Thursday Practice Transcript - 11/6


Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg

Jerry, we talked with some of the guys about the punt return last week, and they said that some people were getting out of their lanes. What did you see after you reviewed the film? *(Aaron Wilson) *"That particular play… There are a lot of things that go into punt coverage, and I think that particular play is a really good example of team punt coverage. I mean, we could go – the same group of guys generally speaking – where one of the top punt coverage units, where I think we were in the Top 5 in the two most important categories, and then one play later, disaster. There were a number of factors that went into that play – and I really do appreciate the guys that stepped forward and were accountable and took responsibility – but it wasn't just them. It was a complete punt team break down, including the coach. And so, you could look at a variety of different factors. And credit Arizona, they have a dynamic, explosive returner, and they picked him in the first round for a reason. And we respected him, we understood him, and we knew he was an explosive player, and we still weren't able to execute that particular play. And when you're dealing with an explosive player like that, and you make mistakes, it's a bad day. And we did that. Going forward, we're dealing with the issues that we had, and we practiced really well yesterday. I'm confident that our guys are going to play better this week, because we have a similar challenge – a different type of player – but a similar challenge. And that's the way it is in the NFL, as we all know. The cold reality is you do, or you do not. And we did not on that particular play. We did not play the play well, and it hurt us. It hurt us a lot. The good news is, at the 57-minute mark of that game, we came back and made a big play, and it had an effect on the outcome of the game. So, I'm heartened by the fact that our guys both take responsibility for it, but also kept fighting through that. And at the end of the game, we blocked a rush and got the ball inside the five [-yard line], and it helped us win the game."

Some fans might look at the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Jets, and then this punt return for a touchdown, and say that there are some issues overall with the special teams coverage. Is that oversimplifying it a little bit, that two plays can lead to that perception? *(Dan Kolko) *"Everybody can have their opinions. We probably know it, because we're watching the specifics of the play from an inside basis. But certainly, when you view it, you're giving up two touchdowns. That's never acceptable; it's certainly not acceptable now, nor will it be acceptable. So, we're aware of those issues and we're dealing with them."

Can you talk about Antonio Brown and what he does particularly well? *(Ryan Mink) *"What he does particularly well is run the ball. He's had a lot of experience as a punt returner, he's a high school quarterback that understands spacing, and he's very good at seeing the field. He's patient, he sets his blocks up well and he can put his foot in the ground and make people miss about as good as anyone. And you look around the league, and there are a lot of top-flight returners, but there are a few guys that do both well, and he's one of them. I mean, there's a guy in Cleveland that is doing a pretty good job of that over the years; you're probably all familiar with him [Josh Cribbs]. And there's a guy [Devin Hester] in Chicago that's dynamic, there's a guy [Ted Ginn] in San Francisco that's dynamic, and Pittsburgh has a player that's doing both return phases very, very well."

David Reed ranks fourth in the NFL in kick return average, but in the past game, three of the four kick returns didn't get past the 20-yard line. What's your assessment of how he's doing in terms of returning kicks? Is he at the level he was at last season? *(Ed Lee) *"You can look at the stats and say no, he's not, but he's close. But more than that, we're looking at the whole unit rather than just David. The results of David's returns are a product of what happens up front. And when there are guys in the hole, and he tries to make somebody miss, it's not clean and there are all kinds of things that go into it. And so I think David has been, as you all know, has been back and forth with injuries. And I think he's now getting into the swing of things. And I'm anxious for him to get another opportunity and go make something happen, because in that particular phase, he can be a difference-maker. We love the way he runs the ball. He has passion for it, he's been an explosive player, and that would be very valuable this week."

If you come up to a scenario where maybe David [Reed] isn't as effective as you had hoped, or he has been in the past, would you consider putting Bryan McCann in? *(Ed Lee) *"This league – as we all know – this league is… Every week, there are new players given opportunities. So, whatever David does, David does. And he knows it, just like every other player out there, that there are other players that want to do what they do. So, there's no less pressure, there's no more pressure on David to perform every week. He knows that, he understands that, and he's practicing that way, and he's playing that way as well."

Ed Reed sort of lives on the high wire as far as the risks he takes. That didn't seem like a good risk to take when he dove into the middle of all those guys to down the ball. Was that something that you guys talked to him about? There are sometimes when you want to take a risk and sometimes when you don't. *(Aaron Wilson) *"That particular play, obviously Ed was just playing it out and the whistle was at the end of the play. And it's just one of those things [where] Ed's looking for somebody to touch the ball and then him make a play off of it. So, that's why he was doing what he was doing."

Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron

What is Steelers week like for the coaching staff? Do the coaches sleep in their office? (Kevin Van Valkenburg)
"It varies. It's, at least, a normal week, and a pretty good schedule. [There is] plenty of work to get done. Obviously, you guys can see this defense, they have lost some people, but they are playing really good. The guys that have filled in for these guys are playing good. So, for us, we have to ID things a little bit differently. We have some different personnel groups we have to account for, so maybe that takes a little bit more time. Other than that, it's just your typical grind week."

Has [Steelers defensive coordinator] Dick LeBeau shown in the past that they'll bring out different formations, different looks when guys have gone down, and he has had to replace them with different personnel? (Jason Butt)"He does that when he doesn't have injuries. He's just trying to hide the 'backers vs. the down linemen, and the safeties, and always done a really good job. We just have to recognize who is in the game. But, that's a little bit of a challenge every time you play them."

Was how the tight ends [Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta] performed on Sunday kind of what you envisioned from them when the team drafted them a couple of years ago? They both had six catches. (Matt Vensel)"Yeah, both guys have done good things really all along. Dennis [Pitta] got hurt a year ago right when we were planning to utilize him more. Ed [Dickson] continues to grow. I think you saw, a couple of weeks ago, those guys do some great things on a couple drives. Yeah, those guys are getting better. We expect them to continue to grow, and you are going to see them out there a lot."

The communication on the line seemed to get better in the second half than it was in the first, in the sense as far as guys coming free. It seemed like they were able to communicate with each other, as far as identifying better who they need to take care of. Was that a simplification or did they just play better? *(Pete Gilbert) *"No, it was just a couple of little adjustments… [Cardinals defensive coordinator] Ray Horton does a nice job, too. He comes from Pittsburgh, so they had some adjustments they made, and then we adjusted, and it worked out. It worked out. Absolutely."

Obviously, a lot of success in the second half in the no-huddle [offense]… Playing on the road, how much more of that is a challenge aside from this crowd noise? (Luke Jones)"It varies. It is – the crowd noise is the issue. You just have to use non-verbal signals if you are going to do it. Everybody has seen us do it over the last few years, off and on, one week, another week. We just kind of do it by feel. If it is something we think fits, we use it. When you are on the road, you just have to make sure everybody is on the same page. I think our guys – again a lot of young guys, Torrey [Smith] is new, as you mentioned, Ed and Dennis, a couple of new guys up front – we should continue to get better and better. I think that's the most important thing. I think you have seen that here the last week and a half."

How big would it be to get Ben Grubbs back? We saw that he practiced yesterday. *(Ryan Mink) *"Anytime you can get a player like Ben [Grubbs] back, that is big because he played extremely well in the first game. We'll see. He is probably [going to] be a game-time decision. We'll take Ben back at any point in time. Andre [Gurode], really, for a guy that has never played left guard in his entire career, to me it's been miraculous what he has done. It hasn't been perfect – he knows that – but it has been really good. He has given us a chance to win every game. I think you have to give him a lot of credit doing something he has never done before, next to a guy who is also new. Obviously, when Ben comes back, we will be pleased."

We have been talking a lot this week in the media about Joe [Flacco] playing in the shotgun, whether he sees the field better, whether he recognizes the defense better. Is that too simplistic of a view of it? (Kevin Van Valkenburg)"I don't know. I think he is really good in the shotgun. Statistically, he is better underneath the center, but we want to get better underneath the center, we want to get better in the shotgun. And, you want to mix the two. The keys is your ability… You have be able to run the ball out of both so defenses just can't tee off on the pass and you become too predictable. It's something that – because of all the different blitzes you get today, everybody – even the guys that said they would never be in the shotgun – are in the shotgun. Certain blitzes almost dictate that. Certain packages, you are going to want to use shotgun more than others. But, we are going to continue to evolve and grow with what you saw last week, and there is no reason we can't do that."

Players who grow up their whole life playing in the spread [offense] now, that is something that we didn't see 20 years ago. Because the spread is so much more prevalent in high school and college now, is it possible that they just feel more comfortable now? I don't know if it is specific to Joe… (Kevin Van Valkenburg)"There is no doubt. There is no doubt about it. You need to be able to do both. I have had guys that… I had one guy that never took a snap from under the center his whole college career and became a great quarterback underneath the center. You need to be great at both, but there is no doubt. I remember a youth league game I went to a few years ago, and these were 10- and 11-year-olds. It was five-wides shotgun. There are some guys, like I said, you have to teach quarterback-center exchange more today from underneath then you have ever had to in a long time. That's something you have to be good at. There was a game the other night where that became a difference. Yeah, most these guys come up in the shotgun."

One of the critiques of the shotgun, that people will say, is that it forces the quarterback, even for that split-second, to take their eyes off the defense to actually take the snap. Do you think that is overblown, given the speed? (Luke Jones)"I used to think that, too. I probably learned the most from Doug Flutie. Doug Flutie kind of taught me the most about the shotgun and things that he likes. You develop an ability to see both. The great ones have the ability. You don't have to just stare at the ball. Assuming your center gets it within range, you feel the ball, and you are feeling things at the same time. It gives you a feel. I remember Doug talking about it, he can tell when the back is scanning over, he can feel unblocked guys. I always asked him, I said, 'Do you want the unblocked guy to your right or to your left?' When I first got into the shotgun, I assumed you'd want it into your face, like you do from underneath the center. He says, 'No, I want it from my left because I know I can hang onto the ball for the last split-second. I can take a hit from my back and still get the ball off,' which taught me a lot about where you want to leave unblocked guys if you can. I think all the young guys today, like say they have been doing it their whole lives, and they have a great feel for it. Joe is one of those guys. Sometimes tall guys have a tough time with it, because things have to happen so fast. That's why guys have to have a quick arm. Joe, for tall guy, has probably one of the quicker arms you will see."

Pittsburgh seemed to do a real good job last week with [Patriots WR] Wes Welker and kind of being physical with him, and kind of identifying him and saying, "All right, we are not going to let Wes beat us." Normally that should open things up for somebody else, but it didn't seem to do either. What did you see about the way they played? (Pete Gilbert)"They just walked up on him, and they doubled him a lot, too. They dropped [Troy] Polamalu down inside where he is free to play and roam and really double where the quarterback is looking. They matched him. They matched an outside corner on him inside, put a bigger guy on him. It worked out pretty well for him. With that being said, there were people open. That will be the key this week – is making sure when there is separation, we are heading in the right direction."

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano

When it comes to your predecessors in this job, guys like Rex Ryan, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan has been in the business a long time – real high-profile guys. If your unit keeps playing the way it's playing the rest of this year, and another couple of years, does it matter to you if you get the credit? (Joe Platania)"No, all the credit certainly goes to the assistant coaches and the players. It's always been about the players, and we've got really, really good players here. So, our goal is, I've told you many, many times, first and foremost, is to win the world championship. Secondly [it] is to be the best defense in the NFL. So, those guys get all the credit."

With Steelers WR Mike Wallace, how tough is that as an assignment? Just in terms of deep threats, is he the preeminent deep threat out there? (Aaron Wilson)"I mean, absolutely. They've got a bunch of guys that can all run. They can all fly. They run great routes. They can take the top off the defense. We've got our hands full."

The Steelers looked like they spread out the Patriots a decent amount in their last game. Do you feel like that's something they could do again? (Ryan Mink)"Absolutely, and they've done it to us in the past. So, we're fully expecting them to – not only try to pound the rock, but spread us out, go hurry-up, go no-huddle. So, we're ready for all that stuff."

Bernard Pollard is known as a big hitter. Opposing offenses know that as well. How much do you think that threat of a big hit plays into a wide receiver's head as he's going over the middle, with knowing that Bernard Pollard is there? (Dan Kolko)
"You know what? They've got… All their guys are really tough guys. They're really competitive guys. They've all taken hits, and they've all learned from one of the best in the business, in Hines Ward, not only giving out licks, but taking licks over the middle. So, they all kind of play with that mentality. They're well aware of it, but they'll be up for the challenge."

Ben Roethlisberger's decision-making early on in his career seemed more like, "I'm going to take some gambles and fly by the seat of my pants." But now, he seems to be making a lot of very good decisions methodically, willing to accept four- or five-yard passes. How much more of a challenge is it with him doing that, compared to what you may have seen earlier in his career? (Pete Gilbert)"It's huge, because he is executing really, really well right now. It seems like, from Week 1 to right now, that he's on the same page with those wideouts and the tight ends and the backs. He's always got the ability to extend plays. But it looks like he's getting the ball to the right spots at the right time, so he's doing, obviously, a really good job. Again, the extended plays… He can still beat you with those."

Are you game-planning, once again, for seven turnovers? (Pete Gilbert)"Someone asked me before whether that was… Are they going to look at it and say, 'That was an aberration.' We'd love to have [seven turnovers]. We'd love to get it. We're going to try to get it. If the ball bounces our way then, so be it. That'd be great."

With Maurkice Pouncey, how tough is he in the middle there – not just being able to move him, but his mobility and his ability to do a lot of things? (Aaron Wilson)"He's really good. Plus, the other thing is, he makes a lot of their calls for them. So, he gets them in the right protection along with Ben [Roethlisberger]. So, from an athletic standpoint and a mental standpoint, he's really good."

The things that have worked for you, getting pressure the first time you played Roethlisberger, how much of it can work again? (John Eisenberg)"We're going to find out. We're going to be who we are; they're going to be who they are. So, we'll see."

I think you said, about two weeks ago, that the media was a little more fixated on the sack total than the team was. But with the numbers being what they are, what do you kind of view as being the biggest or one factor that is the case there? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Well, again, I think that we've got really good depth and we've got a bunch of guys… Give credit to [defensive line coach] Clarence [Brooks] and [outside linebackers coach] Ted [Monachino] and [linebackers coach] Dean Pees and those guys that are coaching those guys – getting them in the right spots and executing the game plan and doing a good job with disguise. Again, we're doing a much better job on first and second down. We're getting them in the throwing situation, so you take the run totally out of that. You're always worried about a screen here and there, but we play the screens really well, so we haven't seen a bunch of those, as of late. So, it's a combination of a lot of things. But they're hungry, and they love to get to third-and-long and get after the quarterback."

Ray Lewis yesterday talked about Jameel McClain and the progress that he's seen from him. What have you seen from him particularly in the classroom? (Ryan Mink)
"It's huge. It's like I've said before, he's like a sponge. Everything that Dean [Pees] tells him and Ray tells him and all those other guys... He's picked up really, really well on, not only our Ravens stuff, [but] he's got a set of pickles. When we've lost guys in the course of a game – Dannell [Ellerbe] goes down, [Brendon Ayanbadejo] gets winded and needs a break – he's a smart enough guy where we can throw him in our sub package or our dollar package and he can play the dime and does a really good job there. [He is a] bright guy and does a really good job of preparing during the week and showing up on Sundays."

Much has been said about the Pittsburgh offensive line, the injuries and other struggles. What have you seen from them recently, in the past three or four games, and does it look different from what we saw in Week 1? (Luke Jones)
"There's a little bit of cohesiveness there. They're playing, obviously, at a higher level right now. Having the same group in there week after week really helps, from a communication standpoint. So, it looks like they've really gotten on the same page."

From a defensive standpoint, can you talk about what a pair of tight ends like Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta can… The matchup problems they can create for a defense. (Matt Vensel)
"It's a nightmare. It's like us going to play New England when you've got [TE Aaron] Hernandez and you've got [TE Rob] Gronkowski. You've got to find ways, and people, to put on those guys. Some people have athletic enough safeties to cover them. Some people have athletic enough linebackers to cover them. Some people will choose to rush less rushers and double those guys. But you spread those guys out, and you get them in space, it creates a nightmare for the guy calling the defense."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content