JOHN HARBAUGH MONDAY PRESS CONFERENCE
Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. I had a chance to watch the game in detail with our coaches and go over it. We feel the same way about it this morning as we did last night. We're very happy about it. We're happy about the victory, and anytime you go into Heinz Field against the Steelers and get a win, especially in this rivalry, that's a great accomplishment. We feel really good about that. We're going to take the pluses and the not pluses and go to work on those things and try to continue to improve and become a better football team in every single area. That's what we'll do. And then we'll focus on the upcoming challenge, which is a division game at home, which becomes very important. So, that's what we're looking at. We know our upcoming opponent – the Bengals – are very talented. We know we always play knock-down, drag-out games with them. We know their players. We know their character. We're going to be preparing to play our best game, because we're going to have to [play our best game] to win the game."
With S Tony Jefferson out, is that going to be an imposition on you guys with CB Jimmy Smith and CB Tavon Young out? (Dave Ginsburg) "It's not ideal. It's not what we would have chosen. Tony Jefferson, obviously, is the heart and soul of us. He's a leader. He's a great player, just a high-energy player. He's a guy that flies around and makes plays. He's a communicator for us in the back end. So, those are going to be challenging things. At the same time, these are things that happen in this game. You just have to deal with them. And the guy who has to deal with them the most is Tony. Tony is going to have the toughest road to travel, just emotionally and spiritually and all of those kinds of things. And he will, he'll be up for the challenge – no question about it. He'll come back stronger than ever. And we have the guys in place. We have depth there at safety. Those two young guys [Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott] will do a heck of a job. I'm very confident in those guys, and we'll have to overcome it."
Have you decided who may assume the role, in terms of wearing the green dot? (Jerry Coleman)"We have not." (Reporter: "Is that something that will be discussed amongst the coaching staff, or is the leadership council included in that? How does that work?") "That's coaching staff."
Has S Tony Jefferson gotten an MRI, and do you know more about the severity of his injury? (Jeff Zrebiec)"They told me what it is. It's more than an ACL. I don't remember exactly what all, specifically. I would probably say it wrong. I couldn't even say 'specifically,' so I'm sure I'd mess that up. (laughter) But I'm sure that will be forthcoming."
How have you seen S Chuck Clark grow as a player? He filled in for S Tony Jefferson for a couple games last year in that strong safety role. (Luke Jones)"Chuck [Clark] and DeShon [Elliott] will both be guys filling in there. They'll both be playing. We'll have to figure out where we want to play them, how we do the groups, how we do the packages, what they play, where they play. They've both been playing. Chuck has been playing a little more than DeShon, but DeShon is ready to play. There's no question about that. He's been chomping at the bit to play, and we have just the utmost confidence in both of those two guys."
It looked like CB Maurice Canady kind of got picked on a lot by the Steelers, but he played pretty well in that regard. What did you see from him on film? (Andrew Gillis)"He did. That's a great observation. Maurice [Canady] really stepped up. He played well. He covered man, covered zone, made plays on the ball, made tackles. I thought he played very well. It's nice to see a guy step up when the opportunity comes, and he did it."
Do you plan on having ILB Josh Bynes stay at the MIKE position, or will there be open competition going on for it? (Daniel Oyefusi) "I think so. Josh [Bynes] is a MIKE. I'm sure a linebacker can play different spots, but that's his spot. That's where he's played pretty much his whole career, so we'll leave him at the MIKE spot. Of course, that changes with different groups a little bit in different coverages that we might call. You might see him in a spot that you might recognize more as a WILL spot or even an edge spot, but that would be his role for us, yes."
How do you think ILB Josh Bynes played coming off the street and going right into a game? (Ken Weinman)"Remarkably well. He had a number of tackles. He was in the right spot. He played hard. His coverage was solid. I'm sure he'll tell you there are a lot of things he wants to do better, but coming off the … And it's a credit to him, because he was in great shape. You do worry about guys in that situation, just being able to handle it, physically, and he handled it great during the game. We didn't even plan on playing him that many reps, but he felt so good during the game, he was able to do it."
Could you tell during practice this week how ready ILB Josh Bynes was and how quickly he was picking up the defense? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You could see that. And I'll tell you what, I'll say the same about L.J. Fort, too. He didn't play as much defense, but they both did a great job with that. They picked it up very well. Those guys know how to play the position. So, they had to get the terminology. They had to understand how we organize the defense, but they knew what to do within the calls."
When you watch it again on the S Earl Thomas III hit, what do you see when you see that play? (Bo Smolka) "I see Earl [Thomas III] trying to pull off. There's no question about it when you watch the tape. He goes in there, and as he gets close, he's running to the ball. Mason [Rudolph] is scrambling and going, and he [Thomas] is running to the ball, playing fast, and he tries to pull out. It's clear. So, I respect him for that. It's just an unfortunate collision. He ticked his chin, and that's what happened, but he tried to get out of there. He didn't try to hit him. He felt bad about it, the result of it. He didn't want to see an injury, for sure. None of us do. And it looks like Mason [Rudolph] is OK, so we're glad to hear that. We prayed for him after the game. So, that's how we feel about him and the situation. Those guys have a brotherhood. They really do. There are very few players in this league that don't feel that way. So, after seeing it on tape, I think it's pretty clear. I think it's very clear, actually."
Do you still expect, or would you be surprised by, a reaction from the league? (Jerry Coleman)"It would surprise me based on what's on the tape, in all honesty. It would. But I don't know what to expect, so I'm probably not a real good predictor of that."
Over the past few weeks, there has been an increase in sacks. When you're looking at them, what the opposition is doing to QB Lamar Jackson … Is Lamar maybe waiting too long and maybe not escaping enough? (Jamison Hensley) "All of the above. Our offensive line really is blocking well, but there are times when we get beat. [When] you go against that [Pittsburgh] front, you're going to get beat one-on-one every now and then. You just have to recognize that. That's the best front we've played so far this year. They're very physical. And that game, this game, is what brings out the best in both teams, especially both fronts on both sides. Our offensive line played very well. I thought their defensive front played very well. That's what we were dealing with, and that's just the way it went. Lamar [Jackson], if you want to talk about Lamar, in many ways, he won the game for us. A lot of guys did. A lot of guys made plays, and Lamar definitely did his part. So, you'd have to say that he played very well, but Lamar is going to tell you that he needs to play a lot better, and there are so many things that he can learn from that game. He's playing, what, his ninth or something game? How many games has he [started]?" (Reporter: "Twelve.")"He's in his 12th game, he's in his first [starting] season, and he's learning leaps and bounds every single week, because you see new things all the time. He'll be doing that throughout his career, but now is when it's steepest, and he learns fast. So, that's good for us."
Are teams still trying to force QB Lamar Jackson to play that small ball, where they're not giving him the deep pass again? (Jamison Hensley)"I didn't see that as much in this game. They really loaded up the box pretty well to stop the run many times, especially toward the end of the game. They took shots with the safeties. The safety came out of the middle when we were on the 1-yard line and made a great play on a crossing route. They mixed it up more than anybody did."
WR Marquise Brown came back in the game towards the end yesterday. Should he be fine going forward? (Childs Walker) "He should be, yes, he should be. Nothing serious."
Is that the same with TE Mark Andrews? (Jeff Zrebiec) "He's just dealing with the thing; he's dealing with his foot. He just has to keep working on that, and that's just part of the process."
From looking at the film, what can you do … Did you see anything where you were able to generate a little bit more pass rush? It seemed like you got it started and then it seemed to fizzle out a little bit. (Jerry Coleman)"They were protecting. Yes, we have to get to the quarterback. We want more sacks. We want more hits. We had a few. We made them move around in there, and then they got out a couple of times, too, especially at the end. We were all disappointed with that late scramble, for sure. But they were protecting. They were chipping with the backs. They were keeping the tight ends in. We haven't seen anybody protect with that many people all year. [There was] a lot of play-action. That was a big part of their plan. But we have to find a way to get more sacks. We have to find a way to get more pressure. We have to find a way to get more turnovers. All of those things are things that we really want to work hard at doing better at."
Do you feel like OLB Jaylon Ferguson is making progress? (Childs Walker)"Yes, I think his role, based on what he did, will keep expanding. I think he had 21 snaps in the game. I expect him to have more the next week. He's doing a good job."
Did you notice if ILB Patrick Onwuasor was affected by ILB Josh Bynes? Was he a little more comfortable? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Yes, that's a good observation. I think he was [more comfortable]. It helped him. It helped him not having quite as much on his plate, so to speak, as a young guy, and he played well. He had a little ankle turn in there, too, and fought through it. So many guys did that during the game. You mentioned Marquise [Brown]. So many guys had things like that, because it was such a physical game and they kept coming. So, I was really proud of those guys for that. Patrick [Onwuasor] was one of those guys."
Was yesterday a day you guys could feel proud of all the work you put into special teams throughout the year? (Childs Walker)"Yes, we were happy with the kick return. We felt like we were doing well in five out of six phases going into the game, and then we hit the one kickoff return that set us up. Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of that, but a lot of work paid off there. So, we have to keep building. Every single week is a new challenge, but we have a lot of guys that are very committed to it. They believe in it. Chris Horton is doing a great job with the guys, Randy Brown and T.J. Weist also as coaches. 'Co Cap' [Anthony Levine Sr.] over there, Levine is a great leader. Anthony Levine does a great job of kind of spearheading that. He's the big veteran there, along with the Wolfpack. We have a couple of older veterans, too, that came back. So, we expect to be really good, and we work hard at it. It was a good game for us on special teams."
When you see things like Jay Gruden getting fired as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, does it make you realize that it's a tough job that you have, and that it could just go away in an instant? (David Ginsburg)"It doesn't take things like this to realize it [is a tough job]. I'm pretty much aware of that from experience. Isn't that true of most any job, though? I mean, how secure are you guys? I've had some conversations with you guys. _(laughter) It's a tough business you're in, right? I have a lot of respect for Jay Gruden, though. I think he's a really good coach. I don't know him really well, but what I do know from just being around him, he's a really good guy to be around. I always enjoy being around him, and I'm sure he'll land right on his feet as a coach and do fine."
You're two thirds through this stretch of AFC North games. Do you think that this thing is going to go back and forth all season long? Or is there a chance a team will pull away? (Jerry Coleman)"You're talking about the AFC North?" (Reporter: "Yes.") "I think that depends on us. I think that depends 100 percent on us and what we do. 'Us-plus-us' is what we're interested in, and that's the equation that we're believing in. So, let's take care of our business, and business will be taken care of."
I don't want to get you in trouble, but are you pleased with replay? (Ken Weinman)"Oh yeah, I thought it was great; I thought it was awesome. (laughter)I don't know what to say. Hopefully, we'll get explanations, I guess. And it won't clear it up, probably. I think we're all scratching our heads a little bit on it, so we'll try to figure it out as we go."
Two of those replayed plays resulted in interceptions for QB Lamar Jackson. People will say that he had three interceptions in the game, but can you say that with two of them there was some gray area? (Jamison Hensley)"Yes, well, those were huge plays. In my opinion, the ball was clearly moving on the one interception. The other one was clearly pass interference. Those were huge plays. We had them in the Chiefs game, as well. All you can do is shrug your shoulders and hope for the best. It's always been that way with officiating. Technology, I guess, has made it harder for a lot of reasons. It's just what we're dealing with right now, and we'll try to play as clean as we possibly can. That's all we can do is play as clean as we can, coach our guys to play clean and hope that when the other team grabs us or interferes with us that it gets called and it doesn't cost us the game. Those two plays probably changed the face of the game dramatically, and they went against us. But, the main takeaway on that, though, really, is the guys. We're not complaining about it. We're not happy about it, and it's frustrating, especially frustrating if you don't win the game. But the fact that the guys overcame that, didn't let it bother them, didn't get crazy on the sideline like teams will and guys have before, coaches included, to step up and just find a way to get the job done and make the plays that need to be made and overcome that kind of adversity – that's what, as a coach, you feel great about with your team."
How was QB Lamar Jackson's demeanor through the game with calls going against him, with the interceptions? You're in Pittsburgh in that environment. What did you see from Lamar in handling all that? (Ryan Mink)"That's a good observation. He does not think that way. Lamar [Jackson] does not let outside distractions or outside circumstances get in his head. He's concerned with himself. He's concerned with how he's playing all the time. He's thinking 100 percent about the plays he could have made, should have made, thought he should have made, what the defense was, what the next play call is going to be. That's all he thinks about. At least that's all I see. That's all I hear him talking about. That's his focus, and to me, as a quarterback, that's a really good trait. It's one of the reasons that makes him who he is."
Getting back to the calls, it's not always what the call is; it's the flow of the game being disrupted. It disrupts it for the fans watching and for you guys trying to call the game. (Jerry Coleman)"I'll give my opinion about it at the end of the year. You guys know where I stood. Do we want to get back into all that right now? If we look back, OK, it looks like a pretty good idea from hindsight, the idea that we had. But right now, I don't care. I just care about our team. I will say this: I trust the powers that be, in the sense that they want to do the right thing. They want to do what's right. They want to do the best thing. They want to be fair. It goes for the officials for sure. It goes for Alberto [Riveron] in the office and Russell [Yurk] and all those guys up there, all the way up to the commissioner. They want a fair game. They want the right calls to get made, and in the end, that's all you can ask for. No one is trying to not make it right, so we'll trust them to do the best they can."
Every time we ask players about S Chuck Clark, they'll say he's one of the smartest defensive backs on the team. Was that something that you noticed from him while you were scouting him out of Virginia Tech? Or is it something that has materialized? (Aaron Kasinitz)"That was in the reports, and you saw it on tape. He played really good, solid football. He knew what he was doing out there. He was a really good tackler. He was always in the right spots, and the scouts brought that information back that that's what he was like. We do like drafting players like that. It's the kind of guys we like."
Have you liked how much QB Lamar Jackson is running in the flow of the games, and how he's not putting himself at risk as much? (Jamison Hensley)"So you feel like he's not [putting himself at risk]? Yes, I agree with you. He's done a good job of that. If you watch the game, he's really good at it, and he's also very dangerous with the ball in his hands, and his runs really factored into the game big time. They have for a few games this year. So, it's one of our weapons, and we're not trying not to use our weapons."