Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What does it mean to you that P Sam Koch finally got a Pro Bowl nod? (Jon Meoli)"I assumed that I'd be answering that question. What I feel in my heart is that I'm happy for Sam. I'm happy for his family. It affects a lot of people – all of the people that have been blocking for him, the guys that have been covering punts, the guys who are practicing with him – and Sam recognizes what a team effort it was to get him that honor. It is richly deserved. He has been doing a job that very few people have done these last two years. You've heard me talk about this before, but the way he is doing it is unique, as well, and it's so fun to watch. I'm honored to be a part of it."
P Sam Koch also got a chance to be a ball carrier last Sunday. Can you talk about what you saw on that play? (Jon Meoli)"The play itself, because it's a football play, just because you draw it up, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to work. We look back on the play and the next day we always play the 'what ifs.' 'What if we had done that; what if we had done this?' And I still like the play. It wasn't executed well enough because it wasn't coached well enough. And I'm not just saying that to be trite, it's really true. They did a good job in defending it. The player that made the play was not the player that had been playing there for the last month. They had a different guy there that wasn't reading it the way that he read it. So, it changed on gameday, but everything else was the same. The fact that they switched something up for that particular game and the fact that we didn't get the block that we needed at the time, that's what made the difference. And that's the nature of football – sometimes plays are made and everything is wrong and a play is made. Well, that one, everything was right and they made a better play than we did, and they stopped it to their credit."
Are teams especially on alert for a fake from the Ravens given the team's record and success rate on fake attempts? (Ryan Mink)"It's hard for me to answer that, because I'm not in their camp. But in the NFL, you see every week guys trying to make plays, and fakes are a part of football. We're not the only ones that are trying to run fakes. There are a lot of other teams that are doing the same thing. And that particular play, it's been my belief over the years that a six-box punt is the least defended play in football. Now, where we pull the trigger for that play is perhaps unique, because we were inside our own 20-yard line. But the fact that the defense was the defense, we just didn't execute it well enough to get it. Now, if that happens again, will we run the fake? We'll have to find out." (laughter)
Given the circumstances, with regards to field position, will you guys consider that more going forward? (Kevin Zwicker)"We considered it at the time. It wasn't like we didn't consider it. All of those things enter into consideration, whether to design it or whether to call it. You have to recognize also that if the field position was different, they wouldn't be in that defense. If the yardage was different, they wouldn't be in that defense. The opportunity that's presented is a result of the situation. So, you're saying, 'Well, should you run it in that situation, or run it in a different situation?' Well, you might not have the opportunity. That's all part of the decision-making process."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
A lot of the guys took part for a long stretch of that game on Sunday between the first drive and the fourth quarter. [Kansas City] couldn't really muster anything. Is that kind of positive you're looking for to end the season? (Jon Meoli)"I'm not sure I … Give me that question again?" (Reporter: "Between the first drive that Kansas City had and the long one in the fourth quarter, they basically mustered 90-something yards. Are those the kinds of positives you guys are looking for?") "Yes, we had a lot of positives in that game. I thought we ran to the ball well. I thought we had a lot of big hits, a lot of knockbacks. Other than the one big run that we got up there too tight – on third down-and-short where they broke it off – really I don't think they ran the ball all that much. We let the quarterback out of the pocket a couple of times, which was a big point. Really, even the one we let him out – on the early third down and that kept that drive alive – he was short of the first down when we got the penalty. We still would have been off the field, so the penalty was a big part of that thing, too. Guys played hard. They really followed the game plan. I was really proud of their effort. We made a couple mistakes on the big run. We made a mistake on the penalty that led to that. And then on the drive, we had a couple opportunities there. I think we missed an assignment on man [coverage] in the back – out of the backfield – and he caught one on a third down that we had everybody covered. If we just take the back, we're off the field there. [We] have to keep working on those things."
Dean, when CB Jimmy Smith went down, CB Jumal Rolle stepped in and got a lot more snaps instead on CB Tray Walker. Is there a reason for that? I know Tray was active for this last game. (Ryan Mink) "[It was] based on the way they practiced during the week. It's always that. It's not necessarily that Tray practiced poorly. We thought Jumal practiced better. It really was kind of like this: We had who had the better week [of practice play]. We said it was [Jumal], so [we said], 'You're in the game.' That was it."
What kind of positives did you see from CB Jumal Rolle and some of the other guys you brought up? (Kevin Zwicker) "I think all those guys having the ability to come in and … They haven't been here very long. And for all the stuff that we do, I commend them for knowing the stuff. I don't necessarily … I cut back maybe a little bit, but not … It's not wholesale [changes like], 'OK, we can only play two coverages, because this guy is in there." He has to play what we call. All those young guys, I think, have a great future. We have to keep on them and keep building with them. With all the negatives of this year, what you have to do is find some positives, and one of the positives is going to be the fact that we had a ton of guys – corners – get an opportunity to play. When you go back to OTAs next spring, [we] have a lot of guys that have some playing time, and they have a little bit of experience under their belt. Hopefully, it'll make us better."
To that point, I don't know if there's any team that has as many receivers that they use on a consistent basis as Pittsburgh does. What kind of challenge do they present to you guys? (Jon Meoli) "They're on fire. They are. No. 84 [Antonio Brown] is a special guy. What are you going to say? He's a special receiver. He has hurt everybody. But No. 10 [Martavis Bryant], No. 11 [Markus Wheaton] … What's really bad is when the fourth fastest receiver is their best one. I think No. 84 is probably the slowest of all four of them if they're just running. I don't know. They're all so darn fast. But you know what? The whole ... And [Heath] Miller, No. 83 at tight end … The whole thing that makes it go is No. 7 [Ben Roethlisberger], who is playing outstanding football as a quarterback – as good as I've ever seen him play. He's reading the ball … If you really watch the film and watch the games as of late, he doesn't scramble nearly as much as he used to. I don't think that's because he can't. I think that's because [it is] designed … He knows where to go with the ball, and it's getting there fast. He is playing as good, if not – to me, right now – the best of any quarterback in the league."
OLB Za'Darius Smith mentioned that you guys are really preaching wrapping up, bringing QB Ben Roethlisberger all the way down. How do you guys … How do you get your guys prepared to face Ben Roethlisberger? (Kevin Zwicker) "The thing you have to do is you can't let him throw you off, because what he does is he always has a good base. When he goes to get sacked, he always has a great base, and he really just stops, and he really is able – because he's so big – to throw you off. You just have to wrap him. What everybody wants to do is they think, 'OK, I'm going to get this big hit on this big guy.' No, just take him down. Wrap him up. The best times that we've had against him and sacking him is when guys absolutely grabbed him and held him and took him to the ground – truly wrapped him up and held on to him. If you try to hit him really hard, I'm telling you, most guys are going to bounce off. They always do. It isn't about how hard we can hit him. It's about wrapping him up when you do hit him if you get that opportunity."
OLB Courtney Upshaw has gotten some good ones on QB Ben Roethlisberger though. (Ryan Mink) "Courtney had a great one he got fined for. Come to find out, it really might not have been as illegal as they thought it was. That was a good hit. Haloti [Ngata] has had one. They've had a couple in the past. We've had a couple guys in the past. [Haloti] also got him square. Haloti is a big man. I've also seen some DBs come free and look like a fly on a windshield. We have to do a good job of wrapping him up."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
Opening statement:"I think I'll just start, just open, with what's on my heart, and that is as disappointed as our players and our coaches are offensively – certainly as a team, but offensively in the results that we've had – I honestly couldn't be prouder of the coaches that I get a chance to work with every day and the players. You would not know what our record was, whether we've won or lost a game, over the last year. Our guys come in every day, they are lazar focused, we have their undivided attention, and they do everything we ask them to do. There is disappointment, because we haven't been productive on offense the way we would have hoped to. We see a light, but when it comes down to winning or losing games, we haven't taken care of the football well enough, No. 1, and we haven't finished drives, No. 2. If you take pre-snap penalties away, if you take some subjective penalties away and we do the things that we're supposed to do, we think we can finish in the end zone, and we saw a little bit of that in the first drive last week. But as I've said, what's on my heart today is I couldn't be prouder of the fight in the guys that I get to work with every day and their focus on trying to be the best football team possible, in the classroom and on the field."
For you personally – you talk about everyone under you on the food chain – but has this been a difficult year for you? This can't be what you thought this season was going to be. (Jon Meoli)"No, certainly. Your expectations are certainly the opposite of what has happened. My approach has been to, when adversity hits, to embrace it, to take advantage of it, because not only [does] it [give] you an opportunity to focus on the things you need to get done, but the opportunity to learn more about yourself and the people that you work with. And that's what has been the exciting part of it throughout the season. Whether we've won or lost, we've gotten to know each other better. I think we're creating a backbone that's going to make us much stronger the next time around, and the bottom line is it's a one-game season. Everybody here is just focused on beating the Steelers on Sunday, and that's all that matter right now."
How is QB Ryan Mallett's preparation been? And I'm not asking you to divulge who the starting quarterback is going to be, but he is to a point where you think he could go out there and play in a game without risking his health? (Ryan Mink)"I think he is. The one thing that has been so noticeable this week is how the three [Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Mallett and Matt Schaub] of them have worked together to prepare for this game. [They have been] helping Ryan get ready to play, and by helping Ryan, all three guys are getting themselves ready to play, which is a credit to all of them; and that's why I'm saying that. He has had enough reps that if John [Harbaugh] decides to play him, and we decide to go that way, we feel he could manage the game. As I've said, the most significant part of the week has been the way the three of them have handled the situation and worked together to try to optimize the understanding of our game plan and getting it accomplished."
You mentioned the coaches seeing a light. Would WR Kamar Aiken be one of those bright spots for you? He showed a savviness downfield to create a little separation. Can you speak to some of his progression throughout the last part of the year? (Kevin Zwicker)"I think that what you forget about is, you watch the first Pittsburgh game, and Kamar [Aiken] made the type of catches that he has made over the last five or six weeks when he has had more targets. So, the thing that we all know about Kamar, he has been the same guy since the first day of OTAs. He's one of the hardest-working guys we have, one of the most consistent demeanors. He comes out every day, and he just works; and he leads by example both in the classroom and on the field. He has had a chance to be productive. He has used his targets, and he has made plays. He has made plays when he's open, and he has made plays in contested fashion, which is the most difficult way to make plays in the National Football League, and he has held his own. So, maybe he's just getting started, but he has certainly shown a consistent level of play the last month of the season."