*THURSDAY PODIUM TRANSCRIPTS: Week 15 at browns
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg, Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg & Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
When K Justin Tucker kicks it short of the end zone, how much is that a kick-by-kick thing, or how much is that catered to certain return teams? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Every week, you design a gameplan – offense, defense and special teams. The kickoff phase of the special teams is the same way. You go into it with a plan, [and] sometimes the elements, the score, the situations dictate otherwise. But, it's all game-planned."
How difficult is it to place it where you want to have it placed? (Jamison Hensley) "The kickers in the National Football League are highly-skilled. Justin Tucker has excellent kickoff skills. He can kick it deep; he can kick it short. He has a lot of skills. We try to maximize those skills. We use his skills to help our field position as best we can. Sometimes we design a kick deep, and it doesn't go deep. This time of the year, in particular, sometimes what it appears is not necessarily the design."
**What was your reaction when you heard the news that [former Ravens return specialist] Devin Hester decided to retire? *(Ryan Mink) *"We really enjoyed having Devin Hester here. I'm sure he will be a top candidate for the Hall of Fame. He's an explosive player and a game-changer in so many ways. I think he'll be a first-ballot guy – I really do. I think he's that significant in his impact to the game. We loved having him here. He's a wonderful man, and a great teammate and a family man. He has all of the characteristics the NFL covets in those kinds of awards."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Let's wrap the last game up. [It was] a tough one, a tough one. [I would have] liked to start a little bit better and finish the doggone thing a little bit better. In between – pretty good – and then we'll go from there. This next ball game … Huge ball game for us. I suspect it's sort of big for them. It's their last home game and all those things, [and] where they're at … The challenge is [that] we're going up against another top-ranked-type of defense. They do a nice job. [Defensive coordinator] Gregg [Williams] always does a good job there. They do a nice job against the run. I believe they are No. 1 in yards per carry and [are] ranked very highly there. So we have our preparation, we're sort of in the middle of that, and that will be important this week. We have to get the hard work in on the field, as well. So, we're looking forward to getting down there to Cleveland."
**Have you been pleased with the amount of times you've had success connecting downfield? *(Jamison Hensley) *"We made some mistakes early in the ball game and got down. Now, I'm proud of the guys. They battled back and ended up with an 11-point lead, or nine-point lead, something like that. So, I was proud of them for that. But, we need to start just a little bit better. Every game is a little different, as far as the game plan and going into it and those types of things. I don't want to give out too many kudos out after a loss."
Are you concerned about WR Jeremy Maclin's production, considering the fact that he's been targeted a ton and he doesn't have a whole lot of catches? (Jeff Zrebiec)"That's a little bit cyclic sometimes. Jeremy missed a day of practice last week, and those types of things, there's never really one thing; it's usually a combination of things. So, when you're in that spot, get the hard work in, make sure you get prepared, let's make sure we have great focus, and then good things tend to end up happening through all of that. It's not uncommon to see something like that."
What has been the key for WR Chris Moore to emerge as the No. 3 receiver?* (Ed Lee) "We've talked about Chris a couple of times, I believe. Now, it was so cold the last time, I can't recall. *(laughter) Chris is coming along. I wish he hadn't gotten hurt in the ball game, but he's coming along. As we discussed, he's a talented young man. He's gaining experience. I will tell you – and we've talked about this before, I believe – that when a man is doing really well on special teams – which he is and does and has for some period of time – most of the time, not always, but most of the time, he ends up being a very good position player as well."
How surprised are you that FB/DL Patrick Ricard has been able to do what he's done – making the conversion and now catching two touchdown passes? (Ryan Mink)"Pat has done a nice job. There's a very specific role that has grown just a little bit throughout the season, and we'll keep that going. He has done a nice job. D-lineman, you know? He has played D-line for us and then a little role on offense. He has done a good job. It's good to have him on our football team."
Did the Steelers do something to negate the tight ends? I don't believe TE Benjamin Watson had a catch.* (Bo Smolka)*"You saw, probably, we went wide outside a little bit, got our speed inside a few times. He probably would have had a couple there. That's a little bit cyclic as well, with the tight end production. So yes, I would like to get the tight ends a little bit more involved. I think it was several games back [where] he had nine [catches] one game. It's a little cyclic, depends on gameplan – some of it does – some of it depends on what they're doing, some of it depends on what we're doing at the specific time."
You've been able to stack two pretty good offensive performances, and you talked about the inconsistency earlier. Do you feel good about where the offense as a whole is going? (Luke Jones)"We're getting better. We get better every day. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Now, it's important to learn from the past. It doesn't matter what happens or what's in front of you – although the preparation is important – don't get me wrong there. Today – let's get better today. If you have that mindset, good things tend to happen. That's what I hope has been the fellas' mindset."
You've watched a lot of great running backs over the years. How would you describe RB Alex Collins' style? (Childs Walker)"It's a good style. *(laughter) *All the backs, they're all different. Alex is getting better every week. He started out good, as well – that tells you what he's done. He's an impressive young man, first, and he's an impressive player. He's getting better and better and better. I'm talking with specifics; he's a natural runner of course. All the other things, he's getting better every week. Impressive player, impressive young man."
**WR Breshad Perriman has dropped on the depth chart. Is the anticipation that the drop might be something to motivate him? *(Ed Lee) *"I think he has been motivated. He's been practicing very, very well – fast, all those things. We'll see what happens with Breshad. We've talked about him before, if I'm remembering correctly. Let's go. Make sure you're prepared, make sure you get the hard work in, all those things, and we have to be ready. We have several people in that situation. 'T-West' [Terrance West] is another young man – heck of a football player! He does a lot for us, but he has to be ready to go, because all of a sudden, they're activated and in [the game] in a blink of an eye and helping our football team."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Some of the guys on defense said they thought QB Ben Roethlisberger was able to attack the middle of the field because of some of the issues with the linebackers and their drops. Is that something you noticed as well, and how do you fix that? (Ed Lee)"Well, we just didn't drop like we have been dropping at times. But it wasn't only linebackers; we all had our issues. I don't think anyone can stand up and say it was someone else's issue. I think we all did [have issues]. [If] we get beat deep on the outside, that is not a linebacker's problem. It was a little bit of everybody. We just didn't play well. We didn't play fundamentally well all the way across the board, and that goes on all of us. We have to do a better job of coaching them and things like that. There was probably a play or two [where] that is probably true. There was also a play or two that was other things. It was a combination of all. We just did not play our best game. We gave up too many big plays, and we just didn't do a good job all around – coaching or playing."
What are your impressions of the Browns' tight ends, and do you anticipate that they might attack you over the middle? (Ed Lee)"Sure. This is a copycat league. Usually, whatever the offense sees the week before or a couple weeks before … If they see a weakness in the defense or something like that, they are going to try to attack it. Just like if we see a weakness in an offense, whether it be an offensive lineman or a scheme or a protection or something like that, we are going to try to attack that protection. I am sure they are going to try to do that – absolutely. That is the way this league is. You better get it fixed, and you better get it fixed in a hurry."
As you know, when a dynamic receiver like WR Antonio Brown has a great game, the outside perception is you should have doubled him. Do you have any laments about how that went down late in the game there?* (Jeff Zrebiec)*"Well, the thing of it is … I really anticipated that question. *(laughter) *Here is the … Let me try to give you a good answer. There is a lot that goes into a call. It is not just all of a sudden a whim or something like that or something that you are going to call. You are going to base a call … You do it all through the week – you base a call based on down and distance, what their personnel is in the game and what their tendencies are in those situations. On the very first third-and-4, we called 'one-double.' Now who would you think we are trying to double? '84' [Antonio Brown]. On that third-and-4, they ran a driver out for a first down, because that was the guy that was open. So, in the last play on the last third down, what was the down and distance? Third down-and-4. So, I tried to call a coverage that was a little tighter coverage to try to get them to fourth-and-4 to try to end the game. You can be criticized for being too soft. If I would have played zone and they completed one underneath for 4 yards, [people would say], 'Why wouldn't we try to get up there and get him?' Or you can be criticized for getting too aggressive and trying to play man and trying to get up there and get them. The truth is we got beat on the release. We tried to get up there, we tried to be aggressive. I tried to change the call from the first third down-and-4 that I ran. It was also based on study over the entire week – that this is what they do – and generally on third-and-4, they aren't throwing a 'nine' route down the sideline. But he [Ben Roethlisberger] did, and so, he did. That is where my call came from. Hey, I have been used to that for a long time. If it works, you are great. If it does not work, you should have done this. That is the way it goes."
In retrospect, would you have possibly moved CB Marlon Humphrey on WR Antonio Brown? (Mike Preston)"Yes, we could have done that. That is probably what we … In hindsight, maybe what we should have done is try to do that. Yes, that is true. We probably should have done that. We talked about it, actually, on the sideline, and what happened is in that game, I played less man coverage than I have played the entire year. I really … After the first couple of passes that were thrown, we were in man, and we just kind of went away from it, and we went to a lot of zone. I pressured 40 percent of the time, and out of those 40 percent, only one of them was a man [coverage] pressure. Everything else was a zone pressure, just trying to keep the ball inside and in front of us. In retrospect, maybe that is probably what we should have done, try to match that up a little better. I'll be honest, we probably should have."
Coach Harbaugh talked about it the other day and S Eric Weddle talked about it with us of not necessarily liking trying to shadow a receiver with one defensive back, because it can kind of imbalance the defense overall. Is that your take on it in general? Do you try to avoid saying, "Hey, you are going to have this guy no matter where he lines up the entire game."? *(Childs Walker) *"You mean like what Mike [Preston] is asking?" *(Reporter: "I'm saying, you wouldn't want to just say, 'Marlon [Humphrey], you are on Antonio Brown?'") *"In an ideal world, you would love to play left and right corners and play them where they are and let them line up and let them take them. Maybe if we had Jimmy [Smith], maybe that is a little different, because we are in a rotation, and maybe that is what we do. But that is what we tried to do. Whether it is right or whether it is wrong … There are so many different ways to skin a cat. There are a lot of teams that match up guys on guys. The only thing that you have to be able to do is you have to be able to practice all week lining up on that guy and then being able to play zone and being able to play other things other than every time he lines up on that guy, we are in man coverage. So, that takes a little more sometimes than what you think, especially when you have a young guy like Marlon [Humphrey], because he hasn't [played much]. All of a sudden, to play corner … It just would depend on the matchup. There is just a lot involved. I am not really trying to avoid it, but there is good and bad to both. Generally speaking, what we have tried to do for the most part is not match up so we can play zone, we can play man, we can pressure. We can do those things and not give away whether we are playing man or zone. If we would have done it in that game, it obviously would have given away that we were playing man, but sometimes it is not all bad. It doesn't even matter if they know what you are in if you can play it better than they can play it."
You mentioned that you didn't want CB Marlon Humphrey in the slot, because you wanted him to focus on playing outside. Does he get much work in practice on the left side, or he is usually on the right side? (Bo Smolka)"He has played primarily on the right side, just like we talked about. We really have kind of had Brandon [Carr] over there at left corner, and we have had Marlon over at right corner. He has played both, only because he substituted for Brandon and for Jimmy [Smith] when we had the rotation going. He has done both. That really wouldn't have been a problem – playing him left or right. I don't think that would have been anything significant for Marlon at all, whether he was on the left side or the right side. There are times when we go against two receivers and you match up, and the left corner may have to go over to the right side or the right corner may have to go over to the left side. You may have to play on an inside receiver. The left-right thing would not have anything to do with it."
Just to clarify, are you saying that with in-game adjustments you wish you had put CB Marlon Humphrey on WR Antonio Brown, or are you saying in the week leading up to practice, you wish you had practiced Marlon just like he was going to cover Antonio? (Ryan Mink)"The thing of it is, if you are going to do it, I have found in the past unless it is a little tweak of something, generally when you try to make a big-time adjustment on the sideline, it usually does not work out well, because you have not practiced it. There are some times where we will pull up and we will say, 'OK, this pressure.' Well, if we have not practiced that pressure during the week and you try to put it in and everybody does not get it … I tried to put something in on the sideline Sunday night, to be honest with you, and I could just tell by the look in everybody's eyes, like when they started … About four guys asked me a question on it. We are not doing it. We are going to screw this thing up, and we are going to give up a big play. As much as I want to do it and I think it will help, it is not going to help if we don't know how to do it. You can tweak things a little bit. I don't know exactly how to explain to you what a tweak is, but it is very, very minor. But when you really try to change something or change a pressure or do something that you have not really practiced during the week, it has just been my experience over all the years that it usually does not fare well. That is what we kind of decided in the end, right or wrong."
Talking to some of your defensive players yesterday, they felt like maybe the stage got to a few guys. Everybody was playing really hard, but when watching tape, stuff that they have been doing well and doing all year, whether it is drops or obviously setting the edge on RB Le'Veon Bell's touchdown, certain things felt like they got out of the confines of the defense. Is that something that you saw too? Maybe guys were a little too amped up? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I can't say that, because I don't know what their mindset was. I can't tell you how a kid was feeling out on the field. What I can say is that was what was disappointing in watching the film. I think that is what the players are alluding to. We just did things that we characteristically did not do for a long time. It is just like setting the edge on that running play. That was a third down-and-1. It is in the red zone, it is late in the game, and we even said on the headset – I even talked to John [Harbaugh] about it – I said, 'We are really not concerned about the first down at this point in time.' I want to have to make them have to use clock if they are going to score, and keep using clock and keep using clock to get in the end zone. Obviously, we don't want to let them score; I don't mean that. What I do mean is we just can't give up a quick touchdown right now. We played a coverage that kind of doubled '84' [Antonio Brown], but also wasn't terrible against the run. Tony Jefferson fit on the run unbelievable. He might have got the first down, but if he did, it would have been by a yard. It would have been a close call, but then he jumped outside – something that we [have done well]. We have done a great job the last four weeks of setting the edge on all of those defenses, and we didn't do it. I can't tell you if that guy … If it was the amped up or whatever. But, also, there were a couple of times that we did not rush, that we felt like … We started doing … One of the things that we had talked about is, 'Do your job.' If you have 11 guys on the team, 11 guys have to do their job for the whole thing to work. All of a sudden, we have an end who decides he thinks he hears something, so he drops trying to think he is going to stop a slant. Well, it wasn't a slant. Then, Ben [Roethlisberger] holds the ball and the guy gets open. Even on the last … On that long play on the third-and-4, if you watch the film on the play before, we played a similar coverage. We did have '84' doubled. We have a certain pass rush that goes with that coverage. The guy executed the pass rush perfect and hit Ben right as he was throwing the ball, and the ball went sailing out of bounds. Ben didn't have time, he had to throw a quick one out, and the ball went sailing out of bounds and it was incomplete. That was second down-and-4. It comes down to third-and-4, and the coverage I called is in the same family as the coverage I called previous to that. It is a tight coverage; it is just not a double. But for whatever reason, we did not rush the same way. If you watch the film, if we rushed the same way, Ben would have never got the ball off. He could not have thrown it down the field. Why did he do that? I don't know. He can't tell me. But he did. That is what I am saying – we did some things. When you do that, I don't care whether you are playing Pittsburgh, whether you are playing the Cleveland Browns – whoever you are playing – you can't do those things. Just do your assignment and good things will usually happen. Sometimes, it goes back to the question you are asking about changing something. All of a sudden, you start changing something, and somebody doesn't really get it. Now you give up a big play. We had a couple of them in that game, where an end was supposed to drop one time on a zone pressure, and they throw a slant to Antonio [Brown.] Basically, we should have him doubled, but we didn't, because the guy didn't drop. Then, we did it later on, and the nickel kills Ben, and he has to dump it down for a 3-yard gain to the tight end. The same play, the same pressure, same formation, we just didn't execute it. To me, the bottom line of that game is we just did not execute on defense across the board. It is not just secondary, it is not linebackers, it is not front, coaches – it is all of us. We just did not execute."
Moving on, what do you see from the Cleveland Browns?* (Ryan Mink)*"You guys have probably watched it. You guys watch a lot of film, right? You guys get the film and stuff. I'm telling you what, if you are watching the film, this does not look like a 0-13 football team. I don't know how many times coaches have always said it: 'Most games are probably not won in this league, they are lost.' That has been their problem. They have played well enough; they have just given it away. They had a chance to beat Green Bay, they had a chance to beat Detroit, and they had a chance to beat a couple of teams – the Jets. They are three times down there in the red zone [against] the Jets and give it away. Any one of those scores wins the game for them. They get a call overturned against Green Bay at the end, and then Green Bay comes back and ties it up or they win that game. This is a much better football team than their record indicates. Much better. They are a scary team, just like every team that we play all year."
Cleveland's quarterbacks have been sacked something like 20 times. Does that lend to you that it might influence you to call more pressures or blitz packages? (Ed Lee)"Well, what you have to look at there is if he is getting sacked by pressures or if he is getting sacked by four-man rushes. You can't just say that as a blanket statement and say, 'We are going to pressure more.' Sometimes, when you pressure more, a quarterback gets it out quicker and maybe gets sacked less. Sometimes if you play more coverage and make him hold the ball, you may get more sacks. It all kind of depends. It has to fit for us, what we can do, but it really is not a question I can say that just because a guy gets sacked more, you want to pressure more. It depends on how he got sacked."