*THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 14 AT STEELERS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What are the big challenges with kicking in Pittsburgh? What do you foresee as some of the major issues there? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Kicking anywhere this time of the year in the [AFC] North is a challenge, just because of the field conditions, typically. Also, the temperature, the wind and all of those things affect kicking. We try to do the best we can every year to prepare for this time of the year to be able to kick efficiently in Baltimore and in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland and Cincinnati – places like this. We know we're going to be playing in the AFC North in December. In Pittsburgh, specifically, it's all of those things combined. You never know what you're going to get until you get to the stadium. How cold it's going to be, where the wind is going to be coming from, the river-side of the stadium, particularly, the wind swirls – it's a more difficult end to kick in as we've all seen over the course of the years we've played there. And the surface is also always an issue. Any grass field that you play on this time of the year, you have to understand the fields are worn down a little bit, and even if they do re-sod them, they don't have a chance to regenerate that much this time of the year because of lack of sunlight. So, all those things play into it. But from what I've seen on tape, the field looks like it's in great condition, and we're going to go there and play it as it lies."
How about for P Sam Koch? As far as punting, is there anything different in that stadium relative to others? (Pete Gilbert)"I don't know if there is a lot of difference. I mean, wind swirls everywhere; it swirls there, too. The difference between a kicker and a punter, obviously, is the plant foot. Punters don't have to put as much torque on their plant foot, because they are going up rather than out. So, it's not as big a factor. But just like you're playing everywhere this time of the year – except in domes and the South – you're dealing with those issues."
What have you seen from WR/RS Chris Moore as the kick returner the past couple of games? Are you pleased with how he's kind of taken that spot? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Yes, I am. We've been working Chris – ever since he got here – we've been working him at both positions, playing tackle and returner, because you never know what you might be able to do. The way I see Chris is I see him playing fast. He's rolling to the catch very well, and he's playing fast, he's going downhill, and that's what we like for our returners."
P Sam Koch has always had a knack for hitting inside the 20-yard line, and I think this year he's still leading the league. For a punter to excel in that area, what do you think Sam's strength is there? (Jamison Hensley)"I think Sam Koch's strength in the pooch area is ball control. He's able to hit the ball in such a fashion; he hits an end-over-end ball at a certain point going in on pooch areas. He's got excellent ball control, he can hit it right, he can hit it left, he can get it wide, and he can hit narrow. He's got excellent ball control. Also, all the balls that you're talking about inside the 20, or inside the 10, even, some of those are coming from outside the pooch range, and that also has to do with ball control. It's a different kind of punt, but as we all know, Sam is an outstanding directional punter, so he can pinpoint the ball and try to put it close to the sideline and hopefully get a decent bounce off of it. Sometimes it bounces well, and sometimes it doesn't. That ball is a funny-shaped object."
You'll hear a gasp [from fans] when the ball hits and then goes out of bounds at like the 2- or 3-yard line. Does it surprise you at this point, even when he does it to that precision level? (Jamison Hensley)"I don't know if it surprises me. I admire it greatly. The ball he hit out of bounds last week in the pooch area was I think on the 2 [-yard line], and I think Chris Moore was trying to catch it, but it was right on the line basically. That's a hard ball to catch when you're looking up like that, so that's an example of Sam's skills of ball placement. That's the kind of punter Sam is."
It's his 12th year. Do you think this is his best year? (Pete Gilbert)"It's certainly one of them. He's had some great years here before where he led the league in gross punt and net punt, and the inside the 20s has always been a strength of his. He's been playing great. He can't control the situations that he goes into, but he can control what happens in those situations. I think the result of all of his balls that he's hit inside the 20 and inside the 10 – and balls that he's hit out of bounds and forced fair catches – have really been helpful to us. It's not like he's punting from his own 20-yard line all of the time. He's hitting a lot of very efficient punts, and that's really been helping our team."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Let's wrap up the last ball game: I'll tell you what – Mike Wallace had a heck of a game, heck of a first half. Joe [Flacco] played really well. The line played outstanding. There's some exceptions to all of that; we can get an awful lot better. Joe, once again, situationally, handled the thing very, very well. I was proud of the guys. We were up 20-0, and then all of a sudden, [Detroit] makes it [within] one score, and the guys matched that a couple of different times during the game. So, that was a good thing. Now, our challenge is to see how good we can get this week, because we have a heck of a Sunday Night game that's going to happen here real quick. The preparation will be key. We're going against a top-ranked defense in many categories. They sack the quarterback, they live off of turnovers, and they play a fast, physical football team on defense. The fellas are in the middle of their preparation for that, and like I said, the preparation will be key."
**Was one of the goals to be a lot more aggressive on first and second downs? *(Jeff Zrebiec) *"It wasn't much different than many of the first halves we've played. I think we've discussed this, but we've put together some pretty good first halves – certainly in the games we've won. We made some plays … We didn't start off that well, though. We put a couple balls [on the ground], so I'm going, 'Geez!' Then, the guys made a lot of plays from that point on. That was a good thing."
You've mentioned the offensive line. They've only given up one sack in the past few games. Are they playing at their optimum level? (Ed Lee) "Sacks … It starts up front. In fact, I was looking back early in the year at a couple games … We're better up front, just from the reps and the fellas working together. So yes, I think that's a good point there, and it starts up front. Our backs and the tight ends are important, and certainly, the receivers. The quarterback is really, really important in the sacks. Joe has typically done a pretty good job of getting the ball out in the past couple games."
**The defense here gets a lot of praise for creating the turnovers. The offense really hasn't turned the ball over that much. How proud have you been with that ball security? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Going into the season, that was part of the formula. I believe we're No.1 now [in turnover ratio at 14] and have been for a couple weeks, in turnover ratio. Our defense, I think, is No.1 in getting the ball, and I believe we're in the Top 10 [in giveaways]. In the games we've lost, we turned the doggone thing over too many times. In the games we've won, we've done a pretty good job. That's one of the keys to any type of football, any style that you're playing. One of the keys to winning ball games is the turnover ratio."
QB Joe Flacco looked more comfortable extending plays last week. What do you think led to that? (Pete Gilbert) "Really, in the last couple games, I think he's a little bit more healthy than he has [been]. I think people forget he came in with a little back issue, with three or four days of practice to start the season. I think he's … My thought, looking back on it, was let's be in the thing about midseason and [have] Joe healthy, because I thought that would be key. Here we are, and he's about as healthy as he's been all year."
What do you need to see from WR Breshad Perriman for him to be active on gameday (Ed Lee) "We've talked about this about a week or two ago, maybe once or twice. [With] a man in that spot, the only thing that we need to do is prepare like you're starting and practice like gangbusters and get better every day, and then good things tend to happen that way."
Has QB Joe Flacco's improved health changed the way you've been able to call games? (Ryan Mink)"Sure. Going into the season, that was a little … Then, if you remember, we lost an awful lot of guys, in and out. So yes, everything is important. Every game is a little bit different – as you know – going into it and how the game unfolds. Certainly, everything is important, and everything has a little effect, yes."
What have you seen from WR/RS Chris Moore, emerging as the No.3 receiver? (Luke Jones) "Chris is a heck of a special teams player and [is] getting better and better. He's coming now. I've been impressed with Chris. I think he's feeling comfortable with his assignments and alignments. He has some experience now. I don't want to speak too soon, but he's been impressive as of late. Not always, but a high percentage of the time, when a man is a really good special teams player, he ends up being a really good position player. So, I'm hoping that's the case."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
What has been the difference in the run game the past five games? (Ed Lee)"Brandon Williams is one that I can think of. When he was out, it certainly didn't help. We have just played things better. We went searching for a five-technique a little bit after [Brent] Urban got hurt, and then with Brandon out, it was kind of a combination of a couple things in there like that. We have done some things to adjust to scheme a little bit for the personnel we have, so hopefully all of that together has kind of helped a little bit."
Does familiarity with RB Le'Veon Bell help you guys a little bit? He runs in a unique fashion, and you guys have seen that as much as anyone and have overall done a really good job against him. (Pete Gilbert)"Well, it is an advantage because you have seen it a lot and played against it a lot, because it is really very, very hard to simulate by our scout team guys. He is just a unique, unique runner. All of these other guys you say, 'OK, this guy is a downhill runner or a one-cut guy, downhill.' Or you say, 'This guy is a jump-cutter.' [Bell] is a little bit of everything, especially his patience. It is just hard to simulate. But being familiar with it certainly helps. He still … Everybody is at the point of attack when he gets the ball in his hands. Just like when '84' [Antonio Brown] gets the ball in his hands, everybody is at the point of attack. Last week, it was '15' [Golden Tate]. When '15' had the ball in his hands, everybody is at the point of attack. You just have to know that those guys can make a play out of nothing."
Have you moved DT Brandon Williams around? Have you played him at nose tackle a little more than you did at the start of the season? (Jeff Zrebiec)"It is really sometimes dictated by the formation and some things that we do. I don't really want to necessarily tell you exactly what that is. Some of it will dictate what the offense gives us more than us just actually moving him to three-technique or moving him to nose [tackle]. Some of it is based on how we are going to play a certain group or formation or whatever."
We saw that S Chuck Clark got some more defensive reps. Is he somebody that you see his role growing on defense? (Garrett Downing)"Yes, I do. He has done a really good job. He has always kind of been there. He has been such a good, valuable guy to [special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry [Rosburg] on special teams. He really is a very, very intelligent football player and a very good football player. Yes, I could see his role growing. Like I said, the more guys you can play and the more guys you can get in the game, the more into the game they are, the more into the gameplan they are, and that helps you. Yes, I can definitely see him increasing his reps some."
You said a few weeks ago that one week that you liked about CB Marlon Humphrey is that unlike a lot of rookies, he doesn't go in the tank when he gives up plays. How do you think he handled Sunday after giving up a few plays?* (Luke Jones)*"I think he will be alright. Yes, he did, he gave up a couple. He knows it. I think he underestimated some guys a little bit. I do not think he will underestimate Pittsburgh. I think he already knows that they already have eyes on '29.' It is just … I don't anticipate. I think that he is going to come out, and he is going to compete. He is going to be going against some great wide receivers from Pittsburgh. But I am not worried about him competing or going in the tank or anything like that."
What do you think has been the key to closing out so many games in the fourth quarter this year? (Jamison Hensley)"Emphasis of it, I think. I got a little sick of … Everything that I write has 'finish everything' on the end of it. Everything I put up on the board, everything I talk about, every meeting I finish, the last thing we say is, 'Finish everything!' It has just been an emphasis to it. I know some people say, 'Have you called a more aggressive game? Have you called a less aggressive game?' No, not really. I've blitzed at times in two-minute [situations] … Even the year before, I blitzed at times in two-minute, and they scored. Then, I played four-man rush, and they scored. This year, we have done four-man rush, and we have blitzed and not scored. It is just ... To me, the guys have really been in tune to it. One of the things that coach [John] Harbaugh always does a great job of in setting up our practices is I always think he does a great job of doing situational football. Whether it be two-minute [or something else], we have practiced that a couple of times. We do a great job of practicing red zone; I think that has helped us be better in the red zone. Practices are set up very good for situational football, and two-minute is part of that situation. I think we have just emphasized it more and guys have played it better."
Without knowing his availability for Sunday, if ILB C.J. Mosley can't play, how much confidence do you have in LB Kamalei Correa filling in there? (Ed Lee)"I have to have [confidence]. He can go in there, and he can play and he can do it. Kamalei is not going to have any problem running the defense or something like that. He can get us lined up; he can do all of those things. It is always unfair to me to put anything on a guy that is playing behind a Pro Bowl guy. It is like when Ray [Lewis] was out. To think that Albert McClellan was going to go in there and play like Ray Lewis … Kamalei is fine. He is on the team for a reason. He is the backup linebacker, and he plays in the games and he is active in the games for a reason – because he is a good football player. I am not comparing the two of them, but if he has to play, he has to play. We will do a good job."
There was some talk early in the season about QB Ben Roethlisberger and that he was not throwing touchdowns. Is what you have seen lately vintage Ben Roethlisberger? He has played against you guys 23 times in his career or something to that effect. Is preparing for him any different? (Jeff Zrebiec)"No. He had a bad game against Jacksonville and came out with all of this, 'Maybe, I've lost it.' Yeah, right. That was the setup! (laughter) *The guy is playing just like he always plays. If you look at the analytics around the league, he is the same way. If you read the analytics that I had in front of me this week about him extending plays, and I picked up the analytics from eight years ago and read it, you could just overlap them and it would be the same. He is one of the top quarterbacks, if not the top quarterback in the league, at extending plays and making positive plays out of extended plays. Nothing has changed. He has not gotten any smaller; he is still big. He is still hard to tackle. He still gets around the pocket. He still sees the field. I don't know what the difference is. Maybe he runs a slower 40-[yard dash]. I don't know. He never has to do it, so I don't see any difference." Are you worried that if you talk like that, QB Ben Roethlisberger might not retire any time soon? *(Ryan Mink)"It is fun going against guys like that – like Ben. Like I have told you guys before, it is always more fun to play against your friends. You really like playing against great competition – you do. I think everyone says, 'Oh, are you happy this guy is out? Are you happy that guy is out?' It is like playing against backup quarterbacks; I would rather play against the starter. For two reasons: No. 1, I kind of have an idea of what he is going to do. I don't necessarily know what the backup might do. The other thing is you want to compete against those guys. You kind of prepared all year for them, and you want