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Bye Week: Tuesday Transcripts

Posted Oct 22, 2013

Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg

Jerry, I don’t know if you saw this, but because of the Patriots call at the end of the game with the field goal, there were reports that after what happened in the Miami game, with Caleb Sturgis’ final kick, the NFL kind of sent a memo saying that’s going to be cracked down upon. The Dolphins were alleging that Chris Canty kind of pushed Art Jones. Were you aware … (Jeff Zrebiec) “I’m not really sure what you are referring to. I guess I’ve been kind of out of that loop.”

Did you see the Patriots play? (Jeff Zrebiec) “No, I have not. Sorry, I’m not very well informed on other things. I’m not sure … ”

The Patriots got a flag after one of the guys behind pushed a blocker forward on the final field goal, and they got a 15-yard flag. [The Jets] winded up making the field goal, because they moved it up, and it’s been a point of emphasis with the NFL after the Dolphins complained, because they said you guys did that on the final field goal of that game. (Jeff Zrebiec) “I really have not heard anything about that exchange between anyone on what was said or anything. So, I guess I can’t comment on it.”

Is that something though, the rule that was changed this year, that you guys have worked on? (Jeff Zrebiec) “What have we worked on? I’m not sure I understand.”

The rule – not doing that. Not having people push. (Jeff Zrebiec) “You’re talking about no pushing of other plays on field goal? Yes, correct. That was a rule change this year.”

Is that something you’ve emphasized throughout the season? (Jeff Zrebiec) “We’re just trying to follow the rules, certainly. We don’t want any fouls. That, and all of the other rules, we’re trying to follow.”

John Harbaugh talked yesterday quite a bit about wanting to find players who are committed to really wanting to play special teams. How much of it has been just the reality of this team having a lot of turnover in the offseason, lots of young players that you’re relying on that maybe you didn’t have to in past years when you had guys like Brendon Ayanbadejo and Sean Considine? How much of that is a factor in terms of what you do special teams-wise? (Luke Jones) “Every year, the team takes on a whole different makeup. This year is no different. We don’t have Sean, we don’t have Brendon, but that’s happened before in previous years. Every year you have to reload, and different guys – even the guys that are still here – may have a different role depending on the makeup of your squad. So, in that regard, this year is no different. Perhaps we have more, perhaps we have less in a given year, but it’s my responsibility to make sure the guys we do have playing are ready to play. And that’s why we have offseason, that’s why we have preseason games, and I don’t anticipate that it will be any different next year either. You’re always going to have a different group of men that you work with; it’s just the nature of our league. The guys that are there have got to play, and they’ve got to play well. That’s the reality of it. Whether they’re young or old, whether they’re experienced or not, they have to play well when Sunday comes.”

Jerry, just to make clear on what Jeff Zrebiec was talking about … Were you aware that the Dolphins complained about that field goal? (Jamison Hensley) “No, I was not.”

Have you reviewed that play? Because I haven’t seen it. (Jamison Hensley) “We review all plays. Right, that was one of the plays we reviewed.”

Were you aware … From your vantage point, did it look like that maybe there was a push? I didn’t see it. (Jamison Hensley) “I’m not familiar with this whole conversation, so I really don’t know what exactly has been said or what was not said or what happened this weekend. I’m not familiar with the whole conversation, so I really can’t comment on it.”

As far as the onside kick, and John Harbaugh talked about it … You guys had seen that you thought you would have an opportunity against Pittsburgh if the situation presented itself to run that play. How frustrating is it when the execution doesn’t come in the way that it didn’t on Sunday, and in reality, how difficult is it to practice something like that? (Luke Jones) “When you put a special play like that up for a given game, there’s risk involved, and we all understand that. It’s no different than a fake field goal or a fake punt or some kind of a reverse that you might run. The same thing on offense as well, when you dial up certain plays that are risk/reward plays. On that particular play, we thought the risk was worth the reward, and at that point in time, we had made a decision that it was there – it was good enough that we could get it. We didn’t get it, because we didn’t execute the play very well. And to their credit, they saw the tip, and he jumped it. And he did a really good job; he took out the guy that was going to recover it, and they recovered the ball. Now, our execution needs to be a lot better on plays like that. In the practice that we practiced [that play], it looked much better than it did in the game. Whether it was because of the heat of the moment or trying to make sure that we were safe and execute it without error, we just didn’t execute it very well.”

Do you think the field conditions at Heinz Field affected some of the kickoffs in general? (Jeff Zrebiec) “It always does. Anytime you’re kicking on a field that’s loose – and even grass is different than artificial surfaces – when you’re on an artificial surface you can trust your plant, and you can go put your foot in the ground and swing bravely, because you know that your foot is not going to give out on you. On a grass surface, even a good grass surface, it is different. And that surface, especially at that point in the game where there had been a lot of play on it, been a lot of play on it the night before, you can’t necessarily trust your plant as much. And that particular plant obviously didn’t sink like he had hoped, and the ball didn’t come out as he had hoped, and any of us had hoped for that matter. But that’s just the nature of football. You’re not always going to have pristine conditions, and mind you, that’s what makes this game interesting. There’s the Super Bowl in January in New York, so that’s going to be part of the flavor of that particular game. And when we’re playing in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Chicago, the field conditions and the weather conditions are part of the game. And the team that handles it the best is the team that typically is able to win the game, and that’s our job to be ready to handle the situations.”

With the churning that has taken place at the bottom of the roster, has it made it difficult to build a cohesive coverage group when you’re shifting so many guys every week? (Jeff Zrebiec) “I guess I don’t look at it that way. I look at it from this perspective: The guys that are up and have a helmet and shoulder pads on are the guys that have to play. And whether guys are down because of injury or some other reason, that’s really not the issue. For us, the guys that are suited up and on the sideline, with their helmet in their hand, those are the guys that we’re going to play with. And it’s not different for any other team, so in my view, it’s a level playing field. It doesn’t really make any difference; we all have the same number of players up, so we have to make the best roster on Sunday that can help us win in all phases. It’s not just for special teams; it’s for offense and defense, too. Sometimes those numbers change because of the same reasons, where we need another tight end, or we need another offensive lineman, or we need another running back, or more wideouts, the game plan might favor that. Or if the other team perhaps has four wideouts in the game, we need another ‘DB.’ So, all of that ties into the whole team aspect of football. The guys that are up have got to play; that’s just the way it is.”

 

Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell

What are you going to do this week in terms of evaluating, assessing and improving? (Jarrett Bell) “We look at everything. We try to make certain that we look at every single detail. Obviously, you take a great look at yourself, just in terms of what the opposition is looking at. You try and make a determination on what they’re playing against you and why. You do this on a weekly basis, but this is the time where you get the chance to reflect on the entire season and look at it as a whole. The thing is that there are a lot of things that we haven’t been doing well. We haven’t been running the ball very well. I think we got a little bit better last week, but we’re still not where we’d like to be in terms of our standards. That’s going to be our main focus. We take what we learn from our weaknesses, try to make those our strengths and really work on our weaknesses out here during this time of the week. You have to look at everything with personnel to see if you’re absolutely at your best and try to make decisions accordingly this week to get ready for next week.”

Why was the run game better this week than in the past couple? (Jarrett Bell) “We’ve just been up and down. That’s kind of how the season has gone. I think against Miami we rushed for 133 yards in that game. We did some things decently, ran it a few times there; I think we ran it 40 times in that ball game. This game, we spread them out a little bit and had a little success. Our tempo was good, I think, so we were a little bit better. I think all in all … Execution, fundamentals, technique – we have to keep getting better at them. We’ve got to keep chasing it.”

Like you mentioned, you spread [Pittsburgh] out with three wide primarily for the whole game on Sunday. What were your impressions after watching it and seeing how the guys adjusted to going to a little different wrinkle? (Jamison Hensley) “I think they adjusted pretty well. I do think that we’re not even close to where we need to be, but I do think that they handled it pretty well. It was something that we hadn’t done in totality. We were in it a little more than normal, but every week is different. That’s the thing about offensive football: You have to adjust and change according to who you see and who you’re facing with what you think best suits your personnel against those individuals.”

How much did the injuries at wide receiver and the new faces getting worked in early in the season affect how much you’ve opened things up in the passing game? Now that you have a lot of guys healthy at wide receiver, have you seen anything different these past couple of weeks? (Matt Vensel) “Oftentimes, you find that – due to necessity – you end up building a bit more depth. That’s what happened to us for the most part. Typically, a Marlon Brown might not have gotten the number of reps that he’s gotten up to this point. We were limited in terms of the number of guys that we had, so he’s been able to get a lot of work, develop and get better. Now with Jacoby [Jones] coming back and getting a few more guys back on the field, it enables us to mix it up a little bit. ‘D.T.’ [Deonte Thompson] is back, and we can get the ball downfield a little bit more often with a wide variety of guys.”

Ray Rice said that the bye week is a chance to figure out the offensive identity. Do you feel like at this point of the season, you’re still trying to figure out what that identity is? (Garrett Downing) “It’s one of those things where we know how we want to play – we do know that. We’re a physical team, and it doesn’t matter if we line up in three wide receivers, two wide receivers or whatever it might be. We want to be able to run the football, and that’s important to us. That part of it, I don’t think there’s any question. Now, do we develop it and get it where it’s precise and functioning like it’s supposed to? That’s what we’ll try to do this week is look at some of the things that have been giving it some problems and really try to work on those things as well.”

His numbers don’t really pop out at you, but how do you think Joe Flacco has performed in this unofficial first half of the season? (Matt Vensel) “Obviously, he’s never been a big numbers guy because of the fact that he’s a very unselfish person. He’s not one of those guys who is looking to pad his stats or anything of that nature. I think you see it in the last game that Joe [Flacco] has been playing solid football. He’s always been a guy that has not turned the ball over much. The one thing he knows and understands is how to win games. I think he’s done a fine job of that, just in terms of our young guys – working with them. He’s been working through with some new guys, some new faces. I think that process has been going along well. Every single day – even a day like today – we got better today. We’re a little bit better, and a lot of that is because of him. He’s done a really good job of developing a rapport, and you’re just going to continue to see him grow and get better. He’s throwing the ball well. Last game, I think he may have been 71 percent [accurate] or something like that. He’s throwing the ball accurately, and he’s getting better and better at that all the time.”

With having Jacoby [Jones] and Deonte [Thompson] and their deep threat back, could you see more shots downfield? I know you guys have taken shots, but even more to take advantage of those guys? (Matt Vensel) “We have to really play to our strengths and use what we have. I would tell you all of the above. The running game is important to us and stretching the field in terms of our passing game is also important, vertically and horizontally. The vertical stuff, we obviously have guys that can get down the field and do that. We also have guys who can spread you out and work the seams and have good spacing awareness as well.”

Ray Rice was talking the other day after the game about how good he felt physically and that he’s coming along well with the hip. How did he look during the course of that game to you? (Matt Zenitz) “Ray [Rice] did some nice things in the game. When he tells you he feels better, obviously, you have to go by that. From what we’ve seen on film, I would agree with him. He’s moving in the right direction, feeling good about where he is, and his words can tell you a little bit better than I could. I see Ray just getting better and better as time goes.”

Observers have made an observation that when you took over late last year was the use of the middle of the field a little bit more in the passing game. Have you been satisfied with the use of the middle of the field this year? Obviously, you lost [Anquan] Boldin. Dennis Pitta you haven’t had, but is that something you’d like to see improve? (Luke Jones) “‘Satisfied’ and ‘coaching’ are not two synonymous terms. We’re never satisfied with where we are and what we’ve been doing. We think we can get better in all those areas. Yes, we think we can throw the ball a little bit more; we think we can stretch the ball down the middle a little bit more. We think we can do better in terms of making certain that we put our players in the best possible position, so they can make plays for us according to their strengths. All of those we’ve got to continue to look at and develop. We’re not quite satisfied with where we are in any phase.”

It did seem like the offensive line played better in the run game and in pass protection against Pittsburgh. I’m just curious of your assessment of the offensive line. (Matt Zenitz) “I think you’re assessment is correct. You’re statement is correct. They did play better in terms of protection. I think the pocket was clean. They did a nice job working together. Obviously, Pittsburgh is not an easy team to prepare for. They give you a lot of different looks, different fronts and different adjustments you have to make in your passing game and protections. They also give you problems in the run game, because they’re so active in the run. In both cases, I think there was improvement. Now is it where we want to be? Absolutely not, not even close. But yes, there was some improvement.”

Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees

What did you see in the run defense when you reviewed the tape? Were guys just not getting off blocks? (Aaron Wilson) “It wasn’t that. The problem was that we got off blocks too fast. There were a couple times … The first play of the game, we got the guy stuffed … Maybe it was the second play because the first play was a pass … The first run of the game, we got the guy stuffed in the hole, and then we just kind of jump off a block a little too quick. We’re a little too impatient, and [Le’Veon] Bell is a patient runner, and he ended up cutting it all the way back on us right into a blitz. And everything was good until we just jumped off the block, and then he found the crease. That happened to us about three or four times during the course of the game that we got off blocks actually too quick. And this guy is a pretty patient runner on their draw plays and the stuff that they’re doing with him. He’s taking his time back there, and he’s got good vision, so we’ve got to be a lot more patient than what we were in that game.”

Is there anything common to the last two weeks, as you gave up similar yardage against rookie backs? (Aaron Wilson) “The week before was big plays to me. You started the game against Green Bay, as I recall, with two big plays they broke out on us. We played the play just terrible, and they gained 37 yards. And then they got 10 yards. And then really until later on, we ran a blitz in the wrong gap, and they ran right through the gap we were supposed to be in, and they end up hitting I think an 18-yarder. So, 60-some yards of that last week was on three big plays. [The Pittsburgh game] wasn’t as much big plays as just as kind of bleeding us – six, seven, eight yards – which really created a second problem, and that’s third down, which we’ve been very good at. But I’ve said it before: It’s hard to be good on third down when it’s third-and-one and third-and-two. The playbook is more open to the offense than it is to the defense in those situations. This is the first week that that’s really happened a lot to us, other than I thought Buffalo was a little bit that way. Those two games were probably our worst third downs, and we just aren’t getting them in third-and-long. So, there weren’t similarities. It was totally two different types of things. The yardage is the same, which is not good, which we’ve got to get corrected. If we’re going to be a good defense, we can’t let anybody run the ball on us. And we will.”

Could you talk about your red zone defense and why you feel you’ve been successful in there? (Ryan Mink) “There are a couple reasons: I think we’ve got a good system. I think guys really, really know the system. I think we are fairly multiple down there – maybe more so than other teams in some ways. We do a lot of things with coverage and with front, not necessarily all blitzes or anything like that. I think we’ve got a complex red area package, and I think guys do it very well. The second thing would be they run out of room. All of a sudden, you don’t have to cover them down the field too far. Thirdly, it’s like anything else – if you have a sense of confidence in something, you seem to play it better. If you’re a good third down team, you kind of have confidence in third down. It’s the same way with the red area, stopping the run, whatever. Man coverage – if you’re a confident man coverage guy, you’re probably going to be pretty good. And I think our guys aren’t afraid of the red zone. I think some teams get down there and are kind of like, ‘Oh man, what are we going to do?’ I don’t think we have that mentality at all. I think we’re a very good sudden change team. When there’s a turnover or something, we’ve done a good job of snuffing it out. I think the guys have a great frame of mind of going in and doing that. So, I think it’s a combination of those three things.”

Where have you seen Matt Elam make strides recently? (Garrett Downing) “He’s a physical player. He did a good job the other night of tackling. We didn’t tackle particularly well the week before, and I thought on Sunday afternoon, we tackled better, especially in the secondary. The other thing is we did a good job back there of not giving up big plays – big chunk plays. The longest play was Ben’s [Roethlisberger] run on third down – a short one [after] we missed a sack. Going into that game, we said that we can’t let this team – they rely on big plays – we’ve got to make them earn everything. And I know sometimes it’s hard to be patient when you’re getting bled a little bit. But this team – they’re a lot better when they get big chunks. We’ve got to play the run better. But Matt [Elam] – I think he’s just developing in all areas. And in some ways, he’s still got a lot to learn in all areas. The more he plays, the better he’s going to be. He loves playing football – that’s what I love about him. He enjoys the game. It means a lot to him. He studies hard and works hard in practice.”

With so many new players on defense, how much of a factor is that in terms of what you can do in your playbook and finding results? (Jarrett Bell) “If you guys ever saw the volume of calls that we have, you’d say we’re crazy. What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to pick and choose each week what we’re going to do, and that’s what you’ve got to rep. Before, maybe with more experienced guys who had been in the system, you could actually pull something kind of out of the archives that maybe you hadn’t even practiced all week and just tell them on the bench. And they kind of knew because they had done it a hundred times before in other games. We can’t do that right now. I’m going to take a little responsibility for this last game in the running game. I thought the Steelers had a good game plan for us, and they brought in a lot of big people. If you noticed, they brought in an extra lineman as a tight end, and they played with a lot of tight ends. They decided to go big people against us and tried to run it in there against just our regular defense. We had not seen that on film [and] had not really seen that previously here before this game. We need to adjust to that, and part of that is maybe a different personnel group. The problem with what you’re saying is I can’t really do that with these guys because they’re really not ready for that. Maybe in years past, I might have just said, ‘OK, let’s put this group in,’ and we could have gone ahead and played a whole package out of it. This last week, we couldn’t do that. We played better in the second half, and along with that, give our coaches and everybody a lot of credit on our team. We’ve given up, since Denver – I’ve kind of forgotten about Denver, to be honest with you – or tried to … In the last six games, I think we’ve given up one touchdown in the second half. So, our guys are doing a good job of adjusting even with young guys and new guys in there. It’s just we can’t do it on the sideline. Sometimes, we need to get in and actually get it all written out for them.”

What do you hope can realistically change after having a few days to evaluate film, players and yourself so that when you play Cleveland, the adjustments will work? (Chris Miller) “Well, I think these two practices … As a coaching staff, you get a chance to really sit down and evaluate players. [It’s] the same thing we had last year. I think we played Houston right before the bye week, which was a tragedy, and we actually came back, and we changed a lot of things. I ended up going to the press box. We talk about all the things that you can do adjustment-wise. Where are we having problems? How can we fix them? Is it a personnel thing? Do we need to play somebody different here? It could be that. Maybe this isn’t a good scheme for us. Maybe we can’t do this movement. Maybe we’re not capable of doing this coverage. This is a week [that] is kind of nice because you’re not game-planning for somebody else, [and] you can kind of sit back and take it all in and re-evaluate where you are. That’s the advantage of the bye week.”

What were your impressions of Jameel McClain? (Jarrett Bell) “Amazing. For a guy to be out 10 months and come back and practice three days and play 28 plays in that game, amazing. I’ve seen one other guy do it – [Tedy] Bruschi after he had a stroke. And I saw Jameel [McClain] do it here. This guy had been told a few months back he was never going to play football again. So, to mentally stay that into it and that in tune and have no missed assignments in that game whatsoever … You could tell he was a little tentative maybe in taking on some blocks at times, but I don’t think it was because he was scared. He just hadn’t been out there doing it. It was more that than I didn’t see anything backing off. That’s an amazing feat to me.”

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