Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What concerns you about Steelers WR/RS Antonio Brown as a punt returner? (Ed Lee)"What concerns me is that he is really good. It is remarkable how much offense he plays, and he goes out there as a punt returner and has great energy. He is an impressive athlete. All the things you see him do on offense with the ball in his hands, he can do as a punt returner. It continues to be our job whenever we play this team to try and keep him under control, because he is a game-changer."
Is there anything in particular you do, strategy-wise, going against him? (Ed Lee)"Whatever that might be would be in-house [information]. We play a lot of really good punt returners during the course of the season, and he is right up there with them at the top of the list. We just have to reduce his opportunities. It is a team function. It is a function of our protection protecting our punter, our punter putting the ball where we want it, our gunners getting good releases, our net doing a good job on it. It is very much a team function. That is the biggest thing – making sure it is a team drill. It has to be a team [drill]. No one person can stop this guy; we have to stop him as a team."
Is S Matt Elam an option this week? Or do you have to wait on that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Matt has been practicing all week. It is good to have him back. We are working with Matt in every phase, and we will find out what happens this weekend."
But can he play this week? (Jeff Zrebiec)"That is up to [general manager/executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome]." (Reporter: "I meant more by rule.") "I am not the guy to talk to about that either. There are others who are more experts than me on that. I know our punt return schemes though." (laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"We will start by talking about Pittsburgh. What a great opportunity and what a great challenge. The players have put in an awful lot of hard work. We are right in the middle of our preparation. We got some of that preparation done during the bye week, so we are excited about this ball game coming up."
How much do you think the extra week has helped, as far as getting yourself more organized and being able to put more things in? (Cliff Brown) "You hope it helps in many ways. We have some players back, it looks like, anyways. We were able to put some hard work in physically. We were able to get some preparation done; we were able to install some new things as well. So yes, you hope that it helped."
Has RB Terrance West asserted himself as being the future tailback? (Ed Lee)"Well, he is an awfully good player. He has dramatically improved several aspects of the game – of his game. He sure is running the ball well, and he is protecting well. We would like to utilize him a little bit more in the pass game as well."
Does RB Terrance West warrant getting most of the touches, or do you feel like everyone will be involved? (Ed Lee)"We will try to share just a little bit. We will try to do that."
In trying to make tweaks and put your fingerprint on this offense, how challenging has it been not having WR Steve Smith Sr. on the field? Or is it just a case where you know what he can do as a player and whenever he does return, it can be pretty seamless? (Luke Jones) "Steve is one of the great players in the game. When he is out, the next player steps up. When he can play again, we will utilize him."
When you look at the last four games, the offense has had the ball with an opportunity to win the game at the end. What have you seen that has been the hurdle that you have been unable to overcome? (Jamison Hensley) "It has been sporadic. We have scored in two-minutes-and-a-half a couple of times. We have not a couple times. We scored in a two-minute type of atmosphere at the end of the game, and then we have not. It has been sporadic. We talk about precision football – we want to be right every time."
When you look at the Pittsburgh defense, is there a guy you look at first and say he must be accounted for first? (Pete Gilbert)"There is a whole host of them. Their front is very good; their secondary disguises very well. I typically don't talk too much personnel. But they have some fine, fine players. It is a pretty good mix of veterans with great experience and some young up-and-coming players."
How difficult is it to develop a young wide receiver, one that the organization has drafted? (Ed Lee) "They are all different. At every position, they are different with their evolution. Some guys come into this league, and usually, they are a very natural player. They stayed healthy all the way through minicamps and training camp. They are really sharp – all of those things. I have said this once, and I am going to say it again: 'They have to stay healthy to get better every day.' We talked about that before – getting better every day, and good things tend to happen. I'm talking just in general – that has to happen for a player to do very well early in his career. Others, it takes some time, whether it was due to injury, whether it was due to a totally different type of offense [that they] asked him to do some different things. I have coached some great players that it happened very quickly for. I have coached some other players where it took some time. Specifically, talking about Breshad [Perriman], a lot of that is just reps, reps, reps. He is getting them right now, because he is healthy."
Have guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Amari Cooper sort of raised the bar and the expectations, which makes people expect these guys to make immediate contributions when they get to the league? (Ed Lee)"Yes. That is the same at every position. If you get one or two fellas that do it very quickly, then it certainly does that."
What have you seen from TE Darren Waller since coming back from the suspension? He is a unique guy and physically looks like he could be a matchup problem. (Luke Jones)"He is another young guy that is right in the middle of developing. He has worked very hard, as his Breshad [Perriman]. These two guys are very hard workers; they are diligent. Good things are coming for both of those guys."
What kind of things did you get accomplished, specifically with QB Joe Flacco, during the bye week? Was there anything that you were looking to get done with him? (Jerry Coleman) "Yes, we did quite a few things there. We discussed that before, what we did as a team. We got to install some new and different things. We worked on our precision. We worked on certain things that we needed to get better at, both in the pass and the run."
You hear a lot about pass protection. Is that a give and take with the quarterback and the protection, with that you need to have it, but at the same time, the quarterback needs to trust that it is going to be there?* (Luke Jones)*"That is a good point. More than occasionally, a quarterback has to throw off balance. It is just going to happen that way. When he is well protected, he needs to trust it. Certainly, any quarterback in this league is like that."
With TE Crockett Gillmore missing the past two practices, could that mean more involvement for TE Darren Waller? (Ed Lee) "We will see. We are sort of putting the final touches on the game plan, and I like to stay away from too much personnel talk."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
How similar or different is Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell compared to running backs you have faced this year? (Edward Lee)"He's different. He's a unique, unique running back – one of the most patient guys I've ever seen, just really exceptional. He's one of the best backs I think I've ever gone up against. He's a very patient runner. If you jump off the block too quick, he's going to make you pay. The thing of it is, there are guys that are patient runners, there are guys that are downhill runners, and there are guys that are patient runners. The difference with him is he's patient, and then when he bursts, he bursts. He can hit the hole quick. He's got great vision. The other thing is he's a problem out of the backfield in the passing game. He's just a super talented, talented guy. I think he's different than most of the backs."
How do you contain him? (Edward Lee) "You have to play sound on defense. Guys can't guess. If you have a gap to control, you have to control that gap. You have to stay on your blocker and be patient. When you get a runner like that, you have to be very disciplined on defense, too. Like I tell everybody, when he gets the ball, everybody on defense is at the point of attack, because he could go anywhere at any time."
We've talked to you for the past couple of weeks about shadowing receivers. How much does the body type of the receiver go into that decision? (Garrett Downing) "It makes a lot of difference. I don't know if it's really so much the body type. It's the type of receiver. You can have a big receiver that's very quick, and you can have a little receiver that's a long strider – very fast. Way before your guys' time … Willie Gault wasn't really big, but he was a straight-line, very, very fast guy that probably wasn't going to get off bump-and-run very well. I'm really showing my age. (laughter) The point of it is that it's both. It's not so much the size of the receiver, it's the style of the receiver that makes you want to shadow somebody."
Dean, I know you're not going to give up your game plan … (Jeff Zrebiec) "Probably not." *(laughter) *
People think that you just put your best cornerback against the best receiver, but obviously, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that. Can you elaborate on that though process? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's just easy for everybody to say, 'Put this guy on that guy.' There are so many things that come into account, just like we talked about. Is it really a good matchup? Does your best corner or defensive back match up against their best receiver's style? Second thing is where do they put the receiver? Is he a guy that moves all over the place? Is he a guy that's always in one spot? With the Indianapolis Colts, [Marvin] Harrison, you knew where he was going to line up. He was going to be on the left side every time. There are so many factors you take into account, and your defensive calls. If you're going to play more zone, or you're going to play more man … All of a sudden, you're going to try to teach a defensive back that's in the slot how to play zone in the slot as opposed to – it's easier in man, because you have the man – now all of a sudden, every time I line a guy up there and that same DB lines up there – they have computers too, they look at it and say, 'If that guy lines up in the slot, they're in man coverage.' You have to be able to mix and match zones and mans. There's a lot more to it than just easily stating, 'Let's put our best DB on their best receiver.'
If Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is less mobile coming off this injury, how different does that make him as a quarterback? (Pete Gilbert) "I think that's probably true of any quarterback or any athlete. The thing about him is he's always had the ability to scramble. He's always had a ton of plays down the field. We always said, with him, the play doesn't start until two seconds after the ball is snapped. With him, though, he has another element to him; he's always been a big guy that can hang in there and take a hit. You can be kind of draped off of him, and he can still hit a guy. He's still got that factor. I think he can move enough, and he's got such great vision. Another thing I think people underestimate about him is his touch. I watched a play this morning showing on film a touch on an over route where a guy had good coverage, and he didn't try to drill it in there. He laid it out just exactly – that's a skill. He's got so many other things that I think whether he scrambles a lot or not, he's still going to be a problem in the pocket."
How encouraging is it to have ILB C.J. Mosley back knowing what kind of matchup problem RB Le'Veon Bell can pose as a receiver? (Luke Jones) "It's great having him back, no matter who [we're playing]. Certainly, Bell is just a dynamic, dynamic talent. Having C.J. back [is great], not only because of that, just because he's the quarterback of our defense in there and just having a darn good player back in there playing for us."
You've had pretty good success compared to most teams against Steelers WR Antonio Brown. What goes in to slowing a receiver like that down? (Jamison Hensley) "You just can't allow him to have big plays. A guy can catch a screen, and it's almost like a punt return. He can just make people miss. It really is team defense. Everybody has to know where he is at all times and everybody has to be willing to help. You throw a screen –Clarence Brooks used to say, 'A screen is a total defensive play. It's not the defensive backs, not the linebackers. It's everybody's play.' And that's the truth. One guy has to turn it in. Another guy has to plant. Somebody has to go inside out, and guys have to turn around and get to the ball. It's the same thing when '84' catches the ball. You have to have good team defense. You have to leverage him. Where he breaks out – he just makes people miss – and all of a sudden breaks out on you. We just have to do a great job all the way around."
You mentioned big plays. The first couple of games they were really limited, and the last couple of games we have seen more and more allowed. Is there an overriding theme or common thread to explain that? (Pete Gilbert) "There really isn't an overriding theme. Every play has been a little bit different. Last week with the Jets, there was no reason for that play and that coverage to ever break out. What it was, was somebody saw somebody do something that wasn't quite right, so then they tried to overcompensate, and they became the problem. You have to just do your job. If he doesn't do his, we'll still rally and it'll be a play, but it won't be a big play. When two guys don't do their job, then it becomes a big play. We just have to learn from those mistakes."