Opening Statement: "[It's] good to see everybody. I appreciate everybody being here. I'm very happy with the outcome of the game. Certainly, having studied the tape and spoken with the coaches and a lot of the players, we played a really good game on the road in the division against a team that is playing well and is going to have a heck of a season in their stadium – their crowd is very loud. It's just one of those environments. It was really an AFC North showdown game early in the season, and our guys did very well. They answered the bell. I thought it was complementary football. All three phases played well together, [and] they played off of each other as the course of game went on and did everything necessary in order to win the game. So, [I'm] happy with that, yet we look at it, and even the guys are talking about it this morning in the weight room and stuff – [there are] so many things we can get better at and improve at, and that's what we're going to have to do to go into Pittsburgh and play our best football and win the game. We'll have to play a better game than we did last week. So, what questions do you have?"
QB Lamar Jackson has had his highest completion percentage in a season so far. One of the changes of this offense seems to be getting out of the huddle sooner. How do you think that has helped him have more completions? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, having completions like that against this defense is a heck of thing because they're not a defense that's going to give up a high completion percentage, generally, at all. They're more of a defense that you have to try make the completions count against which Lamar [Jackson] also did along with the receivers – Mark [Andrews] and Zay [Flowers] and the different plays that were made were some chunk plays out there that you really have to get against this style of defense and the talent that the Browns have and the way [Browns Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz] does it, which is great. Our guys made plays, and that's what really counts. All the other stuff – the [huddle] operation stuff that you're talking about – is very important, very important. We're trying hard to do a good job with that and shave as much time as we can through whatever part of the process and yet get everything communicated really well. So, our guys are doing a good job of that, and we will continue to try and keep improving that and be the best we can at it."
What do you say to the people who ask questions about QB Lamar Jackson accuracy? (Cordell Woodland) "I'll say what I always said, 'Lamar [Jackson] is an accurate quarterback.' He always has been, to my eyes, and I'll just take the one throw to Mark [Andrews] for the touchdown in the corner of the end zone. That's as good a throw that you're ever going to see in a football game from a quarterback. So, his completion percentage speaks for itself. It speaks to all the guys – receivers, offensive line, everybody, but we've always believed in his ability to throw the ball for sure, and I do think that he is very determined to be the best he can be."
"The team has been really good in the red zone this season. What are some of the factors that you're seeing when you watch the tape that makes the team so efficient in the red zone? (Ryan Mink) Well, we're executing very well down there. Our coaches do a very good job of scheming it – [senior football analyst/game planning] Craig Ver Steeg is a big part of that, [and offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken], all of the coaches, do a great job of scheming. And then it comes down to the guys again making plays. The players deserve the credit, and Lamar [Jackson] is a very good red zone quarterback – [this] goes back to the completions that you talk about, the accuracy part of it – but also the fact that he can extend the play. He can also make the running game. There's not as much space down there, so when you can spread the defense out a little more with the running game, which Lamar helps you do with his skillset, all those things are a part of it. But we've done well, and we have to keep getting better. Red zone defenses are going to look at what we're doing, and they're going to make it their business to try and stop us, and we have to keep it moving and keep one step ahead of the competition."
What did you like about OLB Kyle Van Noy and how quickly he picked things up in yesterday's game? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"He played pretty amazing [with] what he did. He came in there … He showed up [on] Tuesday on the red-eye [flight] and was out there taking a bunch of snaps on Sunday in a huge AFC North game, and that just shows you what kind of player he is. It's a credit to what kind of shape he was in. Also, just his understanding of the game to pick it up like he did so quickly. So, [I'm] just very happy that he was able to do that. He's fired up about it, too, so we just keep going forward from there."
How is T Morgan Moses doing after he sustained an injury in the game against the Cleveland Browns? How do you think T Daniel Faalele played in his place? (Luke Jones) "I think Daniel [Faalele] did pretty well. Daniel – [I] talked with him on the plane last night – he's pretty not happy with two plays. You appreciate that as a coach. You want to see the guys not happy with the plays that they can do better. Yet, you go back, and you watch the tape, and I thought he played well. They keep chasing the perfection. The more he plays, the better he's going to get. I thought he did a nice job.
"To the injuries, there really is nothing right now that looks like it's going to be a long, long term-type thing coming out of the game. Some of those MRIs are still getting evaluated, as is Morgan [Moses']. We'll know more Wednesday probably in terms of what guys are able to do at practice, but nothing that's going to impact us for the whole length of the season; it doesn't look like right now."
Do you anticipate OLB Tyus Bowser and RB Keaton Mitchell coming off of injured reserve this week? (Bo Smolka) "They have a chance to be. We'll see. We'll see how they look, if Eric [DeCosta] decides to put them on the practice field. Based on his conversations with the trainers, they're in the realm, I think, of possibly practicing. If that turns out to be the case, we'll have a good feel for that as we watch them practice."
Is QB Lamar Jackson not throwing many deep passes by design, what the defense is giving him or the fact that there are some missing pieces at wide receiver with the injuries at that position? (Brian Wacker) "I think it's all of the above. I don't think it's missing pieces. It's not because guys were out, in terms of whether we were throwing short or deep or whatever. I think running the same routes we would've anyway. Those guys that are out [due to injury] run all the routes I guess is what I'm saying. It's probably a function of the offense and where we want to go with it and what the defense is giving us, so both of those two things. We want to throw the ball downfield. We've had some success doing it. It's really a big part of what we want to do. If we can beat people downfield with double moves, straight-up deep routes, play-action shots – those are massive, massive plays, and it showed up in the game – even extended plays as you saw when Lamar [Jackson] scrambled out to the right [and] hit Zay [Flowers] coming across the field. That's part of your deep passing game. But we also want to get the ball out quick, which we didn't have as many of those this game – quick passes, RPOs [run-pass options]. Those are things that keep a defense honest when they want to pack in on your run game, too. I have to say it's all part of it, and I think we'll just see as it goes game to game. Every week is different. It really is not a function of any grand plan other than we want to be able to do all those things well."
What is the issue with QB Lamar Jackson's ball security? (Brian Wacker) "I think Lamar [Jackson] is all over it. He's talking about it. That's something that he's very determined to do. Each one of those issues is a different issue. They're not connected in a sense [that] you can say there's one theme to what's causing fumbles. The fact that they're fumbles is a theme, and they're not good. We just can't put the ball on the ground. It's not something that we want to do. It's something we work very, very hard not to do. It's a main priority for us. It has to be. Lamar [Jackson's] talking about that. The [running] backs are talking about that. The wide receivers are talking about that. The defense is talking about putting the ball on the ground in terms of our offense, practice and challenging [us] to do that to help us be better with that but also us getting better as a defense causing fumbles. That's a big part of the game, and everybody knows it."
What has impressed you about CB Brandon Stephens and the way he has stepped into the starting lineup? (Garrett Downing) "He's played at a high level. He's established himself that way, [and he's] doing great. He's gotten better every week. I think he's getting even better and better every week at the top of the route. [Pass game coordinator/secondary coach] Chris Hewitt's done a great job at working with him on that and playing the ball to the top of the route and getting balls off receivers – to see him get the pick was big. He's doing a great job."
When CB Marlon Humphrey comes back, do you expect DB Brandon Stephens to stay at corner? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes. I expect [Brandon Stephens] to stay at [the] corner [position]. It's nice to have the flexibility, but he's doing such a great job there. Yes, we'll keep him there."
Did something happen with CB Marlon Humphrey to cause him to not be back when you originally thought? (Cordell Woodland) "We didn't give you a timetable on that. [Marlon Humphrey] is within the range. There is no gold [standard] … I've said it many times. You can't say a date. He's in the range, so I'm hopeful he'll get back this week. I was hopeful he'd get back last week, and if it's not this week, it will probably be next week. He's in the range right now, right in the area right now. So, we'll see what happens."
Can you talk about P Jordan Stout, who had a pretty good day yesterday, and his development since you drafted him last year? (Kyle Barber) "Jordan [Stout], his development since we drafted him last year has been immense, in all honestly. He's done a great job. He's a really hard worker. He's got [consultant] Sam Koch out there every day. 'Tuck' [Justin Tucker] is on him every day. [Special teams coach/specialists] Randy [Brown] coaches him every day. [Special teams coordinator] Chris [Horton] does a great job, too, but Jordan is his own biggest critic, for sure. [He's] very tough on himself, and yet, he has bounds of confidence, which is kind of a nice combination if you have a growth mindset. So, he's done it, and it showed up in the game. He has one punt he probably wants back, so that's the one … He came bee bopping in, but he talked about that punt, but yet, he felt very good about himself. So, he's on track. [When] you go into Pittsburgh, and field position is going to be a big part of that game, so he's going to be very important for us."
You have a history of adding these veteran guys late in the season, such as OLBs Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney. What is the value of that, particularly when you don't have a guy that has 10 to 14 sacks on the season? _(Brian Wacker) _"It's a great question. We have had a lot of success with that. You look back on it, and it wasn't something that we really planned. It was just born of necessity. You have to give [executive vice president/general manager] Eric [DeCosta], [Sr. Player personnel executive] Vince [Newsome], [director of player personnel] George [Kokinis] and the guys a lot of credit for that. But, guys have wanted to come here. Guys like 'JD' [Jadeveon Clowney] wanted to come here. Kyle [Van Noy] wanted to come here. You go back to last year, [and] Jason [Pierre-Paul] wanted to come here. Justin [Houston] wanted to come here. Those guys are still guys that can play. These guys are highly talented guys, high draft picks, that still have a lot left in the tank. That's the function of it. They still want to play, they're still motivated to play, they wanted to be here, they believe in the defense, they fit in pretty well with the guys, and they've had success. Those two guys played really great in the game. I thought they both played excellent. Jadeveon, he's bringing it, and you see him getting better every single week. I'm just excited and happy for him and excited and happy for us."
When you look at the big picture of the division, the other teams struggled yesterday. Does that become part of your messaging to the team, in terms of having an opportunity to build a lead? (Childs Walker) "No. The message is, 'It's a week-to-week league. What you think you [saw] last week doesn't really mean anything for this week.' When you look at the games, you'd have to agree with that. Look at last week compared to the week before. So, to draw any real conclusions right now, other than records ... Our records are what they are right now. [We are] only four weeks in. There are only four chapters that have been written. We have to write Chapter 5. That's all we have to think about right now, is writing Chapter 5 for us. Whatever anybody else does or doesn't do is really no concern of ours. We just have to focus on Chapter 5, which is a division game in Pittsburgh, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers, and we understand what they're about, what they stand for [and] what kind of football team they are. We know what it takes to go play that team, and we respect them. We're going to have to be at our best, so all we have to think about is going in there and being our best. That's all we have to think about."
You mentioned that you don't think there will be any long-term injury concerns out of yesterday's game. Was OLB David Ojabo a part of that group? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, [David Ojabo] is still being evaluated. He's got this … There are decisions that have to be made that he has to make, in terms of how he wants to approach the injury issue that he has. It's just kind of … I think that's still private and his concern. So, I would just say that is up in the air – that one – yes. I'm talking about … I meant [no long-term injuries] from the game yesterday."
When you say there are some things up in the air with OLB David Ojabo's injury status, what do you mean? Could it be a season-ending injury? (Jamison Hensley) "Correct, correct."
Did RB Justice Hill get through the game OK? And I know he didn't play a whole lot, but how did you like the spark that he gave you in the second quarter? He had some chunk plays there? (Luke Jones) "Yes, I liked it a lot. I mean, Justice [Hill] … It's a shame he got the screen [play] called back [due to penalty]; what a great play that was. But he came in and showed a burst. For him [to go] out there, it speaks a lot to his courage and character. And we did pull him back at the end, just to be careful with him. But it was great to see. He has just played great. There is nothing but love for Justice Hill. He's doing a great job."
What did you see from CB Arthur Maulet? On tape, it looked like he had a good game. And then once CB Marlon Humphrey does return to the field – you have a lot of really good cornerbacks and safeties – do you feel like that gives you a lot of versatility to kind of mix and match guys? (Ryan Mink) "That's exactly right. Arthur [Maulet] played very well. And the thing … When you talk to Arthur, you'll ask him, and he'll just tell you about the four plays, five plays that he didn't do well on or didn't think he did well on. He is a perfectionist, and, again, you appreciate that. But he played hard; he made tackles; he covered people; he was on special teams. We kind of were running out of guys, and then guys were going out there and playing … They were pulling extra shifts out there, for sure, and he was one of the guys doing that. So, we're just really happy with how he played, and again, he's only going to get better and more comfortable in the system as he goes. And as we get guys back, yes, it will give us even more flexibility and more depth."
In recent years, we've seen guys like OLB Kyle Van Noy, OLB Jason Pierre-Paul and ILB Roquan Smith get acquired in the middle of the week and have a heavy workload that Sunday. Is there something to be said about the fact that a lot of these guys are able to jump into this defense and pick up at least enough to go play a game on short notice? (Cordell Woodland) "It says a lot. I'm kind of glad you brought that up, because it does say a lot. It says a lot for the guys that do it, and it says a lot for the coaches that teach it going into the week, and it says a lot for the system that's been built. So, those guys have done a great job with that. We have … That's kind of … [When] you look back, that's kind of a track record, right now. So, yes, we're really happy with that."
It could be the third week in a row that you'll be facing an opponent with a starting quarterback whose status will be up in the air heading into the game. Does that affect your preparation at all? (Kevin Richardson) "Well, yes, you always want to know – as best you can – who the quarterback is going to be. We didn't know who it was going to be this [past] week, for sure; we looked at both quarterbacks. But you still prepare for the offense, and Pittsburgh's offense is going to be similar with Mitch Trubisky out there, if he's the guy out there. We've played against Mitch before. Obviously, he's a heck of a player, and he can make all the plays and all the throws that their offense requires. So, [he's a] very dangerous player, and we'll have our hands full, and we'll be ready."
It seems like ILB Roquan Smith is an intense hitter. Is that something that you knew when you acquired him? Is it a little different from the sideline, watching him play week after week? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, yes, we knew it. That's part of the evaluation. Roquan [Smith] is that kind of player. And we did play against him [when he was in Chicago], so we had a first-hand view from the sideline of his hitting ability, to your point. And that's kind of a big part of defense; that's what football is in a lot of ways. He sets a tone, for sure; we've talked about that. I love the way Roquan plays; I love the way he leads; I love the way he communicates. And [he's] another guy [who] chases perfection every day. [He's] never satisfied, never happy with where he's at. [He] just wants to keep getting better. He's definitely a physical player, though, to your point."
Do you think the defense is going to let you live down calling ILB Roquan Smith "Ro-Han"? (Jonas Shaffer) "No, never." (laughter) "No, they reminded me in the locker room about it after the game right there again. I was fine. I got it. I got it." (laughter)