**Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Coach, what makes Anthony Allen such a good lead blocker out there on kickoff returns? It looks like he has some good vision out there and has done a good job. (Jason Butt)"Anthony Allen is a valuable member of our kickoff return team, and he really showed up on coverage this week as well. That's really a classic example of a guy learning more skills and being able to contribute to the team's success in a variety of different ways. His skills as a running back really carry over into the kickoff return phase, because he's able to see holes like a running back sees holes every day, and that helps the returner and his path. This past week it worked well for him; it worked well for all of us."
[Allen] was put on the practice squad and then the week of the first game you guys brought him back up. What went into that decision early on? It turned out to be a pretty good one. (Jason Butt) "I really wasn't involved in the discussion on how it all happened, but the skills that he brings to the table are valuable. He has enough size and speed to play like a linebacker on special teams. He was a linebacker as a younger player, 'back in the day,' as they say. He has toughness. As you all know, he was a fullback in college. So, those are skills that are really valuable on special teams – a guy with enough speed and athletic ability and toughness and tackling skills to play in a variety of phases. We have seen that happen this year for him."
What have you talked to Justin Tucker about kicking in Heinz Field, and what have you told him about that atmosphere? (Garret Downing) "Specifically, he has watched tape on other kickers at Heinz Field – our own kickers and other kickers. I think the preparation for the Cleveland game and all the preparation we do during the offseason leads to these games where we know the schedule. We know we are going to be playing in Heinz Field in November. We train for that during the whole course of the year. When we get to the game and pre-game warm-ups, that will be a big aspect of it, too. As all kickers do, they go assess the conditions at that time. That will be the next step for him."
**Is wind and weather a big concern in that stadium? *(Garrett Downing) *"Wind and weather are a big concern in every stadium. That particular stadium is a concern because of the grass surface. As you all know, they had a rain storm this past weekend at their Monday night game. We have to go and see how it is and adjust from there."
Because of the grass surface, as you mentioned, how conducive is that for punting for Sam [Koch]? Will he be more aggressive in trying to land it inside the 20 instead of the 10 maybe? (Ed Lee) "The football is shaped in such a fashion that it's kind of hard to predict how it's going to bounce every time. I don't know if the surface itself is going to affect how the ball is going to ricochet off the ground and pooch punts. Sam [has been] training for a long time, [focusing on] his pooch punts and trying to get the ball inside the 10. You hit it and you hope for the best. It's honestly how it happens. Sam has lot of skill, and we hope that it comes to our favor."
Brendon Ayanbadejo said earlier this week that he had a chance to present you with a game ball after the Oakland game and that it was the first time in your career that had happened. What did that mean to you? (Luke Jones)"It meant a lot to me to really represent our special teams corps players and our coaches – [assistant special teams coach] Chris Hewitt and [kicking consultant] Randy Brown and all the guys that we work with on a daily basis. It's really a compliment to all those guys. We're the first ones in meetings, the first ones out on the practice fields. And the guys were working really hard, and you see the progress that's being made on a daily basis. It makes your heart soar when you see the rewards come to those players, and that's what I felt best about."
Do you think Jacoby Jones' success with the Ravens this season is sort of vindication for him after being driven out of Houston, so to speak? (Joe Platania)"I wasn't there. I really don't know. I just know Jacoby is available to us, and I'd coached against him many times. I'd watched him in college score touchdowns, and when we were able to sign him with Ozzie [Newsome] and our scouting staff, I was a very happy man. I was also a very happy man when I saw him run by our sideline, so it's all come into good form for us."
**Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
Last year against Pittsburgh, Ray Rice had the 107-yard performance in the first game against the Steelers and then had the 76-yard touchdown run that was called back for a holding penalty. Does his performance against the Steelers influence you to give him the ball more? (Ed Lee)"No. 1, that seems like 100 years ago. I was [saying], the old saying [is], 'There's nothing older than yesterday's success.' This team is this team. They've tweaked their defense. They've got some different faces in there. The scheme is the same, but the personnel is different. I think every year is different. Every game kind of takes on a life of its own. We have a confident group. No matter who we were playing this week, our bottom line was to get better and then play as well as we can play. If past success is a plus for us – it is – but we're not relying on anything we've done in the past to win this game for us. Good memories, but memories don't get you real far in this business."
Talking about the passing in last week's game and the confidence building … To have a game where so many things clicked so well, I would think that would be critical heading into a game like this. (Pete Gilbert)"I think confidence is always good, but we have a confident group anyway. Sometimes, if we don't execute the way that we're capable, it really doesn't affect our confidence. Things happens, we deal with them, we move on. We have guys that are proven players that are confident and build each other up. You always want to play well, especially play well at home. We've said it all year long: 'Now, let's go play well on the road.'"
Is there any truth to there being a measuring-stick game and going up against a really tough defense to see where you are at this point? (Garrett Downing)"I think you always like being tested, to be honest with you. Our guys like a test. Every week is a test in itself, but now you go against a great defense. It's a division game. It's got all the markings of why you do what you do as players and coaches in this business. These are the games that you prepare for. These are the ones that get you through the hard work in the offseason, pointing towards these division games and the big ones in this division. So, I think you just factor all those things in."
Speaking of confident guys, Vonta Leach is certainly one of them who has said that the no-huddle offense cut into his field time a bit. Whether it has or hasn't, what kind of year do you think he is having? (Joe Platania)"He's having a great year. He's a perennial Pro Bowler. I'm not telling you guys something you don't know and every player in this league knows. He is a huge part of our foundation and everything we do. I know every time I am standing on the sideline, and he is either over there with us when we are watching our defense or whether he is on the field, I am glad he is in our uniform. I've seen him on the other side, and he is the kind of guy you want on your team. I don't know all the fullbacks in the league, but in our view, we have the best fullback in the league."
Jah Reid saw extensive action on Sunday. How did you think he played, and do you anticipate him seeing more action at left guard? (Luke Jones)"We'll see. I said this earlier in the year, I think about maybe Ramon [Harewood] and 'K.O.' [Kelechi Osemele]: The best thing Jah did the other day was he played the way he practiced. He hasn't perfected practice yet. He'll get there. You look at a [Marshal] Yanda, you look at a [Matt] Birk, you look at veteran players like Michael Oher – they understand the perfection of practice. They come off the field, and they have a perfect practice. Anything less than that they know can compromise our ability to win. Young players, they just don't quite know that yet. That's what I've encouraged all our young guys: Just play with great enthusiasm, give us great effort and give us at least what we're getting in practice, because if we didn't think we could win with what you're doing in practice, you wouldn't be in there. I think if you're looking for some insight, anybody we put out there offensively, we feel, based on what we see right out back here, that that's a winning performance – that's a performance we can win with. We don't have time to just play guys and test guys and see if they can help us. Our program is not built that way. Jah practiced well last week, and he went in the game and played like he practiced. He practiced well yesterday, and he has to practice even better today. All of our young players, we're just continually challenging them to practice better and better and better. For our system and for me as a play-caller, it gives you a lot more predictability in terms of what the outcome is going to look like in a game. He's just doing some good things, [but he is] not where he needs to be. We'll see how the playing time works out."
What can you share with Kelechi Osemele about going up against LaMarr Woodley? (Ed Lee)"The film speaks for itself. For a young player, he is a really intense studier – very detailed in his note-taking. [He is] very mature, and I think [you] just study the tape, understand what he likes to do, when he likes this move, the different moves, what he can do in the running game. Obviously, he has other guys to worry about other than just Woodley, because [James] Harrison will show up there as well. Harrison got us last year on a sack coming from that side. He has to be ready for both guys, and then obviously, he has some other challenges in the running game."
Despite Troy Polamalu not being there most the year and James Harrison being dinged up a lot, what is Pittsburgh doing well defensively? What are they relying on? (Pete Gilbert)"They're doing all the things they've always done well. They do a great job in disguising what they're doing. They give you that grey area, two-shell look, and then they are able to get pressure with four. They have some nice scheme things they do with their fifth rusher and sometimes their sixth. Like a lot of good offenses or defenses, you build a foundation, you build it with fundamentals, so that if you do have injuries to a guy or two or three, you don't fall off the face of the earth. And that's what they've done."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
What kind of impact will this have on the secondary now without Jimmy [Smith]? (Ed Lee) "Every time you lose somebody it has a little bit of an impact. We have to get the next guy ready and just get ready to go."
**How do you make up for Jimmy's [Smith] absence then? Obviously, going with Corey [Graham] and Chykie [Brown], how did they play, and how much confidence do you have in those guys? *(Ed Lee) *"I have a lot of confidence in them. I thought they played OK. I'm not going to sit here and tell you … You guys watched the game and watched film. There were some plays they made and some plays they didn't make. I think both of them are improving every day. We have to do a good job of putting them in the right spot and not asking them to do things that they really can't do. We have to do a good job as a coaching staff of scheming it up and putting them in the right spot."
How much does this put the pressure on your job to acclimate Chris Johnson quickly and perhaps get him into play-mode ready? (Ed Lee) "This job has pressure no matter who the heck is out there. It doesn't. It is what it is. We can get him as ready as we can possible get him. The guy is a professional. He's working at it. He'll work at it. We'll do the best that we can to prepare him in the schemes that we have. Can he get ready for the whole scheme? Probably nobody could do that in that short amount of time. So, we'll ask him to do things, or when he's in there we will do things that we think he is capable of doing that he knows that gives him a chance of being successful. It doesn't have any more pressure than any other time."
At the beginning of every year you say, 'You can never have enough corners.' Now losing two of the top three, is that kind of coming to fruition? (Garrett Downing) "I'd say that pretty much says it all right there. It's true. Every place I've ever been, you can't have too many of them. You don't expect all of this to happen, but hey, it's football; it's professional football. Some years you go through unscathed, and some years and you go through and it's not. You have to make do with what you have. The other thing is it is a little bit – on both sides here – if a guy is on our football team, he is a professional football player. He's a professional football player for a reason. That means he has to prepare; he has to play in this league. He has to be ready to play at any given time, and the other thing is he has to be good enough or he wouldn't be on the team. So whenever you even have a backup come in, the guy is a doggone good football player or he wouldn't be here. That's what backups' jobs are. On the same token – you have the same thing – everybody's talking about [Byron] Leftwich. I've played against this guy – college and pros. The guy is a good quarterback. He isn't a backup. The guy was a starter in the league for a lot of years and I think took Jacksonville to the playoffs, if I'm not mistaken. And he's been in this system for a while, and he practices against their defense every day. So, I would say that in and of itself, if you practice against their defense every day, [that] probably makes you a pretty good quarterback. I'm not buying the kind of stuff like, 'Well, is it going to be a difference?' Byron Leftwich is a good quarterback."
But he doesn't do some of the things that Ben [Roethlisberger] can do like extend plays with his feet and play guys opposite. Does that affect the way you prepare and attack? How much does that affect what you are doing? (Pete Gilbert) "[It] depends on the situation that you get him in. When he is handing the ball off to [Rashard] Mendenhall or to [Isaac] Redman, it doesn't matter whether it's No. 7 or No. 4 handing it off; it's still a power play. So, that's not going to change that part of the game. It's not going to change. They're not going to come in and say, 'OK, this week we are going to have all new passing routes for Leftwich.' No, they're not. They are going to run the exact same offense. The thing that Ben did that really all of the quarterbacks, including [Tom] Brady – including a lot guys – is he extends plays, because he is a good scrambler. Maybe Byron doesn't do that, but then Byron may have another … Byron has a pretty strong arm now and can throw the ball down the field a long, long way. Whenever you take something away, you give something. I just think that they aren't going to change drastically. They aren't going to change what they do. How they do it in certain situations may change, but they aren't going to change their offense."
Bryon [Leftwich] has that long wind-up motion. How much does that change your pass rush? (Ed Lee) "I don't know. I know that everyone makes that comment about it, but I've seen the guy be all of successful. They may change certain ways that they do things to kind of aid that a little bit, but I don't think it changes. That is what he is. It's like anything else. Everybody has idiosyncrasies in how they play – whether they are a defensive player or an offensive player or something – and you try to take advantage of that if you can. But to try to take advantage of that sometimes, it can hurt you in someplace else. It is what it is. We just have to do a good job of recognizing him and breaking on the ball and good vision on the ball."
How is Asa Jackson coming along? (Garrett Downing) "He's coming. He's getting better every day."
**Could he be active, do you think? *(Ed Lee) *"I don't really know at this point in time. I don't know."
What is your impression of Heath Miller? (Ed Lee) "Good tight end. Here's the thing about him: In a lot of situations, the guy makes critical catches and critical plays in critical situations – whether it be in the red area [or elsewhere]. Last week watching the Kansas City game, they were kind of struggling. This is with Ben [Roethlisberger] in there early in the game. They were struggling, they were struggling, they were struggling, and all of a sudden they run this little play-action pop pass to Heath Miller, and he makes a nice catch, gains about 25 yards, and here they go. The guy is a go-to-type guy. He's still a real good blocking tight end. He's very effective in the pass routes – catches the ball. He has one catch on film that we still don't know how he caught it – against, I can't even remember who it was against now – but it was a heck of a play. The guy is still a very, very talented tight end. [He is] still one of the best in the league."
Talk about Courtney Upshaw's growth a little bit, and you rely on him a lot more now, I would think … (Pete Gilbert) "We kind of moved him around. [He] played nose guard in the last game a little bit, played three-technique the first time, and they double-teamed him. He told me, 'Coach, I wasn't quite ready for that.' I said, 'I'm sorry I put you in there on that one.' The thing is he is a smart football player from a very smart program. He likes football [and is] very coachable. He's just getting better and better all the time, and the more he is in the system, the more he understands the total picture of the system. That's why sometimes you can start moving guys a little bit, because they understand the big picture, not just the their picture."
Even though guys like Ed [Reed] and Haloti [Ngata], they worked through some health issues, and in Ed's case maybe a little bit of age … Is it that they're contributing in other ways, kind of like teaching the younger guys? (Joe Platania) "Absolutely, they have always been that. They have always been great leaders on and off the field. Haloti was really big last week. Even though he didn't play – and our idea, even though he dressed – our idea was to not play him unless we really had to. He was contributing in the meetings all week. Those guys – both of them – are tremendous on and off the field."
Do you feel like your sub package was generating a lot more pressure to your liking this past week? (Jason Butt) "It was better. We can do a lot better, but we got something out of it."
What kind of growth have you seen in DeAngelo Tyson, who has played quite a bit the past couple of weeks because of injuries, but it seems like he's been making plays? (Luke Jones) "The more he plays, the better he gets. When we threw him in there against Houston, [he] didn't look quite so good in his first tryout. But you learn from that stuff. You get smacked in the mouth [and] you finally figure out, 'Maybe I don't like that so much. Here's how maybe I can stop that.' Each week he has gotten better and better. We are really pleased with the progress all of those young guys are really making. Unfortunately, they have been pressed into action a little more than maybe we wanted, but that's the reality of it, and like I said, they are professional football players. We drafted them. They are here for a reason. They need to step up and play."
**Pernell [McPhee] returned to practice yesterday. How much would he aid you guys to have him back on the field? *(Ed Lee) *"We can't wait to have him back. When that's going to happen, that's up to the trainers and John [Harbaugh] and higher powers than me. We don't want any of those guys out, but we would love to get him back."