THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 4 AT STEELERS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Did you get any clarification from the league about the blocked field goal ruling? What's your take on that situation? (Bo Smolka) "The information that I got back was that the play was not legally executed. I haven't heard an official NFL proclamation on that. But, that's something that is my responsibility as a special teams coach to secure protection. That's a very important aspect of the game. Both punt protection, field goal protection – that's my responsibility. Punt protection can handle that; it has previously, and if it happens again, it will. I can assure you it will be protected. I think the NFL has done a great job. In 2018, there has been a point of emphasis made on player safety with regard to snappers. We've seen a lot more fouls over the middle on long snappers in recent weeks. We've seen they also repositioned the officials, where the umpire is now behind with the referee, and the side judge is looking at the middle, and what happens is the side judge is calling more of the center/snapper fouls, and the umpire is seeing the leverage plays. We've had a lot more leverage fouls. As you might recall during the preseason, Ronnie Stanley got injured on what should have been, in my opinion, a leverage foul. Those are all player safety issues. The leaping rule was formulated with player safety in mind. That's why we banished leaping from field goal protection and field goal blocks. In the spirit of that rule, there's a very narrow window that someone can be on the line of scrimmage and jump over the offensive line and not create a leverage situation, not create any contact with anyone, not land on anyone from a stationary position.
"I had the privilege of sitting in the NFL offices and helping formulate the rules in the kickoff coverage rule. I saw Dave Gardi and Joel Bussert to Rich McKay in action as they go through the language of writing the rule for the kickoff. I gained a real appreciation for how specific they have to be when writing the legal definitions of all the rules. It was a really interesting experience. I wasn't in the room when they wrote the leaping rule, but I believe the word 'stationary' is a very specific word. I believe that word was put in the rules, with regard to leaping, for a very a specific intent – and it's player safety. Maybe you can jump over the line without moving forward. I think we'll probably find out in weeks ahead, because teams will probably try to do it. I hope nobody gets hurt, because it's a player safety issue. Again, we know how to protect it, and there have been some ugly plays in leaping. I think you've all seen over the years, and I just hope it doesn't go down that road, because the intent of that rule, the spirit of that rule, was with player safety in mind. But it'll probably happen; we'll be ready. And I'm sure other people, now that they've seen this, will also be ready for that kind of thing.
"I don't blame the officials in any way, shape or form, because they were … I'm sure they were informed before the game what was about to happen. When you look at something with an idea with what's going to take place, the player was not within the framework of the center, so he was outside that. He was on the line of scrimmage because his foot was in the feet of the linemen. But from my vantage point, I saw movement – so I thought it was a foul. They didn't. But they were obviously informed of this, and I would guess that they thought it was going to be one thing, and it turned out in the end to be another. Again, I haven't heard any official proclamation on that, but going forward, we're going to be mindful of it. Protection is built for it and now that it has happened, I think everybody else in the National Football League will be looking out. It's something that we all have to deal with now. Everybody has their own lines they draw. That's not something that we're going to do. I'll just put that out there right now: We're not doing that. Different people have different ways that they look at it, I guess. It's a very competitive game, and everybody's looking for an edge. You're trying to score, you're trying to … It's just very competitive, so every little thing is parsed. I've got a cut-up upstairs off 50 pull and shoots with a team, and pull and shoots are illegal, but teams run them. A couple years ago, I saw a linebacker try to screen an official, so he can run a pull and shoot. So stuff, it goes on. We'll deal with it. We'll deal with it."
Do you believe that it's possible for a player to be stationary and leap over the center? (Ryan Mink)"I think we'll find out. I don't know if it is or not. I don't think it's been proven that he can. But I think, as they say down south, we're fixin' to find out."
What is the world record for a standing broad jump? (Kevin Byrne)"I'm not sure. Bob Beamon's running long jump was much more significant than what I see in the Combine."
The missed block on the punt, was that an awareness issue, technique issue? (Childs Walker) "That's a really good way of framing that question. It really is. It was good technique versus bad technique, and the good technique wins every time. In that situation, a guy made a really good rush against a really, really poor protection and technique. It's kind of interesting [that] the first two plays of the game … It was a rough day at the office.(laughter) The first play, we had a specific kickoff return designed, and as it unfolded, I was really excited about what I saw because it was as I hoped it to be. We had a technique – you were referring to technique – that was completely … It was terrible. It was so bad it was unrecognizable like, 'What was that?' And we're tackled at the 16-yard line. So there's an example, but the alarms don't go off. The offense just trots out there and they start the drive. Well, on the subsequent punt, bad technique again and then there's a blocked punt and the world changes. They're different situations, but it's the same problem. Offense and defense go through it all the time. It's good technique versus bad technique. Special teams is a game filled with fundamentals. Our fundamentals broke down. It's my responsibility to coach those guys better. He's going to have to have better technique if he's going to be on our punt team. It's one thing to guard the Gatorade cooler, it's another to guard the club treasury. That's the situation. When you're on the punt team, you have a high, high standard."
Are you finding linebackers just coming out of college, who haven't played special teams in a while, just aren't prepared? (Kevin Richardson) "One of the most exciting parts of my job is preparing guys for that. I mean that sincerely. I love working with these guys, and it's somewhat of a blank canvas to some extent, because the punt rules in college are so different. They don't protect for the large part, and I'm not exactly sure what the rules are. I think that's an exciting part of the job. I really relish having young players in here and working with them and teaching them how we do things. I think that kind of points also to why a guy like Albert McClellan and Anthony Levine [Sr.] are so valuable to us, because they've been through it, and they understand it. They've been there, so to speak, and they can teach the other guys along the way. While I mention those two names, I'm so proud of those two guys. One of the things that happens in games like that in such an early point in the game – it's rough. You take a couple of deep wounds, and Albert McClellan and Anthony Levine [Sr.] in the kickoff return huddle after that situation – they were the guys that were leading the way. I was showing them a card, and the subsequent drive started at the plus 40-yard-line, and then we had to deal with it later on in the game, and I was so proud of our defense. After the blocked field goal and the penalty that put our defense back out there, I heard 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] leaving the sideline, amongst all the noise, and he was running out there and he said, 'This is what we do!' 'Sizz' is the one that caused the fumble, which led to the penalty, which led them to have to punt. So, it's a team game. I guess that was a long answer to a short question, but yes, I like doing that." (laughter)
What did you see from WR/RS Tim White at returner? Obviously, he took care of the ball. _(Pete Gilbert) _"Yes – that was a big thing, that really was. The kickoff return that I eluded too, he ran it really well and fast. I think it's the first time in the regular season in the National Football League, and I look forward to better things in front of him. He had a lot of situations to deal with, in regard to the punt returns. There were a lot of short punts on the ground and situations where we had to protect our coverage, our blocking. I thought he handled his business in good fashion."
Pittsburgh has been known to put WR Antonio Brown back there on a punt return … (Ed Lee) _"Yes, I don't blame them." _(laughter) (Reporter: "How do you anticipate?")"I don't know. They won't let us watch the practices, so it's hard for me to anticipate what they're going to do. But he's a highly-skilled player, very competitive guy. Would it surprise me if he's back there? Not in the least."
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"I'll talk a little bit about last Sunday: The resiliency, the mental toughness, mental fortitude, focus… of Tiger [Woods] walking down 18 and winning that thing! (laughter) Was that not awesome, seeing that crowd in the fairway? But getting to the game, it's really the same thing. We talked about resiliency. You heard it in the locker room after the game – and that's one of our pilings that we have in the defensive room – and I think that's what it's been, is just the resiliency of them, of everyone. How they stand up to different challenges has been remarkable to me throughout this season. And I think once we have a group of guys going in that direction, I think you're going to see some special things, and we're looking forward to the next challenge, which we all know about this one coming up."
How much has your depth been tested these last couple weeks with the number of guys not just missing games, but playing in games banged up? (Jeff Zrebiec) _"You always ask the easy … You give me the …" _(swings as if hitting an easy pitch, laughter) "I like that. It's been tested. It really has been tested. And you've seen some younger guys that have stepped up and have gotten better. Kenny Young is one of them, and you're really starting to see him take off with the game that he had against Denver. I was really excited about that. It's still the same thing. It's just like raising kids. You'll get them going the right way, the right way, the right way, and then all of the sudden, you'll get a note from the teacher saying he didn't turn his homework in. That's the same way it is with rookies. He'll make a mistake, but what you see in him is his productivity. That's something to look forward to down the road as we go."
Why do you think you guys have been so good in the second half? You have yet to allow a touchdown. (Ryan Mink) _"It's like a no-hitter. We don't talk about that, OK? _(laughter) I think that it's just … Games, football games on Sundays, whenever you play them, it's just series of events. And, how you handle those series of events determines how well you're going to be, how well you're going to do. I think anything that you … And I understand that everyone wants to write a story, I understand that, but we need to talk about that after Week 16, because if we start looking at all that stuff, you get lost in the focus of [it]. As John's [Harbaugh] goal is, win the next game."
When you prepare and go back to last year there and QB Ben Roethlisberger threw for 500 yards, but before that in the series, it was rare for him to get a 300-yard game. Do you go back and study that more or more what you looked at the last time you played there? (Pete Gilbert) _"That's a good question. I just think that each year has its own challenges. So, we don't sit there and say, 'Let's look at this game.' We look at all the games that we've played in the past. If we just stay focused on things that didn't go well, things aren't going to go well. We're going to think about things that we can do to make things go well, if that makes sense." _(Reporter: "So you don't watch the last game.") "Well, no, of course we watched it, but you learn from those lessons, and that goes from building your package from OTAs to training camp. That goes into the whole thing of all those games where things didn't go very well."
When it comes to sacking quarterbacks, is there anyone tougher to bring down than QB Ben Roethlisberger? _(Jamison Hensley) _"That's a good question. I think you've got a guy that's about the same size as 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs]. He's tough to bring down. You saw that Monday night. I talk to the defense about it. We talk about extending plays. That's what he does. That's where he's a top-tier quarterback in my mind, in my humble opinion, because he turns it into backyard football. If we ever had a backyard game, he'd be my first pick, because that's where he really excels as a quarterback, and the receivers play off of that very well, as well."
John Harbaugh talked Monday about the opportunity to watch the Steelers on television on Monday night. What are you thinking when you watch them march up and down the field during the first half? (Jeff Zrebiec) _"I wish there was a little bit more 'Fitzmagic.' _(laughter) I wanted that thing to go into overtime. But we know, watching these guys, this is an explosive offense. They have talented receivers, 'A.B.' [Antonio Brown] and JuJu [Smith-Schuster] and the rest of them. Their tight ends are coming on now, and [James] Conner, the running back, he's a talented kid. And their offense, being run by 'Big Ben' [Ben Roethlisberger], they're executing, and that's the focus for us going into this game. It's not just one guy; it's all 11 of us. We have to execute."
Generally speaking, what's your philosophy on corners, as far as having them play size or having them follow a No. 1 receiver? (Garrett Downing) _"I think that you just leave that to your game plan of what you think is going to be best for the team that week. I'm not answering that one." _(laughter)
John Harbaugh has talked about how late to football OLB Za'Darius Smith was, his basketball roots. Has his development at outside linebacker taken on a different shape than other young linebackers that you've kind of worked with? _(Jones Shaffer) _"He's always been a big, strong kid, and what has happened is, he's just starting to show what we thought when we drafted him. He's much more … He's more focused this year, and he's really worked on his technique, and you're seeing the dividends pay off with that. I think it's awesome the way he's started out, because he's such a value to the defense, because he can rush inside and outside, as you all saw that."
You mentioned RB James Conner. Is he able to do enough of the things that RB Le'Veon Bell did that their overall offense presents fairly similarly? _(Childs Walker) _"I think they're both great backs. They really are. They're great running backs. He might be a little bit different. He might be a little bit better at this and that, but I think they're both really good running backs."
You were asked about how tough it is to bring down QB Ben Roethlisberger. Clearly, a big topic of discussion around the league has been the body weight rule when sacking quarterbacks. As a coach, just generally speaking, is there a concern that, knowing that you can't really arm tackle Ben because that's typically a bad thing, a bad result, is there a concern that guys will be thinking too much, knowing that you do have to bring him down? _(Luke Jones) _"No, no, I don't think we think that way. I think that we don't make the rules, we just have to play by them. I think we just go to tackle. Now, we've done drills. We've drilled on how we land. If you will, it's a rodeo stop-drop-and-roll tackle. I'm just trying to give you words to describe it, but that's what it ends up looking like, and everybody tries to do that. You can see on our tape, that's what we're trying to do. I know that's the hot topic right now, and nobody really cares what I think about it. I mean, really, come on."
With ILB C.J. Mosley and NT Michael Pierce returning to practice, how important would it be to have them back for the defense? _(Ed Lee) _"'Harbs' [John Harbaugh] talks about that, and I think he said that they're close, so I think they're close. It would be, obviously, it's the starting MIKE linebacker [Mosley] and the starting nose and three-technique with him [Pierce] and Brandon [Williams] in there. Of course, it's very valuable. It makes me sleep just a little bit better."
Numbers-wise, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is off to a really good start. What's he doing differently this year? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"Not buying it. Ben [Roethlisberger] is just throwing it a ton more, and there's more double-coverage on 'A.B.' [Antonio Brown], so I'm not buying that one. He's been a good receiver since he's been in this league. He really has. I know what the numbers say, but we also know 'A.B.' He's the matrix."
We saw, you talk about tackling, how challenging it is to tackle QB Ben Roethlisberger, and then he takes a dive and flops like a soccer player like we saw Monday night. Do you have to work the refs ahead of the game? Really, how important is that to make sure guys try and watch for that? _(Pete Gilbert) _"I said I wasn't going to give my opinion, because it doesn't count, but I think this: This league has always been about the quarterback, and we know that. Everything is about the quarterback. We understand that. You've seen a lot of ... I think Joe [Flacco] even said something about, 'It's tough to be a defender now,' in hitting a quarterback. You've seen other things. I think Deshaun Watson said, 'Let's just play football.' And the list goes on. Let's not turn this into the NBA flop fest. Because now, the quarterbacks are making a mockery of it to the officials and the league. Now, you're insulting the officials and the league if you do that. Maybe they will, maybe they won't; I don't know. But I just know one thing: I said this earlier in training camp [that] there are going to be calls that we have no [control over]. There's nothing we can do about it. They're not going to stop it and review it because Wink is mad. We have to get ready to play the next play, and I think the teams that do that the fastest will have the most success."
Has it been fun to watch the rivalry, as a coach, between OLB Terrell Suggs and QB Ben Roethlisberger, and what do you think makes that matchup so fun? (Ryan Mink) _"I think it's like any rivalry this week. I said something to the defense; there were a couple things that we passed along. I said, 'First of all, rookies, we don't need your opinion about this rivalry,' because…' _(laughter) You heard John [Harbaugh] say, 'Once a Raven, always a Raven?' That is true,after you've played in the Pittsburgh game, because that's when you get your badge of honor that I'm a Raven. Has it been fun? Yes, because I've said this, too, as a coach, and I said this to the defense: It makes you feel young again as a coach, because everybody in here that's played sports, you've all had rivals. And, it's all relative. Your high school rivalry, your college rivalry, whatever rivalry it is, there's something to it – whether it's respect for each other, you know what type of game it's going to be – that gets you going, and that happens. I'm not going to run from that. That happens with all of us, players and coaches. But the rivalry between those two, I liken it to Ali-Frazier, Bird-Magic – I'm a little bit older. That's just what it is. I think if you're a sports fan, that's how you view it, and that's the exciting part of it as a sports fan, and as a coach, it's fun preparing for it."
You've talked about how you're not going to talk about the second half, and I'm sure you're also not going to address the defense. You guys have the No. 1-ranked defense after three weeks. Do you view the Steelers as a good gauge, given how well they're playing offensively, all the weapons they have, in terms of where your group is at? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I think that every Sunday is a good gauge, because there are always different types of variables. Like I said before, it's always about the players, and always will be, and we know that it's a challenge with the rival game. I don't think about rankings or anything else. I know what we have to do. We have to play well Sunday."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Let's wrap up this last game. It was a huge ball game for us, at home, against a really good football team. The players did really a great job with the preparation. Joe [Flacco] was really on it. He did a lot of things. He has been doing a lot of things at the line of scrimmage. He's done just a fantastic job there. The big O-Line played really well, and then the skill guys made some plays. Now, like I told them, there's still more out there for us. It wasn't perfect, but we're chasing it. And, we've got a lot of work to do in some of the things that we want to get accomplished. Now, on to the next game, a little Sunday night action – you have to like that now – in Pittsburgh. You have to love that. That song, what's the song? It's like 1980s, isn't it?" (Reporter: "'Renegade.'") "'Renegade,' you have to like the 'Renegade' song. Anyway, we're in the middle of preparation for that, and I mentioned that because that's one of the things, of course, on the road that you have to thrive in, is environment, the crowd noise. So, we're right in the middle of preparation. They guys are working hard on the field. They're working hard with the preparation. Some of the guys are trying to get their bodies right for this one."
Is it important to sort of the overall philosophy of the offense that you keep plugging away at the running game, even if the yards per carry maybe aren't what you want them to be in a given game? _(Childs Walker) _"It's so early in the season. Look, our run game has been really good. Greg [Roman] has done a great job! Let me just tell you – he does a great job with everything. He's involved in everything [and is] a great job with that. And situationally, it looks like we've been pretty good. I know the numbers aren't quite … Every game is a little different. If you notice, I've thrown the ball quite a little bit, especially early in the first, really, three games. Ballgame No. 2, we're down 21 for quite a bit, so it was forced there. It wasn't quite the plan. We'll get that thing going. We'll be just fine. The guys are working hard at it. We've been good situationally, certainly in the red zone, certainly in short-yardage situations, we've been very good there. We've been pretty good in four-minute, as well, with the run game, so we'll just keep chipping away at that thing."
As a coach, you watch a rookie like TE Mark Andrews down the seam making a play on a ball that, it's a trust throw. QB Joe Flacco is like, "I'm going to put it [on you]. You have a lot of coverage, and I'm going to trust that you're going to make it." To see that so early on, how gratifying is that, and how exciting is it? _(Pete Gilbert) _"Heck, I'm excited. I'm excited about Sunday night, too. It is [exciting]. It's a trust throw on something that they've practiced many times together. He's done a fantastic job, Mark, our rookie tight end out of Oklahoma. Fantastic job up to date."
On the RB Alex Collins touchdown, when you watched the film, did you see that QB Lamar Jackson, in kind of that decoy role, sort of attracted attention? (Garrett Downing) _"Yes. Absolutely. Look, the Lamar thing, that will be different every game. It really will. And, really … I'm not going to go there on that. _(laughter)[I don't want to] let too much out there, but it will be different every game. It's a good thing, and I think the fellas are having a little fun with it as well."
We saw TE Hayden Hurst come back yesterday. What are your expectations for him, and could he play Sunday? (Ed Lee)"The personnel thing and the head coach, the 'one voice' thing is important here. He did do some work yesterday, and he looked fantastic, fantastic. So, it will be good to get him back."
Passing offense has been very balanced, in terms of the number of guys who have caught passes. What does that do to a defense? _(Aaron Kasinitz) _"That's one thing that we try to do. We try to use all eligible receivers and runners, and then it's sort of my responsibility to get the ball to our best guys a little bit more. We have spread it around, and that's a good thing. It always is a good thing."
You had a specific play where G/T Alex Lewis was lined up out wide. What exactly was going on with that play? (Kyle Andrews) _"Just a little unbalanced play. That's about it. _(laughter)That's about all I can go on. That part is on film. We try to keep people off-balance with a variety of things, and that's one of them."
What makes RB Javorius B Allen so good right around the goal line? It looks like he's sort of the preferred option down there, as of right now. (Ryan Mink)
"He's very, very good. I know this. He's very, very good in short yardage and goal line, among other things. 'Buck' Allen is a very good football player, especially good, and some guys just have that feel in those small, little spaces, in the gaps they have to hit. He's just very good at that, and we've used him extensively in those situations. We'll still continue to use others as well. I think the short, short-yardage situation has been a real positive, up to date, and so we'll try to keep doing a variety of things there."
It wasn't Denver, but against the Bengals, TE Maxx Williams got a carry in a short-yardage situation. Did he lobby to become a running back, or how did that work? _(Ryan Mink) _"No, no, but we've used that in the past as well. You missed it. It must have been last year. But, Maxx does a good job there in short yardage as well."
G Marshal Yanda
On how he feels physically:"I'm just taking it one day at a time – just preparing and getting ready for Pittsburgh, just plugging away, working hard every single day. But things have been going well. My body has been holding up good and been feeling a little bit more comfortable out there each week. So, it's been going well."
On if this is the most balanced group of offensive players he's seen:"I mean, it's Week 3. We're trying not to get too crazy on the predictions and all that stuff. We're just taking care of the day, taking care of practice. Obviously, we're doing some good things, and I agree with you. But we're keeping our heads down right now. We're going to keep grinding away."
On the Ravens' red zone success: "I don't know. It's just making plays, obviously, in the passing game, and we're running the football well in the red zone. I think it's a combination of both, doing both well – not just being one-dimensional in the run or the pass. That's execution; that's all 11 guys doing their job at a high level."
On what he thinks of when hearing the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:"It's a physical, division game – what a division rivalry game is all about. Our goal is to start out with winning the division, and you have to be physical. That's part of it."
On what he tells the rookies about what they're going to face in their first primetime game at Heinz Field: "I try not to make it too big for them. It is an NFL football game, and every single one of these games is important. But obviously, you'd like to say this game is going to be more physical, but I try not to make it too big for the rookies. It's just another game for us. Obviously, it's a big game, but your preparation and your approach does not change week to week. You continue to prepare. Every game is important in this league, so we approach it like every single one is important. We keep preparing."
On if it's true that you're only a "true Raven" once you play against Pittsburgh:"Yeah, we play them twice a year. They're in our division; they're very important. We'll be fired up when we go up there and play them."