Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see you guys. We're on our preparation, and things are going well. We're excited to go play on Thursday night."
*Coach, with QB Michael Vick and his somewhat history of not being able to call the protection, the slides, the blitz, do you feel like this is a week where you can really get pressure on the quarterback and create turnovers? (Turron Davenport) *"They're going to run their system the way they run it. I'm sure that Michael Vick is very well-versed, and we're working hard on what he brings to the table as a player and athlete. He's really good at certain, specific things. And it's interesting, a lot of those things compare favorably with what Ben Roethlisberger does. He's dangerous in the pocket; he's dangerous out of the pocket – just like Ben is. So, a lot of those techniques that we're practicing carry over to a guy like Michael Vick. You prepare for the protections, you prepare for their schemes, and you prepare for Michael Vick running those schemes."
John, WR Breshad Perriman, we were watching warm up. He seemed to … I don't want to call it a setback, but is there … Did that push him back, because we haven't seen him in a practice the past two days? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I have no idea what you're talking about." (Reporter: "In warm-ups, he was going after a ball...") "This morning? Today?" (Reporter: "Sunday.") "Sunday? No idea what you're talking about." (Reporter: "So, he hasn't had a setback at all?) "I have no idea what you're talking about."
*John, what did you see from TE Maxx Williams and TE Nick Boyle with a little bit more of a role in the second half of Sunday's game? (Luke Jones) *"I thought they both played really well. I thought they both did a really good job. These two guys are not two guys that it's too big for. Both of these guys, they love being out there, and they just want to make plays. They're tough, competitive. They're physical. They kind of remind me of Crockett [Gillmore] a year ago. He had the same mentality a year ago. Like I've said before, I really like our young tight ends. They did a good job."
Obviously, a short week and the running game hasn't clicked like you want it to. Does it make it more of a challenge to get it going Thursday, or should that not matter? (Cliff Brown)"It really shouldn't matter. We've had all kinds of work in pads and all kinds of stuff. It's not like we need to go out here and have a scrimmage in the run game to get the run game going. We know what we have to work on and the things we have to do better. It'll be up to us to do that better. Running the ball is, obviously, very important to our offense. I will say this: Pittsburgh's defense is good at stopping the run. All year we've played good run defenses, and these guys are in that same category."
Special Team Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, a couple weeks ago in San Jose you were talking about WR Steve Smith Sr. as the punt returner, but since, it's mostly been WR Michael Campanaro. Is that just a function of Steve doing an awful lot on offense? (Jeff Zrebiec)"We still have Steve on our depth chart, and Steve returned punts for us. He's been getting a lot of work lately, though, so we're mindful of that."
Were you pleased with what you saw from Campanaro? (Jeff Zrebiec)"Mike did a nice job. Secured the ball, caught it smoothly, went north, got yards – it was all good. Real positive."
Jerry, you don't often see K Justin Tucker kick a ball that way. What happened on that kick he missed from last Sunday? (Jeff Zrebiec)"That was uncharacteristic, I agree. He didn't hit it well, is what it really amounted to, and the wind was blowing that way, and he pushed it that way and that compounded the problem. He didn't make it as a result. He pushed the ball and the wind pushed it more."
Pittsburgh is known as not the most kicker-friendly place. What about it makes it that way, and is anything different at night as opposed to during the day? (Clifton Brown)"Just in my experiences – we've played there a lot at night lately, it seems – it seems that also in the evening, the wind dies down a little bit. It's been my experience over the years there that during the daytime the winds swirl a little bit more, and kicking toward the river is always a real challenge. The closed end is not quite so much. But it's a challenging place to play, period, and the field enters into that. But it's an early game, early in the season, and I would imagine the grass … The grass looks good on video, so I think it'll be a good surface; it'll be a good environment."
More of Tucker's misses have been at home than on the road. Is M&T Bank Stadium a tougher placer to kick than most places, and in particular, Pittsburgh? (Ryan Mink)"I don't know, really, what the statistics say. The thing I do know about M&T [Bank Stadium] is the surface is outstanding. We get good plants there. We know our stadium well; we love kicking in our own stadium. Having said that, we also know that the winds swirl in our stadium, like they do in a lot of stadiums. Cleveland swirls, Pittsburgh swirls, pretty much they all swirl, you see is the nature of stadiums. But the wind we got the other day, when we walked in there you could feel it was going a couple different directions."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
What do you think the struggles are in the secondary late in the games right now covering wide receivers, letting them through the seams? Is it communication? (Bill West)"No, it is not communication. They know where [they're] supposed to be. There weren't any blown coverages on Sunday at all. It's just technique. We're not doing very well in technique. [The] 80-yard pass was against zone coverage; a couple other passes were against man coverage. So, it's not the fact that we're in man, not the fact that we're in zone. It's the fact that we just sometimes aren't playing our technique as well as we should play it, and we're getting out of position. And receivers are in position, and they're making the plays. We've just got to keep coaching it and coaching it and coaching it and get better. There's no secret to going out there and changing schemes or anything. It wouldn't matter if I changed the scheme anyhow. We've got to play the same coverages whether you change the scheme or not. So, it's not zone. It's not man. It was a little bit of everything, but the biggest thing is we've got to just do a better job as coaches of harping on, harping on, harping on just being fundamentally sound [with] technique. In this league, when you don't do that with the receivers that are in this league, they'll eat you alive, and that's what has happened."
How hard is that to teach though when you start at this level? (Bill West)"Oh absolutely, you can teach it. You've just got to stay on it and stay on it. That's the thing, is you can't assume because you are at this level that everybody knows how to do it. To me, this is no different coaching here than coaching in college or even when I coached in high school. You coach and you coach and you coach and you coach the technique, and if you assume that somebody knows how to do it, you're making a bad assumption. And so, we've just got to keep harping on them to do the right things. We've done it in the past, and we've played well. We did really well in the first game. Don't ask me why all of the sudden technique has gotten worse, but it has. And so, we've just got to keep on it, and it's not a matter of guys have habits and things like that. I've seen players come in and totally change the way they've done things for years for a team and have to do what the team asked them to do. But that's not our guys. Most of our guys have been here. That's not a situation where we've got some guy coming in from a different team and we've got to teach him a different technique. We've just got to keep being fundamentally sound, and when we pressure, pressure is going to go on the secondary, especially if we don't get home. Everything goes hand-in-hand, too. When we pressure – and we pressured quite a bit on Sunday – the pressure has got to get home, too. So, you can't leave the corners and everybody hanging out there to dry. I don't think – on a couple of the occasions – that was the situation, but on other situations [it was]. Just like on the very first touchdown with the quarterback scramble. We had great coverage. I don't know if you guys watched the film, or whether you get allowed to watch the film, [but] we had a new coverage put in just for that particular formation – guys did an incredible job. We had everybody covered up, but we had two guys that got out of their pass rush lanes. And they're two young guys that have got to play, and they made a mistake. And [Andy] Dalton made them pay for it. So, it's hand-in-hand. It's not just the secondary. It's the pass rush. It's all of us and coaches included. We've got to stay on them and stay on them and stay on them and not assume that anybody knows how to do anything."
Coach, as far as pressing and redirecting receivers at the line, WR Antonio Brown is obviously a very dangerous receiver. Do you think that the corners need to come up and press him and disrupt the timing of the passing game? (Turron Davenport)"If I did, I wouldn't tell you. *(laughter) *I wouldn't tell you anything that we're going to do to Antonio Brown. Hey, he's a great receiver. He can get off press. He can certainly … He is really hard [to cover] if you're playing off of him. I'm going to tell you that. He is extremely, extremely quick, and I haven't seen too many people play him off very well. But at the same token, when you go up and you try to press him, you better get your hands on him. Because if you don't, you're going to look silly there, too. But he's a great receiver. The guy is leading the league, isn't he, in catches and targets and all that stuff? [The] guy is a tremendous, tremendous guy, and it's not like somebody we haven't seen before. So, we've got to handle him in the way we can handle him. We've got to try do the best job we can of putting guys in the right spots to maybe give them some help and sometimes not give them some help. Sometimes they've just got to man up, and they've got to do it."
QB Michael Vick – his skill set is very similar to QB Ben Roethlisberger, a little more explosive. Do you think that the Steelers are going to move the pocket a little more to take advantage of his athleticism? (Turron Davenport)"It wouldn't surprise me that they would do that. That's kind of what [Michael Vick] has always been good at, getting on the edges. But again, I don't know what [offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley] is going to do with him. But the thing of it is, playing him – everybody thinks I'm kind of crazy saying that – it's actually a good [comparison]. It's really a comparison to [Ben] Roethlisberger. They're so different, but yet, they have both one quality. Roethlisberger is the best scrambler that has ever played quarterback, other than [Fran] Tarkenton. I mean really, the guy is hard to get down. He has unbelievable vision. So, whenever you rush Roethlisberger, you've got to collapse the pocket. Well, Vick is kind of the same guy. It's a different kind of guy. This guy gets on the edge, he can outrun everybody – Ben couldn't. But Ben sees everything downfield and throws, and that's how he gets all his big plays. And there's no team in the league that uncovers better as wide receivers than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Those guys have a knack, and it's always been with Ben. I don't think it's going to be any different with Vick. I think we've got our hands full with him."
Watching the film on DT Brandon Williams, just your impressions of his last game and the season he has had so far? (Ryan Mink)"The thing of it is, I think he goes overshadowed. If you watch, he really played a pretty good game. He pushed the pocket. The guy was a dominating force inside. We still haven't had teams really run the ball on us in a [game]. We've been pretty good against the run, and a lot of that's due to him inside. I think he's having a great year, and unfortunately, he's getting overshadowed by the yards that are being put up on us in the passing game and us not winning. But I think the guy is having a tremendous year at nose guard. He has really been, I think, a dominant force inside for us."
You mentioned the technique in the secondary. Is that something that can be fixed quickly over the course of the week or a short week in this case? (Ryan Mink)"[It has] got to be [fixed]. It has just got to be. We've just got to stay on [them], and I don't know how else to explain it. It's a little bit of that, too. Sometimes technique goes with confidence. You've got to feel confident in certain situations as an athlete – and especially as a professional athlete – that I'm going to be able to make the play, and I'm going to make the play. I'll give you a great example: No. 89 [Steve Smith Sr.] on our offense. You watch that guy play – and I don't get to watch a lot because I'm always writing notes up in the press box, but when I do – he made some plays in that game the other night that he had no business making, getting us some first downs he had no business getting. I'm sure their defensive coaches were upset that he got it. That's a guy making a play, being determined and having unbelievable confidence in his ability. And when you play in the secondary, especially because I've coached it for a lot of years, [those are] the kind of guys [who need confidence]. You've got to have confidence in your ability to do the technique and play it. If you don't and if you're playing tentative at all, you're going to get embarrassed. And right now – it's just like anything else, just like I've made the analogy before – it's like a baseball hitter, and he's going up to the line. If he thinks he's going to strike out, he's going to strike out. If he thinks he's going to hit it, he's probably going to hit it. Sometimes you get in a slump, and we've got to get them out of it. And that's our job as coaches to do that and get them out of it, and that's technique. And so, if you believe in your technique, then you ought to be confident."
Dean, is it frustrating that you can play good defense for stretches and then some of it can be undone? Like the big play by ILB C.J. Mosley. (Jeff Zrebiec)"In the third quarter, I felt like all of the sudden … [We] started out a little bit slow the first half. They got up, 14-0, and we come back and we get the go-ahead touchdown on defense on a really nice play, a strip-sack. We ran a pressure; [C.J.] Mosley scores. What's disheartening was that it was the next play. That's what really is disheartening is the fact that I really felt OK. We've got a little handle, we've got a little momentum going here, we've got a little feel for the game – when to pressure, when not to pressure, kind of. If we can get [Andy] Dalton on the ropes here, that kind of stuff, and then all of the sudden, you just give up a quick one. It's all of the sudden, now you're bringing them back again. Instead of going over there to the sideline and wrapping everybody and everybody feeling good about themselves, now you're trying to bring them back because their lips are hanging. We've got to get over that. We've got a young bunch of guys sometimes in some of the places, and we've just got to fight through that. And like I say, it goes just as much on us as the coaches to get them through it, too, as anybody else – it's a team thing. And we've just got to get better, and we've got to keep working hard. And I guarantee you, there's nobody coming out here pouting on defense – coaches, player or anybody else. We're working our ass off to make ourselves better."
Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman
Opening statement: "I think I'll start by just saying that after Sunday's game, we've certainly gone to work. We realized we have some work to do. We haven't put out the kind of running game we want to put out. We have to get back to work at that, and we did this week – obviously, in the classroom – to clean up some areas of fundamentals and techniques and working with our running game, starting with the outside zone and everything else that we do when we're running the football. We have also taken note of the fact that we have to close drives. We've been in the red zone a number of times where we haven't finished drives, and we want to go to work as well on that area. We have some young guys playing this week; we know that. With Crockett [Gillmore] being out [of practice this week], we have some young tight ends that we really love to coach, and we love the development that they're going through right now. We expect them to step up and play well for us. That's kind of where we're at as we move into Week 4 and this game against the Steelers."
Marc, is there a common denominator in some of the running struggles? Is there something that's happening repeatedly that is the main part of you getting corrected, or is it just kind of a little bit of everything? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think a lot of it is just one step here, a fundamental there. I have to do a better job of making sure the plays that we're running attack the weaknesses when we can find the weaknesses. I have to do a better job. It starts with me and everybody working together to try to get it done. I think it's too early to really point a finger at where we are. I think we're an evolving group. Obviously, we have to play better. We have to do our part each and every week. For us to do our part, we have to run the ball better, and we have to close on drives. Those are the types of things that we're working on doing collectively as a staff and with our players."
Does it become harder to stay patient with the run game after being down 14-0 at halftime? Is that something that, I guess you guys … (Cliff Brown) "I think it's a great question. I think that every game has its own storyline, whether you're playing Denver or Oakland, or if you're playing the Bengals. They have their own storyline. Things happen during games, and you have to make corrections and adjustments. The bottom line is it's our job to make the right play selection, execute the play and put enough of them together – because you're not going to win every play – to move the football and to score. A lot of that comes into play, but the bottom line is, is that we call a play, we want to execute it fundamentally sound, technically sound, make sure we're precise [in] where we're supposed to line up and what we're supposed to do. That's football, and that's what we're still working on, and we know we can do better."
Coach, are some guys still struggling with the playbook [with] you coming in and Gary Kubiak going out? Are there struggles with that? (Bill West) "I don't think we're seeing that. I think we're seeing – at some times – very, very good execution. At other times, we've stumbled, because we've had a penalty that has taken us out of position to convert. And we've done a number of those as well this year. We've been able to convert after a number of setbacks, but you can't consistently do that. We have to take care of our own business. We have to limit the penalties that we've had – particularly last week – which can really hurt you in a game where you have some momentum and you have a little bit of flow to it. All of this stuff starts with us, and that's what we're working on and focused on, even in these types of practices. That's what we're working on being – more fundamentally sound, technically sound, and everybody being in the right position to do their job. But I don't think it's … We have a very smart football team, smart group of guys. Their football intelligence is very high, and I don't think it's that at all."
Anything with these young tight ends – [TE Maxx Williams and TE Nick Boyle] – that so far you've said, "I didn't expect that out of them quite this early."? (Ryan Mink)"I think that [it is] just their overall maturity, the way they're handling themselves. Assignment- wise, they're doing a very good job. Everybody makes a mistake along the way, and the good part about it is when they have made mistakes, you don't see it happen again. They've taken a … They're two very mature guys. They have a very professional attitude – that's part of what we have here. They have good leadership here to be able to see how it's done both in good [times] and now through some adversity. As I've said many times, we like them, and we really love coaching them. They're going to develop and be good players for us."
I saw that you started to get WR Michael Campanaro involved. Do you feel it's time to work him in the slot and allow him to attack the field horizontally? (Turron Davenport) "I think Mike [Campanaro] is ... When he has had opportunities, he has done well with it. He'll continue to get those opportunities, as will the other guys as we move along. But I think Mike has shown over the last couple weeks that he has made some plays for us, got us some first downs, and under the duress and chaos of the game, he has made some plays. So, he certainly deserves to get more opportunities."
Coach, any thought in the opening playbook to, maybe, letting QB Joe Flacco calling more zone plays versus … (Bill West) "Joe [Flacco] has options to do a lot of different things out there. We give him some direction. Generally, a play call is really [giving] some direction, and there's certainly opportunities for him to put us in a better play or a play that he would feel could be successful against the coverages that we're getting. There's a lot of leeway with what we do. I think he's very comfortable with that."
T Eugene Monroe – with the possibility of him coming back, what would that mean, specifically for that run game? (Ryan Mink) "Eugene [Monroe has] been a starter for us, but – as you've seen – James [Hurst] has played a lot of football as well. Right now – today – it's James, and we'll see. Certainly, we need everybody. You always need everybody. Eugene is a big part of what we do here, so we're looking forward to getting him back as well when that time comes."
Marc, have you noticed anything different about Pittsburgh's defense now that Dick LeBeau is not there? (Reporter) "They're still very active, and they come at you from different ways. The substance of what they do – and the scheme of what they do – is essentially the same as you would expect it to be. It's the same style of football with rush zones and blitzes. Internally and externally, it looks very much the same."
Marc, you've obviously gotten a couple great performances from WR Steve Smith Sr., but how concerning is it the need to get more receivers involved on a week-to-week basis? (Luke Jones) "I don't know that there's a concern. You just want to make sure that you're targeting guys [and] you give guys opportunities. It has just worked out that way for the first three weeks. Steve [Smith Sr.] is really the premier receiver that we do have. But on the other side of it, we're still working and trying to utilize each and every guy to have some targets during the course of the game and make plays. Kamar [Aiken] a week ago had four or five very important catches for us in Oakland. I think that has been a little bit forgotten. Marlon [Brown] has made some plays. Marlon made a key play for us in the game last week catching that third down-and-long along our sideline. He ran a great route, made a great catch. They'll continue to work in [the offense] and certainly be part of what we do. I think as we get into the flow and we continue to move forward, I'm hopeful that will happen."
Is there any kind of pitch count for WR Steve Smith Sr. given his age and snaps and whatnot? (Ryan Mink) "[Steve Smith Sr.] has been very productive in the first three weeks, and we do everything we can during the course of the week to make sure that he gets his rest and he's ready to go. He has certainly seen that in the first three weeks. He has been ready to go."