff returns. They have a solid group up front, one that has been together for some time. Will Beatty is at left tackle. Sean Locklear is playing at right tackle for David Diehl. Locklear has played a lot of ball. He is a veteran guy. On defense they are a 4-3 team. Obviously, it starts with the men up front. They create havoc in the backfield. They provide pressure on the quarterback and it comes from a variety of people, both starters and backups. Jason Pierre-Paul leads the charge. Justin Tuck also plays quite a bit, along with Osi Umenyiora. They all play in their defensive end rotation. Linval Joseph has four sacks, playing inside. Chris Canty also is a talented guy that plays inside. It starts right there with these guys. They have a four-man rush crew that they play and employ in passing situations, where they will have Tuck inside and Umenyiora outside. You will see Pierre-Paul outside and Canty inside. They are tough to deal with. Their games are excellent and well oiled. The men themselves are talented. They are great individual rushers and they are also great collective rushers, in terms of reducing throwing lanes and constricting the pocket. In the secondary, they are led at cornerback by Corey Webster. He is a guy that I’ve had a great deal of respect for over the years. I think he has tremendous ball skills. He never tenses up playing the ball. He always plays the ball downfield and plays it with ease. He is complemented by two high-round draft picks at the cornerback spot, first-rounder [Prince Amukamara] from the University of Nebraska, and at the nickel spot, Jayron Hosley, a third-round rookie out of Virginia Tech. they are both representing themselves very well. Antrel Rolle is their safety. He’s been back there. He’s a big-game proven guy. He provides splash plays for them. An interesting addition for them has been Stevie Brown. He has filled in for Kenny Phillips. But he has been more than adequate. I think he leads the NFL in takeaways. He has five interceptions and two fumble recoveries for a total of seven. They have been an opportunistic group. I think that characterizes them. I think they do a nice job of applying pressure on you with their offensive weapons with Manning at the control of the unit. As the game wears on, you make mistakes and they provide the splash plays that get them out of stadiums. They have an awesome, consistent and winning formula. We have our work cut out for us but we are excited as we sit here today, doing what is necessary on a Tuesday to prepare for it. (Q: Do you anticipate any problems with logistics, travel, ) A: I acknowledge that some of those things that you mentioned are possibilities. I haven’t spent any time pondering them. I’m simply focused on the things that are in our control and that’s our preparation as we sit here today. Monday is a preparation day for us, as is Tuesday and that’s kind of been my focus. I’m sure the National Football League office in New York is looking at options in that regard and we’ll just simply wait to hear what they have to say or not say in regard to it. In the meanwhile, we’re going to proceed with the plans and continue to do so until we hear otherwise. (Q: In the passing game, between the offensive line, the scheme and things like that, what has allowed QB Ben Roethlisberger to stay upward for the most part so far this season?) A: I think it’s a combination of all the above. I think our offensive line has done a nice job of protecting. I think our backs and tight ends have done a nice job of working their way out, as we say. I think the receivers have done a nice job getting open. Ben has made quick decisions. It’s almost always a collective effort when you’re talking about protection of your quarterback. (Q: Did you talk with WR Antonio Brown about his penalty for taunting against the Redskins?) A: I not only spoke to Antonio, but I spoke to our team about it. Briefly, simply what I said is that it was not respectable. Those of us that know Antonio and watch him work on a day to day basis, if one word describes him professionally it’s respectable. How he prepares, what he’s willing to do, what kind of teammate he is, and that’s represented in his play. That’s the way we approached it. I thought it was an awesome learning opportunity for the entire group because, as professionals, I think that’s a word everyone would want to describe their play. I think people that don’t see you work on a day to day basis are capable of making judgments about you personally and professionally based on what they see, so we want to do what’s respectable. That’s what we talked about and kind of moved on. (Q: Would you bench a player for getting flagged for taunting more than once?) A: I’m not into hypotheticals. I deal with things as they come across my desk. (Q: Re: Roster status of NT Alameda Ta’amu:) A: We’ll deal with that. We have a couple days exemption from the league. Obviously, we’re going to do what’s best for us professionally here in an effort to win this game this weekend. Obviously, he’s still in play. Obviously, we’ve got a decision to make and we’ll make it at the appropriate time. (Q: Re: Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin:) A: I’ve got a great deal of respect for Coach Coughlin. I consider him a friend. He calls me Mikey. [Laughs] He’s got a proven, consistent formula for winning. I’ve got a great deal of respect for coach. He stays true to who he is and I’ve got a lot of respect for that. (Q: Are the Giants relying on QB Eli Manning more and more?) A: I think like most teams in the NFL, particularly ones that are well-coached, they tend to play to their strengths and you can’t deny that Eli has been a strength for them for a number of years. I think with the big time emergence of a guy like Victor Cruz, it just lends itself to playing to your strengths. If you turn on some tape and you watch the 78, 80-yard touchdowns from Manning to Cruz, you know why they throw the football. (Q: How does your preparation change this week after preparing for a different style of quarterback last week?) A: It’s life in the National Football League. It’s this week’s challenge. The other one is in our rearview mirror. So, we’re singularly focused on what’s in front of us and what it is that we need to do to minimize what Eli and the New York Giants collectively are capable of doing to us. But, we’ll always be ourselves. We’ll stay within our personality. I think that’s a formula for success for us. Obviously, we’ll highlight some components of our attack as opposed to others maybe to minimize what their weapons are capable of. But one thing, I promise, we’re going to stay within our personality. (Q: If S Ryan Clark passes his concussion tests this week will he be eligible to play?) A: Yes. That is correct. (Q: Re: S Will Allen’s performance:) A: He’s done a nice job. He hasn’t been perfect but he’s been Will. He plays with a great deal of energy. He’s a very deliberate, physical contact guy. He doesn’t shy away from those things. I think he’s getting better with each snap and he’s been playing winning football for us. We appreciate not only his contributions on defense, and I think that gets highlighted and rightfully so, but he’s been a consistent special teams performer for us, not only this year but since he’s been here. (Q: Re: Progression of the offense:) A: We’re 4-3. Not only offensively, but defensively and from the special teams standpoint. I’d like to think that we’re a group on the rise and one that’s gelling and coming together and solidifying a personality. But we’re as good as the next tape that we put out there and so we humbly prepare for this next opportunity and we know it’s a big one. (Q: Re: Forging an identity as a team:) A: I think we’ll continue to do that. I just think that’s the stage that we’re in in this football season. We need to continue to be a team on the rise as we push towards the latter half of the season. I’ve always thought that the one that is the eventual world champion needs to be one on the rise. Obviously, we didn’t get off to a great start. The last couple of weeks, we’ve taken steps to rectify that but we’re faced with a stiff challenge this week, one that we respect and one that we’re excited about at the same time. (Q: Why have the Giants been able to intercept 16 passes this season on defense?) A: It’s simple, they put consistent pressure on the quarterback which provides opportunities on the back end. Rush and coverage work together. It always has and always will. I think with the talent that they have upfront and the way they employ them and the consistent pressure that they put on opposing quarterbacks, it breaks them down over the course of football games and the ball eventually ends up in the hands of guys like Stevie Brown and Rolle and Webster and others. (Q: If you get Redman back this week, would Dwyer still start?) A: Again, like I said, I’m not a big hypothetical guy. I’m going to live day to day throughout this week and work with the guys that are healthy in preparation and kind of make the decision as we go. (Q: Is this the biggest test the offensive line has faced so far?) A: I say that every week. I could say that and the answer would be yes and it’d be true but it might untrue next week. (Q: What did you see in Dwyer coming out of the draft?) A: We thought he was a talented young guy with upside. He was a third-year junior when he came out. He was the ACC Player of the Year. He had some consistent performances and a nice combination of experience and youth. 1,300, 1,400 yards or whatever he had his last two years and he was still 20 years old. We liked the upside. He’s growing and maturing since he’s been here and getting an opportunity to show us what he’s capable of. We expect that to continue. (Q: Are you waiting to see how the legal process plays out with Ta’amu or is there something he has to do in-house to get back?) A: They’re really separate issues. He’s got in-house issues. Of course, he as legal issues and he has National Football League issues. Such is life. (Q: Re: LB James Harrison saying he is feeling better each week:) A: I agree with him. He’s getting better and this is a guy that had no preseason work in training camp and so forth. I think he’s getting better with every snap and hopefully he’s getting better this week.
Press conference12WW
(Q: On Defensive Backs Coach Raheem Morris helping turn the Redskins defense around:) A: They got capable men over there, starting of course with [Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Jim] Haslett. I’m sure we all go through ups and downs over the course of a season. I’m sure they’re doing what it takes on a day-to-day basis to right anything they feel like needs to be righted.” (Q: On seeing Morris, with whom he worked in Tampa Bay from 2002-05, this weekend:) A: It’s business as usual. I think we’ve all been in this league long enough that we’ve got close friends just about every weekend on the sideline. I consider [Offensive Coordinator] Kyle Shanahan a close friend of mine. We worked together – as is [General Manager] Bruce Allen.” (Q: On cornerback DeAngelo Hall saying it’s harder to stop the pass than ever before:) A: I don’t necessarily have an answer to that. I agree numbers [for passing] are up, but it’s an early juncture in the season. I try not to paint with a broad brush. It seems like those things always have a way of balancing themselves out over the course of 16 games. I’m not ready to say that it’s not going to do that at this point.” (Q: On quarterback Robert Griffin III:) A: He’s a special talent – not only in terms of what he can do with his arms, but also his legs. I really think they’re doing a nice job of maximizing his talents and putting him in a position to be successful. But bigger than the physical talent, it’s obvious that the stage isn’t too big for him and he’s really representing himself well and appears to be extremely comfortable while executing.” (Q: On Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton:) A: It sets a tone in the middle of the defense, if you will. Casey is a guy that takes a great deal of pride in, of course, not being moved and maintaining an interior presence. That’s always a great place to begin in regards to playing good defense.” (Q: On safety Ryan Clark:) A: Ryan is a really good football player. Besides his physical talent, he’s extremely sharp. He does the things that come with playing the safety position extremely well. He’s a great diagnoser of offensive formation and pre-snap clues – does an awesome job of communicating pre-snap. He has all the characteristics that you look for in a safety – a guy that represents the last line of defense, if you will.” (Q: On how much teams have to prepare for the zone read since they don’t see it often:) A: Really, quite a bit because it was non-existent, of course, five years ago. I think it also helps that the guys that we’re now working with coming into the league have exposure to it, of course, from playing in college. I think familiarity speeds up the process in terms of game-readiness. There’s no questions that the guys are coming into the league better prepared to see it. I think that that aids in the preparation time.” (Q: On how a defensive coordinator prepares for the zone read:) A: More than anything, you have to build defenses that are sound – that are capable of standing up and forcing units, are squared away, you know who sets the edge, who turns things back, what is the proper engagement or pursuit angles. We tend to do that with all the defenses. More importantly than trying to figure out how to stop an option-like attack, we knock the dust off our rules and play to them.” (Q: On what he means by ‘knock the dust off’ their rules:) A: What I mean is defenses have option responsibilities when they’re installed, but because you don’t see option on the week-in, week-out basis, it’s not something that you spend a great deal of time talking about. When you do, it’s simply an opportunity to reiterate rules and reinforce rules and practice those rules, but it’s not like they were nonexistent prior to this week.” (Q: On the similarities between the Redskins’ and Steelers’ defenses:) A: There are some, of course, obvious similarities. At the same time, I’m sure there are some differences – particularly from a positional standpoint in terms of the techniques that are taught. I’m sure that the coaches are working within their comfort zone there and playing to strength of their men from a technique standpoint. So, it has a potential to be very different. Although, the calls may be the same, the way things are ruled out and things are played technically may create something that looks at times like a different defense.” (Q: On if knowing the 3-4 scheme helps them prepare:) A: Any benefits that we gain from it will be nullified by the benefits that they gain from it. Usually, it’s a wash.” (Q: On quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to read defensive coverages:) A: He does nice job of that, but he’s a veteran player. He’s been in the league now for some time and I think that experience has benefited him.
Press conference0WW
Good afternoon. Before I get started talking about us, our injuries and the challenge that awaits us this week, obviously I thought it was appropriate to address the situation going on with one of our players, Alameda Ta’amu. Due to his actions this past weekend, we are going to suspend him for two weeks. Over the next two weeks and our next two games, against the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, the suspension is without pay. He will not participate in any organized team activities, he won’t be in meetings, he won’t be on the practice field and obviously he will not be at our facility. We deemed his actions were a detriment to our efforts. We are treating it as such. The other ramifications of the situation, obviously I am not at liberty to discuss at great detail. We thought it was very important that we act and act quickly in terms of addressing this, so we can focus our efforts on the men playing and to meet this week’s challenge. It’s a disturbing incident, one we take very seriously as members of this community and the organization that we are. I will talk quickly about some of our injury issues. Brandon Johnson has a hamstring injury. He can be characterized as questionable as we sit here today. Stevenson Sylvester has a right shoulder AC sprain. He is in the same situation. Marcus Gilbert flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, yesterday. He saw a specialist regarding his ankle. He has a tendon injury in his ankle. It does not require surgery. He is week-to-week. He will be out this week but it was a positive that the injury does not require surgery. Chris Carter will be out this week due to a hamstring injury. Troy Polamalu will still be out this week with a calf injury. We have some other guys that can be characterized as questionable as we sit here today. That group is Rashard Mendenhall with an achilles injury, Maurkice Pouncey with a right knee injury and Isaac Redman with a right ankle injury. We will deal with those guys day-to-day and engage their availability based on their participation in practice and in work outs. Obviously, we are optimistic but at the same time we are going to take it day-to-day. We have capable men if those guys cannot participate and we expect those guys to uphold the standard which is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Looking at the Bengals, we have some issues there. Obviously, this is a big game for us and for them. It’s our first venture into division play. We all know the importance of division play, particularly when you’ve had the kind of start we’ve had. I would imagine they can say similar things. It’s going to be a big game for all parties involved. It should make it entertaining for our fans. Looking at them on offense, obviously they have continuity and structure, under the leadership of Coach Gruden, their offensive coordinator. It’s obvious that this program is growing under him and Andy Dalton. He has some great rapport with some key guys. Obviously, A.J. Green is an exciting, Pro Bowl-caliber receiver with a unique physical skill set. He puts that on tape just about each and every week. We will have our hands full, dealing with what he is capable of. By no means is he a one-man gang. Jermaine Gresham, their tight end, is really doing some nice things. I really like what Coach Gruden is doing with him schematically. They are putting him in some situations and displacing him from the core and getting him in matchups with linebackers and safety-types. He has a unique skill set. He is like an enormous wide receiver. He has good body control and runs great routes. He is a vertical threat. Obviously, if you saw the highlights of last week’s game, it shows. Andrew Hawkins is another receiver they use. He is their gadget man. He works in the slot on the weak side in their empty set. They will hand him the ball on speed sweeps. He works out of the backfield in some free-release things. He really emerged against us last year in our trip to Cincinnati. He caught five or six passes, and I think all were on third downs. They employed him in that weak slot in their empty set. That was our first exposure to him. Since then, his role has expanded and he is a critical component on offense. They have a solid stable of guys to supplement those guys. I like what BenJarvus Green-Ellis is doing at the running back position. They’ve supplemented him with some other guys. Some of them have been injured but the reality is he is their primary ball carrier. Brian Leonard has distinguished himself against us in the past. He is a third-down back. In terms of what he is capable of doing, not only in terms of picking up pressure, blocking linebackers, but he has very solid and reliable hands. He is a good route runner out of the backfield. They have good cohesion in the offensive line and have for a number of years. They have a lot of familiar faces. They are doing a nice job of moving the football. Dalton is a very talented player physically and mentally. He doesn’t make mistakes. He is mobile. He sees the field. He is a good anticipation thrower. We have our hands full in terms of slowing those guys down, particularly in their environment. We look forward to answering that challenge and working toward it this week and preparing ourselves to do so. On the other side of the ball, they are a 4-3 front. Like many 4-3 fronts that we’ve talked about here in recent weeks, they employ a lot of men. Their ends, Michael Johnson, from Georgia Tech, Carlos Dunlap, from the University of Florida and Robert Geathers are all long. They are talented and athletic guys. They disrupt passing lanes. They use their length as a weapon. They are good at redirection. They destroy screens. They bat down balls. They sack the quarterback. They create the type of splash plays that they feed off as a team. Whether it’s Johnson intercepting passes, Dunlap sacking the quarterback and forcing fumbles, this is a highly productive group. They do a nice job of putting quarterbacks under duress. They are supplemented on the inside by quality players like Domata Peko and Geno Atkins. It’s worthy to mention that Atkins has 7.5 or eight sacks this year. He distinguishes himself. He is a pure, under-tackle body type, as we say in this business. He is an athletic interior rush man. He distinguishes himself in rushing the passer against guards. He can break down the pocket. He is a short guy, not a small guy. He has built in leverage. He can walk guards back on top of the quarterback. He is athletic enough to also get on the edge. They have solid stability in the linebacking core. Rey Maualuga is their man in the middle. He is their signal caller. They have nice blitz packages, double-barrels. They utilize all their guys but there is no question he is the ring leader. They have an interesting veteran secondary. Some of their guys have been around. We know Reggie Nelson, Adam Jones and Leon Hall have been there. Nate Clements was one of their additions a year ago. Terence Newman is new this year. He is a veteran player that has had Pro Bowl qualities over the years. He is playing solid for them at cornerback and contributing in a big way. Clements has proved to be not only affective at cornerback but he is also playing safety for them. He is another solid veteran. Taylor Mays is playing strong safety for them. They reacquired Chris Crocker, who is also playing quite a bit and has been productive for them at safety. They have a lot of options in the secondary, most of whom are veteran guys. That provides great flexibility for them in terms of what they do schematically. They have interchangeable parts. Hall plays inside and outside. You can say the same about Clements. You will also see him playing safety. They just have great flexibility with their veterans. It makes them tough to undress, from a coverage standpoint. They play both man and zone. They are capable of getting after you with a four-man rush. They are also capable of dialing up blitzes. We are excited about the challenge this week holds for us. Obviously there is a sense of urgency with this group, as I am sure there is with their group. We are going to live it day-by-day. We had a good bonus day yesterday with practice and preparation. Today is a coach’s day. We are putting together a game plan. Our guys are in the building informally working out and taking care of their bodies. We will start with our base plan tomorrow as we push through the week. We are excited about it. We know what we are. We are a 2-3 football team who obviously haven’t won on the road. There’s no time like the present to change that. That’s our mentality and I think that’s the mentality that reverberated throughout the group yesterday. Mentality is one thing, actions are another. We have to put ourselves in position to take action, and that will occur on Sunday. (Q: How did you guys decide to suspend Ta’amu for two games?) A: I’m not going to get into the decision of our inner workings and our mechanism and how we come to a decision. That’s the decision that we came to and we stand by. Obviously, we deem the situation and his actions to be detrimental. (Q: Can the suspension be lengthened after the legal process plays out?) A: That is our decision. (Q: Is there anything Ta’amu has to do or prove before he is allowed back?) A: Much like I just told that gentleman, I’m not going to get into the inner workings of how we come to our decisions. We intend to do what’s right. That’s always our number one charge and we believe that we did in this instance. (Q: Can you talk about who all was involved in the process?) A: I won’t. (Q: Are the younger defensive players where you want them to be right now?) A: No, they aren’t but I think I’d say that if I was sitting here at 5-0. This is not a patient man’s business by any stretch. We need growth and development yesterday, if you will, not only in our defensive players but our offensive players. That is the nature of our business. We’re always pressing the envelope and trying to be the very best that we can. We’re always pressing the envelope trying to create an environment that fosters that and, regardless of the outcome football games, that is and will be our mentality. (Q: How do you “press the envelope”?) A: It never gets stale. It’s always alive and I think it’s just a part of the journey of the NFL season that helps you in those efforts. As you come in here this week the issues are Cincinnati Bengals related and a new and different set of issues than we had a week ago. They’ll be new and different the week after this one. That’s the story of life in the National Football League. It’s one that I believe guys embrace, or they better embrace and it’s one of the things that makes the job rewarding and challenging. (Q: How can the offensive line combat the leverage of Bengals DT Geno Atkins?) A: Thankfully we have some guards with built-in leverage of their own. This guy is a talented guy. He’s not small, he’s short. He’s also athletic. He can go speed to power on you and threaten the edge and run down the center of you and collapse the pocket. He can also do the very opposite. He can get on the edge and rip, swim, and use a variety of rush moves to get to the edge and by you. He’s a talented player. He’s been to the Pro Bowl. He’s a young guy that’s really emerging and being very consistent in terms of how he dominates games and particular situations. We’ve got our hands full. It’s not only a Willie Colon battle, or a Ramon Foster battle, or a Maurkice Pouncey battle, or a [Doug] Legursky battle. It’s a Pittsburgh Steeler battle. One of the things that unique about their rush, and I think they’ve sacked the quarterback 20 times or so thus far in the season, is the fact that it’s a culmination of all the men I mentioned. They’ve got some great edge rushers. They also have interior people that can collapse the pocket. So, simply sliding up in the pocket doesn’t get you out of harm’s way. Of those 20 sacks, the sacks don’t always go to the first man that created the pressure or broke down the pocket. They do a nice job of creating a collective rush, a four-man rush, if you will. That’s why you see production from all of the parties that I mentioned. Whether it’s Geathers, or Dunlap, or Johnson, or Atkins, or Peko, they all are registering statistics and they’re all being productive, they’re all effecting the game, and I think the strength is in the pack. Although, individually, these guys are having great starts to their 2012 season. (Q: Is LaMarr Woodley going to play on Sunday?) A: Yes, he will. As of right now that’s where he stands. (Q: Is there a chance of a roster move this week with the injuries to the offensive line?) A: There is. We have a few young men, I think, in here today as we speak working out to potentially join us in some capacity. But, obviously, those that are going to help us win the football game this weekend are in our building and have been in our building. (Q: Will Mike Adams start at right tackle for the injured Marcus Gilbert?) A: Yes he will. (Q: Is dressing eight offensive linemen a possibility this week?) A: Absolutely it’s a possibility and it’s a real possibility considering the circumstances. Obviously, with Marcus being down and let’s say Maurkice Pouncey makes it, obviously you’d want to fortify yourself in that situation. I think eight linemen is a serious discussion that’s going to take place given the circumstance, not only the recent history in terms of what’s transpired with the group, but also the very present in terms of some of the men that will be playing, obviously, who will be dealing with things as we approach the game. (Q: Re: Progress of G David DeCastro:) A: He ran yesterday in a straight line. It’s part of the rehabilitation. I thought it was positive and I think how he responds to those workouts, of course, is going to be a critical component. But, there is a certain period of time that he has to go through before he’s even eligible to come back. So, we haven’t spent a lot of time discussing his status or his progress. I just happened to look over there and see him running. (Q: Does the suspension give you an extra spot on the 53-man roster?) A: It does give us an extra man on the 53. (Q: Has Baron Batch’s play earned him more opportunities?) A: It has and I’ve been equally as impressed and pleased with his growth and development as a special teams player. He represented us at the coin toss last week as a special teams captain and I think his play has merited that. He’s been solid from an effort and production standpoint in that area, too. Of course, we hold that in high regard. (Q: Do you have to have a better run game in this division and in this league?) A: It increases our chances of winning. It increases our chances of controlling the flow of the game and the line of scrimmage. Obviously, we believe in that. Obviously, we haven’t done that as well as we would like. We’re a team in development in that area. We’re not running from that. We’re working on it daily and hopefully that work will reveal itself on Sunday. (Q: Do you point to the running game as part of the reason you haven’t been able to protect leads in the fourth quarter?) A: You can, but there are many reasons why we haven’t done that. Obviously, it comes down to playmaking and we haven’t made enough significant plays in the waning moments and our opponents have. (Q: How much do you pay attention to what else is going on in the league as far as team’s records and injuries and things like that?) A: I don’t. I run across information because I don’t live in a vacuum but it’s not by any effort of mine to acquire it. (Q: Was releasing TE Weslye Saunders a personnel decision or did the salary cap hit factor in as well?) A: It was a personnel decision. (Q: Re: Reasons for Bengals QB Andy Dalton throwing nine interceptions this season:) A: It’s a variety of things. I think they’re better equipped to address the reasons why because they’ve built their system and they analyze what breaks down and what doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just quality play by the people that you compete against. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him and his decision-making, and his physical and mental skills. I think he’s an interesting, rising young star in the National Football League and I’ve got a great deal of respect for how he plays the position. (Q: Re: Bengals WR AJ Green being one of the top wide receivers in the NFL:) A: I believe that he is and that’s probably the vision that they had when they drafted him where they drafted him. You don’t get taken that high in the draft unless you have a unique physical skill set. Obviously he does but obviously, looking at his body of work since he’s been in Cincinnati, he’s got some intangible things to go along with that that allow him to produce and produce at a high level in the manner in which he has. We respect him, we respect what he’s capable of, and obviously, in terms of slowing them down, he’s a big component of that for us as we build a plan. (Q: How does Ike Taylor get back to the level of play that he displayed for most of last season?) A: It’s just that. He needs to get back to playing good, sound football. Obviously, he knows that he’s capable of that. We look forward to working toward that this week and hopefully that transpires on the field on Sunday. (Q: Do you believe the younger players are still capable of developing and that the potential is there?) A: Certainly.
Press conference22WL
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick assessment of yesterday’s game. It was no work of art by any stretch. I like what I saw in that our guys did what was necessary in all three phases to secure a victory in a sub-par performance in some instances, some of the things that were negative and that we have to improve on. We were highly penalized in the game, in game penalties. They are usually ironed out with continued emphasis on technique. In some instances we have some guys working hard and not necessarily smart. Those things usually smooth themselves out as you push through the first quarter of the season. What needs to disappear and it didn’t disappear yesterday are some of the pre-snap penalties, illegal formations and false starts. Those are self-inflicted wounds. We won’t tolerate that. We cannot tolerate that. It’s my job to get them fixed. We will work on it this week. Penalties hurt you in a lot of ways. They put you behind the chains. They eliminate explosion plays and limit field position. They minimize scoring opportunities. All those things kind of happened to us yesterday with the self-inflicted wounds. It’s good to learn those lessons and identify them in the midst of victory. We did enough to do that. Offensively I liked the contributions to our running game by the offensive line. I thought they did a nice job of protecting Ben Roethlisberger. We weren’t sacked in the football game. It was a positive to get Rashard Mendenhall back. He produced some plays for us. It was just an overall good general effort. Some of the things I thought were going to be critical during the game, unfolded that way. We had a pretty good third-down offense. The Eagles had a pretty good third-down defense. I think it leaned more toward our comfort zone. We converted some critical third downs in the football game, particularly on the last drive. On third-and-12, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown. That was big. But there were several third-down situations in the game where I thought we answered the bell and were able to keep drives alive and control the ball. Defensively we had to get after them. We had to try to contain and pressure Michael Vick. I thought we had success in that area, particularly early. We created turnovers. It kept us in the football game until we smoothed out some of those self-inflicted wounds from penalties. Largely it was a good team effort. Shaun Suisham was big for us. He was 3-for-3 and hit a field goal in the last waning seconds of the game. We have a lot to build upon but at the same time we understand that we have a lot to work on. We have a short time in which to do it this week, playing on Thursday night in Tennessee. We are not concerned about that. It’s a short week for them as well. What we are concerned about is how we utilize our time in order to prepare. From an injury standpoint, we came out of the game with some bumps and bruises to a number of guys but there are significant ones to mention. Troy Polamalu reinjured his right calf. He probably will be deemed out this week. The week itself is a quick turnaround but also due to the nature of the injury, so we will evaluate him when we get back from Tennessee. We don’t think he will participate. A similar thing can be said for LaMarr Woodley. There is more optimism to where he is. He has a mild hamstring injury if there is such a thing. It is still a hamstring injury. We are in the early portions of the season. We have to be smart in terms of how we deal with that. Being a short week, it minimizes his opportunity to play but we will leave the door ajar for him. Some of the other guys that came back from injury, James Harrison came through the game relatively fine. His knee had a little swelling but nothing major. We will watch him as we prepare this week. Mendenhall came through the game relatively fine. The rest of the injuries are the bumps and bruises that come along with playing. We need to work smart this week. We have to understand what we are dealing with and we will do that and try to delicately balance preparing the guys and preserving them at the same time. The good thing for us is that we’ve been in quite a few of these Thursday night games, probably as many as anyone else in the league in the last four or five years. It’s nothing new to us. We will respect the process of preparing for it and hopefully go play some winning football. I will spend some time talking about the Tennessee Titans. They are a team off to a slow start. To me, that makes them dangerous. They have been on the road the last two weeks and suffered a loss at home. They had a big victory against the Detroit Lions. We are a 2-2 team that has yet to win a game on the road. This is a big game for us as well for similar reasons. They are getting back in their comfort zone where they won the last time they played and we have yet to win on the road. If we are going to be a competitive type of team, the type of team we aspire to be, you have to go into hostile environments and do the job. We haven’t done that. Thursday night in Nashville, we anticipate it to be hostile. We anticipate a certain level of urgency coming from these guys. When you play a 4-3 team, you start with their defensive ends. They have a couple good ones. They picked up Kamerion Wimbley in free agency. They have Derrick Morgan, a third-year man from Georgia Tech, a very talented high-round draft pick. They set the tone from a pass-rush standpoint. As always in recent history, Tennessee plays a big defensive line rotation. They have guys up front like Jurrell Casey and Sen’Derrick Marks. They have a rookie, Mike Martin, a rookie from Michigan. He has a good interior pass rush and has two sacks already. We really liked him in the draft. They play a number of people up front but I think Morgan and Wimbley are the bell cows that set the tone for the pressure they create and the way they try to break down pockets. They supplement that rush with coverage, primarily zone coverage. They have some really good zone cornerbacks in Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty. They are very good tacklers. They are very aware. They play with the ball in the air. They are good in the misdirection passing game. They make quality plays for them. Michael Griffin is a Pro Bowl-caliber safety and has been for a number of years. He’s a good player on the back end for them. They have a mix of some old and young guys at linebacker. Will Witherspoon has been around for quite some time. He is a savvy veteran player. They have Akeem Ayers, who is a talented young guy from UCLA. Offensively, I don’t know their quarterback situation. I know Matt Hasselbeck has been playing recently. I know that Jake Locker sustained a non-throwing shoulder injury. We will wait to see like you guys. We will take a look at the tape and see what both guys are capable of and see what type of personalities they have. We will see what the week holds for us. They have some talented targets that they throw to. Their first-round pick, Kendall Wright, from Baylor University is doing some nice things for them. He is their leading receiver. Nate Washington, who we are very familiar with, was very big in their win against the Lions. He makes splash plays for them and has in the last couple of years. I think he is coming off his best year. We have a lot of respect for him and what he is capable of. Kenny Britt is a talented, big wide receiver who is tough to cover and tough to get on the ground after the catch. He is coming off an injury and wasn’t expected to play last week. He did play some last week so we expect the arrow to be pointed up in his participation. Their tight end, Jared Cook, is a matchup issue. He is both big and fast, particularly when you are talking about playing without a guy like Polamalu. There will be a debate in terms of how we are going to defend Cook and who we choose to defend him with. He creates that kind of problem regardless of whether Polamalu is playing or not. He has that level of talent. Chris Johnson is their feature runner. He is capable of going yard on you any time he touches the ball. We were fortunate the last time we played there. He went 80 yards for a touchdown on us and the play got called back. He is that type of guy. We have to get multiple hats to the ball. We have to play with great energy. We have to hustle and tackle, similar to some of the things we talked about when defending LeSean McCoy. At the same time Johnson is more dangerous because of his top-end speed. This guy is as fast as anybody in football. I don’t think anyone would dispute that. From a special teams standpoint, they are historically solid. Their punting has been awesome. They have a 44 or 45-yard net punting average. The field position battle could be affected by that. We have to be good in the kicking game because of it. (Q: Can you clarify how LaMarr Woodley’s status is similar to Troy Polamalu’s?) A: Similar in that from a judgment standpoint on a short week, I lean to him being out as opposed to in. But I acknowledge that is his injury is less severe and can be characterized as a mild hamstring so we’ll leave the door ajar. (Q: Were you surprised how Rashard Mendenhall was able to cut and were you concerned about him being rusty?) A: I wasn’t concerned about his cutting ability. I was concerned about just general rust that’s associated with not playing the game, tracks and keys and so forth. I’ve seen him cut. We’ve all seen him cut here in recent weeks in preparation for the outing and he’s always in great condition. But, there’s a difference between conditioning and football conditioning. The wear and tear that the body absorbs over the course of a game can affect people. But largely, we were pleased with what we saw from him and hopefully it’s arrow up as we continue to move forward with this journey. (Q: Re: The illegal formation call against Mike Wallace:) A: I’m not concerned about close. It was called and it was justified. It was illegal. We have to fix that. We can’t beat ourselves in that manner. (Q: Was the personal foul on Ryan Clark justified?) A: We’re not going to dispute calls. Those guys are doing the best they can, particularly in light of some of the instances that we have in today’s NFL regarding player safety. Just know that we’re trying our very best to play within the rules and it’s disappointing for us when we don’t. We have a desire to play within the rules. We also have a desire to increase our chances of winning and when you’re picking up 30 yards in penalties in one drive, that’s going to give people an opportunity to score. Obviously, we’re trying to rectify those things. I’m less concerned about judgments and interpretations and so forth and I’m more concerned about playing in the manner that the flags stay in the pocket. (Q: Did Clark do anything wrong?) A: I’m not getting into that, Ed. Give me a new one. Next question. (Q: Re: Cutting down on penalties:) A: We’re no different than anybody else in the National Football League in regards to dealing with some of those types of penalties that we’re talking about. We had an opportunity to sit the week out last week and I saw similar things from other teams. We’ll continue to do the best that we can and understand that we have a high level of respect for how the game needs to be played today. (Q: Re: James Harrison pulling up on plays to avoid a fine:) A: Play by play. (Q: Did you have an opportunity to look at the play where Ryan Mundy got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit?) A: Guys I’m not disputing these penalties in here with you guys. I’ll do it in the proper manner with the people at the league office if I have a beef. I’m not going to do it in here. That’s unprofessional as far as I’m concerned. (Q: Do you scale back this week and have player’s do more mental reps?) A: It has to be for several reasons. We need to shorten the amount of time that they’re on their feet. We need to minimize the amount of running. It potentially affects what you decide to do and how you decide to do it in the game. Like I said earlier, we’ve had a lot of practice at this and we’re pretty comfortable with our approach to playing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that were going to roll the ball out and play how we desire to play. So, we respect the process that it the preparation week but we’re comfortable with the blueprint that we have in dealing with this, at least at this juncture. (Q: Have you heard from Harrison or the trainer’s about how his knee reacted to the game?) A: Nothing in great detail. I know that he’s downstairs working out but we’re all hopping pretty good. I haven’t had a chance to have a face-to-face with him. (Q: Re: Offensive line’s performance:) A: They did a nice job but I also thought that we did a nice job of changing things up in the system, chips and so forth. The screen game assisted in that and some of the draws that we executed. I thought it was just a good body of work by all parties involved. I’m not taking anything away from the offensive line but I thought it was just a good group effort in regards to that. (Q: Re: Harrison’s performance:) A: I think he had three or four pressures on the quarterback. He produced some tackles and I think a guy like James, his presence is a shot in the arm to others. I think that players of his caliber inspire others and create certain level of comfort in others. You don’t deny that. It’s somewhat intangible but you acknowledge that it exists. (Q: Did you consider spelling Harrison?) A: It was continual discussion. But, it was continual discussion that we always came away from comfortable, not that I’m surprised by that. Like I was talking about in reference to him a week or so ago, he’s a unique guy, he knows how to play and he’s highly conditioned. He doesn’t necessarily fall inside the guidelines of “normal” in regards to some of those things. (Q: Re: Lawrence Timmons’ performance:) A: He did a great job. He did what we asked him to do. Lawrence has been very consistent for us in general. He did a nice job bottling up a guy like Shady McCoy, who has a unique talent and skill set. I think that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Lawrence is a uniquely talented guy. He better bring those weapons to the stadium on Thursday night because Chris Johnson in a uniquely talented guy. (Q: Was Timmons free to do more things on Sunday?) A: We brought him a little bit more in this contest than we have. Like I talked about during the bye week, what you’ve seen thus far isn’t necessarily our personality. We’re still in the growing stages of the season. We’re still adding to our packages and our menu and finding a rhythm of what works for us in all three phases. Such is life. It worked out pretty good. Maybe we’ll continue to bring him more. (Q: What do you need to do on the road to play better?) A: I haven’t considered last year at all. I could care less. I am concerned about the two losses that we have on the road this year. We gave up big plays in those two games. You can point to that. In Denver, they had a big screen play for 70-plus yards. They had a breakout run in Oakland. You give up explosion plays and you decrease your chances of winning. Just largely, we have to operate in hostile environments and understand and respect what that is. I’m not going to try to explain it. More than anything, we just need to respect the fact that we have yet to prove that this year and we have an opportunity on Thursday night. (Q: Is Willie Colon being too aggressive and that is leading to his holding calls?) A: That has been an issue with Willie at times, in terms of over-aggression. I’d rather say “Whoa” than “Sic’ em.” (Q: Re: Thought process before game-winning field goal?) A: I just wanted to stop the clock to ponder the possibilities and see if there was a certain hash mark that we were more comfortable with, see if the elements were an issue, and just to generally hash through the potential scenarios of addressing the situation. Obviously, kicking on third down was one of them. We were comfortable with where we were. We positioned the ball where we wanted to and we sent Suisham and company out there to do the job. You always acknowledge the kicker when he does the job but Greg Warren has been rock-solid for us, as has Drew Butler holding. In a young punter, you spend a lot of time talking about the punting element of it, and he’s been solid in that area, but he’s been equally impressive in holding. More than anything, it was level of comfort with their ability to operate and that was reason why we didn’t kick it on third down. (Q: Have you been able to compare how similar the Titans are now compared to when Jeff Fisher was the head coach?) A: I haven’t. (Q: Re: Plan with TE Wesyle Saunders:) A: We have an exemption until Friday at 4 p.m. We could choose to activate him and play him in this game. We could choose to make the decision after game. We’ll see where we are when we get into the week. Right now, we’re just more concerned about getting a schematic plan in place and looking at the overall health of the guys that are in question, in terms of how we build our plan. We haven’t pondered some of those things that are a little less relevant. (Q: What have you seen from rookie TE David Paulson?) A: I think the big thing is he’s proven that it’s not too big for him. He’s an attention to detail guy. He works hard. He’s been a productive player for us in special teams and that’s not something that we underscore when you’re talking about an offensive guy from the tight end position. He’s been a multiple special teams phase participant. He’s done some good things. He’s definitely got room for growth but we’re not displeased with where he is. (Q: How long will you monitor Mendenhall’s work load?) A: I think we’re just going to continue to do that. I think that when someone is coming off a knee injury, I think those are 12-month projects, if you will. We’re not going to allow comfort to creep in with us in regards to his return and his overall health. (Q: Will Mundy replace Polamalu?) A: Yes, but we’re also willing to look at Will Allen some as well. Both of those guys have a ridiculous workload in special teams. They’re four-phase guys, both of them, in [special] teams and we’re working on a short week. We’re willing and capable of playing both guys. (Q: Is the only way to heal Polamalu’s injury rest?) A: I’m not equipped to answer that right now, to be honest with you. I just know it’s a re-aggravation of the calf and I haven’t had a great deal of detailed information or discussions with him or the medical staff since yesterday.
Press conference2LW
Good afternoon. It is a big week for us, coming off of our bye week. We had a very productive bye week. We had an opportunity to work on some elements that we felt needed to be addressed in all three phases. At the same time, we were able to get some of our injured men back. We worked yesterday in a bonus day-like fashion. Everyone worked except for Marcus Gilbert, who is still nursing a right groin injury. We expect him to practice tomorrow. Those are exciting things for us as we push into this week. It’s a big week for us, coming off our last performance, but also because we have an opportunity to play at home in front of our fans against a really good team in the Philadelphia Eagles. Defensively, up front, they are a four-down team. They rotate on the defensive line, with as many as seven and eight guys playing. They all play extremely hard and rush the passer. Their defensive ends, Trent Cole and Jason Babin, and you can include Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham because all those guys play, they have relentless motors. They get after the quarterback. They disrupt your passing rhythm. They are great edge players. They set the pace for the group, along with the top-flight cornerback tandem that they have. They really set the pace for their defense and create havoc for their opponents, particularly on third-down situations. We have to be good on first and second downs so we can be in manageable third-downs. Their opponents are converting about 26.5% of third-down opportunities. That’s because of their combinations of coverage that they have. It’s not just an end game when you are talking about their front. They also have some interior people. Cullen Jenkins has been around a long time. He is a very good player for them. They have a guy with first-round pedigree in Fletcher Cox that they got in the draft this past year from Mississippi State. He is an awesome player. At the second level, they reshaped their defense in that area. They went out and acquired DeMeco Ryans from the Houston Texans. He is a top-notch player. He’s been a Pro Bowl-caliber player for a number of years in this league. He is good versus the run and the pass, particularly good at reading the quarterbacks eyes when he is in underneath defense and zone drops, in terms of when they free him up in between the hash marks. He leads their linebackers. He is the quarterback of their defense. He is out there in just about all packages, whether it’s base, nickel or dime. They have Mychal Kendricks, a young guy that is starting for them at the outside linebacker position. He appears to be very talented. He’s very fast and a relentless pursuer of the football. He has made some top-quality plays for them. Their secondary is very strong and it’s led by their cornerbacks. Nnamdi Asomugha has always been mentioned in recent years along with Darrelle Revis as the best in the business, and rightfully so. He is a unique guy. He’s got long arms. He’s used to playing on the line of scrimmage and challenging receivers. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie plays on the other side of him. They acquired him from the Arizona Cardinals. He is a former first-round pick. He is a top-flight, pedigree guy who challenges in a similar manner. He plays on the line of scrimmage. He gets in people’s faces. He has several interceptions so far this year. Inside they have a rookie in Brandon Boykin from the University of Georgia. He has done a nice job for them in sub-package football playing in the slot. He has also done a nice job for them as a kick returner. He had a big kickoff return against us in the preseason. They are good at what they do. They create negative plays. They are very disruptive. If they get you behind the chains you will have big problems. They’ve been very good at situational football this year, particularly on third downs. That’s going to be a big test for us. Converting third downs has been a strength of ours. Our strength versus their strength is going to be one of the stories of the game. Offensively, it starts with Michael Vick. We have to contain him and minimize what he is capable of doing. He is great when plays break down. He is great on the move. He has a strong arm and a quick release. He can make any throw on the field. We have to rush him and rush him hard but at the same time, we have to be in control. We cannot give this guy escape lanes. They have some situational features that showcase his running ability. He has run the football quite a bit this year in situational football, in the red area. He has a few rushing touchdowns. That’s been a big weapon for them. When talking about running the football, you have to talk about LeSean McCoy. He played next door at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve known him for a long time. He has really become one of the best in the business. He is good with the football in his hands. He is good at adlibbing. He is an endzone-to-endzone runner. It doesn’t matter where they give him the football. He is going to find open space, whether it’s on the front side or bouncing the ball to the perimeter. He is also capable of cutting it all the way back. He is also capable of putting it where it is supposed to go. Those cut and stretch abilities, he has always had, but I’ve been impressed this year watching him take the ball where it is supposed to go, through creases. He is always putting it in there and running north and south when given the opportunity. He is a very talented guy. He can make unblocked guys miss, and he creates space for himself. He is as good in the passing game as he is in the running game. He is a big weapon for them. If we are going to have success this game, we are going to have to minimize what he does to us. We have to contain Vick, whether it’s by design or otherwise, so he cannot get on the perimeter and in space to create plays for him and his offense. His number-one target is DeSean Jackson. He is a talented guy. He is both quick and fast. He is capable of taking the top off the coverage. He has done so by recording 16.5 yards per reception this year. He leads a talented and deep group. They have Jeremy Maclin, another first-round pick that plays quite a bit of football for them. They have Jason Avant, another man in their rotation. I’ve been really impressed with their tight end, Brent Celek. He is their second-leading receiver behind Jackson but surprisingly he is averaging over 17.0 yards per reception. The play-pass has been a weapon for them. McCoy’s ability to run the football has created nice play-pass opportunities for them and misdirection pass opportunities. Celek is often the target that Vick identifies. I think the stats show that, 17.0 yards per reception for a tight end. That’s pretty special. They’ve always been rock solid on special teams. Coach Bobby April has always done a heck of a job with that group. They have great stability in their coaching staff, starting with Head Coach Andy Reid. It’s going to be a big time challenge for us. We are excited about it. It’s one we respect and one we are going to do everything in our power to prepare for as we push through this week and take our game into the stadium. (Q: How did you utilize the bye week?) A: I use bye weeks in a similar manner every year. It’s an opportunity to self-evaluate, see where we are and work on some areas of needed improvement for us. It’s also [an opportunity] to take a step back and watch others perform and get a spectators view, if you will, of ball. But more than anything, it’s a catch-all. You do some housekeeping, if you will. Guys that need to get healthy have an opportunity to do that. Guys that need to focus on specific areas of their game get an opportunity to the do that. Hopefully, as we come out of this thing we show the fruits of that labor. (Q: Is a Week 4 bye week too early?) A: I don’t care about the schedule. Whatever schedule they send, we’ll play. I don’t care. I haven’t run across a bye week that didn’t seem to come in a timely manner, whether it’s in Week 4 or Week 13. I’ve always liked them. (Q: Does your philosophy on handling the bye week change based on when it occurs?) A: I talked to the team about this yesterday. About the only difference between an early bye week and a late bye week, I think we had a late bye week last year, is the self-evaluation process that you go through. When it’s late in the year, you’ve got more of a body of work and what you’re looking at is more of a personality. We don’t need to read too much into where we are at this juncture because we’ve only played three football games. So, the self-evaluation element, you do it with the understanding that you don’t have a big body of work and that we’re very much a team in development, as is everyone else in football. So, there’s less of a self-scout or self-analysis or position analysis, in terms of where we are, than if it occurred later in the year. But I just assumed that was obvious. (Q: Are you anticipating that RB Rashard Mendenhall, S Troy Polamalu, and LB James Harrison will play this Sunday?) A: Based on what I’m looking at in terms of how they worked and how we worked yesterday, I think that’s a safe assessment. But, again, we’ll watch these guys as we proceed throughout the week. All the guys have performed well and have been able to get through practice. We’re optimistic that they’re going to be full participants. (Q: How did Harrison’s knee respond to practice yesterday?) A: I haven’t talked to him yet today so I don’t have the answer to that. Yesterday wasn’t the first time that he has worked during the bye week. He worked some last week and he had some intense workouts over the weekend. So, we’ll be optimistic about his availability. (Q: What does it mean to get Harrison back in the lineup?) A: If he plays well and plays like James is capable of playing, obviously he’ll be an asset to us. But, we’re not going to make excuses and we’re not going to sit around and wait for those that are not participating to participate. Injuries and so forth are a part of the game. When we have those guys, we’ll appreciate it. When we don’t have them, we’ll remain steadfast in our goals and our objectives. (Q: What is unique about Eagles QB Michael Vick’s abilities?) A: He has a skill set that is unique. I think it starts there. He’s extremely quick and fast. He can get out of tough spots. He’s got a quick release. He’s also got a strong arm. The full field remains an option to him. He can work down field later in the down. He’s just got an awesome skill set that lends itself to a well-rounded game – one that you need to account for from a defensive perspective. All 11 men on the field have to be cognizant of what he is capable of. He has that level of skill. (Q: Would you consider using a defender to “spy” Vick?) A: I’ve been facing Mike since he came into the league with the Falcons and that’s always one of the many ways that you address him. But the reality is that when you’re talking about a guy as talented as he is, it’s a four-man rush, it’s a five-man rush, it’s a six-man rush and combinations of those with people who are “search lights,” if you will, for when he breaks contain, even in the midst of what I described. He is that caliber of a talent and we’re going to have to use all the tools at our disposal to minimize what he does to us. (Q: Re: Areas for improvement in the running game:) A: Everything. I think I’ve been pretty clear that we have a lot of room for growth in that area, all the way down from run game selection to how it’s blocked to how the ball carrier is carrying it. We’re not in the business of making excuses. We understand where we are from a run game standpoint. We need to be better. We intend to be and Sunday is our next opportunity. (Q: Can Mendenhall help the running game?) A: He’s a first-round pedigree guy. He’s a multiple thousand-yard guy. He’s our lead dog, if you will. Obviously, he’s capable of helping. (Q: Is he ready to go?) A: I’ll let you know on Sunday. What time do we kick off? One? About 4:30 or so I’ll let you know. (Q: What is it about this team that has enabled them to avoid consecutive losses since the 2009 season?) A: We won 12 [games] in 2011 and 2010. When you’re winning those types of games, you’re not going to have a bunch of consecutive losses. I think that anybody that’s extremely competitive and has been good over an extended period of time, you understand that you can’t have losing streaks, if you will, and you have to stack wins. We’ve never looked at it as a negative. We’ve always talked about stacking wins. That’s what good teams do. Obviously, when you lose, you lose the opportunity to do that. We simply want to right the ship, if you will. Our intentions remain the same. We’re interested in stacking wins. We’re stacking zero right now because we lost the last time we played. We acknowledge that and we’re getting ready to play the Eagles. (Q: Re: Importance of avoiding a 1-3 start:) A: I don’t worry about that. It’s Philly week for us. That’s somewhat storytelling. I don’t do that. I just simply live the journey. (Q: Is TE Weslye Saunders available this week?) A: He is not. (Q: Have the Eagles been winning without having “style points”?) A: They’re 3-1. I think that speaks for itself. They’re making the necessary plays in all three phases to be successful. Offense is making plays. Defense is making plays. They’re stepping up at critical moments. They made a defensive stop late against Baltimore. They did what they had to do to get out of the stadium last week. That’s a sign of a good football team, as they are. (Q: Despite being 1-2, are you satisfied with different aspects of the offense like the no-huddle?) A: I’m not satisfied just because of what you initially said, we’re 1-2. (Q: Re: Style of play of the Eagles’ secondary:) A: They’ve matched some. I have no idea what they intend to do against us. Of course, they’re capable of matching. It’s one of those wait-and-see things. Ask Coach [Andy] Reid when you guys get on the conference call with him. See if he’ll let us know. (Q: Does Philadelphia defend the run on the way to the pass?) A: They do that, but I’ve always been one to believe that when people say that statement it’s almost like they minimize their willingness to defend or play the run. It’s really not. They disrupt the run in a vertical-like manner. They cut the field with their vertical disruption. It’s how they play upfront. They’re attacking and penetrating with their front. That cuts the field off and reduces running lanes and those linebackers and secondary may fill those running lanes. In concept, yes they do play the run on the way to the pass because they are vertical and they are attacking and penetrating. But they don’t do it at any disrespect to the run or run game integrity or gap integrity. They’ve done a nice job of defending both the run and the pass. (Q: Do the Eagles use WR DeSean Jackson more in the short or the long passing game?) A: I think they utilize him in both ways and I really think it depends on how they intend to pass the football. They incorporate him as a deep threat in their play passing game when they come off hardcore play action passes. Some of the drop-back and quick game, obviously, he’s involved in underneath passing more than anything. I think it’s dictated by the nature of the passing play, whether it’s quick game, misdirection, or play pass, how they employ their receivers, specifically Jackson and [TE Brent] Celek, like I mentioned earlier. (Q: Re: Vick’s decision to pass the ball or run it:) A: He’s a competitor and I think he does what is required for his team to win. I think that’s always been him, whether it’s in Philly or Atlanta, whether it’s the younger days of his career or now, he is a capable runner that is a weapon. He is capable of staying in the pocket. He is capable of misdirection passes. I think that’s what makes him such a unique weapon in the National Football League, that he is capable and is willing to do all of those things. (Q: Is Vick trying to stay in the pocket more?) A: I don’t know what more is compared to. I think that’s just a function of being 30 or 30-plus as opposed to a dude in his early twenties. I think Ben [Roethlisberger] stays in the pocket more. I think you could say that about every quarterback that has played the game that has some mobility. I think the longer they are in the league, the more they’re stationary, if you will. (Q: Does a guy like Vick restrict your pass rush?) A: I think it makes you consider the ramifications of what you do and be more thoughtful about what it is you do. It only minimizes what you do if you allow it to. Obviously, it makes you more thoughtful about what it is you do, and specifically thoughtful of the consequences if you provide an escape lane, if something breaks down, the integrity of the rush, and so forth. (Q: Re: Relationship with Eagles RB and former University of Pittsburgh RB LeSean McCoy:) A: I try to get to know all of the guys, particularly the ones that are pivotal guys for them. I had an opportunity to run across him informally. He was always a pleasant young man. (Q: Re: Assessment of the special teams since the change of special teams coaches:) A: We’re 1-2 and the special teams is as well.
Press conference5WL
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick assessment and review of Sunday’s performance. It was a victorious one. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. I thought what did stand out was our ability to execute in the second half, particularly on third downs. We converted a high percentage of our third-down attempts on offense. We kept drives alive and it allowed us to possess the ball. On our last 10-minute drive, we were 4-4 on third downs. When you do that, you put yourself in position to win. By the same token, on defense we were successful in getting off the field on third downs in the second half. I think we got off six-out-of-seven attempts in the second half on third-down situations on defense. It was a winning edge for us. We’d like to keep that trend going. We acknowledge that get-off downs are big in football. Situation football is big. We also have to recognize we have to get better in some other areas, particularly on first-and-10 and second-and-medium downs on both sides of the ball. Our running game on offense can highlight that area of needed improvement. We haven’t run the ball as well as we have liked. I’m not interested in assigning blame in that regard. I will take responsibility for it. The reality is we’ve got room for growth. We need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things we are doing well. We need to block better and put the ball where it needs to be on a more consistent basis. We all have a hand in where our running game is right now. I hope that we all have a hand in correcting it in the near future. I know it needs to be an asset for us moving forward, particularly as we move into a hostile environment like the one we are going into this weekend. I will talk about the state of health for us. Troy Polamalu and James Harrison weren’t able to play last week with their injuries. Harrison had a knee injury and Polamalu had a calf injury. We will take the same approach that we took a week ago in regards to their availability. We simply are going to work day-to-day and look at how their body responds to the work. We will start with informal workouts and work up to practice at some point, and we will see where it all leads us. They are potential assets to us, but you know we focus on the guys that are healthy and preparing to play. We intend to do that this week with the guys that are potentially going to play in their places, Chris Carter and Ryan Mundy. They’ve done a solid job for us up to this point. Some other bumps and bruises of note, Jonathan Dwyer has turf toe, which may limit him at the early portions of the week. Marcus Gilbert has a groin strain. It could limit him at the early portions of the week. Heath Miller has rib cartilage separation. It could limit him at the early portions of the week. Stevenson Sylvester is moving closer to game readiness. We are going to practice him this week and he will really be in the same category as Polamalu and Harrison. We will let him work and see how his body responds to it. Rashard Mendenhall is on the same path as others. He is going to continue to work. Maybe we will bump him around a little more in practice this week. He has done a nice job of running and cutting at full speed. Now, let’s see if he can play a little football. We will thud him up a little bit on a day we are allowed to carry our pads and see if he can respond positively to it. The big reason why we are here is to talk about the Oakland Raiders and this week’s challenge. In terms of looking at them, it all starts with Carson Palmer. This guy is a veteran. He is very familiar with us and how we attack people. He probably has as much experience facing our defense and our pre-snap looks and blitz packages as any quarterback in football. He has always represented himself well against us. He fits well with some of the things they do on offense, under the leadership of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, and his West-Coast principles. They make quick reads and quick throws. Palmer is capable of doing that. He has a strong arm. They utilize play-action pass. He can turn his back to the defense and come up throwing. He has thrown for over 320 yards per game through the first two games. He utilizes a variety of people. He utilizes his running backs very well. I can’t tell you how many passes he’s thrown to Darren McFadden but he has been targeted probably more than anyone on offense. That’s a signature of a Knapp-type offense, utilizing running backs, whether it’s check-downs or screens. Their running back, Mike Goodson, went 65 yards for a touchdown last week in Miami off a screen pass. All of their backs are capable of making house calls. They all have long speed, whether it’s McFadden or Taiwan Jones. Jones is a speed guy that we coveted a few years ago during the draft from Eastern Washington. They picked up Goodson from a trade with the Carolina Panthers. He has hurt us the last few Augusts during the preseason when he was with Carolina. He shows great speed and versatility. Darrius Heyward-Bey is their number-one receiving target. He’s been around a number of years now. He’s a high-pedigree, first-round pick, a speed man from the University of Maryland. They have some unique matchups when it comes to body types. Marcel Reece is listed as a fullback. If you read his biography, he has an interesting history. He is wide receiver and tight end capable. They ask him to do a variety of things as a fullback out of the backfield and from a tight end location. They displace him from the core. He is one of those big-body matchup problems that you see in today’s NFL, like an Aaron Hernandez and others. You really don’t know how to identify them. Reece is one and David Ausberry is another. He is a second-year guy out of the University of Southern California. He is another tight end, h-back, on the move type guy who is tough to match up with and get people comfortable with. Defensively you talk about their big people up front. They are a four-down team. They have as much as a six and seven-man rotation. It starts on the inside with Richard Seymour. He is a perennial, All-Pro caliber-type player and has been for some time. His partner is Tommy Kelly. He is another enormous man that is also athletic. They are tough to move. They collapse pockets. They are long and disrupt passing lanes. They are tough to deal with. I like their defensive ends. They are high-motor guys. Lamarr Houston, out of the University of Texas, is a high-motor, young and talented guy. Matt Shaughnessy is another guy that has been there a number of years. He is also a high-motor guy that is extremely talented. They are all long, athletic guys that know how to play. They supplement those four men with a rotation. Desmond Bryant is a talented inside/outside guy. Houston can also play inside. At linebacker they have Rolando McClain, a first-rounder from the University of Alabama. He is a talented young guy. They picked up Philip Wheeler from Georgia Tech. He came over from the Indianapolis Colts. He played SAM linebacker for them. There has been some turnover at the cornerback position the last few years and they’ve had some health issues. But the safety position has been a very stable one. Michael Huff is a talented first-round pick that has been there a number of years. As has Tyvon Branch, their other safety. They are a formidable combination. They both have speed and are versatile. They both can cover. Huff plays the nickel cornerback in some sub-package football. Their speed shows up on tape and so does their range. Those guys make a lot of plays for them. When you talk about the Raiders you talk about great stability in the kicking game and their specialists. Shane Lechler has been around there for a decade as their punter. He’s a top-quality guy. Sebastian Janikowski is Sebastian Janikowski. He has a powerful leg. He has been very successful. I will doubt we will get very many kickoff return opportunities in the game. I am really intrigued by Phillip Adams, their punt return man. He appears to be making some aggressive decisions. He appears to be very talented and comfortable back there. I don’t know a lot about him but I have been impressed with what I have seen from him on tape. We have a lot on our plate. The issues start with us, first and foremost. It starts with our game readiness and preparation, and the myriad of things that go along with that. The challenge is facing the Raiders who are thirsty for a win, and they are ready to do so in front of their home fans, which always creates an extremely hostile environment for visitors, particularly us, given the history there. We are excited about facing this work and getting it started. (Q: Are you looking for your running game to be more like it was on the final scoring drive against the Jets?) A: I’m looking for more than that, obviously. We were able to run the ball and possess the ball. I think we ran it six or seven times for right around 30 yards. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m actually looking for better than that. (Q: Do injured players need to practice at least on Friday in order to play in a game on Sunday?) A: It depends on who we’re talking about. It depends on my shared experience with them. It depends on their professional experience, their ability to be game-ready based on the total number of snaps, how they learn, etc. I handle all of those situations really on a case-by-case basis with the understanding that the younger you are, the more inexperienced you are, the more practices are necessary before I consider utilizing you. (Q: Does the upcoming bye week play in to how you will handle the players with injuries?) A: It doesn’t play in it whatsoever. (Q: Re: The Raiders use of the play action passing game and running backs catching passes out of the back field:) A: It creates a dilemma, if you will. Carson has been very effective, thus far, through two weeks of the season of turning his back to the defense, executing play action passes and getting the chunks that are associated with that, balls that are thrown 18-to-20 yards down field, usually in and around the hashes. If you’re playing zone defense, obviously those passes are difficult to defend along with check-down backs at the same time. If you’re playing man-to-man, it limits what you’re capable of doing. They’re very good and versatile, in terms of how they attack people. The utilization of the backs is a critical component of that and one that we have to contend with. It’s going to require some work on our part. (Q: Re: Big nickel package utilized against the Jets:) A: We have no control how they choose to attack it. We tend to lean on it from time to time because it provides versatility for us. It allows us to match, from a personnel standpoint, in the secondary with skill but also maintain our big body presence in the run game. Another answer that we have is a personnel group where we use three corners and one safety with base defense. It’s really a different way of addressing the same issue. We want to be as multiple as we can in terms of dealing with issues with people that want to establish the run game presence with multiple wide outs on the field. Those are just two of the ways that we choose to address it. Obviously, we don’t have to match personnel. We could stay in our base, or okie, defense or we could simply go nickel. Over the course of the season, we’re probably going to call on all of those tools and we’re probably going to need all of those tools. So, just developing that one aspect last week and utilizing it probably isn’t as big of a story as it appears. (Q: Was that package one you thought could be used against Jets QB Tim Tebow and the wildcat?) A: No. It was something we could use over the course of the season. As these initial weeks progress, you’re going to see these additions of packages such as that because, at the end of the day, we have to have variety. Those packages provide variety. I’m sure in the upcoming weeks, you’ll see base defense with three corners and one safety, which is another answer that we have. (Q: Re: CB DeMarcus Van Dyke’s impact on special teams:) A: He’s done a great job. He’s downed a punt for us. He was there for that play on that mishandled punt last week. I thought he showed awareness as a punt return guy, pushing a gunner into the end zone who was trying to down a ball. Obviously, he’s been an asset to us in that area. But quite frankly, the things that attracted us to him are the same things that attracted us to him when he came out in the draft. We thought that he was a long, fast kid with man coverage ability. We compared him very favorably to Cortez Allen and really took a similar approach to those guys. He’s in that draft class with Cortez and Curtis Brown and we’re thankful to have three young corners from a draft class just a couple of years ago in our program that are working to improve on a daily basis. (Q: Re: Reasons for K Shaun Suisham’s long kickoffs:) A: It’s early in the season so fatigue and stuff hasn’t set in. It’s the early portions of the season, in that regard, and the ball is being placed on the 35-yard line. If you look around the league, there are a lot of guys putting the ball in the end zone or out of the back of the end zone. (Q: Re: The balance in the offense with the running game and the passing game:) A: I think in the long term, obviously, we seek balance. I think it’s dangerous to look for those types of things at this juncture because we’re only two weeks, or eight quarters of football, into it. Over the long haul, absolutely we intend to strike a balance offensively and possess the ball and score. It’s just probably a little early for us, at this point, to paint with a broad brush. (Q: Re: Playing better at home because you’ve been able to protect the passer and rush the passer better than you have on the road:) A: I hadn’t looked at that. I’m not into making comparisons dating back to 2011. I live in the present. (Q: Re: The replacement officials continuing to be a storyline:) A: Not for me it’s not. Not in my wheelhouse. I’m going to evaluate the people that I’m paid to evaluate, our team.
Press conference6LW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick assessment of Sunday night’s performance. Obviously, it was an unsuccessful one. The reasons why, after watching the video, really are not that different than my initial reactions following the game. I thought we did some good things. I thought the quality of our execution waned down the stretch, specifically, we didn’t make significant plays on offense or defense. You have to acknowledge that Denver did. They made splash plays on offense and defense. An example of that is the 71-yard screen pass for a touchdown to Demaryius Thomas in the latter part of the third quarter. They responded to a nice drive that we put together. Then they made a play on defense with Tracy Porter’s interception to essentially close out the game. There were some positives. Obviously, we are not looking for positives, that’s not our bag, but we will acknowledge there were some in the game. I thought our kicking game and our specialists were an asset. Shaun Suisham was 2-for-2 on field goals. He was 5-of-5 in the kickoff game, meaning he had five touchbacks. I thought Drew Butler represented himself well in his first time out as our punter. He had a 40.0 net average and landed one punt inside the Broncos’ five-yard line. We won the field position battle with that. We had a good punt return game. Antonio Brown’s return produced a scoring opportunity. I thought there were some positives on offense and defense but there weren’t enough, particularly late in the game. That’s why we are sitting here today 0-1. From an injury standpoint, we have some pretty good news on that front. James Harrison worked out yesterday. He will run tomorrow, and we will see where he is. We will basically follow the same protocol with him that we did last week. We will work him up to activity and see how his knee responds to that activity. We will let that be our guide in terms of his participation. I will talk about some of the in-game injuries. Troy Polamalu has a right calf strain. It shouldn’t limit him from playing but it may limit him in the early portions of the week from a preparation standpoint. Ramon Foster, who missed time in the game, appears to be fine, as is Marcus Gilbert, who hyperextended his knee. Gilbert may be limited in the early part of the week but it won’t stop him from participating in this upcoming game. The other injuries are the minor bumps and bruises. We are looking forward to our first home game and having an opportunity to respond to last week’s defeat. That being said, the challenge is not an easy one against the New York Jets. They are coming in here off of a big victory against the Buffalo Bills. They started off the season 1-0 and 1-0 in their division. They are a rock solid team. They have great balance. They have good players in all three phases. Starting on defense, you talk about their strong cover people. Darrelle Revis is an obvious example. He is the best in the world at what he does. He is supplemented with some rock solid, quality players. Antonio Cromartie is their other cornerback. He had a pick-six last week. He is a top notch, veteran professional. He is a very good cover man. In the slot they have Kyle Wilson, a first-round pick out of Boise State University a few years ago. He had an interception also in last week’s game. He is becoming a very experienced nickel-back corner. Those three guys are first-round pedigree-type guys. They are capable of covering people and playing bump-and-run. They provide a lot of opportunities for their defense to do a lot of things by their capability to cover people in a bump-and-run fashion. A new acquisition for them at safety is Laron Landry. I have always been a fan of his game. I think he is playing extremely well in the running game and passing game. He had several interceptions in the preseason. He is always a very physical player, the kind of demeanor that you respect. We’ve gone against him in the past. He is new to the Jets but is providing a quality component, physicality, to their secondary. Their linebacking core is a veteran one. When you think about their defense you think about a veteran linebacking core, ones that adjust very well to formations. They are very rarely out of place. Bart Scott is an 11-year veteran. He came from the Baltimore Ravens. He is very experienced in their scheme. He is a high-quality leader. David Harris, their other inside linebacker is a top-quality, second-contract guy, a second-round pick out of the University of Michigan. He is a really good football player. Calvin Pace is a veteran outside linebacker. Up front, much like our defensive front, they have some high-round draft picks, some young talent. Muhammad Wilkerson out of Temple University is a first-round pick. Quinton Coples is a first-round pick from the University of North Carolina. Kendrick Ellis is a high-round pick from Hampton University. He is another top-quality young guy, who is a big anchor point for them. On offense, it starts with Mark Sanchez. He’s done an awesome job for them, last week and for the past several years as their quarterback. He is very mobile. He can create plays as they break down. He is highly accurate, particularly on the move, which creates problems. Containing him is an issue, whether it’s by plays breaking down or pocket movement, they utilize him very well. He works with a nice core of receivers. Leading them is Santonio Holmes. We are familiar with what he is capable of. He is still a high quality player and is very productive for them. They have a high-pedigree, first-round pick from Georgia Tech in Stephen Hill. Obviously, we are somewhat allergic to first-round draft pick wide receivers from Georgia Tech. We respect what this guy is capable of. He produced some plays for them last week. They are a good group. Their offensive line is anchored by Nick Mangold at center. He is a Pro Bowl-caliber player that has played at a high level for a long time. D’Brickashaw Ferguson plays left tackle, and he is a good player. They acquired a big tackle, from Baylor University and the St. Louis Rams. They utilize him at tight end in some of their run-oriented, heavy packages. That has been a weapon for them in the past. He appears to be that extra offensive lineman that they utilize as a tight end. Their running back group is led by Shonn Greene. He is their feature ball carrier. He is a tough, north-south runner that always seems to fall forward. He is supplemented by Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell, who shared third-down and gadget-type responsibilities in the backfield. They have Tim Tebow, who they use in a variety of ways. They’ve used him some as a receiver and at the quarterback position. They are capable of using him as a quarterback in the traditional-like fashion. They did use him some in the Wildcat-like fashion in their last game. I really think what we saw in their last game is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what they are capable of with Tebow. I think the game’s circumstances allowed them to use just a portion of what they are capable of. It wasn’t the whole sum of it. Nothing that they showed in the game was really groundbreaking or outside their personality, whether you are talking about their offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano, or what you’ve seen from Tebow in the past. We are treating it as simply the tip of the iceberg. It will require some extra work on our part this week. It will not be an extended or unusual extra amount of work in preparation. Some of the Wildcat things have been around for a number of years now. We’ve competed against those types of things when we played the Miami Dolphins. They would utilize their running backs, whether it was Ronnie Brown or quarterbacks like Pat White. We’ve prepared for some of the things that Tebow is capable of when he played for Denver. We respect it. It will require preparation but not anything unusual for us, at least in terms of respecting what they are capable of out of those personnel groups. It’s a big week for us. We are excited about the preparation process in front of us. We’ve evaluated the tape. I thought we had a productive meeting yesterday but we need to move forward, ratchet up our preparation, correct our errors and prepare ourselves to finish in a better fashion than we did last week. (Q: Re: The Jets’ offense scoring six touchdowns last week after struggling offensively all preseason:) A: The preseason is just that, it’s preseason. From our own personal experience, sometimes there could be a myriad of reasons why you’re unproductive or less productive in the preseason. Usually, it’s centered around a limited game plan or wanting to see things from certain people and that’s a place to begin. I don’t read too much into it, to be honest with you. You look at the structure of how they attack, the tape they put out last week was very impressive and that’s the tape that I’m concerned about and that we’re focusing our energies on in preparation for them. (Q: Re: The Jets’ pass protection against Buffalo last week and not allowing a sack:) A: I think it was a lot of things and included in that is game circumstances. They jumped on them early and when have an opportunity to do that you have an opportunity to remain non-rhythmic in terms of your approach. Whether it’s running the football, whether it’s misdirection passes, whether it’s quick passes, they utilize all of those. All of that is well within the realm of Sanchez’s expertise. That is who they are. They’re going to mix things up. They’re going to run the football. They’re going to hit you with some misdirection passes and some quick game. They’re very balanced offensively and it’s going to limit your opportunities to get to him and pressure him. (Q: How do you prepare the defense to face a no-huddle attack like Denver had?) A: I’m less concerned about that aspect of it, the fact that they’re no huddle, and I’m more concerned about what transpires after the ball is snapped. The reality is that we didn’t play well enough post-snap. Forget about whether or not they huddle between plays, we’ve got full control over how we play once the ball is snapped and it wasn’t up to snuff in many instances. When you go back and look at the tape, I thought one of the things that made they’re no huddle attack most effective was the fact that they ran the ball successfully on us and they were able to stay on schedule and eliminate a whole bunch of third down opportunities. I think they were five-of-nine in the game, so that lets you know that they were doing the job on first and second down, specifically in the second half. I thought they ran the ball very well, reeling of chunks of seven, nine and so forth and five yard gains, which makes it doubly difficult to deal with a guy the caliber of Manning. (Q: Does defending a no-huddle offense limit the types of defenses you can call and did they change?) A: It doesn’t really limit us, in terms of personnel packages and what we’re capable of attacking people with. We utilize a variety of personnel packages. Sometimes it mirrored theirs, sometimes it didn’t and that’s always the case with us. It didn’t tax us or limit us in terms of the types of coverages or defenses we could call because, quite frankly, they weren’t in a hurry-up-like fashion. You never felt the pressure of that type of hurry-up. They were in a muddle huddle or no huddle, if you will. Our calls essentially stayed the same in the processes. In terms of administering our calls and getting our calls to the defense, it really remained the same. I think the coach-to-player communications on defense over the last several years have leveled the playing field in that regard. We just didn’t perform as well as I would have liked us to, to be quite honest with you, along the lines of some of the things that you guys are asking with the no-huddle. (Q: Re: The performance of the running backs against Denver and how you will use them going forward:) A: I think we’re capable of being better. We’re still going to continue to play a number of people. We haven’t sorted out specifically what that rotation is to this point. Obviously, I thought Jonathan Dwyer provided a spark play and represented himself well and will probably get an increased opportunity because of it. (Q: Is RB Rashard Mendenhall near being able to return?) A: We’ll see how the week takes us. I thought he had a good week last week. He’s done a nice job with the things we’ve asked him to do and we’ll just continue to move forward and put our heads together as the week unfolds and see if he’s the guy for us this week. (Q: Re: How rookie OT Mike Adams performed against Denver:) A: I thought he represented himself well. He had some trouble late at the extreme end of the game, as we all did. But we were in dire circumstances and somewhat one dimensional at that time. I’m not disappointed in the way he was able to represent himself. As a back-up, you have to be capable of getting in and performing at a variety of positions or in unique circumstances. He went and played solid ball for us at right tackle. Good start for him. (Q: What happened to G Ramon Foster during the game?) A: He had what they called an optical migraine of some kind. With blurred vision and so forth, we were going to use extreme caution in regards to that. He wasn’t able to return to the football game and it appears to be a non-issue moving forward. (Q: Re: How Foster’s injury occurred:) A: I don’t know how it happened. I didn’t see how it happened on video. I didn’t see specifically how it happened on video. Obviously, I saw Ramon on video. (Q: Was it a football-related in injury?) A: It was a football injury of some kind, yes. (Q: Re: Decision to go for a two point conversion early in the fourth quarter:) A: It was a feel for the game. I thought we had an opportunity to go up by seven if we got two, and put us back on par with them to go up 21-14. So, we seized that opportunity. I thought we were moving the ball extremely well so we took advantage of the opportunity presented to us at that time. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. (Q: Were the false start penalties due to the play clock running down?) A: It wasn’t really a function of that. That happens all the time, home or away. The biggest factor in that regard was that the crowd did a nice job of being extremely loud, limiting communication and having to go on rhythm or on sight. Sometimes, particularly on passing situations, you try to anticipate the snap count or if you’re in a running situation and you’re pulling you’re anticipating the snap count, which makes it increasingly difficult. We didn’t do a good enough job in that area. It created some negative plays for us. Thankfully, we were able to overcome most of them. We were 11-of-19 on third downs but many of those third downs that we were able to convert weren’t comfortable ones. They were situations that we have desire to stay out of, third-and-11, third-and-13, third-and-18, and so forth. Many of those situations were created by pre-snap penalties, either by false starts or bad mechanics on our part and illegal formations. (Q: Would you consider dressing an extra offensive lineman this week?) A: We’ll look at the totality of our football team and the overall health of our football team and how we want to attack the Jets. We’ll make that determination at the end of week. I never have a knee-jerk reaction to what transpired the week before, in terms of identifying who’s playing and who’s not. We’ll look at the overall health of our team, the plan that we have in place this game, and we’ll do it at the appropriate time, which is the latter part of the week for us. (Q: Re: The source of confusion on the illegal formation:) A: I don’t have the answer to that. It shouldn’t be a problem but obviously it was. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board and improve in that area. (Q: Re: G Willie Colon’s performance:) A: I thought he did some nice things. I think he has a desire to be better and we have a desire for him to be better. He’s always a physical player and does a nice job in that regard. He’s still getting up to speed on some of the nuances of the guard position. We’ll expect him to be a player on the rise, as I’m sure he does too. (Q: Will the return of S Ryan Clark and LB James Harrison help improve the defense?) A: I’m not going to assume that it is. It wouldn’t give any credence to my expectations in terms of the quality of play of backups if I took that position. Obviously, those guys are capable of helping us. They’re quality veteran players. They know how to play and, specifically in Ryan’s case, not only his play but his communication and leadership. That remains to be seen and we’re not going to assume anything. What we are going to do is focus on the healthy guys and get them prepared to play and, ultimately, expect them to play on the acceptable level. Obviously, this week Ryan will be included in that bunch. Whether or not James is, remains to be seen. (Q: Re: Challenging Jets CB Darrelle Revis:) A: You’ve got to play football and utilize all eligibles. He’ll be defending one of them. We’re not going to shy away from confrontation but at the same time we understand his reputation is well-earned and deserved. (Q: Are you still experimenting with ways to utilize RB Chris Rainey and ways to catch defenses off-guard?) A: I can’t speak for other people’s perspectives in terms of where he is or what he is capable of doing. Obviously, we have a desire to utilize him and utilize his special skills. We’ve done that and plan on continuing to do so. (Q: Has QB Mark Sanchez added anything to his repertoire since the last time you played the Jets?) A: I don’t know that he has added anything. I think they’ve always done a nice job of playing to his strengths, which are his accuracy and his mobility when plays break down. They move the pocket by design and he does a good job of that. I think more than anything over the course of the last couple of years, he’s probably improving at becoming a mature player and a leader, which most quarterbacks do with time. (Q: Who is your emergency long snapper and what is your Plan B?) A: It’s not James Harrison. I didn’t see that last night. I heard about it. In the National Football League when you’ve got 53 guys, you don’t have great depth at the snapping position. It’s a problem that probably 32 teams have. We feel comfortable with our options and I’ll hold my cards in that regard at this time. (Q: What will it mean to have Clark and Harrison back in the defensive starting lineup?) A: I’m not going to speculate. They haven’t played here in 2012 so I’m not going to assume that their contributions from past years will mirror their contributions here this year. We’re excited and anxious to get those men on the field. We fully expect them to live up to their reputations but they have to put that on tape. I’m not going give them any verbal assistance. (Q: Re: Using three wide receiver sets a majority of the time on offense:) A: We feel comfortable with our wide receiver group, not only three but four. Jerricho Cotchery is a valuable member of our group. Of course, the way the game unfolded, that personnel group was a consistent one for us. We felt like we were capable of moving the ball. It’s an asset to us so we utilize it. (Q: Did you notice if any aspect of the game was different with the replacement officials?) A: I did not. (Q: Re: LB Jason Worilds’ progress:) A: I was generally pleased with his overall level of conditioning. I think that’s a concern when you talk about a guy who has missed the quantity of time that he has. His quality of play needs to be on the upswing, in terms of detail but that will come. He’s a bright young guy. We expect him to provide a solid contribution for us. Sunday was nothing but just a good start from that perspective. (Q: Re: Potentially missed calls during Sunday’s game against Denver:) A: It’s not my job to evaluate the officials. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep my money in my pocket.
Press conference9WL
Good afternoon. We are excited about getting the 2012 season started and getting it started in a hostile environment versus a very good football team in the Denver Broncos. We are excited but we do respect it. We are going to display that respect with how we prepare this week, and we are going to go and play the game. Let’s spend a few minutes talking about the Broncos and the potential problems they will provide us. Let’s start with Peyton Manning. He needs no endorsement from me. His resume is his resume. Guys like him make their reputations in rising up in moments like this. He has battled some adversity with injury and being in a new city. We should anticipate his very best. That’s what guys like Manning do. Obviously he is mentally talented and physically talented. He has a ridiculous football character, he’s smart. He works at it. He is a ridiculous competitor. We have to deal with him but we also recognize that the Broncos are a good football team. They were a playoff-caliber football team last year without him. We respect him and them. It looks like he is quickly establishing a rapport with Eric Decker. Decker is a big guy that plays big. He creates space for himself. At the x-position they have Demaryius Thomas. He is a talented, former first-round pick out of Georgia Tech. He has given us issues in the recent past. He is another big guy who is extremely tough to get on the ground. His run after the catch is exceptional. He utilizes the stiff arm, and just in general he has good leg strength and is tough to tackle. Some other guys that have a past history with Manning, and he has a good rapport with are Brandon Stokely and Jacob Tamme. Manning is protected by a very good offensive line. Ryan Clady, their left tackle, is a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player. At right tackle they have Orlando Franklin from the University of Miami. He is a very physical player that plays with good demeanor. If you look at them on defense, the first guy you mention is Von Miller. He is the reigning AFC Rookie of the Year. He is extremely talented. He has great rush skills. He utilizes his speed and power. They move him around. In base defenses he is the SAM linebacker. In sub-package defenses he is a defensive end. Let’s talk about their defensive front. They are a very talented group. They run as many as six people deep. Elvis Dumervil and Derek Wolfe are their ends. Wolfe is a former second-round pick out of the University of Cincinnati. He is a very talented, high-motor guy. They are supplemented by Robert Ayers, a veteran guy that was highly regarded coming out of the University of Tennessee. That’s a good three-man punch at defensive end. On the inside of their defensive line they have Justin Bannan, Kevin Vickerson and Ty Warren. Joe Mays is their inside linebacker. He’s a very active guy. They will be playing without D.J. Williams. That is a good group. They added a veteran presence in Keith Brooking. In the secondary they are led by Champ Bailey. Opposite of him is Tracy Porter. He is a talented cover man with great short-area quickness and he can mirror just about any receiver in the NFL. He has some hardware that can prove that. Their specialists are rock solid. Britton Colquitt is a great punter. Jim Leonhard could potentially be returning punts. He has caused problems for us in the past in several cities, whether it was in Baltimore, New York and now Denver. We expect him to be a factor not only on special teams, but we expect him to continue to work himself in the rotation on defense. They are a rock solid group, well coached by John Fox and company. They have new additions to that staff. Jack Del Rio is now their defensive coordinator. It’s not Fox’s and Del Rio’s first rodeo together. Those guys worked together with the Carolina Panthers before Del Rio was the head coach in Jacksonville. We have a tall task. We are excited about it. That’s what life in the NFL is all about. We started a process of preparing ourselves yesterday with our group of men. I will talk about some status things relative to some of our guys. Guys that we can count out at this juncture are David DeCastro and Stevenson Sylvester. They will not be practicing or playing this week. Some other guys that have missed some time, James Harrison, Jason Worilds, Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman, all worked in some capacity yesterday. We are going to leave the door open for all of those men and see where the week takes us. A lot of their availabilities depend on how they respond to a work load. We provided a work load for them yesterday. Today is a player’s day off. We will see where that takes us as we push into tomorrow and throughout the week. You can add into that group Robert Golden and Curtis Brown. Those guys got banged up in our last preseason game but did work yesterday. Those guys are less likely to miss practice time than the other guys I mentioned earlier. Some of the guys I mentioned earlier are closer to returning than others, but we are going to monitor their progress and make the decision as we push forward through the week. We will base our determination on how they respond to the work. We did good work yesterday. I was encouraged by the work of all those men, particularly Harrison and Worilds, who have missed quite a bit of time in the preseason. I thought they were relatively sharp from an assignment standpoint and they displayed pretty good overall physical condition for a couple of guys that hadn’t logged any in-helmet time here in the early portion of the season. Ryan Clark will not be playing in the game. That’s been our position in the past and will be our position. Clark understands that and is supportive of that. I am sure he will be a big support to his teammates, not only in the stadium this weekend but in preparation this week. He always has been that guy. I expect it to continue. Right after this press conference, Clark will be having a press conference of his own. He is going to be talking about an initiative he is starting with his wife, Yonka, encouraging awareness in regards to Sickle Cell Disease and the issues regarding that. It’s a personal thing for them, so we are honored and humbled to support them in their endeavors and their willingness to give back to that community. The game is the game. Today is Tuesday. We are getting up to speed and putting together base plans on offense, defense and special teams. We are really looking forward to playing on Sunday night, and getting the season started in a hostile environment in front of our peers. We know what that’s about and we respect that. We are honored any time we are chosen to participate in prime-time television. More importantly than that, we need to show our honor by how we prepare and play. (Q: Did any of the guys who are questionable come in for treatment today and do you have an analysis on them?) A: I’m sure they have. I’ve just been upstairs in my hole. I haven’t visited with anybody yet. I’ll get an update, I imagine, at some point this afternoon. But, again, it won’t be anything of any significance. We’ll base how they move and how they look in the mornings leading up to work, specifically tomorrow morning and Thursday morning. (Q: Does the Broncos’ offense resemble the Colts’ offense when Peyton Manning was in Indianapolis?) A: Anything he’s involved in resembles other things he’s involved in because they’re usually successful. He’s very efficient, he reads pass patterns and route distribution combinations very quickly, he challenges the defense with some of the things he does pre-snap. It looks very familiar but I expected it to because Peyton is Peyton. (Q: Re: Progress of Casey Hampton:) A: He’s kind of in a little different category because he participated and he participated in an above the line fashion in the last preseason game. We haven’t looked back with Casey. (Q: How would you characterize Mike Wallace’s practice yesterday?) A: I thought it was pretty productive. Like I mentioned with some of the other guys who hadn’t participated much, number one I was generally, positively impressed with his general, overall understanding of what it is he needs to do. Number two, I think he displayed a decent level of overall physical conditioning. Obviously, that practice setting and that limited practice setting is not football games, it is not a hostile environment, it’s not NFL stadiums, so we’ll temper that excitement. We’ll just continue on with the preparation process that he’s under and that we’re under this week. (Q: Re: Ryan Mundy playing for Ryan Clark in Denver:) A: Like anyone else that misses time, we don’t cry a whole lot about people that are out. We expect those expected to play to play in an above the line manner. Guys like Ryan Mundy and Will Allen have done so in the past, and we expect them to do so moving forward. Ryan [Clark] creates certain challenges because of the nature of the job that he does. He’s a great center fielder, if you will a great hub of communication for our defense, not only our secondary. So, those guys are going to be challenged in that way. Not only to play above the line, but to provide some of the help that he provides the rest of the defensive unit with the way that he communicates in-game, pre-snap, post-snap. It just comes with filling in for a guy like Ryan Clark. (Q: What is different about Jonathan Dwyer this year?) A: It’s a couple of things. First of all, he’s a young man that I believe is maturing. Of course, he just turned 23. It’s funny to say that a guy is in his third year and just turned 23, but he just did. There’s a certain level of growth and maturity from a personal standpoint. The more obvious observation is that he is in better physical condition than he has been in the past. (Q: Is Dwyer a candidate to start at running back on Sunday?) A: He is working, as are some others. Isaac Redman, who I mentioned earlier, is coming back from an injury. That’s something that we’ll determine later in the week. (Q: Has Keenan Lewis earned the job at cornerback?) A: He’s earned a spot. I don’t anoint people in terms of jobs or positions. I’ll let you guys do that. I think he’s done a nice job here in this preseason in working and playing good, sound, technical football. That needs to continue. (Q: Is this the best you’ve seen from Lewis?) A: It is. But, quite frankly, we expect it to be. He’s no longer a young guy. He’s no longer new to our system of football or our football team. We expect a hard worker, such as himself, to take off from a playing standpoint and he has. (Q: Re: The progress of Cortez Allen:) A: He’s another young man that has grown by leaps and bounds. He still has room for growth and that’s a point that I want to make and a point that I made to our football team as I sat in front of the group yesterday and looked at the 53, plus eight practice squad guys. I thought it was a significant moment for us as we embark on this journey that is the 2012 season. I also made a point that we’re also very much a team in development, individually and collectively. We must be a team on the rise. Obviously, we better be a better team in the latter portions of the season than we are now. I could say the same about individuals. We’re talking about positions and who’s earned positions and things of that nature and who’s going to run out of the tunnel and start. All of that stuff is well and good, but individually, we better still be people on the rise from a football development standpoint, from a skill development standpoint and from a quality of play standpoint. That’s the only way we’re going to continue to grow and be the type of team that we need to be in the latter portions of the season. (Q: Did you have any expectations about where James Harrison would be in his rehab at this point?) A: I didn’t have any. So, that’s probably an easy answer to the question. James is a guy that’s a competitor. I know that it’s within his power to be there and perform and, particularly for his teammates, he will be. I have had no reservations about him in that regard. The issue is just whether or not he gets a clean bill of health from our medical staff. He has to this point in terms of being able to practice. We’ll see how his body responds to that work and let that be a determinant about how we move forward. (Q: Re: The benefit of having two experienced backup quarterbacks:) A: The reality is that when you talk about backup quarterbacks you need to find comfort in that they’re capable of coming in and playing winning football. In those two guys, we know that we have just that. We’ve won with them in the recent past, they’ve displayed in this preseason that they’re capable of being reasons why we win. The solutions or the answers to the questions lie in that. There’s always some discussion in today’s NFL whether you go with two or three. I always find comfort in the three. When I walk up and down these hallways and look at pictures of the 70’s Steelers that were 45-man rosters. I saw three quarterbacks in those pictures. So, that’s a little bit of a history lesson for me. When you’ve got three that are capable of being reasons why you win in general, I’m going to lean on going with that three. Obviously, some things that are going on at other positions oftentimes weigh in that when you’re putting together a 53-man roster, but just in general, we value and respect that quarterback position, particularly, those that can be reasons why we win. (Q: Would you say that all three quarterbacks had pretty good preseason performances?) A: I would. (Q: Does Wallace have the opportunity to show you that he can start in Week 1?) A: We’re just going to take that on a day-by-day basis and see where the week takes us. I didn’t see anything yesterday that would lead me to believe that’s not a possibility. (Q: Re: The progress of Chris Carter from year one to year two:) A: He is a much better football player than he was a year ago, to be quite honest with you. That’s what’s been expected from him and not only him, but the other guys in his rookie class, whether we’re talking about Cam Heyward, Marcus Gilbert, Cortez Allen, Curtis Brown, and others. We challenge all of these guys to take a significant step, particularly with this group. Under the circumstances that they came into the National Football League a year ago were less than ideal, from a preparation standpoint, with no offseason and limited training camp exposure and so forth. We expect those guys to take a dramatic jump. He’s in the group that has done that. We find great comfort in his ability to play and his ability to play winning football for us. Whether or not he gets an opportunity or how much that opportunity is will be determined how we work this week, his work and the work of others. (Q: Re: Chris Rainey being trusted with kickoff and punt return duties:) A: He will be given the return opportunities. I am not going as far as to say he is trusted with them. He is a young guy. He is a talented guy. He’s taken advantage of the opportunities we’ve given him thus far. Make no mistake, we have some young guys that are very credible and experienced return men, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. We are not afraid to use those guys either. (Q: Will Rainey return both punts and kickoffs?) A: He is scheduled to get an opportunity to do both but we have some other guys that I know are capable and are chomping at the bit to contribute in that facet of the game as well. (Q: Re: Changes in special teams since that Amos Jones took over:) A: Really, I’ve seen very little. It’s been business as usual for us in terms of the schematics and how we work. Obviously there is an adjustment from the distribution of labor but we have a good staff and good cohesion. It’s been a non-issue for us to this point. (Q: What is Redman’s injury?) A: It’s his ankle. I am sorry if I didn’t clarify that earlier.
Press conference5L
Good afternoon. We are still coming to grips with what happened last night and how it unfolded, and the fact that our journey has come to an end. We acknowledge that there can only be one, and it’s not us this year. That’s what stings. Not only was it a goal but it’s what we were working towards. There are always tough feelings that come with that. That’s part of this deal. We will move forward. At the appropriate time, we will start the process of chasing it again in 2012. I am extremely proud of the group of men that represent us, and what they are willing to do, more than what they are capable of doing. What they are capable of is impressive but I respect what those men are willing to do, not only in terms of the cause but what they do for one another. I enjoyed this group. A quick assessment of some injuries, we had three significant ones in the game. Max Starks had an ACL injury of some description. He is getting that looked at here today to determine whether or not surgery will be required. Same can be said for Casey Hampton. He has an ACL injury. He will be evaluated today to see if he will require surgery. Brett Keisel has a significant groin injury. He’s getting that looked at today to see if he will need surgery. All the other injuries you know about. Those guys are all in the process of rehabilitation. Our philosophy as we push into the offseason is to attack these issues and to be aggressive in dealing with them. We want to do them sooner rather than later, if procedures are going to be required. What we are going to do here over the next several days is wrap a bow around all of the operations. We are going to visit with people, housekeeping-type things. We will start the process of building for 2012. Yesterday was a losing performance by us. We tip our cap to the Denver Broncos, and we will join the rest of the league in watching those guys move forward to Indianapolis. (At some point did it seem that injuries were piling up and a lot of the veterans were out?) That’s a human response, but not for long. You can’t have those moments and do what we are trying to do, which of course is to win. Injuries are a part of the game. You aren’t going to be so fortunate that you don’t have to deal with them. We dealt with them to the best of our abilities, and it is what it is. We feel like we are fully capable of playing winning football with the men that we had out there last night, and obviously we didn’t do the job. (Would you attack Tim Tebow the same way?) Probably, the responsibilities associated with defending their run gaps kind of dictated at times how you attack them. Obviously they made some nice plays on us, and in hindsight you would analyze with a fine tooth comb some of the things you did, but I think your options are limited in terms of how you attack them because of run gap responsibilities. (What was Mundy’s responsibility and read on the last play of the game?) I am not going to get into Mundy’s individual responsibilities or alignments on that particular play. What I will say is that they made a nice football play, and obviously we didn’t (Why would you go coverage-zero in that situation?) We had done it in several instances leading up to that point. It wasn’t zero particularly, by the way, it was zone coverage, and it was just inverted, so that the safeties could fit in the run box. If you guys want to get into the specifics of football, so it was an inverted-zone coverage where the safeties were close to the line of scrimmage so they could play alley responsibilities in terms of the run game, and they had a nice play-action on us. (It seemed more high risk than what you do traditionally.) No, we have done that, and done it a bit particularly versus a wildcat and wildcat type attacks, and formations and things. (Will Maurkice Pouncey need surgery?) Potentially, we are going to see specifically what his situation is, and how we can best move forward into 2012, and if that includes surgery, obviously we will explore doing that. There are a lot of people of course that are playing with injury, and discomfort, and so forth. Surgery might be an option for those guys. Doug Legursky, has been dealing a shoulder situation. There are a myriad of those things. That is part of the process we are going trough as we speak right now, 12 o’clock today. Some of the exit physicals and interview processes started. (Did the lockout affect Pouncey to not get the proper care needed for his ankle during the offseason or is the aggravation of his ankle just football?) It’s just football, as far as I am concerned. I hadn’t looked at the lockout’s affect on things of that nature. It is just something that we have dealt with for a better part of the season, obviously, but it is just football. (Is Ben a candidate for surgery?) No, I don’t think he is going to be a candidate for surgery. (Have you seen Tim Tebow throw with such frequency?) He threw some very accurate passes down the field to some big guys who made nice plays on it. Sometimes people are going to throw and catch balls. I thought the run after was significant on a number of them, or their ability to create yardage after the catch. Sometimes guys are going to make nice throws, and have challenged catches on you, and you tackle them immediately and it minimizes the damage. In many of those instances they were able to reel up significant amounts of yardage after the catch. (Is it unfair to say that your game plan showed that you didn’t think Tebow was capable of doing it?) Anything is fair at this juncture. We accept responsibility for losing. We understand what comes with that. (Do you anticipate both of your coordinators returning?) I anticipate it, but of course we all understand what the end of the season is about, and movement is a part of it in today’s NFL for players and coaches. We are going to try to maintain continuity like we always do. We believe that is a benefit to us, but we also understand that things can happen, and we will deal with those as they arrive? (How much of a say when it comes to Bruce Arians do you give Ben in a decision like that?) None. Not from a coaches perspective. Not from a staff building perspective. None. Of course just in terms of hearing his opinion from a players-coach relationship, the same amount of say that you give anybody that is in a significant position of contribution to our football team (Re: The identity of the team changing:) There’s always going to be changes. There are changes every year. I am not going to sit here and pretend like there’s not going to be changes. To what extent, at this point I am not ready to address. That’s why I enjoy these journeys. They are precious. At the end of this thing, the wheels do continue to turn. There will be some changes. We will see where this all takes us. Right now, I just have a great deal of respect and appreciation for the men in that room and what they are willing to do for us this year. (Will there be more change than in the past?) I don’t want to quantify it again, because I would be speculating. I just acknowledge that change is a part of this thing. (When do you look at the roster and decide when to move forward?) Formally and informally it starts immediately. I think that’s how we are wired. I love what I do. The wheels continue to turn, and it’s time to start building for 2012. Informally it’s already started. That’s what this thing is all about. (Re: Ike Taylor’s performance last night versus his overall season:) Such is life in the NFL. We have a great deal of respect for Taylor and what he’s willing to do for us. That’s one of the guys that I think about when I talk about what the group is willing to do for us. Week-in and week-out he’s willing to step in and accept the challenge of covering tough receivers. Guys like Lawrence Timmons, who will play anywhere we ask them to play, due to injuries to other players, I just like the contributions of all the men. (How far were you going to let Shaun Suisham kick at the end of regulation?) We were comfortable anywhere from the low-to-mid 50s. Obviously it didn’t develop. (Was there anything you would have done differently with managing the clock?) I hadn’t thought a great deal about it, to be honest with you. Hindsight is just that. (Re: Maurkice Pouncey being upset with fans on Twitter, and did you talk to him about it?) I hadn’t seen him since last night. (Have any of the players that had season-ending surgeries talked with you about retiring?) We haven’t had any of those discussions yet. I acknowledge that this is still pretty fresh in our minds. We just got back a few hours ago. None of those things have had time to develop as of yet. (What does Hines Ward mean to this team, organization and city?) I don’t know what I can say about Ward that hasn’t already been said. We love Hines. (Re: Calling timeout when Emmanuel Sanders rolled out of bounds:) The referee was winding the clock, saying that Sanders was inbounds. That’s why I called time out. He did roll out of bounds but the referee that was right in front of me was acknowledging that it was an inbounds play. The clock was going to run so I called timeout. (Any updates on Coach Kirby Wilson?) Not right now. No.
Season wrap-up6L
Good afternoon. Like I stated the other night in Cleveland, we are excited about being in the final field of 12. It’s something we don’t take for granted. Thirty-two teams started on this journey. We realize at the end of this thing there is only going to be one. To still have a horse in that race is exciting. We will take it one day, one step at a time. This week our focus is the Denver Broncos and the challenge that we have waiting for us. We are excited about it. I’ll quickly give an assessment of some injuries. Rashard Mendenhall is done for the year with an ACL injury. He will be getting that fixed here at some point. We are still looking at dates and specifics but we look forward to getting him healthy, well and fixed, and back in business for us in the 2012 season. We appreciate his contributions. We acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game. We are disappointed for him but from a playing standpoint, we fully expect to move forward with the men we have to work with. We know that they are capable. David Johnson hyperextended his elbow in the game. He should be fine. He might have some discomfort at the early portion of the week but it shouldn’t prohibit him from playing. Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle appears to be doing okay. He might be limited at the early portion of the week but it shouldn’t affect his availability. Cortez Allen is questionable at best with a right shoulder injury. We will keep the window open there. Mewelde Moore, we will see what the week has in store for him. I’d characterize him as questionable at best as well. Doug Legursky and LaMarr Woodley are both back in action. Also on the injury/medical front, I met with Ryan Clark yesterday, and I informed him that I am not going to allow him to play in this game, for obvious reasons. It’s a big game for us, but it is a game. We will keep it in that perspective. We have some quality and capable men that can play the safety position for us, and they have done it in the past. We anticipate them doing it at a quality level for us in this game. Ryan Mundy will get the assignment but Will Allen is available for us. We expect both guys to play Ryan Clark-like football. It was an easy decision for us. If he is in any more danger than any of the other 21 men on the field, then we err on the side of caution. Looking at all our data and variables in the equation, we came to the determination that he is at more risk. So we aren’t going to play him. It’s just that simple. We will get the other men prepared. Clark will be there to support us. Clark is a very good communicator. He might have a little coaching in his future. We will put that to the test this week. Let’s see if he can put his hand in the pile and help the group towards this week’s challenge. The Broncos are the AFC West champions. We respect that. We are going to their house. Tim Tebow’s story for the 2011 season has been well documented. When I look at Tim Tebow, I see a guy that just wins. He is at his best in the significant moments. He makes those around him better. They buy into what he is selling. He’s got natural charismatic leadership ability. We have to fight that battle. It’s one that I am sure our defense will be excited about fighting, because they respect and enjoy challenged. He and his offense is just that. We are going to see Willis McGahee again. It’s business as usual, us seeing him in some form or fashion in January football. He is up over 1,000 yards rushing and he’s running well. Their running game is very formidable. They are tops in the league. We have to start there. If we want to play good defense, we have to slow down McGahee, Tebow and others. They put the ball under their arm, and they do it for their team by running. We better get them behind the chains. They do a nice job staying on schedule, getting manageable third downs. Stopping the run is a prerequisite for us, if we want to play the kind of football that we desire to play, in terms of getting after the quarterback. He has a nice set of receivers, Eric Decker and their first-round pick Demaryius Thomas. Eddie Royal is a multi-faceted, multi-talented guy. He is capable of returning kicks and punts, and he’s a quality receiver. I like their offensive line. We looked at many of their young guys in recent years in drafts, whether it’s Zane Beadles or Orlando Franklin, whom we looked at in a big way last year out of the University of Miami. They play well for them. They have some talented people on defense, starting up front. Marcus Thomas is playing really good football for them. Brodrick Bunkley, who they acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles, is playing really good football for them. Elvis Dumervil is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, versus both the run and pass. His pass rushing skills are exceptional. What you heard about Von Miller is very true. From the tape I’ve been looking at over the last 48 hours, he is as good physically as any defender in football. He has all the physical attributes of a standout football player. He is good versus the run and pass. He is good playing through injury. He has a club (cast) on his right hand, and that hasn’t slowed down his productivity whatsoever. We have to be prepared to deal with this young man. They are going to find ways to get him on running backs. They will bring him off the edge against tackles. They are going to move him around. We have our hands full there. The rest of their linebackers are rock solid as well. Joe Mays has played well for them inside, and D.J. Williams always plays pretty darn good for them. They have a veteran secondary group, led by Champ Bailey. They have Brian Dawkins, who is a veteran safety. He missed last week but he’s played really good football for them. We understand what their game is going to be like. It’s January football. We have to be at our best. We’ve reacquired Anthony Madison to help us. He’s been here on several occasions for us. He has a very established resume as a special teams performer. We need some potential assistance in that area. Curtis Brown was placed on the Reserve/Injured List a few weeks ago. Cortez Allen, as I mentioned earlier is questionable, so we are running a little thin with gunner-like bodies. Madison taught a few of our players around here how to play the position. So we are very comfortable having him back in the fold, and we’re looking forward to him putting his hand in the pile and helping us with this week’s challenge. (How did the conversation with Ryan Clark go?) Not much of a conversation. I talked to the medical experts. I called Ryan in, and I told him he wasn’t playing. He said, okay. (Will he make the trip?) Certainly. (Re: Keenan Lewis and his hamstring:) We anticipate him being fine. We did an MRI of it yesterday. There was very little, or no damage. So we should expect him to proceed, and practice, and play for us. (Do you have to bring in anyone at running back?) Potentially, but not something we intend to do as I sit here today. We are going to look at the men here that we have working, prepare those guys, and then maybe add to those guys as the week proceeds, but not as I sit here in front of you today. (Would Mewelde be more of the feature guy if he is ready to play?) That is something of a hypothetical, because it is based on his availability. So let’s see how he is from a physical standpoint before we ponder those possibilities, because those possibilities will be determined by his health. (Anyone else on the roster that you are comfortable putting the football in their hands?) Anybody that is a running back on our roster, we are confident that they are capable of playing winning football for us. We don’t do charity. Everyone that sits in that room is capable of helping us win, whether they are active roster or practice squad guys. We have been consistent in that mentality, and relaying those messages, and it is unchanging. (Would you imagine most of your guys on the defense have played against the option at some point?) No. We are not going to take anything for granted in terms of preparation for this game. Obviously they present some unique challenges. We respect Coach Fox and company over there. One thing I know about him, he is always going to play to his strengths, and work to minimize his weaknesses. I imagine that option, and option football, will be an element of their attack, and something we are going to have to work hard to prepare for this week. (How much of a classic college down-the-line option has Denver shown?) It’s more read, and things of that nature. Some of the spread football-type option, not the classic dive option, Oklahoma and Nebraska type option that you think about when you think about college football option. This is more of spread attack. (What are your thoughts on Ryan Mundy?) In a nutshell, he is starter capable. He has proven that. We are comfortable with what he is capable of doing. Not only him, but we also have a great deal of confidence in Will Allen as well, who is also another veteran backup safety with starter experience. He started for me in Tampa. They are both quality special teams players. We have no reservations of what those guys are going to be able to do for us if called upon. (Will Doug Legursky go back in at left guard?) There is a strong chance that he will be. We will determine those things as we look at his level of health, and so forth throughout the week. Obviously we are excited about getting Doug back into the lineup if he is 100%. (Can Tim Tebow be a quarterback? Most of his success has been on the ground.) Certainly. (Where does the onus fall primarily on the 3-4 defense, when it comes to containing a quarterback that can run?) It depends on the defensive calls to be quite honest with you. Sometimes ends are in contained positions, sometimes it is outside linebackers, sometimes it is secondary men, safeties and corners. Depending on offensive formation and defensive call. I feel very comfortable with how we approach assignment football, but at the same time I acknowledge that this week presents unique challenges for us, and we better be on the screws and the minute details of our assignment, what comes along with containment, and alley play, and things of that nature. Those are the many things that we will be solidifying in preparation to defend this attack. (Kansas City played a lot of man defense against Tim Tebow. Does that hurt you without having Ryan?) We don’t anticipate us missing Ryan Clark to hinder us in any way schematically, or in any other way in terms of how we approach our personality, and play defensively. (Will you assign a spy to come in as a possibility?) Again, the spy per say is a call. It is no different than any other call. We have utilized that in the past, and we will utilize that in the future. (Do you expect LaMarr Woodley to go thru a full week of practice?) That is to be determined. One thing we are comfortable with is that at the end of this thing he is going to be capable of playing in the football game. (Coaches say that they want to be playing their best football moving into the playoffs. How do you feel your team is doing now, heading into the playoffs?) I don’t read too much into that. I really don’t. I really focus on this week’s challenges as opposed to looking at it like we are in the playoffs. Yes, we are in the playoffs, but this is Denver Bronco week. We need to do what is required of us to beat the Denver Broncos, how we match up against those guys. Our strengths and weaknesses against their strengths and weaknesses. That’s where I am at. I haven’t pondered some of those kinds of things from a rhythm standpoint. I understand and acknowledge what you mean, I just haven’t given it a great deal of thought. (Re: Injuries and rotations in the sub-package?) That is to be determined, based on the availability of our men. One thing I will say is that we have a great deal of confidence in our back up rotational type players. You are talking about a guy like Bryant McFadden, he has been on big stages and in big games with us. The lights won’t be too bright for Bryant McFadden if he is called upon, and some others. We are comfortable with where we are, but we acknowledge that some of that still has to be determined, based on the relevant health of some people. (How closely do you have to monitor Woodley during the game? Do you watch his snap count?) We hadn’t thought about that as of right now. We will ponder those things as it gets closer to game time, after we have evaluated his preparation over the course of the week. (Do you work with Isaac Redman on ball security?) Not anymore than we have with our other backs, and we won’t in reaction to what happened in Cleveland. We are very comfortable with his ball security and how he runs. (How have you rated Ben Roethlisberger’s performance after the injury?) He won last week. That is how he is measured. That is how I am measured, and that is what we tend to focus on. (Would you characterize his condition as no worse going into the game?) Certainly, I would characterize it as no worse. I have yet to see him, of course, today. We will see how he is moving forward. I mentioned it because of protocol, to be quite honest with you. You have to acknowledge existing injuries, moving forward, it is NFL protocol. I am not overly concerned about his physical state, and preparation for this game. (Do you believe the injury has hindered his passing?) I don’t believe so, no. But he would be in a better position to answer that than myself. (Re: John Clay in the closing role:) We will evaluate our running backs and who is available to us throughout the course of the week, and etch out a division of labor as we get closer to game action, but we acknowledge that he and some others are capable of doing that and some other things for us. We like the group.
Post-season press conference2LW
Good afternoon. We are excited about meeting this week's challenges, and bringing our regular season to a close on the road against the Cleveland Browns. I'll quickly review Saturday's performance. We were pleased with it. I think any time you shut out an NFL football team, there's a lot to be excited about. We got positive contributions from a variety of people. Some of them we highlighted after the game. We thought Trai Essex's willingness and ability to play center was critical to our success. It was under unusual circumstances. Center is a unique position. It's one that handles the football on every snap. To have guy come in and deliver the way he delivered for us, not only in terms of snapping the football but declaring fronts and blocking people in the run game, it was just a special afternoon for him. We ran the ball well, collectively. We controlled the line of scrimmage. We were good in the red area because of our ability to run the football. I liked the contributions of our young man, John Clay. We gave him an opportunity to contribute, given the circumstances with the injury to Mewelde Moore and Jonathan Dwyer being placed on the Reserve/Injured List a few weeks back. John has been in our program. We believe in our program. Guys like John have the opportunity to come off of our practice squad and help us win football games. We are getting contributions from other guys in similar situations. Damon Cromartie-Smith has provided us quality special teams play. He's been up a few weeks. Mortty Ivy has been up here a couple times this year, and he's provided quality special teams play. That's what we are about. There will be another opportunity this week for guys to define their roles and make some plays for us. From an injury standpoint, there are some guys on the outside looking in. Mewelde Moore continues to work his way back from his MCL sprain. Doug Legursky is probably going to be a week away with his left shoulder injury. We will make the necessary adjustments. All the other guys that have existing injuries or missed the last performance due to injury are all in play as we sit here today. LaMarr Woodley, Ben Roethlisberger, Maurkice Pouncey and Emmanuel Sanders all have shots at playing. Hopefully we will get those guys back. It is our intention right now that if those guys are healthy enough to practice and prepare, then we will play them. There are some scenarios that can unfold, where we can improve our playoff position. We are aware of that. We are also aware that all of those scenarios include us winning this football game. We are going to do what we deem necessary for us to put ourselves in position to do that. We will focus and try to control the things that we can control. We want to keep our eyes on our opponent. We have a big game this week, so it's necessary for us to win and to have the necessary momentum we desire going into playoff football, regardless of the other things that go on in other stadiums. Not much has changed since the last time we played the Browns but there have been some changes offensively. Seneca Wallace is playing quarterback, and he's doing a nice job. He's unique. He's a nine-year veteran. I think he has some of that veteran savvy. He makes quick decisions. He's very mobile. He's able to escape well. He can create some plays. With his ability to escape, he had a big play to Greg Little against the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago. It was a big touchdown play. We expect to see him. Peyton Hillis has been hot since the last time we played them. He has more than 210 yards in the last two weeks. He went over 100 yards this past weekend versus the Baltimore Ravens. We all understand what the Ravens' defensive front is all about. He's probably looking to finish his season on a positive note, and he has performed well over the last several weeks. They have Evan Moore at tight end due to injuries to Benjamin Watson and others. Evan Moore has been given an opportunity to step in and start. This is a guy with a unique receiving skill set. He's a talented guy, a former wide receiver. He's a big-body type and a matchup issue for us down the field vertically. Defensively not much has changed. They've played really good defense all year. They've been very competitive. They've been a top-10-like defense for the better part of the year. They have young talent that they rely on. Jabaal Sheard has continued to play well for them. He has 7.5 sacks. Phil Taylor is playing well for them on the inside. Ahtyba Rubin, a veteran along their front, has been playing consistently well for a number of years now. I think he's second in the league in tackles at his position. D'Qwell Jackson is playing really well for them at linebacker. Joe Haden is a talented young guy in the secondary. From a special teams standpoint, I think any time you look at Phil Dawson, you know what you are getting. He's a quality veteran guy. Joshua Cribbs is always somebody that we have to contend with. He needs no endorsement from me this week. He went 84 yards versus the Ravens, and he kept his team in the football game. We have a lot of things to do and a short amount of time to do it. (Does Trai Essex have to prepare differently this week?) He has to make himself available at both the center and guard positions, like he has for us in recent weeks. It's going to be required that he prepare as a guard but he will get some center work along with Maurkice Pouncey. (Do you expect Pouncey to be ready to practice on Wednesday?) I do. (How do you prepare for this game, knowing you have to win but you have some guys that are still not healthy?) I try not to make it more complex than what it is. The guys that are deemed healthy will prepare and play for us this weekend. (Would they play some of the game just so there is no rust factor in the postseason?) I haven't determined that, and really I probably won't. Those are the easy decisions I can make as the game and situations unfold. Some of them are obvious. We are just going to focus on the things that require our attention right now, and that's the preparation for the game. Our philosophy and approach right now is that the guys that are healthy enough to practice and play will do so. A myriad of those other things and all the possibilities, we will consider at the appropriate time. That's not rocket science as far as we're concerned. (How did Charlie Batch do, and does his success dictate your decision to play him this week?) I thought he did some really good things. His performance has no bearing on how we go about making the decisions that are right for us this week. A lot of the decisions center around Roethlisberger's health. But I like the way Batch played, not only the way he performed but the way he led and communicated. (Do you anticipate Roethlisberger being ready to practice on Wednesday?) We will see on Wednesday. (Was your success running the football on Saturday related to the Rams' rush defense?) You can characterize it however you want to characterize it. I think that we've run the ball effectively over the second half of the season. I've been comfortable with what we've been able to do on the ground. Situationally, I think we could be better in some areas. I think the goal-line stand that the Cleveland Browns had against us a few weeks back is one that sticks out. But largely, in terms of raw numbers, I haven't been displeased with our run game. (Will Marcus Gilbert be the starter at right tackle this week?) We'll see. Again, Marcus is going to be a talented player for us. He's performed very well to this point. But he has some growth and maturity things that we want to address. If he continues to do that then he will participate. (Is it surprising that something happened with Gilbert 15-16 weeks into the season?) No. Nothing surprises me when it comes to rookies. That's probably the appropriate mentality to have. (Who was your backup center last Saturday?) It was probably me and Greg Warren. It was getting pretty thin. Thankfully, I thought we were pretty comfortable with Legursky's ability to finish the game if something were to happen to Trai. Those are things that you deal with in the NFL. Sometimes those situations are difficult. We were in a game a few years ago when Greg Warren went down. That was pretty uncomfortable. Sometimes you are going to be uncomfortable in this thing. (Re: Jonathan Scott's and Chris Kemoeatu's performances:) They did a nice job for us. That's what we expect. Jonathan is a veteran player with starting experience. He prepared like a professional, we believed, that was worthy of facing the challenge of blocking Chris Long. Marcus Gilbert's behavior was not. It's really kind of simple for us. Talent is one thing. What you are willing to do is more important for us. Those guys continue to show that they are willing to do what it takes for us to win. (What has changed for the Browns' offense now that Wallace is their quarterback?) I don't know if it's changed all that much schematically. Colt McCoy is a very mobile guy as well. And the misdirection passes, play-pass, all is associated with the run game, centered around Peyton Hillis. That's pretty much the same. I wouldn't say there are a lot of schematic differences. The way plays unfold, the things each is capable of are different, especially when you are talking about a nine-year veteran and a guy that's been around like Seneca Wallace has.
Press conference0WW
Like we reviewed last night, it was really just a losing performance by us and a winning performance by the 49ers. We played their brand of football, and we played the game at their pace. They created turnovers. Their punter, Andy Lee, kept us with a long field, particularly in the second half. I thought we moved the ball well but we weren’t able to finish drives. Through execution or through turning us over, they put together a nice drive in the second half. They capitalized on some penalties. We just didn’t play very well. So we will assess it. We better assess it quickly. We have a quick week this week, in terms of getting back here and preparing ourselves for the St. Louis Rams. A few quick injury notes: Mewelde Moore has an MCL sprain. Needless to say, he won’t be available this week. Rashard Mendenhall has some sore ribs. We will see where he is. I am sure he will be fine but he will have some discomfort in the early portions of the week. Some of the guys that missed some time going into the game that have a possibility of returning are Chris Carter, Maurkice Pouncey and Emmanuel Sanders, and I thought LaMarr Woodley did fine coming off his injury. He was able to participate last night. We took him out at the end of the game because fatigue set in, but he was fine. There were no setbacks there. We will keep an eye out on all the others. On the short week, it’s about us getting ourselves squared away, and getting ourselves prepared to play winning football again. We didn’t play very well last night. I think it starts there. Looking at the Rams and what they are capable of, it starts with Steven Jackson. We have to minimize what he is capable of doing. They have quality depth at the running back position. Cadillac Williams backs him up, and Jerious Norwood. They have three quality backs that know how to run the football. They’ve had some shuffling up front and at the quarterback position. We will analyze the situation when we get information on who their quarterback might be. We have a great deal of respect for Sam Bradford. He’s a talented young player, and he’s shown quite quickly that he’s a capable quarterback in this league. Brandon Lloyd is a legitimate threat outside at the receiver position. Danario Alexander is a size matchup guy. He plays big down the field, and he’s capable of making big plays that way. If you look at them defensively, it starts with James Laurinaitis, the man in the middle for them. He makes sideline-to-sideline tackles. Chris Long provides consistent pressure. He’s an effort guy. He’s also very talented, and he’s having a very productive season. James Hall is a veteran guy up front for them. They have had some injuries though in the secondary, particularly at the cornerback position. We will see who plays back there for them. With the short week like this, we have to assess ourselves, particularly from an injury standpoint and from a player availability standpoint, and formulating a plan that we can execute at a high level, given the circumstances. We look forward to responding to our last performance. We better do so quickly, this week. (Q: Ben Roethlisberger said he lobbied to stay in the game to the bitter end. Did you have an inclination to take him out?) A: No, he and I had been in that situation before. I know what kind of competitor he is. I wanted to support him in that. (Q: What is there to gain with a guy that is hurt staying into the game until the last minute?) A: He is a competitor and I am not going to deny those guys those opportunities. I think his teammates definitely have an appreciation for that. I think that is how we are built. (Q: Was there a point that you considered pulling him?) A: No, not really. There were some points where I wish we would have performed better. But no issues in terms of considering pulling him at any juncture of the game, based on health. (Q: Did he indicate to you that he felt better? He seemed more comfortable in the second half.) A: No, we didn’t have any discussions along those lines. I know we moved the ball more fluidly in the second half. We started the first two possessions of the game turning the football over. In the second half, more than anything, we were just working on the long fields. But we were able to move the ball at times. So it probably was a more fluid performance in the second half but I don’t know if it was anything injury related. (Q: The saying goes, ‘You play how you practice’. Ben didn’t practice this week. Did that play into last night?) A: I’m sure you can have a position on both sides of that matter. We don’t live in our fears, we live in our hopes. We made a decision that we were going to give that guy an opportunity to play, and we don’t second guess that regardless of outcome. We understand that we open ourselves up for judgment, particularly when we lose. But such is life in the National Football League, when you compete in the manner in which we do. We will do it without shame. We won’t apologize for it. Last night was last night. It was a losing performance by us. We accept responsibility for it. No interest in going back and rehashing or wishing we could change things, because we can’t. We will just simply learn from what transpired last night in an effort to win, or increase our chances of winning moving forward. (Q: In the first interception to Mike Wallace, it looked like David Johnson was in the area too. Was he supposed to be there and did he bring extra coverage?) A: We probably didn’t have the best distribution that we could have had on that play. But there were multiple factors that weighed into how that play unfolded. (Q: Re: Clock management at the end of the first half, was that an opportunity to go into the half still with a timeout, and Ben not having to spike the ball with about 15 seconds left.) A: Looking back at it, it probably was. We dumped the ball to a check-down back that produced minus two and I thought we had a pretty good play that would put us in field goal range. They covered the guys downfield, but we dumped the ball to the back in an effort to get some yards that would make us a little more comfortable with the field goad position we were looking at. Obviously minus two didn’t do it. He stepped out of bounds. There were four seconds left on the clock. It was irrelevant to utilize a time out at that time. We took a shot at the end zone because we were outside of field goal range. So probably could have handled the situation better, and definitely the utilization of the time out could have played a part in that. But we were interested in utilizing the whole field on the second down play when we checked it down to the back, and you needed a timeout in order to do that. So if we used the interior of the field we could clock it, and go on from there, and kick a field goal. Those things didn’t transpire and that is one of the many reasons we lost the game. (Q: Do you let your quarterback make that decision since he is in there playing?) A: Certainly. Those guys play and particularly at that position. (Q: Did you get an explanation on the leaping call on Lawrence Timmons, and were you satisfied with the explanation?) A: I didn’t get one that I was satisfied with. That was a big question mark for me, but definitely not the reason we lost the game. (Q: Re: Interference on the punt. It looked like they ran into their own guy.) A: Another one that was questionable in my eyes, but again not a reason that we lost the game. Our performance was. (Q: Can you take us through leading up to the game when the power went out, and then when it went out the second time? What did they tell you?) A: They didn’t really have much more information than what we had. A transformer or something was down and they were doing the best that they could at that time to rectify the situation. Where it was going to take us, they weren’t sure. All our conversations the second time it went down was keeping the teams on the field if at all possible, to avoid the re-warming up and so forth that goes with going into the locker room. We were just interested in staying on the field. They handled the situation as quickly as they could. It had no bearing on how the game unfolded as far as I am concerned. It was a situation that both teams had to deal with. Obviously they dealt with it better than we did. (Q: With Mewelde Moore out, will there be a roster move?) A: Yes. (Q: How did Ben feel postgame?) A: I haven’t seen him this morning. We will assess all those guys tomorrow and I will have more information for you then. (Q: There seems to be a debate on if Ben took a shot to play in that game or not.) A: I don’t know the specifics of what kind of medical treatment that he got prior to that game. I’m sorry, I don’t have the answer to that. (Q: Did he mention to you how he felt after the game?) A: He felt sore of course. But no worse for the wear as far as I could tell. We didn’t talk a great deal about how he felt, we talked more about how the game unfolded, and that is usually the lines of our discussion post-game. (Q: There were a couple of chop blocks called. Is the rule that the player has to be engaged?) A: Yes. That is the rule. I am not going to complain about the officiating of the penalties. You guys can do so. We lost that game because we didn’t execute well enough to win it.
Press conference2WL
I’ll start by discussing the suspension of James Harrison. We received word from the league office this morning that he will receive a one game suspension. We’ll accept that of course. We are disappointed. We are disappointed for James, because we know how hard he has worked to play within the rules. He has worked extremely hard to adjust his game, unfortunately the incident happened. It was a penalty. We have to be accountable for that; he has to be accountable for that. We accept the judgment rendered by the league office, and we’ll move forward. Obviously, the parameters are he can’t participate in any football activities with us this week. He will be allowed back in the building next Tuesday, the 20th. There is an appeals process. I don’t know what James’ intensions are. At this juncture, I would imagine if he is going to do it, it will transpire pretty quickly. From a planning standpoint, from a coach’s standpoint, from a team standpoint, with the information we received this morning we have to prepare that he is not going to play. That is what we are doing. We’ll move forward from this. It is our intention and it’s always been our intention to play within the rules. Things happen during the course of play. We’ll move forward. James will move forward. It’s an appropriate time to do that if you look at what we are facing here this week in terms of the San Francisco 49ers, on Monday Night Football, on the road. I will talk about some injuries. Chris Carter can be characterized as questionable with his hamstring strain. The same thing can be said for Troy Polamalu. We will see where the week takes us in terms of his participation with his hamstring. Maurkice Pouncey and Ben Roethlisberger are both dealing with ankle sprains. They’ve worked tirelessly into getting themselves back into playing shape. We will see where the week takes us. I think you need to characterize their availability as questionable at this point. We are optimistic about Emmanuel Sanders’ availability but we will let the week guide us. Ziggy Hood, who experienced a right groin strain in the game, appears to be recovering nicely. We expect him to participate. The same can be said with LaMarr Woodley. Under the circumstances with James Harrison, it would benefit us to have LaMarr Woodley. The 49ers are a 10-3 football team. There are many reasons why they are 10-3. They are a very balanced outfit on offense, defense and special teams. They are a fundamentalist group. They are capable of running the football on anyone. They are capable of stopping the run. They are number-one in the league in stopping the run. I think they are number-one in the league in terms of points given up per game. Those are all good recipes for being a winning team, which they are. On offense, their attack is centered around the exploits of Frank Gore. He’s a great player. He has been for a number of years. He is their feature ball carrier. A lot of the things they do on offense work off of what he is capable of doing running the football. Their misdirection pass, play action shots and double-moves, they also have a great reverse game. They have a lot of guys that are capable of carrying it, whether it’s Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams or Michael Crabtree. I’ve even seen Delanie Walker, their tight end, on an around. Those types of things and opportunities are presented to them because of the effort that is required to slow down Frank Gore. Alex Smith has done an awesome job for them, starting in terms of taking care of the football. They lead the league in turnover margin. They are getting a few turnovers but they are also doing an awesome job of protecting the football. They’ve only turned the ball over 10 times this season, five interceptions. That speaks to the quality decision making that Alex Smith is doing for them. He’s good in the pocket and on the move. Their play-pass game is exceptional. Their misdirection pass game is very good. They do a nice job of staying on schedule and staying out of bad positions. Mike Iupati, their left guard, I think is special. He’s having a special kind of season. Generally, they win the line of scrimmage, the real estate battle in that area. They are a physical outfit. We have to be prepared to match their physicality up front. On defense, they are a fun tape to watch, if you appreciate defense. They start first by smashing the run with Isaac Sopoaga and Ahmad Brooks. Patrick Willis is a special player, arguably the best in the world at what he does. In my opinion, NaVorro Bowman is underrated, maybe because of the attention that Willis gets. Bowman is playing great ball, the Penn State man, plays alongside him. Aldon Smith is a young rookie out of Missouri. He has 9.5 or 10 sacks. That’s no accident. He has special rush skills. He is long, athletic and plays with great leverage. He can create great power. People have to sit lightly on him. Many times, because they have to sit light on him, he runs right over right tackles and left tackles. They move him around. He’s a tough guy to deal with schematically, in terms of providing consistent help. They have 31 takeaways on defense. They are creating fumbles. They are picking balls off. Carlos Rogers is leading that charge. He’s a nice free agent acquisition for them from Washington. I think he has five interceptions. He’s playing great football. They have a strong safety, Donte Whitner, that they picked up from Buffalo. He’s an Ohio State man who is consistently physical. You will see him insert himself into the box on tight end side runs. Their special teams has been solid. Andy Lee, a University of Pittsburgh man, is doing his usual from a punt standpoint. He’s been exceptional. They have a dangerous return game with Ted Ginn Jr. They are not a good team, they are a great team. Quite frankly, this is the type of challenge you need this time of year, particularly on the road, if you want to get a measuring stick of where you are. You add into it a little bit of adversity through injury and suspension, we will get an opportunity to see what type of outfit we are made of. I am excited about doing that. We are preparing a plan as we sit here today. We will start implementing that plan here tomorrow morning with our guys. The guys that will be available to us will be the guys that we work with. If we lose guys due to suspension or injury, the standard is still the standard. We won’t blink in that regard. We’ve been very consistent in that area. I think our guys enjoy the challenges that come with that, meeting that standard. Boy, if they enjoy challenges, they have what they are looking for this week. We are excited. Monday Night Football is always great, performing in front of your peers and the nation. But we have a lot of work to do. It’s good to have an extra day in which to do it, from a preparation standpoint.(Q: If (LaMarr) Woodley is available, will you move (Lawrence) Timmons to outside?) A: Jason Worilds is in the equation. This guy has played quality football for us. Obviously, Timmons is capable. Those are some of the things that we are going to sort through as we meet as a staff this afternoon. Obviously, some of the candidates that you mentioned are definitely in play. (Q: Any need to talk to the rest of the team with what needs to happen moving forward?) A: No. Because we don’t wait until something happens to address issues. We address issues continually. So no, I don’t think there is anything that needs to be addressed in terms of the football team. (Q: From what you saw on the play, do you think he has a good chance with the appeal?) A: I don’t have enough knowledge of the process to give an educated opinion in that regard. I don’t know what the appeals process is, who he will be appealing to, and so forth. I don’t know the answer to that. (Q: Did you watch the play? James seems to think it is a clean hit.) A: It’s a foul. A quarterback that just released the pass is defenseless. It’s a foul. (Q: You had talked about the work he had done to try to change his play, so was this just an in the moment slip?) A: I’m sure it was. There were some interesting circumstances. Of course the quarterback was out of the pocket. He had tucked the ball. He had hurt us running pretty good to that point in the game. But really all of those things are irrelevant. He hit him. He hit him illegally, and he has to suffer the consequences. Obviously it is disappointing, because like I had said earlier, the efforts that he has made. I think that is his first foul on the quarterback since November, 2010. But based on the guidelines that the league has supplied, he is a repeat offender. So we and he, have to suffer the consequences accordingly. (Q: What is the rule about being a repeat offender?) A: I’ll let the guys in New York answer that question. (Q: How valuable is it for Charlie Batch to get the early process of the week?) A: Yeah, but not only Charlie. Dennis Dixon, obviously. If we are going into this game with Ben less than 100%, three quarterbacks are a potential option. So we will get all of our quarterbacks ready so we are ready regardless of the circumstance Monday night. (Q: Will Ben practice this week?) A: If he is going to play, he is going to practice in some form or fashion. I think that’s appropriate. That is just my approach to this. As we get closer to the weekend, as we deal with situational football, red zones, short yardage, goal line, third down, and so on, I believe that everyone who is going to be a participant needs physical reps at those. Obviously, we are afforded an extra day this week. Being that the game is on Monday night. So we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now we are just trying to get him as healthy as we can on a day-to-day basis. (Q: Does anything else go into the decision to play Ben?) A: If he is healthy enough to play, he will play. I don’t play that game. (Q: Is a penalty just a penalty without automatically occurring a fine?) A: I am not a spokesperson for the league. In terms of those talks you will have to ask people that are. (Q: You just met in the New York with the commissioner and Mr. Rooney. How disappointing is this?) A: My emotions are irrelevant. I am just kind of dealing with this the best I know. It was a good meeting that we had with the commissioner in New York. But it is really kind of a separate incident. This is something that has come up since then, and they dealt with it as they see fit and of course we are in the process of responding to it in a necessary manner. (Q: How is James taking it?) A: I just spoke with him briefly. I guess he is better suited to answer that than I am. (Q: He didn’t threaten to retire?) A: He is an emotional guy, and rightfully so. This is a guy that loves to play football, and that is being taken away from him for a week. I am sure there is some discomfort that comes with that. (Q: Does this affect how he and other defenders will play?) A: I am not ready to paint with that kind of brush at this juncture. I will acknowledge that he is not playing this week, the rest of us are, and we have a job to do. (Q: What do you think Harbaugh has brought to the table for San Francisco?) A: I think he has brought a clear personality and culture, a winning one. One that is fundamental at its base. They don’t beat themselves. They take care of the football. They take the football. They are very good situationally. They are number one in the league in red zone defense. They are just building a good solid fundamental outfit over there, and you have to tip your hat, not only to Coach Harbaugh, but to everyone involved for what they have done to this point. (Q: Do you take anything from the Baltimore and San Francisco game that was played on Thanksgiving?) A: It’s no different than any of the other games that that they played. The Arizona game, the St. Louis game, the Giant game, it’s all information for us in terms of formulating a plan. (Q: How much of what Ray Horton and Arizona did against San Francisco is similar to what you do, and is that an advantage or a disadvantage?) A: It’s probably an advantage to us in terms of looking at how something might be ran, but it is also an advantage for them because they have physically blocked that front and some of those pressures. So it is going to benefit us, benefit them. That being said, I think that experience is going to be a non-factor in terms of how our game plays out because of it. (Q: Any similarities between the ways the two brothers coach?) A: I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know what their style is behind the scenes. But they are both 10-3. If I had a brother coaching, I’d like him to be 10-3. (Q: Is Ben’s ankle just painful or could he make it worse?) A: We will deal with it on a day-to-day basis. It is painful today, but we are not asking him to do anything today. So we will see where the week takes us. (Q: Re: Why Chris Kemoateu is getting so many penalties:) A: He is playing illegally, so he is getting penalized. (Q: He has had a lot of penalties. How do you stop that?) A: He either has to change his technique, or improve his technique, or he won’t get the opportunity to. (Q: If Pouncey can’t play, will Essex go to right guard?) A: That’s to be determined. Those are some of things that we are hashing thru today, given that the game is Monday, six days away.
Press conference6LW
Good afternoon. I will quickly recap yesterday’s performance. We are pleased with the victory. It was a very necessary one at this time of year, AFC North football. Like I said yesterday, I was pleased with the effort and energy in all three phases. We had significant, splash plays, in all three phases. I thought our special teams unit set a tone, providing a splash for us early in the game. We had a blocked field goal by Cameron Heyward. We had a kickoff fumble recovery by Emmanuel Sanders, and then at the end of the half we had a punt return for a touchdown. It was big for us. I thought we did a nice job of seizing the opportunities in the red area on offense. We were very efficient in the red area. We liked the way our running backs ran down there. It made it easier, not to be confused with easy. Just overall, we had good execution in situational football, particularly when we were backed up in the red area. Defensively I thought our pressure was consistent. It didn’t necessarily manifest itself in the form of sacks but James Harrison had a big day. I thought the pressure was consistent. It broke down the pocket and made Andy Dalton move. It didn’t allow him to find targets to develop a consistent rapport with any of the other guys other than A.J. Green. Green is a special guy. We have to quickly put that one behind us and look at areas where we fell short, or areas we’d like to improve and prepare for with our next AFC North matchup, which is Thursday night versus Cleveland. From an injury standpoint, there’s not much to add relative to last night. Ramon Foster came out of the game with a left ankle sprain. I guess we could characterize him as questionable at this point. We will see where the week takes us. A couple guys that missed action last night will probably remain out, those guys are Arnaz Battle and Chris Carter. Chris Hoke has a visit to the doctor today as does Jonathan Dwyer. He potentially has a foot issue. LaMarr Woodley is still in play. We will see where this week takes us with him. All other guys are pretty positive from an injury standpoint. We will continue to gather information along those lines with these guys. Guys that were out, you can pretty much anticipate them continuing to be out, due to the nature of the week. The one exception to that is Larry Foote. He has a legitimate chance. The rest of the guys, if they were out, they are probably going to remain out. Looking at the Browns, they are a competitive football team. They have some interesting young talent that we better quickly familiarize ourselves with on offense, defense and special teams. They have a good core group of guys on defense, Ahtyba Rubin and D’Qwell Jackson. In the secondary, their cornerback tandem is Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden. They’ve added to this group by playing some quality young people. Jabaal Sheard, from the University of Pittsburgh, is playing good, consistent ball for them. I think he leads them in sacks with 5.5. It’s not just about the sacks. The guy is consistently providing pressure and breaking down the right side of pockets, affecting throws that are made to that side of the field, when he makes the quarterback move his feet. We have to do a good job against Sheard. It’s going to be a big challenge for Marcus Gilbert, one that he better quickly establish himself with, because if he’s going to continue to be our right tackle, he’s going to continue to see Sheard, because he appears to be a mainstay for these guys. On the inside, Phil Taylor is a big, disruptive man from Baylor, one that we got pretty familiar with in the weeks and months leading up to the draft. He is what we thought he was. This guy is a big anchor point, who happens to be athletic. He can move with his gap. He’s very disruptive. He’s second on their team with four sacks. Those two young guys provide bright spots for them moving forward on their front, along with Rubin. They also have Jayme Mitchell at the right end spot. He’s logged a bunch of time. I am familiar with Jayme. He was a rookie with the Minnesota Vikings with me in 2006. He’s a talented guy. He has a nice rush-skill set, nice long arms. He’s got a nice motor. We have to do a good job against their front, and ultimately do a good job versus their established cornerback tandem with Brown and Haden. And D’Qwell Jackson is a sideline-to-sideline tackler. He’s assisted by Chris Gocong and others. They are a formidable defense. They are in the top-eight in the NFL. They are very good versus the pass. They are coming off of a disappointing performance this weekend versus Ray Rice and the Baltimore Ravens. Like any other professional outfit, we expect these guys to respond accordingly, and we better be prepared for a better performance than what they displayed yesterday. I am sure that’s going to be there mentality. If we are smart and prudent, we should anticipate getting a big time effort from them, and we will. They’ve got some mainstays back on offense. Colt McCoy has had some success against us as a young guy early in his career. Peyton Hillis is back in action, right on time to play us. That’s always our luck. Josh Cribbs is a multi-purpose guy. He’s capable of hurting us in a lot of ways, wildcat quarterback and others. Those are some of the things that scare you in a short week, because you get limited opportunities to prepare for some obscure, package-related things. If they are into that, then he’s going to be a central part of it. Up front, they are led by Joe Thomas. On offense, some of the core guys that we are familiar with, they are adding some young, talented guys to the mix. We better familiarize ourselves with Montario Hardesty. He’s a talented young running back. Greg Little appears to be establishing himself as a central receiver and a target for McCoy. He’s developing a nice rapport with him. He’s a big, strong guy. He’s tough to tackle. He’s combative. We had him in prior to the draft. We have a great deal of respect for his skill set. He appears to be putting it together. Alongside Thomas is Jason Pinkston, another young man from the University of Pittsburgh. We are very familiar with him, and he’s playing very good football for them up front. On special teams, they are really solid. For us, we have to be clear. We cannot let Josh Cribbs do what he’s done to us time and time again in the past. We’ve been dead Indians in his cowboy movie enough. This guy is a talented guy. It starts there for us, talking about special teams not letting him inflict harm on us via the kickoff or punt return. We have a lot of work to do in a short period of time. We understand the significance of this game and all the elements at play. We are comfortable with our schedule and our plan. But being comfortable is just part of it. We have to execute it, live it, and ultimately, step into Heinz Field and deliver Thursday night, and put together a winning performance. (Q: Are you considering not kicking to Cribbs?) A: Those are things we need to consider, particularly when you start talking about weather. I haven’t looked at the weather forecast for Thursday night but if wind is an issue, along with his skill set, those are some of the things you consider, not only in punt returns but in kick returns. (Q: Is there a tendency to hold back, considering the Steelers have beaten the Browns 14 out of the last 15 times?) A: If we would have played them 14 or 15 times this year, then yes. But the team we are assembling and the team they are assembling are different than some of the teams that have taken part in that history. We tend to live in the now. We are looking at what they are capable of this year compared to what we’ve done and what we’re capable of this year. We are probably not going to have a level of comfort when looking at it from that perspective. (Q: Did LaMarr Woodley have a setback with his injury?) A: I don’t know if you want to characterize it as a setback at this point. I think that the week will provide that legitimate information for us. Obviously, he felt something, and he was mature enough to not do any further damage to it. We appreciate that. We will see if that provides an opportunity for us to put him in play this week. (Q: Was Woodley on sort of a pitch count?) A: Certainly, he was going to be on a pitch count. He didn’t log enough time for that to become an issue. But that’s generally the case when you are talking about a guy coming off of an injury, whether it’s LaMarr Woodley or anyone, particularly when the guys that are replacing them have played as solid as Jason Worilds has. There was going to be a pitch count. It didn’t come to that. I gave you the information I had in regards to the thought process of pulling him out of the game and letting him remain out of the game. (Q: Re: Hamstring injuries in the NFL:) A: I am not going to be a spokesman for the league for hamstrings. I will talk about ours. (Q: Re: Direct correlation between running the football and red zone success:) A: There was yesterday. That’s not always going to be the case. I think each week presents different challenges, partly due to how we are built and what we have ready to go, and the capabilities and schematic approach of our opponents, but it was a factor yesterday. (Q: Did you go in thinking that running the football was what you had to do to this team?) A: I thought it was something we were capable of doing. (Q: Is the cliché, playing how you practice throughout the week, true for your team?) A: I measure practices on performance, and just that. We’ve practiced to the tune of 9-3 this year. (Q: Re: Curtis Brown:) A: He is doing a nice job. He’s got a different sense of urgency than most. His hair is on fire. This guy competes when he’s in position to make plays. He competes when he is in less than ideal positions, double-teams. He’s an exciting young guy, not only because of what he’s doing on special teams, but generally, if a guy plays with that kind of urgency and that kind of production on special teams, it’s a window to what he may be capable of doing at some point on offense or defense. We are excited about him, but I think we are getting similar efforts and contributions from Cortez Allen. (Q: Is Brown close to being in sub-package football?) A: We’ll see. (Q: How does Brown have a different sense of urgency?) A: He’s probably better suited to answer that. I am just telling you what I see. He stays in the fight. He’s extremely competitive. He doesn’t back down from confrontations or challenges, and those are things that are encouraging when you’re talking about a young player. (Q: Did you consider moving Chris Kemoeatu to left guard and Doug Legursky to right guard when Ramon Foster was hurt?) A: Legursky wasn’t broken, so we weren’t trying to fix it. Trai Essex is a very versatile backup. We have given him some reps at that position during the week as we do every week. So he was ready to go, and we decided to stick with our plan in terms of what we gave from a physical rep standpoint. (Q: If Ramon Foster doesn’t play, will Trai Essex start for him?) A: That’s to be determined. Right now, I am not ready to consider that Ramon isn’t playing. We will see where the week takes us. (Q: Re: Advantages and disadvantages of playing on Thursday night:) A: It looks pretty good when it’s in your rearview mirror and you did the job. Other than that, we all have a lot of work ahead of us here over the next few days. (Q: Can Jason Worilds play both the left and right sides, or is he more comfortable on one side?) A: As a non-starter or a starter in waiting, he better be capable of distinguishing himself in whatever we ask him to do, whether it’s on the right side or the left side. I don’t look for strengths in that area. I identify weakness, and hopefully he’s willing to work on them. He better be versatile enough to help us in whatever ways we ask him. (Q: Has Worilds made that jump from rookie to second-year guy that you hoped?) A: It’s in progress. Check back with me. (Q: Re: Number of blocked field goals is down:) A: The rule changes from a couple of years ago, in terms of the protection of the center, have something to do with that. I like the effort of our guys. They’ve been pretty consistent all year. We were fortunate to get the block. There was nice penetration and work on the inside from Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward. Usually, it’s just about being in the right place at the right time, doing what you are supposed to do. So it’s a combination of technique and opportunity. Our technique and our effort have been good. It meshed with an opportunity yesterday, and we were able to get a block. (Q: Is getting Hines Ward 1,000 catches a priority in this offense?) A: We have a bunch of guys with milestone-like things. We can’t get consumed with that. If we do what we are supposed to do, I am sure we are capable of realizing all of those things. We can’t lose sleep over that. I know it’s a personal thing for him. I know it’s important to him. But if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do and we are doing what we are supposed to do, it will take care of itself. (Q: Is Hoke at the doctors for his stinger?) A: Yes. He may be at the doctor’s office right now. I don’t have any additional information other than to acknowledge that he needs to get that looked at today. (Q: Re: Jeremy Kapinos:) A: He’s done a heck of a job from a punting standpoint. Like I said before, we thought we had two NFL capable punters when we came out of training camp. We were fortunate to be able to reacquire him and that he was available to us. I’d like to see him make sure the ball is not snapped when we have 10 guys on field goal but he’s doing a heck of a job as our punter. (Q: Re: Antonio Brown getting hit:) A: Everybody has something that’s a little ugly about their job. Casey Hampton takes on double-teams, wide receivers get hit every now and then, so be it.
Press conference1WW
Good afternoon. I’ll start with a quick assessment of Sunday night’s game and our play. Like we talked about after the game, there were some encouraging things, particularly the contributions from the young and developing players, guys such as Weslye Saunders, Ryan Mundy, Jason Worilds and others. Those are the kinds of contributions that we need from our young and emerging players as we continue to push through our journey. We acknowledge that our A-players have to deliver for us, and deliver for us consistently. But we are going to need some help in some obscure places, or from some young guys, who need to continue to find ways to win games as we go on this journey, and to be honest with you, to continue to grow as a football team, and emerge in some of their developmental roles. I like the development of those men and some others. I thought it was pivotal in the football game. There were some other positives. We got the football. We got four turnovers defensively. That was in an area that we wanted to improve in. Let’s hope that continues. Some negative things that I thought, from third downs offensively, that may have been our worst performance of the season. We acknowledge that. We have to get back on a positive track. I think we might be second in the league on third downs. We’ve been very consistent in that area but we weren’t on Sunday night. I thought that was a difference in our area of production offensively. It didn’t produce more snap opportunities, and it didn’t keep drives alive. That’s the price you pay when you’re not producing on third downs. We were 3-for-11 in the football game, so you are not going to have a very fluent performance when you perform like that on third downs. And we were 1-for-3 in the red area. One of those was a situation where we fumbled the ball, and we got no points early in the football game. That’s always significant. If we want to be a good team and beat good people, we have to get seven points when we are in the red area. And if we don’t, we at least have to put some points on the board. That was a factor in our offensive production. I would like to see more production out of our return game, both on punts and kickoffs. It’s been a benefit to us for the better part of the season. I didn’t think it was overly affective on Sunday night. From an injury standpoint, LaMarr Woodley has been in the building today, and he has worked out. He appears to be moving toward game readiness. We will watch him throughout the week to solidify that but we like where he is. Chris Carter is questionable at best with a hamstring injury. Larry Foote has a hamstring injury. We are going to watch him, although it’s to a lesser extent than Chris Carter’s. We are going to watch him throughout the week to see if he will be available for us. Troy Polamalu hasn’t had any concussion symptoms since we got back here. All things are positive in terms of his potential participation this week. Obviously we will continue to err on the side of caution. He will have to pass a battery of tests in order to participate. We are comfortable at this juncture that it will happen. Again, we don’t want to assume anything with his health or anyone else. Maurkice Pouncey is coming off a stomach virus. It may limit him at the early portions of the week. He’s dehydrated, and he’s lost a significant amount of weight. We just have to take care of that young man, and make sure he is pushing forward towards the weekend. We expect guys like Arnaz Battle and Stevenson Sylvester, who missed the last outing, to at least put themselves in a better position to perform this week. We will look at how they perform during the course of the practice week and see if we need to utilize those guys in preparation and play against the Cincinnati Bengals. Moving forward to these guys, obviously they are a very good football team. They have some young and exciting players. I just talked about them a few weeks ago. I’ll start with where they are emerging or where they might be different than the last time we played them. We’ve only played one football game since we’ve played them. They’ve played two. If you look at them offensively, Andrew Hawkins appears to be an emerging player, not only in terms of what he’s capable of doing but how they utilize him. He was significant in our game. He caught five or six footballs. They utilize him as a slot receiver on the weak side of empty formations, or coming out of bunches on the strong side. Quite frankly, they are utilizing him to break down pressure. They are getting him in favorable matchups versus non cornerback-like bodies, be it linebackers in zone coverage or safeties in some pressure packages. He’s got the kind of short area quickness that’s going to make him a consistent winner. He’s done a nice job for them in that area. He is similar to how some people would use a Wes Welker-like guy, in terms of being in the interior of formations, and getting favorable and physical matchups from a quickness standpoint versus defenders. It showed initially in our game, and it’s continued and even evolved some. We will spend a lot of time preparing for what he’s capable of doing. I think Andy Dalton is continuing to develop a quality relationship with his tight end, Jermaine Gresham. I think it’s developed even more so since we’ve played them because A.J. Green missed some time. Gresham is a high-round guy, a high-pedigree guy. He’s really taken off here in recent weeks. We expect that to continue now that they have Green back in the lineup. That makes them doubly dangerous. Dalton is still an impressive young player. He’s making good and quick decisions. He is taking care of the football. He doesn’t get sacked as much. His pocket mobility and his ability to escape is a plus. Defensively, Geno Atkins appears to be a guy in their front that’s on the come. He’s emerged fast over the last several weeks. He’s the hot player. We’ve talked about some of their other guys in preparation for the last performance. They are still very dynamic and capable guys, whether you’re talking about Carlos Dunlap or others. But Geno Atkins is a guy that’s been very disruptive in the interior part of their front as of late. There has been some change in their secondary, primarily due to their loss of Leon Hall. It’s provided an opportunity for Kelly Jennings. Adam Jones didn’t play against us last time. He’s been playing. We know he’s a quality veteran player. We expect to see him and have to deal with what he is capable of. And now they utilize more of their safeties, primarily because of some of the shuffling that’s going on at the cornerback position, but also in some sub-package football, with Gibril Wilson. He’s a savvy, veteran guy that’s been in multiple cities. He has starting experience. He’s played for them here in recent weeks. Taylor Mays is an acquisition from the West Coast for these guys. He’s like a sub-package-like linebacker for them as of late. We have to do a good job acknowledging where these men are, declaring fronts that include them and make sure we do a good job of protecting our quarterback. From a special teams standpoint, they are always solid. This is a big game for them and for us. These are the kind of games you need to be in this time of year, games of significance. We respect it but we also respect the process that comes with preparing and putting yourself in position to take advantage of these opportunities. That’s where we are. We are looking forward to working with our men tomorrow, and starting the preparation for what is going to be a big AFC North battle. (Q: Re: Using Emmanuel Sanders instead of Antonio Brown on kickoff returns:) A: We’ve always had a desire to use both of those men in the return game, as both kick and punt returners. We did it when they were both rookies. We’ve done it less this year, primarily due to the health of Emmanuel. He appears to be moving in the right direction in regards to that. So we just want to keep both of those men in play, not only as kickoff return men but punt return men as well. (Q: Were your receivers not getting as much separation as they normally get, and how much credit goes to the Kansas City defense?) A: I think if you are talking specifically about third downs, you start by acknowledging that those guys did a nice job in terms of putting together a plan and executing it. Coach Crennel has experience going against us. I think that was utilized in terms of their preparation. Those guys did a nice job of staying close to people. We acknowledge that we have to be better than we were on Sunday night. We need more separation. We need to make more competitive catches in order to keep the chains moving and keep ourselves on the field, to give us more snaps, to keep the drive alive and ultimately, to put more points on the board. (Q: Does third-down success vary each week?) A: I think it has a life of its own each week. I think that was our worst performance of this year. I mentioned we are second in the league on third downs. It hasn’t been a problem for us but we don’t want it to become a consistent problem. We need to address it quickly, and make sure it remains in our rearview mirror. (Q: When was Troy Polamalu symptom free, and how close was he to going back into the game?) A: He was asymptomatic relatively quickly, and I am talking about Sunday night. If we are going to err, we are going to err on the side of caution when it comes to health, particularly from a head injury standpoint. I have no issue with that. We lean on the expert advice of our medical staff. Troy has been good. We anticipate it being a non-issue moving forward this week. Like I said earlier, we are not going to assume anything with a player’s health, particularly when we are talking about a head injury. (Q: Did he lobby to get back into the game?) A: He always does, not only him but many others. Oftentimes that is the case. That’s why we have medical experts there to assist us in terms of decision making. We will always lean on their expertise. (Q: He’s had two concussions this year and some in the past. Does that make him more susceptible to another concussion?) A: I don’t have the answer to that. I am no medical expert. I think that maybe those guys don’t have a definitive answer to that. Obviously, we are sensitive to his concussion history, and we are always going to exercise the necessary precaution when dealing with it. (Q: Re: The scuffle before the game:) A: It was minor to my understanding. We were in the area along the 50-yard line, quarterbacks and receivers working like they normally do. Their secondary came up the visiting boundary to work in their area. There were some words exchanged. It was quickly dispersed. I thought all parties involved did a nice job diffusing the situation. I’m talking about players and personnel with both teams. Really it was a non factor. We were there to play football. (Q: Mike Wallace was hard on himself after the game because he dropped some passes. How confident are you that he will bounce back and return to form pretty quickly?) A: I am confident that he is going to work to do that but I will let his performance speak for his performance. (Q: Has Antonio Brown’s increased production been a result of teams paying more attention to Wallace?) A: It’s probably both. In one instance you are talking about a second-year guy [Brown] that we acknowledge is emerging, and not only in terms of what he is capable of doing but how we utilize him and how we plan to utilize him. Also, you are talking about another guy [Wallace] that got behind a lot of defenses and racked up a lot of statistics early in the season. I’d imagine defenses are adjusting to that. It’s probably a little bit of both. What it is specifically, I don’t have the answer to it. I am more concerned about us consistently moving the ball as a unit, and ringing up the scoreboard. (Q: Re: Using Hines Ward more last game:) A: Like I said before the previous game, we are going to let the participation of our guys be determined based on how we feel they can help us win on a week-to-week basis. Obviously, we felt he had a bigger role in this matchup, and he performed in such a manner. That’s always going to be the case. We are in the process of formulating a similar plan this week in regards to how we will utilize Hines and others. We’ve dealt with injuries over the course of this season, and what’s been proven to us is that we have a lot of guys that are capable of helping us win. It provides awesome dilemmas for us moving forward. Ones that as a coach, I embrace. Who do you use, how much do you use them, are good issues and problems to have from my perspective. (Q: Does your opponent dictate who you will use?) A: It does but they are different from the last time we played them because of the lack of Leon Hall. I wouldn’t make any judgments based on how we are formulating a plan based on the last matchup, because we are a little bit different and they are obviously different. (Q: Re: Jason Worilds:) A: He’s doing some nice things. More than anything, he’s doing a nice job of not only getting some extra reps on defense but his special teams performance hasn’t waned. We have a no job too small mentality. It’s good to see a young guy emerge and get more snaps with the first-unit defense, but also continue to embrace the job that he’s had for quite some time, being a special teams player for us. (Q: Is this the same 8-3 team this year as last year’s 8-3 team?) A: I hadn’t thought about comparing that one iota. I don’t take that approach to it. I try to stay singularly focused on the journey that we are all living at this juncture. Last year is last year. (Q: Have you been preparing for Cleveland since it’s a short week next week?) A: I am not concerned about it. It’s a short week for Cleveland as well. We will deal with it when we get to it. (Q: Does A.J. Green warrant special attention?) A: He does, and it’s for a lot of reasons. He’s a big guy. He plays big, particularly down the field. He has great top end speed, which also creates problems down the field. He has unique short area quickness for a guy of his stature. He has a lot of special talents that warrant special consideration. That’s probably why he’s a top-five pick. Wherever they selected him in the draft, he’s lived up to that at this point. (Q: Does the size of their linebackers and height of their defensive linemen make a difference at all in preparation?) A: I think it provides advantages and disadvantages. Stature is just an element of the game. In some instances it provides rush lane or passing lane issues, in terms of the guys ability to get his hands up. It probably also limits them some in short area quickness in terms of coverage. That’s the thing that you go through all the time when you are talking about the height of a man, whether we are talking about the defensive front, linebackers or even on the perimeter. There are positives and negatives. I am sure there are valid arguments on either side of the equation. (Q: What has Andy Dalton showed you now that you’ve played against him?) A: It’s kind of what I said prior to playing him and even the things I’ve said regarding him as I sit here today. He makes generally good decisions, and he makes them quickly. That’s an awesome statement to make about a young quarterback in this business. But I believe it to be true in regards to him. He takes care of the football. He doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions, and he doesn’t get sacked. (Q: Is he less susceptible to some of the things that your team might try to do against a rookie quarterback?) A: Less susceptible to whom, most rookie quarterbacks? (Q: Yes, most rookie quarterbacks:) A: Yes.
Press conference5WW
Good afternoon. It’s been a restful bye week for us. Now it’s time for us to get back into the world of competition. We are excited about doing that. It’s been a productive bye week for us. We take a simple approach to that. We wanted to provide all the men with what they need to move forward. In some instances, it’s simply rest. In other instances, it’s recuperation. In some instances, it’s snaps. We had an opportunity to get some work in, particularly in situational football areas, red zone, third downs and so forth last week, particularly with some of our younger, less experienced players. I think it was a very productive week from that standpoint. You know how we measure production though. It’s how we move forward with it. We are excited about doing that this week as we prepare for this week’s challenge in the Kansas City Chiefs. From an injury standpoint, we are moving closer to health, not that we are looking for perfection in that area. We understand what this journey is about. We are simply going to assess the health of the men from week-to-week, and formulate a plan accordingly. Troy Polamalu was slowed, somewhat, during the bye week with some rib discomfort. We will see where the week takes us in terms of him. But we fully expect him to participate in the game. Ben Roethlisberger has a right thumb fracture. It’s not the extent of say, Jay Cutler’s. He’s going to be able to play. Right now, it’s unknown of how it’s going to affect him and his play. We are going to sort through those things as we practice. He practiced in a limited capacity yesterday but those of us who know Ben, we know he is going to show and show for his teammates. The standard will be the standard in terms of his performance. LaMarr Woodley has worked in a limited capacity this week thus far, coming off his hamstring injury. We will continue to take his participation day-to-day. You can say the same thing about Arnaz Battle and his right hamstring injury. Emmanuel Sanders appears to be working his way back to us. I thought he had a productive day yesterday, but again, we will see how he responds to the work moving forward. We will make him available accordingly. We will continue to watch all these guys throughout the week. We are not ready to characterize any of these guys as out at this juncture. Moving on to the Kansas City Chiefs, I had an opportunity to watch those guys work last night. I wanted to do so, particularly with Tyler Palko. We are familiar with him. He’s been a part of us. He’s a Pittsburgh guy. What we do know about Tyler is that he’s an extremely sharp football guy. He’s a very quick study. He’s very good above the neck. He makes good decisions. I know he will be excited about playing us, to be quite honest with you. Being a Pittsburgh guy, born and raised, this is an awesome opportunity for him, one that I am sure he is excited about and preparing to take advantage of. He’s got a nice compliment of weapons offensively. If you look at their running game, the things that concern you are that Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster, both of them are averaging 4.6 yards per tote. Obviously with the inexperience with a new quarterback, we should anticipate them potentially leaning heavily on that running game. We can’t allow these guys to run off clips of 4.6 per and play the kind of ball we desire to play. I think it starts there with us. In their receiving core, they have a known commodity in Dwayne Bowe. He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player. He’s a big time red zone threat. He’s in the tops in the league, not only in targets but in catches. He’s a big, physical guy who is extremely tough to get on the ground after the catch. Working with him is Steve Breaston. He’s another Pittsburgh native. He’s a guy we’ve seen in multiple cities here in the past. And they have their first-rounder, another University of Pittsburgh man in Jonathan Baldwin. He is fast emerging over the past couple of weeks. He’s big. He plays big down the field. He’s just starting to scratch the surface in terms of what he is capable of doing. We are probably as familiar with that as anyone outside of Kansas City in the NFL. If you look at them defensively, they have top-tier talent at every level. If you start up front, they have high-round draft picks in Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey, LSU men. They are top-five type pedigree men. They are capable of being very disruptive in the middle. They have a savvy veteran in Kelly Gregg. He’s a guy that we have experience with, being a former Baltimore Raven. At the linebacker level, no question they are led by Tamba Hali. He has seven or so sacks. He plays with a great motor. He generally out-tempos everyone. They are going to move him around a little bit. We need to be very conscious of where number-91 is. Last time we played those guys he was very disruptive. Whatever tape you turn on you see this guy is very disruptive. I like what Derrick Johnson is doing inside for them. He’s very good at avoiding and slipping blocks. He’s very rangy, an athletic seven-year man out of the University of Texas. He’s playing really well, really good football for them. In the secondary, you start at the cornerback position in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. They are playing very good football for them. They are involved in a lot of line of scrimmage play. They are challenging people. They are very combative, getting their hands on balls, producing turnovers. I think Flowers has four interceptions and he house-called one a few weeks ago. They are an impressive tandem. When you get into sub-package football, Javier Arenas comes in. they’ve had some rotational players at safety. Eric Berry has been out the vast majority of the season. In their special teams game, their specialists are very solid. Ryan Succop is very solid as a kicker and as a kickoff man. I think he’s about third or fourth in the league in touchbacks. We don’t anticipate getting a lot of opportunities there because of his skill set. Dustin Colquitt is a rock solid punter. Arenas is tops in the league. I think he’s number-three in the league behind Devin Hester and Patrick Peterson in punt returns at about 14-plus per return. He’s got a resume that indicated he’s a dangerous man in this area, not only in this league but in college. We can’t allow him to change the field position in the punt return game. But more importantly than anything else, we are excited about preparing and getting back into the field of competition, and continuing on with our journey. (Q: When you look at what is happening with quarterbacks around the league, how important is it to have solid depth at that position?) A: I can’t speak to everyone else’s intentions. But it is an important component of team building for us. We acknowledge of course that injury is a part of the game, and unfortunately it occurs quite a bit at the position. We are comfortable with the men that we have at that position, that we are capable of playing winning football regardless of who is under center, and we consider ourselves fortunate in that area. (Q: In practice yesterday, did Ben let it go or was he just tossing? How did he throw?) A: I thought he threw it pretty well. There is a pain tolerance issue. A comfortability issue. All of those things I think will be sorted out over the course of the week. To be honest with you, I am not overly concerned about his ability to be affective in the midst of this. (Q: Is there a concern with him taking snaps under center?) A: Not at this juncture. No. (Q: You were talking about how smart Palko is. How did that translate last night in the extended play on the field?) A: I don’t necessarily have the answer to that. I just had a view of the action if you will. I assessed him from the standpoint of my personal experience with him when he was here. He learned our offense extremely quickly. He is a very intelligent young man, of course. He is a son of a coach. I think that oozes out of him in conversation. He is just a good football man and one that we respect. (Q: How has Antonio Brown come along in your view? ) A: I think, like I expect of all second-year men, he is improving in all areas. In route-running, coverage recognition, being quarterback friendly and just an overall understanding of the game and how he fits in the big picture. That’s what we expect of all second-year men, to grow by leaps and bounds in all areas and he has done that to this point. (Q: Palko was forced to play first start at New England and second start against the Steelers’ defense. Do you think that is a pretty daunting task for any young quarterback?) A: I’d imagine that every player that plays that position in this league has a gory story about how it started for them. That’s just the nature of this game in that position. One thing I know is that that young man is up to the task, because I know him personally. (Q: Re: Hines Ward and his playing time in this game:) A: That is to be determined. Of course that is what we are doing on days like today, as we formulate our game plan and try to play to our strengths and minimize our weakness. I am not in a position to answer that at this time. Obviously, Hines is a very capable man, as are some others. We will do what is best in terms of giving us an opportunity to win this game. (Q: How did the meeting go with the commissioner?) A: I thought it was very productive. We exchanged some ideas. I think the meeting was born out of a conversation between Art and the commissioner. They thought it would be productive for all of us to sit down and talk. I thought it was very productive. It was my first opportunity to see the new offices. They were impressive. It is good bye week stuff. That is in my rear view as I sit here today, and I am solely focused on the preparation and our challenge that awaits us this week in the Kansas City Chiefs. (Q: Is there a problem that you think there are certain hits you think are clean and then they get fined, like Ryan Clark? How do you get on the same page?) A: It’s not a problem. It really isn’t. There are frustrations that present themselves in every season, at least in every season that I have been a part of in this league. That’s what comes with competing. You communicate, you learn from it, you move forward. That is what we have done and that is what we continue to do. (Q: After that conversation do you look and think that maybe that hit was illegal?) A: I’ll leave the conversation I had with those guys between them and myself. I think that’s appropriate. I’ll say this, I appreciated having an opportunity to visit with those men and get their perspective on some things and be able to give mine. (Q: With the bye week being so late, do you have a greater body of work for self-analysis? Are there any areas of concern?) A: There are a lot of areas that are on my radar. I think the most obvious thing is that we are probably fortunate to be a 7-3 football team being minus 10 in the turnover ratio. That is what jumps out at me. We have to continue to do a better job of getting the football, particularly in significant moments defensively. We also have to do a better job at protecting the football offensively. What is in our rear view is in our rear view. We are not going to tote the minus 10 like luggage, don’t get me wrong there. But when you look at it, it is pretty amazing that we are 7-3 with that little bit of information. We understand how significant turnovers are for winning football games. (Q: How do you crank up turnovers on defense and do you do anything in practice?) A: Certainly you do. I think it’s about continuing to grow, continuing to be on the details. It’s part of being opportunistic or productive. Being where you are supposed be, seeing what it is you are supposed to see and doing what it is you are supposed to do, individually and collectively. Also doing it with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. We are still a team in development in some of those areas. Hopefully we will continue to grow in those areas. We have had some production in regards to turnovers as of late, but it needs to continue. (Q: Can you game plan around that or is it merely a performance issue?) A: No, I don’t know that you necessarily game plan around that but I think it is realistic to anticipate that we are capable of producing turnovers. (Q: Re: Jason Worilds' play:) A: He has been above the line. (Q: Re: Cameron Heyward seems to be getting fewer snaps:) A: I think more than anything it is that Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood are highly conditioned and playing well. I have no reservations about playing Cam. He is a positive young-man. He is working extremely hard. He has a bright future. But in regards to snap count and so forth, we have been playing a lot of sub-package football, of course, and that includes two defensive linemen as opposed to three. We are not worried about where he is from a snap-count standpoint or development standpoint I think all of those things are positive. I think if there are only negatives in regards to it in recent weeks it is because of those facts. (Q: Re: Steve McClendon’s play at nose tackle:) A: Solid. (Q: Is McClendon the top backup for Casey Hampton?) A: He is at this juncture. Yes.
Press conference2WW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick assessment of Sunday night’s performance. Like we always do, we came in yesterday and reviewed it with our football team. To be quite frank with you, it stung as much yesterday as it did on Sunday night, as it should. We lost a very tough, close ballgame, highly contested. Baltimore simply made more plays down the stretch than we did. We looked at it and analyzed our performance and techniques, under those circumstances. Hopefully we will grow and learn from it. I know those will be our intentions. I truly believe that it will strengthen us moving forward, like all of our experiences do. We will put that game with the rest of them, as part of our resume for the 2011 season, and we will move forward. I think it’s important that we do that, given the challenge that faces us this weekend coming up, the Cincinnati Bengals. They are the division leader, a 6-2 football team. They are as hot as anyone in football right now, five straight wins, at their place. Before I talk about what they are capable of, I will give you a quick injury update and assess where we are. We had a couple of surgeries yesterday. Emmanuel Sanders had his knee scoped. He should be a couple weeks. That was deemed a success. Daniel Sepulveda also had his knee surgically prepared. His season has ended. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for him. We feel bad for him but at the same time, we also feel very fortunate to get Jeremy Kapinos back into the fold. He’s a guy that we are very familiar with, one that we’ve played winning football with. He kicked for us over the second half of last season and through the playoffs. Really, when you have a guy with his experience and exposure that we have to him that’s available to us, we really consider ourselves fortunate in that area. Jerricho Cotchery has some swelling on his knee. It might limit him at the top portions of the week. Stevenson Sylvester, same thing. Hines Ward appears to be doing well with his concussion-like symptoms. It shouldn’t prohibit him or slow him down in any form or fashion here this week but we will assess him again tomorrow, as we get started with our work week. Some other bumps and bruises along the way: we’ll take a look at LaMarr Woodley and see where he is with his hamstring. Just like last week, participation during the course of the week will dictate his ability. James Harrison had no issues coming back off his injury to speak of. We have some normal bumps and bruises. James Farrior with his calf, his participation throughout the week will dictate his availability, just like last week. When you look at the Cincinnati Bengals, like I said earlier, they are a 6-2 football team. They have five consecutive wins. We are playing them at their place. They are playing really good team football. When you start talking about them it starts with their defense. Coach Marvin Lewis and Coach Mike Zimmer have done an awesome job with that group, developing them over the last number of years. They are number-two in the league defending the run. They have what you would consider a run front, with Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers being features at the ends. They do a nice job defending the run but when they get into their sub-package football, they roll in two talented, young, high-pedigree guys in Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson. Those guys are starter-like. They are very disruptive. They create a bunch of plays. At the linebacker level, you can say the same things about that group. They have a group that is built to stop the run. They do a nice job. There were some acquisitions, Thomas Howard and others. When they get into their sub-package football, you will see Brandon Johnson, a guy we are familiar with. He’s played a lot of football for them. He comes in with that young and talented end tandem, and they really do a nice job getting after folks. Their new acquisition in the secondary is Nate Clements. He’s an 11-year veteran. The guy has been around in Buffalo and San Francisco. He plays a really solid game above the neck. He’s very rarely out of position. He always plays the football. He does a really nice job. He’s working in tandem with Leon Hall, who has been playing rock-solid football for them for a number of years. At the safety position they have Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson. They form a nice, solid pair that’s been working together there for a couple of years now. Offensively, the story is their young talent, no question. Andy Dalton is doing an awesome job for these guys. When you talk about a young guy, I think you start, first and foremost, I think he’s doing a nice job of taking care of the football. He’s not turning the ball over. He’s doing a nice job of making quick decisions. That can be measured simply by the fact that he’s only been sacked 12 times so far this season. Cedric Benson is a constant in the running game. Boy, he’s a tough and instinctive runner. He’s a power runner with more speed than you think. He can change gears. He’s very patient. They supplement him with Bernard Scott, who is a darting, quicker back, who is capable of attacking you on the perimeter. Also on third-down, they have Brian Leonard. He’s been featured in that area for some time. You will see him also in two-minute, no-huddle-like and hurry-up offense. Their receiving core, you start with A.J. Green, a talented, top-round pick out of Georgia. He has freakish skills. They are on display repeatedly throughout the tape. In one-on-one situations down the field, he has the athleticism, size and body control to finish plays when others can’t. He’s lit up highlight reels. He’s the number-one target of Andy Dalton. But I like what Jerome Simpson is doing as well. He does some nice up the field stuff. They generally keep him on the move with skinny posts off the play pass. He’s put up some very big plays and consistent productivity for them. They have a couple guys working at tight end. They have a young, talented guy in Jermaine Gresham. He’s missed a game or two with a minor injury but he’s performed well for them. He has a nice rapport with Dalton. Donald Lee has emerged in recent weeks, particularly last week with a couple of quality plays for them as well. They have a stable, rock-solid group up front. Their guys work well together. I would characterize their emotional leader as their right guard, Bobbie Williams. He always has that group ready to play. But they are a talented group across the board. They are getting top-quality play from their young, high-round pick, Andre Smith, at the tackle position. They are a good team. In the special teams, I think they really got a nice shot in the arm with the acquisition of Brandon Tate, as a return man. Adam Jones provided a big spark for them a week or so ago, prior to his hamstring injury. We’ve always had big battles with these guys in Cincinnati. Really, when you think about it, the last couple of years, the ball has ended up in their hands inside the 10-yard line or so, to win it at the very end. We were fortunate enough to make a play a year ago. We weren’t the year before that. They made a play in the late, waning moments of the game. We anticipate a tough, highly contested battle, AFC North style. They are a 6-2 team. They are extremely hot. We are a team that’s looking to get right after a performance that was below the line. Such is life in the NFL. We are excited about preparing for this opportunity. We are going to need a good preparation week. We acknowledge that if we are going to make a run here in the second half, it has to start now. It has to start on the road, as it should. We are excited about this week. (Q: What did you see in that final drive, and why was Baltimore successful?) A: I thought we had a couple of opportunities there, like you always do, to potentially end it or to make a splash. I thought we had them moving very early in the drive, in the pocket. We had a swipe at the ball that we missed. We had a third down and one. We had our hands on the football. We had a fourth down and one that the ball just reached the outstretched fingertips of a defensive lineman in the rush lane, and they completed it to Anquan Boldin. To make a long story short, they made all of the necessary plays and we missed a few of them by a hair. That is the story of those moments, and if you are going to seize those moments you have to make those plays. They did, and we didn’t. (Q: Was Baltimore’s third-down success due to schematics and/or performance?) A: I characterize it as both. They made some tough, challenging catches. The guys ran some great routes. The ball accuracy was very good. But they also schematically had some nice concepts to free people up versus bump and run coverage and so forth and provide rubs. It was just a nice quality effort from them from a preparation and a play standpoint. (Q: Re: Jason Worild’s performance:) A: I thought he did some nice things. I liked the tempo in which he played with. I thought he was physical. No question there is room for growth. But if you are just looking at his first substantial action as a defensive player, I thought it was a great place to begin. (Q: Will Worild’s start again this week?) A: If the situation presents itself, but we have some things to sort out at the linebacker position. First and foremost, the availability of LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior will dictate some of the other things that occur at that position. (Q: Are you comfortable in knowing that your team can put this loss behind them quickly and move on?) A: No, I’m not comfortable, and I’m not looking for comfort. That’s not how we live. I think it is important that we understand the urgency of this moment, and the gravity of the preparation that awaits us this week, and that we right this thing and quickly get back to winning football. Now, that is easier said than done, because obviously we have an opponent waiting for us that has made winning a habit, particularly over the last five weeks. So we are sensitive to that, we respect that, and by no means are we looking to find comfort in our situation. (Q: What are the doctors telling you about Daniel Sepulveda’s knee?) A: He had a partially torn meniscus that was fixed. (Q: Has (Andy) Dalton grown and matured as the games have gone on?) A: He has been pretty rock solid. And I have looked at game one all the way up to last week’s performance and in his very first game, his opener, you see him looking at the safety, moving him with his eyes and throwing a vertical down the field to (Jermaine) Gresham. So I think if you are talking about if he is growing over the course of the season, I think that is just something that you are looking for. I think he has shown to be a pretty mature signal caller from the onset. (Q: Is he (Dalton) your typical rookie?) A: He is not your typical rookie first and foremost because he is playing. I think there has been no hesitation in that regard. I think he has come into a situation that a lot of rookies don’t come into, in that he has been the guy since day one. I think they’ve had complete clarity in that area. I think that has helped them, and I think that has helped him. So these are not normal rookie circumstances, if you will. (Q: Would you have done anything different with that field goal opportunity?) A: What we were attempting to do was a fourth down and five situation. We were going to utilize the cadence like we did in Arizona and try to pick up an extra five. I was explaining that process to Jeremy Kapinos , and quite simply didn’t get it lined up in time. I wasn’t interested in burning or utilizing a time out because of the time left in the game. Since we weren’t able to get that opportunity to maybe get a free first down, we decided to punt and put them 90-plus yards away from pay dirt with a four point lead. So we were pretty comfortable with the end result. Of course, the process could have been a little bit cleaner. Those are things that occur, I guess, sometimes when you work with new people, especially specialists. I accept responsibility for that. I should have handled that cleaner but I didn’t. I still feel comfortable with the end result, but hopefully we will learn from that as well like we did some of the other errors that we had in the game. (Q: Was kicking the field goal the last option of the options that were available to you?) A: Yeah, we weren’t interested in doing that again because we had a four-point lead. We knew that if we punted the ball and punted it well that they would be 90-plus yards from pay dirt and I liked our chances with our defense under those circumstances then and today. (Q: Re: Tony Dungy critical of your team playing bump and run man coverage on the last drive by Baltimore:) A: It’s easy to look back and question. Guys like Tony and others were patting us on the back a week ago for doing similar things. So I don’t worry about what they say, to be honest with you. We are just trying to play within our strengths and be prepared to do what is necessary for us to win football games. (Q: You have had the same five guys starting at offensive line over the last few weeks, what difference have you seen?) A: I don’t know if there has been a difference. We are coming together as a football team. Not just our offensive line unit, but as an offensive unit, a team unit. But that is of course what you expect through the course of the football season. The more you play, the sharper you get as a football unit. (Q: Has (Max) Starks solidified the line?) A: One-fifth of it. (Q: Why has Cincinnati’s defense been so good?) A: If you look at areas of where they excel, and there are many, first and foremost they are second in league at stopping the run, they do a nice job of creating turnovers and forcing fumbles. A couple of new acquisitions appear to be leading that charge. Nate Clements appears to be very ball aware, in terms of playing through the ball or ripping and stripping the ball, as does Thomas Howard. They are just very aware of the football and they are taking advantage of opportunities. They are a 6-2 team. They have been ahead in some games. They have closed some games out with signature plays, interceptions, sack-fumbles and so forth. They are really doing a nice job playing situational football, but before that, stopping the run and setting up situational football. (Q: Is it their scheme or the eleven players they have on the field generating the good play?) A: They are a fundamentalist outfit. Coach Lewis and Coach Zimmer have been and it continues to evolve as rock solid. They are innovative in terms of how they attack you in sub-package, but they also have some rock-solid people doing it. Many of which I had mentioned earlier. (Q: Re: Thin at wide receiver:) A: We will let the week sort it out for us like we always will. If something needs to be done, more than likely it will be done in-house. (Q: Re: Arnaz Battle:) A: Aranaz has a hamstring strain of some degree. We will let his practice participation dictate how we go throughout the week. It is just a strain. We will see where it takes us. (Q: If James Farrior comes back this week, will Timmons still be outside?) A: It’s a possibility, but again we haven’t begun to address or discuss those possibilities because more than anything it is about the availability of the men. We have some guys that are position flexible, that helps us, and Lawrence Timmons of course is essential to that. (Q: Re: Chris Hoke:) A: He was good to go last week. We just chose to suit five defensive linemen under the circumstances, and get some other helmets in other situations, particularly at the linebacker position. Strengthen ourselves with Morty Ivy from a special teams standpoint. Decisions that we make to put ourselves in what we feel is the best position to win. (Q: Do you notify the league to take a look at the hit on Ward?) A: No, we don’t. I think the league themselves review what they deem questionable hits, over the course of the work week and we just wait to hear from them. There isn’t any active thing done on our part or any teams’ part, to my knowledge. (Q: Was Ward fighting to get back into the game?) A: Hines is always fighting to get back into the game, but we are going to do what is best for him, even if he doesn’t want us to. (Q: Movement of the ball on the ground has been an issue in the league and when refs explain the call, do they have the same interpretation of the rule?) A: They do and when you start talking about situations such as that, it is tough interpretation and I think they do a pretty good job of addressing it.
Press conference1WL
Good afternoon. I will give a quick assessment of Sunday’s performance. It’s good to get a win and proceed in the manner that we are. If you look at our performance, there were some things that were really good. I thought we did an awesome job on third downs, offensively and defensively. We did a nice job possessing the ball on offense. We did a nice job getting off the field defensively. There are areas that need improvement if we are going to continue to play well, and especially beat good people. Those are some of the things that we addressed, in terms of looking at the game yesterday with our team. We can’t be two-of-five in the red area and expect to consistently be good. That will be an area of focus for us. Defensively, I didn’t like the way we took the field under sudden-change conditions. As a defense, you have very little control at times on what circumstances when you take the field. You have all the control over how you get off the field. I didn’t think we were stout or competitive enough in those instances. They scored pretty quickly after that turnover, in two plays. We gave up seven. We desire, under those circumstances, to give up three. Again, it’s a win, and we are pleased with that. We are moving in the right direction, and we are on to a challenge this week with the Baltimore Ravens. If you look at us from an injury standpoint, the only person I declare out at this point is Doug Legursky. We have a lot of guys whose participation will develop over the course of the week, based on health in some instances, and practice participation in others. Those guys include James Farrior. He will work probably at a limited capacity tomorrow. We will see where that takes us, same thing for Chris Hoke. Emmanuel Sanders needs to get his left knee evaluated. We are going to do that at some point. I will have more information regarding him for you later in the week. LaMarr Woodley’s participation will be dictated on his ability to practice here at some point this week. James Harrison has been cleared to practice. That’s where we are right now. We will reevaluate him later in the week but he has been cleared to practice, which of course is an awesome step for him. Hines Ward will be practicing tomorrow. We will let his participation guide us. The same can be said for Jason Worilds. So we have a few injuries to sort through but you know we don’t worry about those things. We will build our plan around healthy men, and the standard will be the standard for those guys. Looking at the Ravens, we played them a number of weeks ago. They have a definitive personality. Not much has changed with this group. Ray Rice is still a central part of their offense, both rushing and receiving. He hurt us in a variety of ways the last time we played them. We need to be better against him this time around. He is supplemented by Ricky Williams, who is a veteran guy. He’s added a nice punch for them as well. In their passing game, Joe Flacco has done a nice job the last several weeks, coordinating their no-huddle and spread attack offensively. What he and Anquan Boldin were able to do in the third and fourth quarters of that game last week was impressive. It’s not surprising, just simply impressive. They are finding their rhythm. We have to be prepared to deal with those guys, like the vertical threat from their tight end position in Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta. They’ve done a nice job. They continue to evolve and develop as a part of their passing attack. It is kind of new for us, in terms of dealing with Torrey Smith and what he’s capable of. He’s a young rookie out of Maryland, whose role has grown and developed since we played them in the opener. He’s a legitimate deep ball threat. He’s capable of taking the top off the coverage. Any time you can put a man like that on the field, he’s someone to reckon with. Defensively, it’s their same core of guys. They are playing great, not good, great. Terrell Suggs is someone that’s hurt us in the past, along with Haloti Ngata, and now they are doing it to others. It starts up front with them. We have to be prepared to deal with those men and company. At their second level, they have great players there, led by Ray Lewis. And in the back end, of course, is Ed Reed. He picked us off a couple of times the last time we played them. but they have some young guys coming on in this defense, and they are playing at a really high level, whether you look at the cornerback, Lardarius Webb or the linebacker/defensive end, Paul Kruger. He is really doing some awesome things. And I think Bernard Pollard is an awesome addition. He’s got a nasty playing disposition. He is physical. He’s a turnaround-tackle kind of guy. When you turn the tape on, boy, you see him getting after people in just about every film you put on. He’s quickly become a core member of that group, and he’s putting some good stuff on tape. From a special teams standpoint, you know these guys are rock solid. Coach Harbaugh always has been. Their special teams guys are special, Billy Cundiff, Sam Koch and the return game as well. It’s business as usual for us. We are playing the Baltimore Ravens. It’s a significant game. We like being in significant games. It’s awesome to be a part of, particularly this time of year, at the turn. It’s just NFL football. We are excited about this week’s challenges, but more importantly, we have to narrow our focus on what is in front of us here today and tomorrow, and what our preparation is. We need to kind of live in that moment, and Sunday will take care of itself if we respect the week. That’s what we intend to do. We will get an assessment on some of the injuries as we proceed. We will factor those in but we don’t care about those things. The Pittsburgh Steelers will be there on Sunday. (Q: Will practice dictate if James Harrison is cleared to play?) A: No, he has been cleared to practice and that is where we are. We will reevaluate the situation at some point later in the week and let that be our guide in terms of potential participation. But right now I just want to be clear that he has been cleared to practice. (Q: Re: Jason Worilds:) A: We tentatively have him scheduled to go through a full practice. If he is able to finish that would be good for him and good for us. If he is not, then of course we will adjust accordingly. But his availability will be based on that participation. (Q: If Harrison and Worilds can’t play, will you consider adding a linebacker to the roster?) A: I think we would have to if that is the case. But we will deal with that when we come to it. We also have some flexibility like a lot of people. We might be capable of playing with four defensive linemen. We are not going to leave anything out. What we do know is that our answers generally are in-house. So if we are out of in-house linebackers then some of those answers might have to be in the d-line. (Q: Re: Young guys stepping up with key players being out due to injuries:) A: Their play hasn’t been perfect and quite frankly it has been far from it. But they have competed, they played hard and they haven’t been scared of the stage. When you are talking about young players, particularly playing offense and defense, not special teams, that is a good place to start. We are talking about Chris Carter, Cortez Allen, and Stevenson Sylvester can be included in that, some others, Steve McClendon. We are getting good solid contributions from guys putting their hand in the pile and showing us at the very least that they are competitors. (Q: Re: Swapping Chris Carter and Lawrence Timmons from the right to the left:) A: Chris Carter was going to be uncomfortable regardless so you might as well make Lawrence comfortable was the thought process there. (Q: Re: Carter’s play:) A: Like I mentioned earlier with the other guys, far from perfect but he played hard, played fast and wasn’t afraid of competition. It was a good place to start. (Q: When you said you might plan on four defensive-linemen were you talking about giving them a four-three look or have a lineman drop back?) A: Or four-two or one of the many variations we have. We are very multiple defensively, usually in response to offensive packages, but sometimes your personnel may dictate otherwise. I am just saying that at this juncture we are open to all potential possibilities in terms of dealing with our situations and that we are not going to go grasping at straws outside of our building in terms of addressing it. (Q: Re: Cortez Allen getting more playing time:) A: I think first and foremost he is a tough guy to get away from on the practice field. Usually that is always the thing that kind of grabs our attention, guys that distinguish themselves on service teams. He has done that and played well in special teams. That formula usually leads us to giving them defensive opportunities or offensive opportunities and that has been the case with him and he has done a nice job thus far. (Q: You talked about being multiple on defense but you also seemed multiple on offense, is that where the offense is headed?) A: It was where it was heading last Sunday in an effort to win. (Q: Re: Baltimore defense:) A: They are slaying people and we are a part of that. We contributed six or seven of those turnovers to that tally. They are playing extremely fast, they are really talented, they know what they are doing and they are very rarely out of place. They have uniquely talented people at every level of their defense. They are the best in the world right now. (Q: Are they grabbing for the ball a lot to force turnovers?) A: Sometimes, and sometimes they are just whacking people and the ball is just floating around on the ground. Needless to say it is cause for concern. (Q: Did they look different on tape than they did in Week One?) A: No, not at all. They play ball the way they play ball, and they impose it on you. (Q: If Worilds is healthy, would you consider moving Timmons to the left or even inside?) A: That is a big if right now. Worilds hasn’t played in weeks so right now Lawrence is an outside linebacker. As we go into the week we will see where the week takes us. (Q: Did Baltimore snap out of the fog they have been in during the second half of the game against Arizona?) A: We had that game on a little bit in the locker room, with us playing at 4:15 and I don’t think there was a man in our locker room that thought Baltimore was going to lose the ballgame. That is just Baltimore. They are competitors. You knew they would come storming back and they did. Good teams, great teams have lulls, whatever you can characterize lulls as. Reality is that they are built to win, they won it and they moved on. We respect their ability to do that. (Q: Re: Brett Keisel said the defense plays best when the offense controls the clock, specifically in this game:) A: It’s two fold when you start talking about time of possession. It’s our offense possessing the ball but it is also our defense getting off the field. Brett was being complimentary to our offense and rightfully so, but he also has to realize that we did a nice job of winning on third down against them. I think they were three of ten and that had a lot to do with the time of possession as well. (Q: Baltimore and Pittsburgh are the two top defenses in the league, while I think Cleveland and Cincinnati are still in the top six. Is that the way to survive the AFC North or is that just a coincidence?) A: It’s probably a coincidence at this juncture. I am not ready to at least put us in the conversation with the Ravens’ defense. We are not even close to doing what they are doing right now. Maybe statistically but the way they are generating splash plays sets them apart. I am not ready to speak on behalf of Cincinnati or Cleveland, but we are not ready to have that conversation right now. (Q: What is the extent of Emmanuel Sanders’ injury? And is he dealing with a death in the family?) A: He is, but we are going to be considerate of his privacy in regards to that. In terms of the injury, it happened at some point, in game, in the first half. He felt good enough to continue. We said we would evaluate it after, and we are in the process of doing that. (Q: How much do you think your guys are thinking about Week One, and will you remind them this week?) A: I am sure they will because I am sure they are going to be asked about it. We have enough motivating us this week. We are a 6-2 team playing a 5-2 team for the AFC North lead. We are at the turn. These things are starting to get some clarity. We have a little winning streak going here. We want that to continue. You can pick them. There’s enough to motivate you for this game. So we are less concerned about that. We are living in the here-and-now. There are awesome challenges this week. So we don’t have to manufacture anything in regards to that. (Q: Were you surprised at how well you did some things against New England, and will you incorporate some of those things moving forward?) A: I wasn’t surprised by what we were able to do, based on the plan. Every plan is specific to the opponent. It’s just how it is. We are not going to drop back and throw the ball 50 times versus the Baltimore Ravens, because you are going to get sacked, fumble and intercepted. Their video bares that out. That’s what I mean when I say we are going to do what it is week-to-week that allows us to win. It would be naïve to suggest we are going to take that formula into each and every stadium. That’s not the case.
Press conference0LW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick assessment of Sunday’s performance. We were pleased with some of the things we saw on tape. I think largely, the thing that stood out the most, was that I liked the overall sense of urgency of our football team in all three phases. I thought we played with a positive attitude. I thought we played with great energy. I just thought we felt the urgency of the moment in all three phases. I think that’s the closest thing to 60 minutes of football that we’ve put together at this point. That’s not to be confused with putting together 60 minutes but it was closer than any of our other performances. Hopefully it’s something we can build upon. Some of the positive things I saw on offense was that we answered their offensive surge in the second half. That was big for us. Good teams work in concert. They were able to put a play together there and score on a check-down to LaRod Stephens Howling. Our offense responded appropriately, like good offenses do, to put out that small fire. I thought that was the most positive thing about our performance. I also thought it was very positive the way we ended the game. After they put together another scoring drive, we gained possession and maintained possession of the football throughout. We gained the necessary first downs in our four-minute-like offense. That’s a sign of an offense that’s on the come. Defensively, I like the way we started. We created a short field for our offense early in the football game. I thought we put consistent pressure on the quarterback, led by LaMarr Woodley. I liked the contributions of some guys that were given the opportunity to expand their roles, such as Steve McLendon. I thought he represented himself very well inside and up front for us. We are going to need those types of performances moving forward with him and others. On special teams, I thought our coverage units did a nice job of making sure that Antonio Brown was the best return man in the stadium. They did a nice job, and we have a great respect for their return game and people on both kickoffs and punts. I thought our coverage units did a really nice job. And of course, the snap, hold and kick on our PAT unit was rock solid. We banged three field goals in the football game. There are a lot of positives to build on. Hopefully we’ll do that with a good, solid workweek here in preparation for New England. Some medical situations: Curtis Brown has been experiencing some back spasms. We don’t know if or how that will limit him but being a young guy, if he is limited throughout the week, that could affect his potential participation. We believe in reps, particularly reps for young people. James Harrison’s situation is status quo, as is Chris Hoke’s, Doug Legursky’s and Jason Worilds’. We are going to look hard this week at Hines Ward, in terms of his participation. We will let that be our guide in terms of his readiness, along with Casey Hampton. Casey has taken a step. He is scheduled to practice on Wednesday. We will see where that participation takes us. We would get him back into the fold. That would be a nice shot in the arm for us up front on defense. We are playing the New England Patriots. They are doing what they usually do. They are a top-quality team, led by Tom Brady and what they are doing offensively. They are averaging 475 yards per game on offense. Tom Brady and company are a big part of that but that’s not the complete story. They are 10th in the league in rushing, 125 or so a game. I love their stable of running backs and how they utilize them. They have BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They have a young rookie from LSU in Stevan Ridley, who complements him well. They are both very one-cut, decisive and tough runners. Danny Woodhead distinguishes himself as a check-down guy and a screen guy. He’s pretty good at running the football as well. They utilize those three backs, and they are a very good stable. They do very good work there. Their tight end crew is outstanding. They have a couple of young guys, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who continue to emerge. What they did last year is well documented but they are taking off from where they left off, even moving forward in some areas. They have a great rapport with their quarterback, not only in open grass but in the red zone. Gronkowski lit us up for three touchdowns a year ago. He has continued that. He has 15 now in his career. Tom, I am sure, feels real comfortable throwing to that big target down there in those closed spaces. Hernandez is a top-quality athlete. Their receiving core is a talented group, a deep group led by Wes Welker. We all know what Wes is capable of, in terms of turning short passes into big ones. They also have been doing some nice things in their play-pass game, getting him on those deep-over routes that are associated with play-pass. That’s another facet in how they utilize him. You would expect to see more of Chad Ochocinco with those guys, coming off of a bye week. He’s a top-quality guy. He’s capable of taking the top off of the coverage. He’s new to them. Under the circumstances of how the offseason unfolded, I am sure he had a productive week with those guys last week. We expect to see more of him than what we’ve seen on tape. They have other savvy veterans, such as Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. He’s a guy that has done some nice things for them. Brady spreads the ball around to all the eligibles. They do a nice job of protecting him. Their group up front is led by Logan Mankins. It’s a really rock solid group. They really don’t turn the football over. There was a game a few weeks back with Buffalo, where they got their hands on some footballs but let’s be honest, that probably happens once every five years. So we have about four years and nine months before we see that again. We are not anticipating Brady is going to throw us four footballs. We better be prepared to get off the field the hard way, and that’s simply by stopping them. They do a great job, other than that Buffalo game, of taking care of the football. Defensively, they’ve had troubles at times stopping people but they play great situational football. They are opportunistic. They are built to stop the run. In certain packages, when you look, Vince Wilfork is who he is but he’s complemented by Kyle Love inside. They have a nice collection of veteran guys on defense, up front particularly: Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth and Gerard Warren. These guys have had distinguished careers with other teams. They are probably just interested in winning. They’ve put their hand in the pile and come aboard. They’ve done some nice things. I like their linebackers. We anticipate Jerod Mayo being back. He practiced last week. He’s a great player, not a good player. He’s arguably one of the top inside linebackers in the game of football. He’s accompanied by Brandon Spikes, a second-year man out of Florida. He’s quickly establishing himself as a run stopper. He’s distinguished himself really well, I think, in blitzes and getting on running backs. He utilizes his length when rushing the passer. In the secondary, they’ve done a nice job of playing situational football and taking advantage of opportunities when presented. They really get after people, and they take advantage of things that come with playing with a lead, turnovers. Kyle Arrington leads them with four interceptions. Devin McCourty has been solid. They have a solid, veteran group in that area. They are their usual selves in special teams, meaning that they don’t beat themselves. They are extremely solid. They average double digits in their punt return game. They’ve been real solid in their kicking game, both on field goals and punts. Needless to say, we have our work cut out for us. We are glad to be back at Heinz Field. We look forward to a great week of preparation and ultimately play. We will keep it as simple as that.(Q: Re: Getting sacks:) A: I don’t know that sacks determine success against this group to be honest with you. It just depends on how they choose to attack us. If they are throwing the ball vertically down the field then we better pressure the quarterback and sacks better be an element of the equation. If they are in empty and they are spreading the football around with short passes then that might be something that is not an element of the equation. So we are not going to measure success by that stat alone. It largely depends on how they choose to attack us. (Q: How different are they?) A: If you look at their complete body of work they are very similar. They are very multiple. They can attack you in a variety of ways. They can line up and play empty no-huddle football. They can put two or three tight end type bodies on the field and pound you. They are very multiple. They have been together, of course, for a long time. They have great continuity between core players and coaches. It just depends on what personality they choose to be this week, that will determine if they are very similar or very dissimilar to how they approached us a year ago. (Q: Are they unique in the league?) A: No, I think what they do comes from continuity and I think you can point to other teams that have great continuity on offense particularly. Of course a franchise-type caliber quarterback, you can point to New Orleans and teams such as that and see similarities. (Q: Are they still a pass first outfit?) A: I think they attack how they choose to attack you. We know they are capable of moving up and down the field passing the football but we are not going to underestimate what they are capable of doing running the football, like I mentioned earlier. They are tenth in the league with running the football. They have a nice stable of guys. They are good enough to determine how they want to attack you and have a strong chance at being successful. (Q: Re: The personality of their defense:) A: I really think it is their whim of the week in terms of how they choose to attack you or maybe what’s toughest for you to block, dictates their personality. You would have to ask those guys what ultimately dictates that. I know they are very multiple, similar to how they are offensively. (Q: What makes (Tom) Brady so difficult to stop?) A: He is just very good physically and mentally. He is very talented in both areas. He is tough to trick, he makes quick decisions, he has pinpoint accuracy and he has the arm to do the things he desires to do. (Q: Do you look at tapes from games where teams were able to take them down?) A: I don’t want to make more out of that than what has already been made but that is what we do every week. We look at what people do against our opponents and what they have success at and if it is in our comfort zone, we consider utilizing it. So this week is no different than any other. (Q: Re: Their tight ends and taking them away:) A: You better be multiple because they are. So that is what we are working on. We are in the process of establishing a plan in that area. We acknowledge that they are a unique group particularly in the red area. We better have a pretty comprehensive plan in that regard. (Q: Do they play the two tight ends together a lot?) A: They do, but that’s no different than a lot of teams. We use a lot of two tight end personnel groups. It’s not necessarily that they do it, it is how effective they are at doing it and how they utilize those guys and how they are capable of getting them down the field. It’s a special relationship that they are forming there with their signal caller. (Q: Do you adjust to fit them or do you try to dictate?) A: Those are the kinds of questions that we formulate on days like today and to be honest with you, I am not ready to answer that directly as I sit here. We have yet to meet defensively. We watch tape independently and compare a note or two here or there. We will settle in this evening after dinner and formulate some of those things. (Q: Like you said earlier, New England’s offense is multiple. Is your teams’ offense getting close to that?) A: I think we are moving in that direction. I like some of the things that we have been able to do with our multiple tight end personnel groups and our multiple wide receiver personnel groups. We have had success in different packages and I’d like to think that we are moving in that direction. (Q: f this game turns into a gun-slinging match between Ben and Brady, is that a good thing or bad thing?) A: I am not ready to paint with a broad brush at this point. I try to leave the preconceived notions about how the game is going to unfold out, particularly this early in the week, and just try to put together a good comprehensive plan. (Q: Re: Wes Welker:) A: There are two critical reasons why he is tough to disrupt. First is his physical skill. He is extremely quick and illusive, and very adept at getting away from jams along the line of scrimmage. Second is what they do schematically. They move him around quite a bit, through a variety of formations and motions and that makes it difficult as well. (Q: Coincidence with LaMarr becoming more of an impact with Harrison out?) A: It is probably just a coincidence if you are trying to relate it to him responding to James not being there. This guy has been playing hard all year. He has probably been given more opportunities and has taken advantage of it. We have also been ahead some of late and that is always a factor in terms of having sack opportunities. If you are measuring his level of play based on sack opportunities alone, being ahead has something to do with it. Of course we started out as a 2-2 type team, so there was probably less opportunities to register that statistic. I don’t try to frame what he is doing to be honest with you. I am more concerned with how we are playing and that we get necessary plays from anyone. (Q: Re: What Ike Taylor might have to do to adjust playing a different type of wide receiver.) A: As I sit here right now I am not comfortable with saying that Ike is going to follow him down-in and down-out. That might be a little bit out of Ike’s comfort zone. This guy spends a lot of time in interior formations at the number two position, number three position and slot formations. Ike is an outside corner so I am not ready at this juncture to even say that this is going to be an element of this thing. (Q: Are you excited for this challenge and do you take this game personally?) A: I don’t take it personally. It is not about me. It is about us. It is about the Pittsburgh Steelers and our journey and specifically this 2011 season. We are excited because this is a big game in front of our home crowd and really that is all you need if you are a competitor. (Q: Why is Bill Belichick such a great coach?) A: They win. Ultimately that is how we are measured and they win in spite of circumstance. (Q: Was he a guy that you ever looked up to when you were a young coach?) A: I didn’t. I was blessed enough in my opinion to be around some top quality guys that I worked with in my building in Tony Dungy and John Gruden, and guys like that so I didn’t have to look far in terms of guys that were awesome guys to get information and inspiration from. (Q: Does it mean anything to be back in first place in the division?) A: No. (Q: And how about the importance of this game as a number one or number two seed?) A: It’s October. We are just trying to win week to week and keep pace with the elite and put ourselves in position to be considered in that conversation. Those things will sort themselves out. I truly believe that. We like to stay focused on things that are in our control and that’s our preparation and ultimately our play this week. When you start talking about playoff seedings and things of that nature, particularly at this point in the season, you are scoreboard watching. That’s not going to be our bag. We are going to see enough quality teams over the rest of this season to deal with a lot of those things first hand and that is really how we prefer to look at it. We are all focused on what is ahead of us, of course this week, and that’s that New England Patriots and rightfully so. (Q: They pick the ball but they give up a lot of passing yards. Is that risk for reward?) A: That is a function of them just whacking people and being way out in front. So if you come in and you think they are the 32nd best defense in football you are kidding yourself. They are whacking people pretty good. People are throwing the ball every down and they accumulate some yards, it is insignificant. (Q: Is that why the situational aspect is so important looking at their numbers, third-down, red zone?) A: Absolutely. (Q: Does your background as a defensive coach affect you going into weeks like this?) A: I would hope not. I would hope that I wouldn’t let ego or pride or anything of that nature, comfort zone, prohibit our team from doing what is required for us to win. I fashion myself to be more intelligent than that. We will see. (Q: Re: Run game against Arizona:) A: I thought it was more than anything about what they were doing. They came out early committed to stop the run. They utilized Adrian Wilson in a variety of fashions, their run pressures were exceptional. They brought him in blitzes that made him virtually unblockable from a wide receivers standpoint in terms of interior pressure so we couldn’t get them off the edges with our cracking wide receivers and so forth. So we just threw the football. We are not going to beat our head against the concrete wall. I did like the way we were able to run the football at the latter stages of the game to put the game away. Sometimes your opponents are committed to taking an element of your game away from you and when they are that committed then you have to take what comes easy. I thought we did in that game. But I liked our ability to run the football and close the game out and when they wanted to have the ball back, we didn’t allow them. (Q: How optimistic are you that Hines will play this weekend?) A: I think I will let tomorrow determine that, or at the least when I get to see him here today. Like I mentioned after the game, I won’t be surprised about anything that Hines is capable of, particularly from a health standpoint. (Q: Re: Chris Kemoeatu’s penalties:) A: We are going to encourage him to not do that. That makes execution even a little bit more difficult. That goes along with some of the pre-snap penalties, the false starts on guys such as David Johnson and Weslye Saunders. We cannot have pre and post-snap penalties if we want to be the kind of offense we desire to be. We stated just that. These guys are professionals. We expect them to correct their mistakes and move forward. (Q: How has Steve McLendon improved?) A: He has grown into that kind of guy (nose tackle). He’s much bigger than he was two or three years ago when he got here. He’s worked hard downstairs in the weight room and in offseason programs, along with some other young guys. You always see him and Ziggy Hood working together. They have a nice, young work ethic for being young guys. He’s improved himself. He’s made himself a bigger, faster and stronger player. He deserves credit for that. (Q: Re: Ziggy Hood:) A: He’s done a nice job for us. We need that to continue. We like his versatility. He subbed in for Aaron Smith some, Brett Keisel for some and he even played nose tackle in the last game. You are talking about a young guy that is capable and willing to play multiple positions. He puts his hand in the pile to help us win, and we value that. (Q: Re: Losing Aaron Smith:) A: I don’t know if it’s an emotional thing. We’ve been without him quite a bit for the last few years. It’s great to have him around and his presence. That will continue, but in terms of his play, I think we’ve gotten pretty comfortable over the last several years playing without him, unfortunately. (Q: Is it tough to see that happen to a player near the end of his career?) A: It’s the nature of our business. If these guys are blessed, it’s going to happen to all of them. (Q: Do you need to explain the importance of this game to your team like you would when you play the Ravens?) A: I am not going to assume that our guys understand the nature of this matchup and its history. Many of our guys were not a part of this history when it started, because you are talking about 2001 and 2004. So it’s not similar in that way. We play Baltimore twice a year, sometimes three times a year over the last three to five years. So it’s different from that standpoint. I am not going to assume anything. I am going to educate our guys about this matchup and this football team because it is different in that way.
Press conference0WW
Good afternoon. I will start with a quick review of Sunday’s performance versus Jacksonville. It was good to get a win. We started at an appropriate manner in which we like to start. We didn’t finish the game in the manner that we’d like to. I think when you go back and review the tape, as we have as a staff and with our players, I think it’s very evident of the areas where we could finish stronger. Defensively, I thought we lacked a signature play, the defining play, turnover play. That has been our signature moment when we are trying to put games away. We weren’t able to do that defensively. Offensively, we didn’t convert third downs in the second half. I think we were 2-of-7 in the second half. We converted the very first one to Hines Ward, and then we didn’t convert another one until the second-to-last attempt, when it was third-and-two and Ben Roethlisberger scrambled for roughly three yards. When you aren’t converting third downs, you are not going to put drives together, and you are not going to ring up scoreboards. We’ve been good on third downs all year. For whatever reason, we were not up to par in the second half of that football game. You have to give some credit to the Jaguars for that. From a special teams standpoint, we gave them a possession with the roughing of the punter. So if you put those three things together, the inability to get a defining, game-closing play defensively, inability to convert third downs in the second half, and you give them an extra possession on special teams, you have an opportunity to put together the kind of ending performance that we did. We are not looking into explaining it or making excuses for it. What we are going to do is recognize it, put our hard hats on and go back to work as we prepare for the Arizona Cardinals. From an injury standpoint, we have some good news. Troy Polamalu appears to be good to go. He did a concussion test, and he passed it. He met with our neurosurgeons, and they are very comfortable with where he is. We anticipate him practicing tomorrow, and him moving on throughout the week like everyone else on our football team. Mike Wallace has a minor hamstring injury. It may limit him at the early portion of the week. We have some guys coming back, thankfully. Marcus Gilbert is going to potentially be back at practice this week. We’ll let his practice participation dictate if he plays. Mewelde Moore is another guy that is capable of working during this week. We will let his work dictate where we go there. Jason Worilds, Chris Kemoeatu and all of those guys, we anticipate getting them back. Unfortunately, Doug Legursky is going to be out, and he will be out for a number of weeks with a dislocated toe. It didn’t require surgery but if you see him walking around, he will be walking around in a boot. He will be out for a number of weeks. Some other guys that have been out but are working their way back to participating, but they’ll probably stay on the outside looking in this week, are Casey Hampton, James Harrison and Aaron Smith. Chris Hoke experienced a stinger in the game. He is experiencing some lack of strength in his shoulder. We will continue to monitor him throughout the week. He will have to regain that strength in his shoulder before he can move on and participate. His practice participation is in question as we sit here. Looking at Arizona, that’s a group that we are pretty familiar with but they are probably more familiar with us. Defensively, they have a very impressive front, it really is. We know about big, number-90, Darnell Dockett and what he’s capable of. We’ve had experiences with him, like everyone else. They are supplementing him with some really good guys, like Calais Campbell. He’s a high-pedigree, young, second-rounder, and they have Dan Williams from Tennessee. That front is doing some nice things. They are really hustling around well. They are being very productive. Their ends are doing a very nice job rushing on the guards, particularly Calais Campbell, who is leading the team in sacks. He’s doing some nice things in terms of some interior rush. We are very familiar with their outside linebackers. I am not going to talk too much about those guys, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. I’ve been really impressed with Daryl Washington, number-58, a second-year man out of TCU. He plays on the inside. He’s very athletic. He’s a run and chase tackler. He has great knee and ankle flexibility. He creates explosive power on contact. He’s an interesting young player. From a secondary standpoint, boy, you have to tip your hat to Adrian Wilson, who is playing with an arm injury of some kind. He’s playing normal, Adrian Wilson-type football. He’s been down there, must be 11 years now. He’s always played very aggressively and at a high level. He’s very good at blitzing and timing blitzes. Coach Ray Horton is really utilizing his skills in that area. This guy comes off the tight end side, the open side. We better be very aware of where Adrian Wilson is. They have some young cornerbacks in that secondary, who are impressive guys. Patrick Peterson is a high-pedigree, first rounder, a rookie from LSU. He’s doing some nice things at cornerback. He’s also doing some nice things in the punt return game. I’ve been really impressed by A.J. Jefferson, the other young cornerback, who appears to be very fast, very quick in transition. He is playing things extremely close. Offensively, you have to start with Chris “Beanie” Wells. He’s got roughly 400 yards rushing. He’s got six touchdowns. That’s a lot of touchdowns. He’s very good in those types of situations, short yardage and goal line situations. He’s a big, powerful man. He runs through contact. He keeps his feet moving. We better be ready to deal with him. They also have a deep and talented backfield group. He’s backed up by LaRod Stephens-Howling, who we are familiar with. He’s a former Pitt man (University of Pittsburgh). He’s very good. They have a savvy veteran in Chester Taylor, who they picked up. He’s also capable of doing some big things. If you look at their receiving core, Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best in the world at what he does. He continues to be. If you get him in one-on-one matchups down the field, in most instances he’s going to win them. We are aware of that. But we are also aware that they have 10 other guys that we have to contend with. We just need to minimize what he does to us, and particularly in situational football, the areas that he excels: red zone, third downs and things of that nature. We have to be on our screws and be thoughtful about how we put together a plan to combat his skill set. You couple that with Early Doucet, who is starting opposite of him. He is the leading AFC receiver on third downs. I think he has 11 or 12 third-down receptions. They are a formidable group to deal with from that standpoint. They’ve got a quality tight end group: Jeff King, Todd Heap, and they have a rookie, Rob Housler. He’s a talented, vertical-threat, speed guy, who was very impressive in pre-draft workouts from a height, weight and speed standpoint. He’s a guy that we need to contend with. They have multiple group sets with Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet. They’ve had some shuffling up front. Welcome to the club. They are anchored by Levi Brown, and some others who’ve played a little bit of football for them, and they’ve done some nice things. From a special teams standpoint, gadgets are their thing. We have to be prepared for them. We have to be structurally sound. We can’t get enamored with it but we just have to be structurally sound, and make sure we are good enough in all areas, because these guys are as good as anyone in football with gadgets over the last three-to-five years, and they have utilized them. They’ve got quality return men. LaRod Stephens-Howling is their kick return man. Patrick Peterson is their punt returner. He did that in a big way in SEC play at LSU. He’s off to a great start in his NFL career, and he’s doing it in a big way in the NFL thus far. That being said, we have clarity in terms of what’s in front of us, what our challenges are for this week. We understand we have some work to do. We will start that process with our guys tomorrow. We will take this show on the road, and see if we can get a good road performance, the one we desire to have if we want to be a good football team. I think it’s very obvious that we’ve performed to a winning level at home. We haven’t done so on the road. We understand that if we want to be a contender, be a winning team, a January-type team, we have to perform better on the road than we have. We will proceed and prepare this week with that in mind. (Q: Did your guys let up in the second half?) A: No. I thought I gave you a pretty clear explanation as a team why they were able to get back into the game. We weren’t able to get a defining signature turnover on defense, and we gave them a possession in the kicking game. We converted the first third-down, and then the second-to-last one. So, we are not moving the ball offensively, in terms of getting first downs. We are not getting the signature turnover or game-defining play defensively, and if you give them a possession in the kicking game, you are going to give them a chance to get back into the game. I am not going to try to make something out of it that it is not. It is not anything mystical. We can’t allow those things to happen individually, let alone collectively, and that is what happened. (Q: Did your team struggle on third downs because it missed some short passes on first and second downs?) A: It was some of that but some of those third downs were also very manageable. We had a third-and-two where we had a delay of game, and that pushed us to a third-and-seven that we didn’t get. So we aren’t going to frame it, make excuses or wrap any kind of bow around it. We have to perform better on third down. And of course, in order to do that, you set yourself up if you perform a little better on first and second-down. (Q: Is Coach Ray Horton playing your defense?) A: There are some similarities, no doubt, in terms of what he is doing out there schematically, and with what we are doing, but Ray is a very sharp coach. We have great deal of respect for what he is capable of. He always had strong opinions when he was here, and you see some of those things on tape. It is Ray Horton and the Arizona Cardinals’ defense. There will be familiarity. It will help us a little bit in preparation, because the guys that will be on our offense will be able to get a better, more quality look. They will probably play faster because of the similarities, not that it is going to provide some schematic advantage for us in the game, or even from a preparation standpoint. We will have a better opportunity to provide better quality looks for our offense in preparation for the game because of the similarities. But I am sure they will have that same advantage as they prepare for our defense. I think that the Arizona scout team defense will be able to mirror some of the things that we do defensively better than some of the other opponents that they play. (Q: Will you have to change any play call signs?) A: No. (Q: Will Jason Worilds be a candidate to start or will you leave Lawrence Timmons at ROLB?) A: We are going to let that be determined based on how he looks during the week. As always, as these guys work and come off of injuries, we are not going to anoint or insert them into any roles whatsoever. We are going to watch them perform over the week and let them earn their roles if you will. We think that is appropriate. We did the same thing last week with Rashard Mendenhall and some others. We will do it with those guys as they work their way back in this week. (Q: Re: Lawrence Timmons:) A: He has done some nice things for us. He is still a guy in development from a minute detail standpoint, and some of the things that go with that position. Obviously, the minute details oftentimes are the things that produce the splash plays that we are kind of referring to. So, we are not going to worry so much about that. What we are going to worry about with him are the details of the assignment and the preparation throughout the week, to make sure he is on his screws. Those other things will come. He is a talented player. We are not displeased with what he has done thus far, and we will expect him to continue to improve, as I am sure he will. (Q: Re: Chris Kemoeatu:) A: We expect him to work this week in practice, and we will let that dictate his level of play. (Q: How big of a role has Max Starks had in the recent productivity of the running game?) A: One-fifth if you are just talking about the offensive line, and one-eleventh if you are talking about our offense. (Q: Re: Level of play on the road:) A: You acknowledge that playing on the road creates some things that you don’t necessarily deal with at home, silent counts and so forth. That provides advantages for their defense, particularly with crowd noise. Whatever the elements are, I am less concerned about that and more concerned about us putting together winning performances. It is a hostile environment. You don’t have the support of your own crowd. I am just acknowledging that we have been below the line in many instances on the road, and that needs to change. (Q: Re: Defense only having two turnovers at this point:) A: No, I can’t pinpoint it, but what I can say is that you generally are opportunistic when you are on the minute details and you are playing extremely hard. So that is all we are going to do. We are going to remain focused on the minute details of our assignment. We are going to try to play together within the scheme, and we are going to play extremely hard. We think that those opportunities will increase as you do those things. That has always been my philosophy in regards to those types of plays, so I am not going to change in that regard. What we are not going to do is start taking calculated risks and doing things that are unsound in the effort to make those things happen. We are playing good defense. We just need some of those signature type plays that will make the ends of games more comfortable. (Q: Re: Chris Hoke and changing his approach:) A: I think Hoke is trying to be interesting. I haven’t seen anything different from Hoke’s technique in the five years that I have been here. He is a ridiculous creature of habit. (Q: Did Troy get hurt when he was diving to tackle Maurice Jones-Drew?) A: I think so. But in football, it could have been an accumulation of things, but I would think that that would have been the play that significant damage had been done. (Q: Did you talk to your medical staff about giving a phone to Troy?) A: I really didn’t need to. He was talking to his wife. He has had a history of concussion-like symptoms in the past. She was concerned. In this era of player safety, you would think that common sense would prevail in some of these things. It wasn’t a personal call. He wasn’t checking on his bank account. He was talking to his wife to let her know that he was fine, and that was it. He borrowed a phone from a doctor. (Q: Would you have a problem with it if he got fined?) A: I don’t have a problem with anything. I am not anticipating anything. Like I said, I would hope that common sense would prevail in this instance and in the era of player safety, such as we are in. (Q: How similar is Arizona since you played them in the Super Bowl?) A: Boy, a lot has changed since then. Of course, a lot has changed on our side as well. First and foremost, people, but also coordinators, offensively and defensively. I think the biggest familiarity is Larry Fitzgerald and his skill-set, and what he is capable of doing. But teams evolve. Beanie Wells and others, they weren’t a part of that. We have evolved as well. I hadn’t thought a lot about it but I will acknowledge that there are a lot of differences in Arizona in 2011 than in 2008. (Q: Is Brett Keisel doing anything different with guys being out?) A: He probably changed his technique with Hoke. No, he is Brett Keisel. He is doing his usual things. (Q: Do they throw to Larry Fitzgerald because he is open or just because he’s capable of making plays?) A: Sometimes you can just throw to him. This guy is big, and he is even bigger down the field. When you get him in one-on-one situations down the field, chances are he is going to catch the football. Sometimes, when you give him two-on-one situations, he catches the football. He is unquestionably the best in the world at that. So, you couldn’t argue with throws to him in any juncture, really. (Q: Do you have to give Ike Taylor more help this week to cover Fitzgerald?) A: We are going to have to do a lot of things to try and slow this man down. (Q: How is Kevin Kolb doing?) A: He has been solid. Like what we talked about earlier, what Fitzgerald has done, of course, Kolb has been a part of that. But he is spreading the ball around. He is just not solely looking at him. Early Doucet is the number one receiver in the NFC in third-down conversions. He is spreading the ball around to several tight ends, Jeff King and Todd Heap. Also Rob Housler has done some nice things. He is doing a nice job of administering the offense. I am sure he is growing along the way. But he has done a nice job of handling things and being inclusive, but more importantly than anything else, he puts the ball where it is supposed to be at the appropriate times. (Q: Has LaMarr Woodley stepped it up? And if so, is that because he is getting more sacks or is it just because he has been given opportunities?) A: Probably both. (Q: How has he stepped it up?) A: He’s got more sacks. (Q: Did you see the incident between the 49ers and Lions, and have you ever seen anything like that?) A: No I haven’t. I saw the highlight. I really have no thoughts. I think it is the same sometimes, when we pay attention to things that are meaningless, insignificant. The story of the NFL should be on the game itself. That was a hard fought game played by two really good football teams, two exciting teams on the rise. I think that should be the story, not some unfortunate incident that happened after the game. I think that is silly. (Q: What goes into the hand shake at the end of the game?) A: I don’t practice it. I don’t think about it. I am just going to be cordial, be respectful and wish them well moving forward. I don’t know about the norms, okay. I don’t get into that. If I spend too much time thinking about the handshake, then I am not doing my job. (Q: Would you rather just nod?) A: It does not matter to me, at all..
Press conference1WW
Good afternoon. I guess I’ll start with an injury report, relative to the status of our men. Mewelde Moore continues to work his way back from his left, high-ankle sprain. I think the best way to characterize him at this point is questionable. We will see how he progresses throughout the week. Maurkice Pouncey was injured in the game. He was able to come back. He’s going to be fine with his right knee contusion. It may limit him at the early portions of the week but we expect him to participate. Jason Worilds continues to come back from his quad injury. I think we can characterize him as questionable this week. Marcus Gilbert, the same thing, with his left shoulder, and Casey Hampton, the same thing, with his right shoulder. James Harrison is out. Chris Kemoeatu has a left knee injury. His availability will be dictated by his ability to practice throughout the week. We expect Aaron Smith to miss another game with his right foot sprain. Some of the other guys that are trying to work their way back in: Cortez Allen is expected to work his way back in, Rashard Mendenhall continues to progress, as will Ben Roethlisberger with his left foot injury. We are moving in a positive direction with some of those things. Marcus Gilbert, being the new one, if he’s unable to participate we will swing Jonathan Scott over to right tackle like we did in the game last Sunday. In regards to last Sunday, it was a necessary response to bounce back from a sub-standard performance. It’s what we needed, particularly at home in front of our fans. We made the necessary plays in all three phases. I thought we got shots in the arm for portions of the game from all three phases. I thought the big element of the game, at least early on, was that we scored touchdowns instead of field goals. When you look at the Tennessee Titans, they are number one in the league in points allowed. Touchdowns are very tough to come by against them. I thought our ability to score touchdowns in those early possessions instead of kicking field goals was a shot in the arm for us. All in all, it was the necessary response from us. Hopefully we are a team that’s ready to move forward, and continue to build on a positive outing. I know that’s going to be drawn to our attentions as we formulate our plans this week, and put things in place as we get ready to deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I think the first place you start when you look at the Jaguars is Maurice Jones-Drew. Whether you talk about offense, defense or special teams, there’s probably no one in football that means more to their team than Maurice Jones-Drew, in terms of the things he’s capable of doing and the things he does. When you watch him on tape, he’s a very physical runner. He has great vision, power and speed. He’s not small; he’s just short. He has built in leverage. We’ve had issues, like many others, with him in the past. He’s a very competitive football player, and they put the ball in his hands. Maybe not as much in the passing game this year, as they have in the past, but I’d imagine that’s a function of them getting settled at the quarterback position. We expect that to increase. We have to not only defend this man in terms of the running game, but we have to be sharp against him in the passing game. That includes the screen game. If you look at what they’ve done up front, they have a nice group that they have put together. They have a nice blend of young and old. They have Brad Meester at center. He’s been around for a long time. The interesting element of the group is Eugene Monroe. He’s their left tackle. He’s a high-pedigree, first-rounder from the University of Virginia. The guy that plays alongside of him is Eben Britton. He’s another high-pedigree, high-round pick out of Arizona. Those two guys work really well in tandem together. On their toss plays, they utilize their skills, particularly Eugene Monroe’s, getting him out in open space. That’s been an asset to them. If you look at their wide receivers, it starts with their tight end, Marcedes Lewis. He is coming off a very productive year. He’s really made himself into a well-rounded player. People are very familiar with his receiving skills, ever since he played at UCLA. He’s really made himself into a good blocker. We have to deal with him on the perimeter and edges. Mike Thomas is the number one third-down receiver in the AFC. They give him the ball in a variety of ways. He’s a quick to speed young man. He’s very good in the screen game. He creates mismatches if you get him in the slot. He’s done an awesome job for those guys. They went through a quarterback switch and went with Gabbert, the young man out of Missouri, a few weeks back. He’s done a nice job acclimating himself. His pedigree is obvious when you look at the tape. He can make all the throws. He’s extremely mobile. They are doing a nice job in terms of helping him manage the game. You can see that when they get into third-down situations. They mix in the run quite frequently, and it’s effective. They also mix in the screen game, whether its running back screens or wide receiver screens, particularly when it’s third-and-long. I think they do a nice job of that. They’ve converted some third downs. Equally as important though, they’ve done a nice job protecting the young man, and allowed him to find rhythm. Defensively for them, the strength is in the unit. These guys are playing really good football. They are seventh or eighth in the league right now in total defense. They are doing a nice job of just keeping it simple. They hustle, hit and run to the football, very rarely are they out of place. They don’t miss runs or screens. When you talk about the people, I like their end combination with what they do with Jeremy Mincey and Matt Roth. Both of those guys are playing extremely hard and are very productive. We anticipate them adding Aaron Kampman to that mix. He’s a Pro Bowl-caliber guy. I don’t know how they intend to use him but we better have our antennas up, at least initially, to find out where he’s going to be located. His reputation is legitimate. They went out and got some free agents at the linebacker position, some veteran guys that know how to play. Paul Posluszny is in the middle. He’s a sideline to sideline, run and chase tackler. He’s also very good in pass defense. He’s touched quite a few footballs. Clint Session, he’s a Pitt man, is playing outside linebacker. He’s playing extremely well for them. The back end is led by Rashean Mathis. He is a solid veteran player. He has gotten after us pretty good in the past. I’ve seen him run with the football against us in stadiums a few times, probably a few too many times. He’s a good, solid veteran player. He’s a great tackler and cover man. I think the rest of the group mirrors him. They acquired Dawan Landry from Baltimore in free agency at the safety position. What they are doing at the nickel position with Drew Coleman, a man they picked up from the Jets, is probably as impressive as anything they do. He’s playing really well. He’s blitzing. He’s very good at underneath defense, whether he’s playing zone or man-to-man. He’s getting around the football quite a bit, and he’s making a bunch of splash plays for them. Number-30, we respect him and what his tape looks like at this point. From a special teams standpoint, they are solid there. Josh Scobee, I think, is perfect on the year with his kicks. We have a lot of work to do this week. We need to build on that performance. We have another AFC South team coming in here. We respect what is AFC football, and we understand what that means. We need to see a victory this week, and we are excited about preparing to do so. (Q: Who will replace Chris Kemoeatu if he cannot play?) A: We will let the week determine that. We are not going to talk hypothetically in regards to that. If he is able to prepare and practice, we will take a look at those scenarios and formulate what is the best group for us. But as of right now, he hasn’t practiced, and we will anticipate moving forward with Doug Legursky and Ramon Foster until his availability proves otherwise. (Q: How did Lawrence Timmons do?) A: I thought he did some nice things, particularly against the run. I think he had five or so tackles in the game, and he did a few more things than we even anticipated. He moved around late in the game in some sub-package football, allowing Chris Carter to do the simplest assignment when he was rotating. We value position flexibility. Lawrence has done it before. We expect him to do it, and do it well. It was a good start. He is going to have a few more weeks there, and we expect him to continue to improve. (Q: Re: Rashard Mendenhall’s hamstring:) A: I said we expect him to participate this week, and we will see where that participation leads us. (Q: Is he still the feature running back?) A: Again, we will let his level of health and participation in the work week dictate that. (Q: Will Worilds have a chance to start at ROLB if he is healthy?) A: As of right now, Timmons is going to be there. I don’t know how optimistic we are of Jason Worilds at this juncture. When a guy goes down in open grass with a quad injury, usually that means he will miss a couple weeks. (Q: Re: James Harrison’s return:) A: We are looking at roughly a month, based on what we are told. But again, every man is different, particularly guys that are wired like James. We will leave a seat on the bus for him, if you know what I mean. (Q: Re: Chris Hoke:) A: He did a nice job. We came up short a few times there early on. I think Chris Johnson reeled off a 20-yard run or so there early but he settled in, and we settled in very nicely and played extremely hard. Then it turned into a lot sub-package football. He needs to be prepared to play more snaps than he played a week ago. (Q: Is it easier for rookie QBs to play in this league now?) A: I think in general, unless you are talking about somebody who is really talented, most of the time it is just a man seizing an opportunity, and the opportunity has nothing to do with what he has done but what is going on around him. I think that is the case with many rookies’ play regardless of position but especially with the quarterback position. (Q: Do they have a limited play book with Blaine Gabbert, or is it wide open?) A: Again, they have done a nice job of managing situations. I wouldn’t say it is a limited playbook. I say they manage situations, and they keep him out of hotspots, third-and-long and things of that nature. They have done a nice job of managing it and helping him remain in rhythm. (Q: Why do you think Jacksonville has lost four in a row?) A: I think when you are going through the type of transition that they have at the quarterback position, not only here recently but dating back to the week prior to the start of the regular season, there is going to be a period of adjustment. They let David Garrard go the week before the opener. Then of course, they went with Luke (McXown), and then they made the transition to Blaine. In the last month, they have had three primary signal callers, and I think that creates a tough transition period. I think they are doing a nice job managing it, playing to their strengths, utilizing Maurice Jones-Drew. That’s a great place to start, and I think they have been really salty on defense. (Q: Will Max Starks need time to get the soreness out?) A: I hope he doesn’t because he won’t receive any. We have work to do. (Q: Re: Bryant McFadden:) A: I think he is getting pretty close to healthy. At this point we have liked what the other guys have done in the interim, talking about William Gay and Keenan Lewis. Such is life in the NFL though. When those guys step up and are given an opportunity and play at a high level, than you are not going to fix it if it’s not broken. McFadden has done a nice job of working while he is waiting for his opportunity to get back into the rotation, and to me, those are all good issues to have. We have a reliable veteran cornerback that we know is capable of playing good football and is moving closer to 100% health, and we have some guys who have answered the call in the interim and have showed us that they are capable of playing salty football. So those are good issues. (Q: What is the difference between last year’s pass defense and this year?) A: I’m not ready to characterize it in that way. Last year’s 19 or 20 games, that body of work, and at this point we are just four or five games into this body of work, so I am not ready to look for any trends or anything of that nature to this point. I think we are doing a nice job of keeping the ball in front of us, challenging throws, and that is a nice place to start. (Q: Re: Isaac Redman:) A: I thought he did a nice job but that is kind of what we expected. Isaac is not an unknown commodity in terms of what he is capable of doing with the ball in his hands, as a blitz pick-up guy and all of the things that encompass being a running back for us. So we were pleased but not surprised. (Q: Was Jonathan Dwyer’s big play a pleasant surprise?) A: I wouldn’t necessarily call that a surprise. Since Jonathan has been here, I think he has always made it very evident that running the football is something that he does well. But we are more pleased with some of the other things that he did in the game and other things that come with being a professional running back. He made two tackles on kick coverage units. He did a nice job there. He is growing in all areas, and that is what is going to be required for him to continue to move forward and retain his helmet as some of those guys who are injured get healthy. (Q: Is it easier or harder to defend a player who makes up a large portion of a team’s offense?) A: It doesn’t necessarily make is easier. It just depends on the level of success that they are able to have that day. You look at some other guys that make up big portions of their teams’ offense, like Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. It doesn’t make those guys any easier to defend. So we are not going into this thing with the mindset that they are going to be easy to defend, because we know who their primary ball carrier is going to be. We have a lot of respect for him. He gets those amounts of totes and gets that percentage of the offense because he is very capable. (Q: Re: Fake punt:) A: I think some of those things probably get a little more play than they deserve. We are ready to go with things such as that every week. It doesn’t always unfold. Sometime we check out at the line of scrimmage. It is just part of our football. (Q: Re: Special teams:) A: I think we have been kind of feast or famine. We have created some big plays but we have also given up some big plays. We recognize moving forward that giving up big plays could reduce our chances of winning and by that I mean that we have had a kick blocked and punt blocked here in the last two weeks. We have had some splash, no doubt. But those negative plays, we have to eliminate, and eliminate them in a hurry if we want that unit to continue to be an asset for us. (Q: Re: Ben’s mobility last game:) A: I don’t know if he moved as he normally does but he moved well enough. (Q: On an onside kick, can the other team hit your player when he tries to catch the ball?) A: Yes. (Q: How does that differ from any other kick?) A: Once that ball goes past 10 yards, it’s free. That’s just football-101. (Q: He doesn’t become a receiver?) A: Once the ball hits the ground in the manner in which it did before it went the 10 yards, he cannot fair catch it. It’s a live ball. It’s a free for all. That’s why people like doing it. That’s why we have to have guys over there like Arnaz Battle ready to field it. It’s not an easy endeavor by any stretch. I wish it did go in the air without hitting the ground. Then we could have put up a fair catch sign and not gotten abused like we did. (Q: Re: A false start penalty but the play isn’t blown dead:) A: Your guess is as good as mine. I am still trying to figure it out. I know that Byron Boston, who was on our side, was blowing the whistle. I don’t know if any other whistles were being blown, and that runner was running. It’s unfortunate. We just have to a better job of continuing to emphasize the whistle in the game of football, in my opinion. (Q: Was that play accurately enforced?) A: It was, based on the rule. If you have two fouls on the play, the personal foul is going to trump the other one. My contention is that if we are contingent on blowing the whistle, those actions don’t even occur. (Q: Re: Dwyer and Weslye Saunders playing on special teams:) A: Weslye did a nice job. He’s a big gun but he can run. They are just joining other bodies that are capable of helping us win. Arnaz Battle is on that unit. Emmanuel Sanders has been on that unit for the better part of the year and a half that he’s been here. We subscribe to the “more that you can do” theory. Just because they are offensive players doesn’t mean that they aren’t capable of covering kicks. Arnaz Battle continues to illustrate that, as does Emmanuel Sanders. Now we are looking at a couple of new guys that can show that as well in Weslye Saunders and Jonathan Dwyer. (Q: Are people starting to kick away from Antonio Brown?) A: I don’t know. I don’t know if he’s done enough to dictate that at this point. He hasn’t even gone to the house. I think they are going to kick it to him.
Press conference0WW
Good afternoon. I will quickly start with our injury report. We have some new and kind of significant injuries to discuss. I will start with James Harrison. He has a right orbital fracture around his eye socket. That’s going to be fixed tomorrow. Needless to say he is going to be out for a number of weeks. I will have more details regarding that injury and the rate of recovery after he has that surgical procedure tomorrow to have that fixed. Cortez Allen has a right ankle sprain that will make him questionable. Casey Hampton has a right shoulder contusion, that may limit him. We will see how he works this week. Rashard Mendenhall has a right hamstring strain. That may limit him at the early portions of the week. Mewlede Moore has a left ankle sprain. That’s more severe. His participation in this game is questionable. Aaron Smith has a right mid-foot sprain. The same thing can be said there. His participation in this game is extremely questionable. Jason Worilds has a left quad strain. His participation is doubtful. Ben Roethlisberger had his foot x-rayed and had an MRI. Thankfully nothing is broken there. It is a sprain. It may limit him at the early portions of the week but we anticipate him being able to participate in this football game. Some of the other guys that have missed time due to injuries in the recent weeks, we anticipate having them back, Doug Legursky being one of them, Jonathan Scott being another and Bryant McFadden among others. That’s kind of the injury lineup if you will. Obviously, we have some adjustments that need to take place in terms of who is playing where and preparations, now specifically at the outside linebacker position with two linebackers being out. We believe that deems necessary to move Lawrence Timmons to right outside linebacker. We are going to do that. He’s going to play there. Larry Foote will play inside. We will go on with that group. Lawrence has practiced there and played there before. Larry Foote is no stranger to the “Mack” linebacker position. We anticipate those guys will play winning football for us. Our performance in Houston, in some areas it leaves a lot to be desired. In other areas I thought some things were very encouraging. The reality is that it was a losing effort. We have to get better. We can’t continue to make some of the mistakes we have made and think that we are going to beat good people, particularly at their place. I thought we were in the game. I thought the guys fought. I thought we had an opportunity to do some things in the second half. It didn’t come together for us. We created too big of a hole for ourselves to get out of. And we weren’t able to make sufficient enough plays to win. That being said, it’s a new week for us. We have a new challenge in the Tennessee Titans. They are extremely hot. They’ve won three straight games. They have a bunch of talented people. Thankfully we are playing them in the comforts of Heinz Field. We look forward to and appreciate the support of our fans. We are going to need it. Looking at Tennessee and what they’ve done here in the 2011 season, Matt Hasselbeck has done an awesome job for these guys. He’s done a very good job of taking care of the football. They’ve gotten yards in chunks. He’s spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers. Kenny Britt was doing great things before he got injured. Nate Washington and Matt have hooked up quite a bit. They’ve got a great rapport. Nate, I think, is the number one third-down receiver in the AFC. They have Chris Johnson running the football. And how we’ve defended the run recently makes that a doubly important challenge for us. I understand that they’ve had issues of their own in terms of running the football. You will see two scalded groups playing in that regard on Sunday. I look forward to our guys preparing for him. We’ve played him a lot recently. We know what he’s capable of. He’s a very dangerous man anytime he gets the ball in his hands. They do a nice job creating schemes for him and creating a package of plays that lean on his strengths as a runner. They have big, strong people up front. Their right tackle, Dave Stewart, is a special player. They have some vertical threat tight ends, guys that are capable of displacing themselves from the core. Jared Cook went 80 yards last weekend. They also have some guys in that group that are very good at blocking, veteran guys like Daniel Graham and Craig Stevens, a third-year man out of Washington. They have a well-rounded offense. I really think the acquisition of Matt Hasselbeck has been critical to that unit. He’s doing a nice job as their signal caller and field general and keeping these guys moving the football and winning games. Defensively, they play with a similar personality that they’ve always played with in recent years. Their front four is very disruptive. They play a lot of people. That group is led by Jason Jones. We’ve seen quite a bit of him in recent years. He’s been problematic for us, getting him blocked. He’s a very good pass rusher. Others like Dave Ball and William Hayes add to that group. But again when you talk about this group it’s about the strength and numbers in this group. They play as many as seven and eight people during the course of a football game in a regular rotation. They have a good linebacker core, a veteran core. Will Witherspoon has been joined by Barrett Ruud. Ruud was a free agent acquisition from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He plays in the middle. Akeem Ayers has done some nice things for them. He’s a young linebacker from UCLA. In the secondary, I think the first place you start is with Cortland Finnegan. This guy really plays with a high motor. He’s very aware and disruptive. He’s a really good football player. He added some new tricks to his bag. This guy has played in the slot in the nickel. He’s really doing a nice job as an underneath, zone-defender, poaching people and defending some of the throws and things you see in underneath coverage. He’s doing a nice job of that as well as playing cornerback. Their safety group is rock solid with Michael Griffin and Chris Hope. They’ve been back their together for a number of years. They really do a nice job of complementing one another. They are capable of going into the box and playing with depth. Needless to say we have a worthy opponent, one that we respect and one that’s extremely hot. They’ve won three straight games. We have to get prepared to play these guys. We have a lot of preparation to do, not only from the quality of our play, but the assimilation and placement of our people. And we need to gain cohesion in that way. We look forward to utilizing the week. (Q: Any doubt that Ben will be ready to go Sunday?) A: I think we are going to let the week speak to us. We are going to be prudent in our approach. We are going to have a package of plays ready for Charlie Batch if that is the case. But based on the information that I have right now we anticipate him being limited in the early portions of this week and being able to be in form by the weekend. (Q: With Marcus Gilbert and Doug Legursky coming back, how do you see the offensive line responding?) A: With those guys, if they are capable of playing, we are going to reinsert them into the lineup and proceed. (Q: With Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall limited, is Isaac Redman next up in the order?) A: If Rashard’s injury does prevent him from playing, obviously that will mean that Isaac Redman will be the feature runner. With both guys, at the very least they are nursing injuries at the early portion of the week, it is obvious that Redman is going to get the bulk of the action and we expect Jonathan Dwyer to ready himself to contribute as well, if the opportunity presents itself. (Q: Re: Bringing someone in at running back:) A: For practice purposes we are going to look to at least bring in someone who is capable of being Chris Johnson-like in preparation this week. There are two elements when you prepare for a football game, not only in terms of what we are doing with our running backs, obviously with the injuries we have, to be thoughtful with how we prepare our guys and get these guys ready to play but also to get ready to defend the run against a guy like Chris Johnon. When you have injuries, it’s interesting because we need guys capable of showing us what Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans are capable of doing in the run game. So that is where our interests are at this point. We will make those decisions here relatively quickly this afternoon. (Q: With Harrison and possibly Jason Worilds out, what do you do with that spot?) A: Again we are going to move Lawrence to outside linebacker. We are going to move Larry Foote to “Mack” linebacker. Of course, we’ve got Chris Carter as a young outside linebacker and Stevenson Sylvester who has played both inside and outside. (Q: Any update on Brett Keisel?) A: We anticipate him being back. His participation at the early portions of the week is going to guide us in that regard. But again, based on where he is and based on some of the run tests and stuff that he did the ladder part of last week, we feel comfortable that he is going to be able to participate in this game. As far as how we have defended the run of late, that has nothing to do with Brett Keisel’s absence. We have capable men who play and who need to do a better job. (Q: How much of it is getting beat physically versus mentally?) A: It had been a little bit of both. In many instances it’s always the case when you are not performing as you would like. There is a fine line in performing well and sub-standard. Some of the mistakes are mental, some are physical. They are not all centrally located in one person or position. But when you add those things up over the course of a football game, you get 8-10 snaps where someone is letting you down either mentally or physically. Then you have the opportunity to give up some big yards. Really, that is what we have to get more consistent in, assignments and techniques in terms of defending the run, and that is what we intend to do. (Q: Re: Greater sense of urgency:) A: We better have a sense of urgency. I think anytime you are coming off of a sub-standard performance when you lose, there needs to be a sense of urgency in terms of how you bounce back. But we are not going to make something out of this that it’s not. We understand that we are capable of playing better. We expect to play better. We know where the solutions lie, of course within us, and how we prepare and ultimately how we perform. We have to get better technically. We have to get better from an assignment standpoint, not only on defense but also on offense and special teams, and that is what this week is about for us. (Q: Will Cameron Heyward replace Aaron Smith?) A: It depends on the availability of Brett Keisel. (Q: Re: Harrison injury:) A: I know very little. I’ve been told that he broke his orbital bone and that it is going to require surgery tomorrow and they will have more details tomorrow on the rate of the recovery when he comes out of surgery. That’s about all I know. I’m sorry. (Q: Is his vision okay?) A: Any time you are talking about the orbital bone, I think you need to get it fixed. Again, I am not doctor. And I don’t pretend to be one. (Q: Does the limited number of padded practices affect how you prepare for a game?) A: In the big scheme of things it does but we also have some flexibility in terms of how we allocate those padded practice days. This week might be one of those weeks when we dial up a mulligan. (Q: What do you mean?) A: We may practice multiple times in pads this week. You are allowed to do that at least once during the regular season. There’s no time like the present, given how we’ve performed and in terms of putting people in positions to play this week. (Q: Would Worilds have started if he wasn’t hurt?) A: He definitely would have been in the discussion, because we like some of the things he’s done, not only in terms of practice but in terms of what he’s done in football games when given the opportunity. (Q: Re: “Defense being too old,” keeps coming up:) A: I really don’t care to be honest with you. I don’t care how our performances are characterized or the reasons why. We are not into making excuses or explanations. This is a bottom line business. And the bottom line is what we have on tape. That’s not good enough right now. We are going to continue to work diligently to make sure it is. (Q: Re: Redman and Moore having success last week running the football:) A: I think it’s a product of us starting slow and really finding our rhythm, specifically in the last game. Our inability to run the football or find rhythm early in the game was because the Houston Texans possessed the ball for 21 out of the first 30 minutes of the game. We accept responsibility for that because we didn’t do a good enough job converting third downs until that last drive before halftime. We felt good about our run plan going into the game. We stuck with the plan and we were able to move the football, running it in the second half. Unfortunately, due to injury, some of that didn’t include Rashard. We are not going to read into that more than what it is. We will evaluate these guys in the early portions of the week in terms of their availability, and of course we are going to play healthy guys. We have a great deal of confidence in all of these guys. All of these guys have had their moments in time, not only this year but in the past. We have a good stable of backs. (Q: Re: Taking for granted stopping the run:) A: I don’t think that’s an element of football that you take for granted. I will say that there are not many football elements that you do take for granted. That’s definitely not one of them. (Q: What did you do well against the Texans?) A: I thought we stuck to our plan in terms of running the football. I thought we came out in the third quarter and established that presence and rhythm. We moved the ball a little bit and controlled the clock. We were able to keep our defense off the field some. After the big run, the 42-yard run that put them up by seven, our defense got the necessary stops at the end of the game to provide us an opportunity to score. Not only were they stops, they were quick stops. I think there were three straight three-and-outs, which is what you desire. We had good field position on a punt return late in the ball game that also gave us an opportunity to tie the game up. We had our opportunities. We just didn’t do enough good things in all three phases to win the football game. (Q: What are teams doing so well to run the football against your defense?) A: We aren’t playing the run as well. I really think it’s quite simple. Like I said after the game and I’ve said recently, there’s nothing mystical about our issues, specifically in terms of stopping the run. We need to be better technically. We have to whoop blocks and make tackles. (Q: Re: Coach Mike Munchak:) A: I haven’t thought a lot about that. He’s new to the position but not new to the Titans. He was their offensive line coach. So a lot of their personality and things, at least from the running game, remain the same. They are still flying around and playing defense with a great deal of intensity. When I look at this group, I see a group that’s very similar philosophically to what they’ve been in the past. They’ve been doing a nice job, and I tip my hat to coach Munchak for getting his unit off to a great start, particularly over the past three weeks. (Q: Why are the Titans struggling to run the football?) A: It’s not an instant thing, particularly with some of the things that occurred during the offseason. They had to assimilate new people to new positions, new coaches to the coaching staff. They were a new staff. It is a process. I am sure they are going to remain dedicated and diligent in terms of how they work and improve. (Q: Re: The team’s attitude:) A: I think they are hacked off and they should be. We haven’t performed close enough to what we expect. We’ve lost games because of it, specifically we lost last week. We look forward to preparing and playing this week in front of our home fans, and hopefully righting this thing. (Q: Will you put Bryant McFadden in if he is healthy or will you continue to rotate?) A: I like what’s going on with some of the men. We will let his level of participation over the course of the week dictate how we get him back into the mix. (Q: Re: Chop blocking:) A: I can’t speak to league trends. There doesn’t appear to be more chop blocking, at least in recent years. I know that we are probably not seeing any more chop blocks than we’ve seen in recent years. We’ve played better than we are playing it right now, and we need to continue to get back to that. (Q: Did you ever figure out what Mike Wallace said when he got penalized?) A: No I did not. It really doesn’t matter. Like I said after the game, regardless of what was said or how it was said, it was deemed a penalty. We can’t have pre-snap and post-play penalties. That’s us beating us. We had 45 yards or so of those types of penalties offensively, counting the penalty by Maurkice Pouncey. We had three false starts offensively. That’s not conducive to winning football. We met on that and acknowledged that yesterday. Hopefully that won’t continue. (Q: What does that say about James Harrison, playing with that type of injury?) A: That’s nothing that probably hasn’t been said about James Harrison. He’s James Harrison. (Q: Does a hamstring injury have to be fully recovered for a running back to play?) A: No. I am not going to say that. It has to be above the line. We will lean on our medical experts in terms of guiding us in that area with Rashard. (Q: Does working on fundamentals affect your defense making splash plays?) A: No. We can strike a good balance in terms of that. It’s not like all of a sudden we are drawing up new defenses or new blitzes this week. Many of the blitzes we employ during a course of a football game have been there since the very beginning of this thing. We are not concerned about striking a balance in that regard. That’s not an issue. (Q: Re: LaMarr Woodley:) A: He’s played about two-and-two, probably about how I’ve coached and the rest of us have played. He’s had his moments. He’s done some good things but not enough for us to be as successful as we’d like or for him to be as successful as he would like. (Q: Re: Similarities between Chris Johnson and Arian Foster:) A: They are different runners. Very little in the NFL is comparable to Johnson from a speed standpoint. Foster is a unique runner, in terms of contact, balance, strength, cutting ability and vision. They are both different and both special. (Q: Does playing on the road three of the first four weeks play into anything?) A: No. (Q: Re: Punt returners catching the ball inside the 10-yard line:) A: I think the days of having hard and fast judgments along those lines are done. Punters are simply too good. They have pinpoint accuracy. The evolution of this rugby punt, with bounce control after the ball hits the ground; I think it’s changing that. The reality is that if you think the ball has a chance of getting to the endzone you let it go. If you don’t, you play the football.
Press conference3WL
Good afternoon. I guess I will start with the injury report since we have a significant number of people to talk about. Chris Carter played in the game. It was his first game. He experienced some soreness. We will evaluate his hamstring. He should be able to practice this week and participate. Marcus Gilbert looks like he is going to be ok from his left shoulder injury. We anticipate him practicing and playing. Arnaz Battle has some swelling in his right knee. His participation this week will be determined by his ability to practice. We will see where Brett Keisel is this week. You can say the same thing for him, coming back from his PCL sprain. He is working hard. We will see if he is able to practice. If he is, we will gauge whether or not we will allow him to participate. Doug Legursky can be characterized as questionable with his left shoulder injury. The same can be said for Jonathan Scott with his left ankle sprain. Again their availability will be determined by their ability to practice this week. In regards to some of the offensive line things, we may be open to bring someone in. We haven’t made any definitive plans in that regard yet. We will let the participation of these men dictate what we do in that area. I am swapping our padded practices up this week. We are just going with helmets only on Wednesday. We will carry our shoulder pads on Thursday. We believe that approach will help us deal with some of these injuries, and be inclusive in terms of practice and give some guys an opportunity to practice Wednesday, and give them another day, 24 hours or so to participate on Thursday. Some other minor things, Jerricho Cotchery is moving closer. We anticipate him being a candidate to play this week. That’s the same for Bryant McFadden. Mike Wallace suffered a rib cartilage injury in the game. We will see what his availability is at the early parts of the week in terms of practice but it shouldn’t prohibit him from playing. In regards to our performance, it was great going into a hostile environment and win a game. We were not perfect by any stretch. We are still very much a team in development. It was very encouraging to see necessary plays in all three phases in a close football game in a hostile environment to make the necessary plays to win. I saw it offensively with the last drive, 2:09, and having to go down and kick a field goal. I saw a timely turnover defensively delivered by James Harrison, and of course capitalized by Troy Polamalu. I saw some exciting things in the special teams’ game, particularly in our punt return game. They were all encouraging signs. We are still developing as a team. I think that anybody who is not saying that this time of the year is probably mistaken. The important thing is that we do enough to win games as we go through this process, and we were able to do that. It doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of our performance last week is going to produce anything this week. We acknowledge we are playing a very tough opponent. The Houston Texans are a 2-1 football team. They are coming off a stinging loss to the New Orleans Saints. They are a quality outfit. They have quality players in all three phases. Offensively I think the first thing you notice is that they have great continuity. Coach Gary Kubiak has been there six years. They pretty much have maintained the same offensive scheme over that time. Matt Schaub has settled in nicely at quarterback. His skill set lends itself to how they play football with the zone-scheme running and misdirection passing. His number one target is arguably the best receiver in the world in Andre Johnson. I have a great deal of respect for him. When you talk about defending him, you talk about containing him, not stopping him. If they are committed, and I know that they will be, they will get the ball in his hands, using a myriad of formations, shifts and motions. Their tight ends are excellent. Owen Daniels is very good and has been for a number of years. They have a new multi-faceted player in James Casey