Opening statement:"OK, good to see everybody. [I] appreciate you being here. I just want to start by mentioning Art McNally, longtime NFL official, supervisor of officials [and] some would say the grandfather of instant replay. [I] got to know Art when I was the special teams coordinator in Philly just getting into the league. He was nothing but gracious teaching a young guy the rules and interpretations. I'll always be grateful for that; a very good man. So, rest in peace, Art McNally.
"As far as the game, we had a chance to look at it. Obviously, [it was a] very disappointing outcome. Watching the tape, I was very impressed with our effort. Our effort was an A-plus effort. Guys were fighting, and running around and trying to play physical. [They] tried to put their best foot forward; we just didn't have the result we wanted to have in terms of putting our best foot forward. We didn't execute as well as we can; we didn't make the plays we needed to make, and they did, and they won the game in a tight ball game. So, it's the National Football League; it's a tough outcome, but you move on from that. We have a lot in front of us. We have many opportunities in front of us, beginning with this next game. So, that's what we're going to focus on just like you always do in this league. Our guys are tough and resilient, and we'll be back at work tomorrow with our players and be preparing for Cincinnati. So, what questions do you have?"
The results of tonight's Bills-Bengals game impacts you as well. How closely will you watch tonight's game? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Sure, I'll be watching that just like everybody else. I'll probably get as much work done as I can until then because we don't have their tape to watch from yesterday; that will be it. So, we'll watch that game live, and then get on the tape early in the morning tomorrow."
Will the results of tonight's game potentially alter who you will play next weekend? _(Cordell Woodland) _"It's probably too early to talk about all that kind of stuff right now, but my gut first reaction would be no, because we're going to be playing for seeding implications as well. There's a lot at stake right up until the end of the season here."
Do you expect QB Lamar Jackson to practice this week? _(Luke Jones) _"I don't know; I don't know. I don't have an expectation until I hear more today."
Do you have any injury updates regarding T Morgan Moses? _(Kyle Barber) _"Yes, it doesn't look like any serious injuries. We got out of the game without anything serious to anybody, including Morgan [Moses]."
TE Mark Andrews had 100-yards receiving yesterday, even with him being double-teamed. What did you see him do differently to create space? _(Todd Karpovich) _"I just think it worked out that way. It wasn't any specific thing. The routes we've been running, there's a lot of scheme things in there, but they were playing a lot of man coverage. Mark [Andrews] got them in man on some crossing routes, and some sail routes and things like that, and just ran some outstanding routes. I thought Tyler [Huntley] made a couple really great throws, some under pressure, right on the money, which you have to do against man coverage. [He] hit Mark on the run a few times. To see that happen was big for us; it's very important to get Mark going. We've been talking about that for a number of weeks, that we needed to do that. So, I'm very excited about that part of it, and that's something definitely to build on."
After reviewing the tape, what did you make of the defense's struggles stopping the run? It's been such a stout run defense for the second half of the season. _(Luke Jones) _"Exactly. I'll tell the guys, 'I was disappointed in it'. The guys were, too. That was not what we expected; we're better than that – there's no question about it. It wasn't any one thing. It was just not being quite up to standard across the board probably. Guys were fighting, and there was effort. I give them credit – they blocked and ran hard. It's a good team, now, and we respect them. They were better than us in terms of the fundamentals of running the ball and run defense, is really the bottom line."
The last five games have been a struggle to score consistently. Is it as simple as you have injuries at quarterback and wide receiver, or is it more? _(Jamison Hensley) _"All those things are part of what you deal with in this league. Certain teams have different challenges that they're dealing with, and those are the challenges that we've been faced with. So, they're real – there's no question about it. I can't sit up here and say that those aren't real challenges, but they're not challenges that we're going to sit here and say that we can't overcome or we can't win games with. We've won games with our challenges and the things we've had to face, but we didn't win the game yesterday. We had our opportunities, and we didn't make plays when we needed to make them. We had a chance two times in the fourth quarter to get into field goal range, which would have sealed the game. One time we threw it a few times and couldn't get that final first down into field goal range, and the other time we ran it and couldn't get the final first down into field goal range. So, I just feel like if you watch the plays per se, they're executable plays. They were plays we could have made. There was probably one play in there that we came up against a bad defense for the play call, which happens sometimes, but all the other plays, we had a chance to make the plays and we just didn't get it done. We know that. We acknowledge that, and we have to try to do everything we can to make those plays in the next game. That's all you do; that's what you do in this league."
I know it's hard to project, but are we getting close to a point where you're worried that QB Lamar Jackson might not have enough ramp-up time for that first playoff game? _(Childs Walker) _"I just can't think about that. I'm just going to listen to the doctors and to Lamar [Jackson], and we're prepared. The offense is not going to change dramatically between Lamar and Tyler [Huntley]. So, how they play their styles, certainly, they apply that. Do you know what I mean? The way Lamar plays and the way Tyler plays, the way a player plays, they apply that to our system and the way we play. Our plays are built for those types of quarterbacks. They're built for Lamar. Our offense is built for Lamar, around Lamar, and to play with Lamar's talents and abilities – that's what we're built for. The way Lamar plays it, and [the way] Tyler plays the same offense, they play it slightly differently, because they're different unique individuals. But we're going to take the gameplan and prepare for Cincinnati – prepare for their defense and what they do. [We'll] make sure our run game is set up to attack their defense and what they can do and their players, and the same thing with our pass game. And then whichever quarterback plays, that's the quarterback that's going to play, and we'll expect them to play great football. So, as a coach, that's really what you do."
Usually, both running backs – J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards – are heavily involved in the run game. We didn't see a lot of Gus yesterday. Was it just game flow? What went into that? _(Cordell Woodland) _"I wasn't happy about that, in all honesty. Gus [Edwards] should have played more – there's no doubt about it. That was something that … We should have had him out there more, and [there's] really no excuse for that."
You specifically mentioned coaching after the game. What was bugging you most about the coaching side of it? _(Bo Smolka) _"I just feel like … All of us – and that's what I told the team in the locker room … I said it's all of us – every single person in here. Start with 'me', and I start with 'me', and everybody in there should start with 'me.' That's how you do it, and I think our guys do a great job of that. But we didn't do a good job of attacking the commitment they made to stopping the run, probably, on offense, and we didn't do a good job of attacking their commitment to running the ball on defense – those are the two main things. We were behind the sticks on defense the whole game. And then we didn't get the quarterback down. The quarterback ran around and made some plays. We knew that's what he wanted to do, and we didn't get him down. We had him; you've got to tackle him. So, we all know that [and] those are the things we need to do better – that's scheme, and it's execution."
Would you like to see QB Lamar Jackson for at least a week of practice before the postseason? (Jamison Hensley) _"Of course, of course. Absolutely." _(Reporter: "If he's not practicing this week, does that jeopardize his availability for the postseason at all?")"I wouldn't make any commitment along those lines."
We saw DE Calais Campbell working out before the game. Do you feel like he was close? And do you feel better about his chances to at least be an option to play this week? _(Luke Jones) _"Yes, I do. I do. I think Calais [Campbell] and Marcus [Peters] both have a chance."
Wide receivers finished with two catches for 18 yards. Part of that is just the game flow and your tight end usage, but were the Steelers doing something to limit that group? _(Kyle Barber) _"Not specifically. I think the ball could have gone there a few times, and it didn't, and Mark [Andrews] got a lot of targets. It's not like we threw the ball a lot. But there are times it could have gone there and it didn't – not to say it should have. It's just that's the way the game plays out sometimes."