**Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
Jacoby Jones was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. What does that say about how he has come along and really been a dynamic piece? (Garrett Downing)"His two touchdowns gather attention, and they were crucial plays in big games for us. So, I'm really happy for Jacoby, and I'm also happy for all of those that were blocking for him that allowed him to make those plays. And we look forward to the rest of the season, as well. Each week, we're trying to do the same thing."
How is David Reed progressing as far as his special teams role? (Ryan Mink)"We've had David involved since he came off of the PUP designation, so he's been practicing with us. And, he was so enthusiastic to get out there and practice, just to be on the field with his teammates and be able to contribute in some way. And now that he's on the 53-[man roster], his enthusiasm has grown even more. So, we'll see what happens this week in practice and see how he may or may not be used, but he's a really good football player. He's demonstrated that to all of us in the past, and we look forward to his contributions down the road here."
If he's not a returner, can he still play other roles on special teams? (Ryan Mink)"Prior to David's injury, he was a starting gunner for us when he was a rookie, as you recall. And so, yes, to answer your question, he played a lot of different roles for us when he broke in. So, we're trying to find exactly what he can do for us best now with this current group of players we have, and that's what practice is all about."
What did you see from Asa Jackson in his first NFL game action at San Diego? (Matt Vensel)"I saw Asa run really fast and play really hard and be competitive and be physical with his hands. He was enthusiastic. Man, he was so excited to play, and I'm sure it wasn't just the fact that it was his first game; the fact that it was back home had something to do with it, too. So yeah, we were real pleased with his performance. Like every week, there's always something you get better at, so we've been working that with him in practice this week. But it was a good start for Asa."
Jerry, how difficult is it to deal with the constant turnover of the coverage group, like Corey Graham becoming a starting corner and Anthony Levine going down with injury? (Jeff Zrebiec)"One of the things that we've talked about and worked on since training camp even, is that during the course of the season, roles change. And we have this expression around our special teams meeting room that goes simply, 'The more you can do.' And when situations such as Corey's, where Corey is brought out of our coverage and now is starting corner, then somebody else has got to go take that spot. So, it may be somebody that's already on that unit, whose role changes. Or it might have been someone that wasn't on that unit before whose role changes. So, we're always trying to develop through practice and through preparation a number of guys that can do a number of things. And this time of the year is where those things come to bear, where if you have those kinds of players and you've had those kinds of practices, then you cannot miss a beat, so to speak."
Jerry, what is Justin Tucker like getting into his preparations to kick a game-tying field goal or a game-winning field goal? Do you let him alone to do his thing? (Pete Gilbert)"I have a hard time answering that question, because I'm not anywhere near him. I'm over on the sideline and [kicking consultant] Randy Brown is with him on the sideline. I had a good talk with he and Randy afterwards, and it sounded like their preparation was like practice. And that's really what you try to do in practice as much as you can, is make it game-like, and we practice those situations. Now the difference is, there are not 70,000 people in the stands when you're out there practicing on the practice field, but you go through those scenarios and prepare for them and set the stage. And it sounded to me after the game that it was very much like a practice rep: 'I have been in this situation before, and I'm going to go out there and make it just like it was in practice.' And that's always a good feeling when you can transfer it like that."
Because of the ankle injury that Jacoby Jones is dealing with, can you envision a scenario where you might have David Reed do kickoff returns and Tandon Doss do punt returns? (Ed Lee)"We'll play with our best players, our healthiest players, and I fully anticipate having Jacoby ready. He's excited about doing it. And every football team, and our football team is no exception – during the course of the week – you're trying to manage your reps and make sure that you have everybody ready to go, and we'll do that again this week. But Jacoby played last week, and played fine, and we'll anticipate him doing it again this week."
With David Reed coming back, would you feel comfortable inserting him immediately on Sunday if you had to? (Ed Lee)"Comfortable? We're trying to win, and so whoever the next best player is – if Jacoby's not ready – then the next best player is going in."
What has been the difference with all of the success of Jacoby Jones and the whole unit over the past month – just building chemistry with the whole group? (Brett Hyman)"I think Jacoby has had a lot to do with it. He's a very skilled returner, and when we got him here, we knew that, and it's come to pass. He's made big plays for us. I also think that the blocking has improved; we have a number of core players that have gotten better. We've had a number of core players that were added to our roster that have made our blocking better this year, so I think it's a combination of all those factors."
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron
So, is that exactly how you drew up fourth-and-29? (Luke Jones)"Actually, we need to do as good of a job on fourth-and-1 as we do on fourth-and-29. I think we all know what happened there. I loved the way Joe [Flacco] phrased that [it] wasn't a great option, but it was our best option. A completion gives you a chance. An incompletion gives you no chance. There's nothing magical to it. That's just our mindset: It's never over until it's over."
How about Anquan Boldin's block on that fourth-and-29 play? (Keith Mills)"He does that all the time, to be honest with you, so that wasn't out of the norm for him. He's been a great blocker since he's gotten here. That's about as good of a block as I've seen and the timing of it. It's just all of our guys sticking with the play. The good thing, too, is we've got [Marshal] Yanda and [Matt] Birk and [Michael] Oher – all of those guys were right behind that play, too. A lot of guys came into the picture. A heck of a play."
Cam, can you talk about the different look in personnel that Pittsburgh will present this time around with Tory Polamalu possibly being back? (Jerry Coleman)"He'll be back. Obviously, he practiced yesterday full-speed. They obviously have a good defense with him. They haven't missed a beat without him, to be honest with you. But, he's got a lot of flexibility, a lot of freedom in their system – we know that. He knows that system better than anybody they have, so he'll pick up right where he left off. You always have to account for him. [Jason] Worilds is playing well now. He's coming in and playing for [LaMarr] Woodley. Woodley may be the guy that's out. I don't know that he will be, but they haven't missed a beat with guys that subbing in. We expect the typical Baltimore-Pittsburgh game. We don't think there will be a lot of surprises."
Cam, have you kind of accepted the fact that this kind of how the offense goes, that there is some very good and then have a half where you get 90 yards? Is this just who it is at this point of the season that they are who they are that they are going to be very good at some point and other times they are going to struggle? (Pete Gilbert)"I think what everybody gets lost in the whole thing is who you are going against. San Diego is the No. 2-ranked defense in the National Football League in terms of giving up points. Did we want to come out of there at halftime with no points? No, but when you have some miscues, it can happen. Everybody else is up in arms. Our guys? We get it. That's not what we were trying to do, but we also know that's one of the Top 2 defenses in the league, so let's not panic here. Let's get some things solved, let's get back in a solving mode. We have a great opportunity here in the second half, and that's the way we approach it. All the discussion about that stuff really doesn't faze us. I guess that's what makes this sport great. At some point in time, you have to realize that that other team – and we knew going in – with Jarret Johnson over there, [John] Pagano coordinating that defense, there is a lot of intel. I thought our staff and our players … We made some adjustments in that second half I am not taking credit for – some adjustments that, based on what they were doing, gave us a chance to win the game. That's what this thing is all about."
The idea then that most teams don't make … (Pete Gilbert)"Maybe they do, maybe they don't. I just find it a little bit fascinating … These other teams, some of them are just pretty good. There have been a couple of games this year where we haven't scored a lot, and we've really played better in a lot of ways than we did when we were scoring and getting a big play here or a big play there. We're not where we want to be. We have a lot of areas to improve in, but we are, in a lot ways, getting better. What have we always said? We always want to start fast, but if we don't, we'd prefer to finish. I like the mindset that they understand that in this business it's all about how you finish."
Joe Flacco talked yesterday about getting more consistency, and that's what he wants to see. How does that happen? How do you gain more consistency? (Ryan Mink)"It is really simple: eliminate false starts and convert on third down. You can go out there and do some good things, but the minute you don't convert on third down, you are on the sideline. I think we've talked about that the last few weeks. If you go back and look at it historically, when we convert on third down, we're consistent, and that's only one of three downs. How many third downs did we have where we had two downs in a row where we got nine yards on two downs, but we didn't convert on that third down? It's more of a third-down issue than it is anything. When you're one of the tops in the league in yards per play, and a lot of those things you just know [how to] get that third down solved, then you are going to look more consistent."
Do you feel like the offense as a whole seems to get rolling at points? Late in the game, they got of momentum going. (Ryan Mink)"Guess why? That was it. That was it. Third-and-10, first down. All of the sudden, boy, they are really going now. No. We had one good play out of three, and it's perceived that we're really going now. We got two good plays out of three, but the third one you don't convert; now we can't get anything going. That's our job. We don't look at it like a fan. That's what we do. We have to look at strategically, tactically and for what it really is. When you're really going good, you're converting on all three downs, and that's where we all want to be. I'm not dodging that one bit. That's what good offenses do. You convert on all three downs and then everybody is happy. You're winning and you're scoring points. If we stub our toe, let's just make sure we keep winning, especially when you go against the good defenses. You have to be careful and make sure against good defenses [that] you take care of the football. You guys understand what we're all about, where it all starts; you guys that are here every day. It's about ball security and scoring points. Everything else comes after that. I think you have to remember to always look at those two things first. If we're not doing those two things, then I think we have real issues on offense. We're doing two things that we can win with so far. All of these other things will make it a little bit easier."
What do you think has made this team a good finishing offense? (Ryan Mink)"I think the kind of people we have, No. 1, and the fact that we all believe in one another. This offense believes in this defense, this offense believes in our special teams. This offensive coaching staff believes in our defensive coaching staff and [assistant head coach/special teams coordinator] Jerry Rosburg and his staff, and I think it's mutual. Everybody knows that everybody can get the job done. So, you don't worry about anybody's job but your own, and our guys just keep that focus. It didn't shock us when the defense got us the ball back, and I don't think it shocked them that we went down and won the game, because we've done it before, and we're going to continue to do it. I think that belief in one another – because we all have the same salary cap; this is the one league where everything is equal in that respect – gives you the advantage, and our guys have tremendous belief in one another. We have great belief as well as coaches."
Kelechi Osemele really struggled in the first half, but he made adjustment … (Pete Gilbert)"He dominated the first half. No disrespect, no disrespect. Yes, there was a play there, but you have to take every play into account and know who he was going against. Shaun Phillips and that crew … I'm just telling you, the guy was dominant in the first half. But, like you're saying, there is one play there where his right foot slipped out from underneath him, and he gives up a sack. We gave up two sacks in the first half. I'm not trying to be defensive, I am just trying to give you information, because that's my guy, that's our guy. The reality is that kid was unreal in the first half on the road against some really good defensive ends, but he did give up one sack and did have one bad play in there."
Cam, with Ed Dickson's status up in the air right now, what challenges does that present with what he brings as a blocker? (Luke Jones)"Two of the last three weeks, Dennis [Pitta] goes down in Pittsburgh and now Ed goes down. He is a quick healer. He is moving around good, so we're really not going down that road yet. We've got plenty of guys that can block. Dennis can block, Billy [Bajema] can block. If you can't block, you're not going to be here. I'm glad we have depth at tight end. Billy has been up the last three weeks, and if he has to play, he'll play well. We have plenty of options there."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
You have four guys leading the Pro Bowl balloting at their certain positions on defense. Yet there have been no defenders that have won [AFC] Player of the Week yet. Does that kind of sound like the ultimate as far as team effort that has raised the level? (Joe Platania)"That's news to me. I have no idea what the balloting is. Good for them. Really, I don't know if there really is any correlation to any of that. Who's doing the voting? Fans? *(Reporter answers: "Online right now.") *To me, it has no correlation with anything."
**But as far as the defense raising their level of play the last few weeks, pretty much a team effort? *(Joe Platania) *"Yes, I don't think it's any one individual. I think everybody has been working hard – coaches, players alike. [We are] trying to just play better defense – sound defense. Scheme-wise, [we are] trying to do some things to help them. It's really been a combination of everybody."
What kind of progress have you seen from Cary Williams this year in his play and how he is approaching things? (Garrett Downing) "I think the thing he's been is a little more consistent, and that's what we were looking for. That's what we didn't have earlier in the year. I think we'd have some real good plays, and then we'd have some plays that … I'm talking about everybody, not just necessarily Cary [Williams]. I just think he's been more consistent – feels a little bit more comfortable. Just like all of them, they all have their moments. Nobody has played a perfect game in the 40 years that I've been coaching; I haven't seen one of those. He's just more consistent. He works hard during the week and prepares himself."
Where have you seen the biggest strides in Paul Kruger? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think part of it, too, is what we have done schematically is change some of our packages and taken a little – I don't know how I want to say it; I want to say it the correct way – put guys in roles that we think they can flourish in and also sometimes take a little bit off of their plate in terms of having to know so many different things that all of a sudden, 'Am I this in this package? Am I this in this package?' and try to kind of concentrate on, 'Here's what we can do. Here is where we are going to put you.' I think he's accepted that role very, very well and really done a good job with it."
*What about Arthur Jones? He got his first two NFL sacks and has really been coming on fast. (Matt Vensel) *"I give credit to [defensive line] coach [Clarence] Brooks. [He] has worked real hard with them. We talked about this a couple of weeks ago as a defense. Later in the year, a lot of times you have all of your scheme in. You tweak things from week to week; maybe you add a little something here, add a little something there. Where teams have a tendency to really drop off is in fundamental techniques, tackling, whatever it might be, because practices get shorter. You do less contact. It's a long season. You aren't out there like two-a-days where every day you were working on tackling, hitting the sled, doing all that stuff fundamentally. If you don't practice something it doesn't get any better. I think to his credit, along with coach Brooks, he's kept on all of those guys to just fundamentally get better up front and just keep on doing the fundamental things right. The scheme will take care of itself. If you don't do the fundamentals, it doesn't really matter what the scheme [is]. In Art's [Jones] case, I think he's fundamentally gotten better and better."
**It looks like Antonio Brown may be back this week. Talk about, along with Mike Wallace, the challenges they present. *(Pete Gilbert) *"First of all, [Mike] Wallace is a take-the-top-off-the-defense-type of guy. He's a deep route runner, but also, even on his shallow routes that he brings across, he catches the ball and hits it full speed. I saw him – I can't remember which game it was –outrun the entire defense up the sideline. He can fly. The thing about [Antonio] Brown is he is just such a … Every ball he catches is not like defending a punt return. He can just stop on a dime, change direction. He's really a dynamic little athlete, but [Emmanuel] Sanders is no slouch either, and [Heath] Miller is no [slouch]. They have a great receiving corps."
He's back in the building, Ray Lewis. Can you talk about the impact that has. He's been there on the sidelines. I know there's no timetable for him to return, but he, obviously, wants to get back. (Jerry Coleman) "I think it just shows the team and everybody that … As a guy that [has played] 16 years or 17 – I don't even know how many years it's been with him – he's the ultimate pro. The guy comes in here; he's trying everything that he can to get back. There are guys that would – with not even that many years – might say, 'Oh well. I've had a great career. I'm going to the Hall of Fame. What the heck?' It's just not like that with him. That's the way he does every meeting, though. I've told you guys before that going in and coaching him and watching him in the meetings sit back there and take notes like a rookie, that's why he is who he is. Really for the younger guys, but really for us older guys, to me, he's a perfect pro. That's what pros do. There's no quit. 'I'm going to run in this thing until the end, until I absolutely can't do it anymore.' That just kind of permeates through the entire team – even through the coaching staff. I see it, too. Sometimes you feel a little sorry for yourself, and the days get long, and the weeks get long and stuff. You look at this guy doing everything he can possible to get back. I have it pretty good."
We've seen Dannell Ellerbe and Jameel McClain play well with Ray [Lewis] not being in there. If and when he returns, does that create a good problem for you to have to find ways to have all of them on the field as much as possible? (Luke Jones) "Sure. [You] can't have too many good players. I'd rather have that problem than try to figure out who the heck is going to be playing, because we have a bunch of injuries, which we've had to do. To me, it's like when anybody says, 'You're kind of stockpiled at this position.' That's great. I don't care where you are stockpiled. It's always a good thing for a coach. It may not be a good thing for the players, but it's always a good thing for the coaches."
**The Steelers' running backs are changing once again. Any change in the preparation for them? *(Brett Hyman) *"No. The thing that you have to do is you have to prepare for their scheme. They are what they are. What you always just have to do is be cognizant of who the back is, because they all have different styles. That's true of any back in the league. Everybody has at least two backs with everybody. In their case, they have four. You just have to know who is in there – what style of back he is. They aren't going to change the scheme. They are who they are."