THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 9 vs. STEELERS
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Did you figure out what the penalty was on the fake punt? How do you correct it? (Jeff Zrebiec)"They called a foul on Morgan [Cox] for an illegal shift. That's what they called, so … I don't make comments on officiating, but they called an illegal shift on Morgan." (Reporter: "But what did he do?") "He snapped the ball to the personal protector."(Reporter: "But did he move his head or anything like that that would incur a penalty?")"You'll have to ask the officials what they saw. I didn't see that, but perhaps they did. I didn't see it on tape that way. It looked like a first down to me. It looked like a seven-yard gain, a first down. It was a key point in the ball game." (Reporter: "I just don't know what an illegal shift on a long snapper would be.") "That's a really good question, perhaps to be asked to someone else."
Head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday it was something that he was going to ask the league about. Do you get any feedback that helps you so you can avoid it? (Jeff Zrebiec)"I haven't received any feedback from the league, but that's where John comes in. I'm dancing around these questions. How's it going so far?" (laughter)
What do you tell LS Morgan Cox, and what do you work on in practice to avoid something similar from occurring again? (Ed Lee) "We'll keep working on that play. That play was installed about six years ago. I think 2013 was the first year they changed the rules where you can't cover the snapper. So virtually, every team in the league has a play similar to that. We've put six years, with Anthony Levine, of investment into that play. We snapped the ball to the personal protector. He plowed forward, we blocked it really well, and we got a seven-yard gain that unfortunately was called back. There was a lot that went into that play."
If you wait six or seven years developing this play, when did you see – being at your own 10-yard line – to know that was the right time to finally break that play out? (Brent Harris) "It was a shorter-yardage play. I give a lot of credit to coach Harbaugh for pulling that play off and running that play in that situation. As we all understand, part of the things about trick plays or fakes is the unexpected. That was certainly not to be expected in that field position. Coach 'Harbs' made a really bold statement. We're trying to win. We're trying to get a first down, get our offense back on the field, and keep our momentum that we thought we had at that point in the ball game. We made a really good play to get us inside the 10 with our punt team. We had a chance to get us out, and unfortunately, it didn't work out that way."
What do you think about RB/WR Ty Montgomery as a returner? How long does it take for you to watch a guy before you feel comfortable with him? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Of course. We see him around the league, and he's a very versatile player. I'm sure that's why our people and our offense are very interested in him, too. He's a very versatile player. I see a guy that runs the ball with elusiveness, but also a physicality. I like that about returners. I like returners that can break a tackle and fall forward. He certainly brings that to the ball game."
I wanted to revisit a question asked last week about LB Chris Board. Head coach John Harbaugh said on Friday that he was pretty low on their board, but that you convinced them otherwise. What did you say to them? What did you see about Chris that made you want to bring him on board?_ (Ed Lee) "I noticed you used the word 'board' twice in that sentence, and neither one of them referred to Chris Board. _(laughter) But, Chris Board was on our board. However he got here, I'm sure glad he's here. Our defensive coaches did a great job with that as well. They were all over Chris. He fits the profile for what we're looking for, for those undrafted free agent-type players – a guy that's athletic and fast and physical and all those traits that we look for. I think I rattled them off last week: Jameel McClain played defensive end, but he had those traits. Dannell Ellerbe had those traits. Josh Bynes was another guy that we really liked coming out of college and was a physical player. Zach Orr is a really great example here now on our coaching staff. He was a highly-productive player and became a starter for the Ravens – an All-Pro, an undrafted guy. Albert McClellan is still, obviously, a high-level special teams player, and has started some games in the league. Now Chris Board comes along, and really, those are the kind of players that this organization and this coaching staff look for to fill those spots, because you can't make up a team of all draft choices. The linebacker position specifically, we're looking for certain things, and I don't think any one person should get any more credit than any other. I think it was a collaborative effort. We got him here, and he's playing well. We're happy he's here."
Have you talked to LB Albert McClellan [since he was released]? (Aaron Kasinitz) _"I have."(Reporter: "Coach Harbaugh said he would like to bring him back. So what did you say to Albert?")_ "We had a long conversation. In fact, we've talked every day. He's doing well, obviously wants to play. We want him to play. We love the guy; he means a lot to all of us. I'll just leave it at that. The rest of us … [There's] a lot of personal stuff that goes on in the league when you get a guy that plays that long for that well and is a leader like he is. He's very close to all of us."
Closing statement: "It's a beautiful day! I hope you all can enjoy this. This kind of weather reminds me of where I grew up. I grew up in southern Minnesota and its farm country. This time of the year when the leaves are changing, and it's harvest time and it's hunting season … I remember when I was a young lad in grade school, I saved up all my paper route money and bought a BB gun, because I wanted to be a hunter just like all the rest of my extended family. Most of my extended family lived on farms; I lived in the town, so I couldn't shoot my BB gun in town. So, every opportunity that I had, I tried to go to my relatives' farm and go shoot my BB gun. I had my Uncle Walt … One of my uncles lived about 20 minutes away. One day I was out with Uncle Walt, and he was driving his tractor out in the hayfield, stubble field, and I was out there with his dog. He had a dog named Shep. I think it was some kind of a shepherd dog, I guess – that's why he named him Shep. (laughter)The dog was a medium-sized white dog with some brown/tan spots on him. It was a great dog. Walt was working, and I was playing in the field, and Shep kicked up a mouse. So I'm going to go after this mouse now. I got this BB gun and I'm going … We chased this mouse around for half an hour, and I unloaded that BB gun trying to shoot that mouse. Finally – finally – I bagged the mouse with my BB gun. Uncle Walt was on a tractor, and I remember holding up that mouse by its tail, and he looked at me and said, 'Big game hunter!' (laughter)So I became 'Big Game Hunter' to Uncle Walt for all those years. It's days like this that remind me of those times.
"When you get older and you can graduate from the flag football form of hunting – which would be the BB gun – into more of the Pop Warner form, where you can actually put on the pads, so to speak … When you get into junior high … We had a teacher, Mr. Tourville, that was our science teacher. Besides his regular job of teaching us about glacial erratics and such things, he was also the gun safety teacher. I got to take a gun safety class from Mr. Tourville on Saturdays that taught us all the basics of gun safety: Make sure you don't point the barrel at anyone, make sure the gun is always unloaded whenever you have it, make sure if you're hunting and your trigger finger is off to the side of the trigger and the safety is on. So, I got to go out to Uncle Walt's one fall, a day much like this, and we went rabbit hunting. To me, that's big game. To Uncle Walt, maybe not so much. But we're walking … Uncle Walt lived by a little kettle lake and a prairie, and we're walking along this picked corn field and this furrow. The dog, Shep, was out working in the corn and the corn stubble and the brush, and then there I saw it! [Something] jumped right out of the brush and took off right down the furrow which I'm walking. So I drew the gun up, put the bead on, pulled the trigger and nothing – the safety was on! At that moment, I realized that wasn't a rabbit – that was Shep!" (Reporter: "Oh no.")"Exactly. So when I stopped shaking, Uncle Walt comes to me and says, 'Make sure, if you're going to pull the trigger, you are certain at what you're shooting at. Don't shoot at what you think you see or what you want to see. Don't pull the trigger. Make sure you pull the trigger on something that you see.' That's really some down-home wisdom that we shall all carry with us throughout our lives. So, if anybody is going out hunting today, don't shoot Shep!" (laughter)
Defensive Coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale
Opening statement:"Let's recap from last week: I really don't like these Thursdays, because now, it seems like that was a month ago. We did some things that were uncharacteristic – all of us did. We had a great meeting on Tuesday as a defense with all of us in there – the coaching staff and the players – and it was an open forum like it always is, because we keep it real with each other in there. There are no egos or anything else. It's one of those things that no matter how well you play, you're never as good as you think you are, and how bad it feels, especially before you look at the tape, you're not as bad as you think you are. So there are a lot of teachable moments in that. We've turned full attention on to Pittsburgh. We know what this game is all about. Obviously, we just talked about it four weeks ago. And, we're really looking forward to the challenge."
In that game four weeks ago, in which you shut them out in the second half and got the victory there, they've gone on and won three in a row. RB James Conner is the AFC Offensive Player of the Month. What have they done that's different than what you guys were able to keep them from doing? _(Brent Harris) _"I think that they've … They're back to playing Mike Tomlin-Steeler football, which is, they're making a commitment to the run game, and they're doing it out of bigger personnel than what they have in the past and what we've seen before. And, that's what makes this so great about this rivalry, is we've played against them so much – and I'm sure they feel the same way – that you're always ready for that wrinkle of, 'Oh, in 2014, this is what they did,' or whatever you can pull from your past on it as you prepare for them."
Could you describe how OLB Terrell Suggs is leading into a Steelers game? (Garrett Downing)"He's really pretty calm, and he says some brilliant things in that room that really lock everybody in. He knows how important this game is to the city, and he knows how important this game is to us and the organization, as well. So, he's really focused. You guys see the character. We see the leader, and I can't express that enough, about how well he has led this defense and, really, led this team. That's just how he is, and that's really how he always is every week."
You still have the No. 1 defense in the league. How do you balance not going overboard on one performance or a span of five quarters? With the fact that what you've done so far has worked, by and large, how do you not overreact to one poor performance? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"I think if you're looking at yards-per-gain and all that stuff … What we're focused on is winning the next game. And, like I've said before, we'll wait until after the season is over to see where we stand. We've done a lot of good things. In getting there, we've already played this team once, and we've done a lot of good things defensively. You guys know that. I'm not embarrassed to say that. Matter of fact, I'm proud to say it, and we just need to continue. Do we just slough it off and say, 'Hey, that was a bad day?" No. We said, 'Here are our problems.' Like I said, there were just a lot of teachable moments in that game that we feel that we have corrected, and we are refocused as a defense, and I'm excited for it. I'm excited for this one."
Speaking of the Steelers' running game, what have you seen from RB James Conner? What are your impressions of him? _(Ryan Mink) _"They're doing it more. That's what I see. He's the same running back [as] the first time we played him. He's a straight-ahead, no-fair, dodging-type running back that spins on contact, and he's running hard. That's going to be a great challenge for us."
RB Le'Veon Bell, it's still a question mark. It doesn't look like he's going to play, but do you have to have a contingency plan in case he shows up at some point? (Ryan Mink) _"I hope he shows up right before the game, and they want to play him. _(laughter) It's like this: I think it's like, since 2015, if you look at their stats, there are a lot of stats in different categories that the Steelers are actually better without him, that they're better in those categories since 2015 without Le'Veon. So, that might be why he's riding a jet ski down in Miami right now. I don't know. You can't think about this. What if Terry Bradshaw wants to come back, and Lynn Swann? Oh [shoot]! (laughter) Sorry."
You mentioned the numbers, the body of work being as good as it is. With that being said, takeaways, the total there hasn't been as high. Have you been surprised by that? Is there anything to that beyond the fact that we know there is an element of luck and fortune that goes into takeaways? (Luke Jones)"Yes, and who you're playing with. And, what we've seen the last two weeks is – which you take a as compliment – teams are playing you differently. [New Orleans head coach] Sean Payton, for example, he played that like he did the Super Bowl, where he's trying to steal possessions and things like that. So, [it's about] that awareness, and we need to get better in those situations. With the takeaways part of it, I still say they're going to come in bunches. I think it depends on a lot of different things. We have more sacks than what we had last year. We have more tackles for loss than what we had last year. So, it's hard to pick off a screen pass when it's second-and-14. But, like I said, they'll come in bunches. They're right around the corner."
You mentioned balance. When you talk about the game, obviously, the magnitude, it's a rivalry game, division game. Considering where you are in the season, 4-4, a loss, what that would mean, how do you balance not worrying about that vs. "Guys, this is this week, and this week alone?" _(Pete Gilbert) _"We're focused on the Steelers. We really are. I think, if anything, if you don't take this thing … Right now, we're focused on having a great Thursday practice, a great Friday practice, and then this game. And then, we'll go from there for the next game. Because if you start looking too far ahead at any time, this league will humble you and slap you down in a heartbeat. I look at this game … Let's put it in perspective. This game is if … You look at this two ways: Either when you were in school, about the fifth or sixth grade, and two of the toughest guys are getting ready to fight, or maybe you were one of those tough guys who were getting ready to fight after school. And a rivalry game, you're sitting there in third period saying, 'Oh man, we have to go. How am I going to attack this one?' Because, you know you have to go. A stomachache is not going to get you out of this, this fight after school. And, right now, we're about in the fourth period right now thinking about this thing that's going to happen at 1 o'clock on Sunday. And with that, when we played against the Saints, the fans were fantastic. We need to see Purple and Black show up for this one, because we have to have the same advantage as what they had at their home game. So, we're excited about the people from Dundalk, Carroll County, Westminster, Aberdeen, East [and] West Baltimore, to come out. It helps the defense. It really does, so if you care about your Ravens, let's be there and let's be loud."
After the Week 2 loss to the Bengals, you guys really bounced back against Denver. Is there anything that you've seen this week that encourages you how the team responded in the week after that Bengals game? (Jonas Shaffer) "I hope to think that way. Like I said, we're just concerned about having a great Thursday practice. I loved our practice yesterday, and we have a bunch of grown men in there, in that room, and they know the challenges ahead, and so do we. We respect them, but we know the challenges ahead."
CB Marlon Humphrey hasn't played the last couple of games, and he obviously was playing well. Whether he plays or doesn't, not having or having a player like that, does it change generally what you can and can't do? _(Cliff Brown) _"No, I'm excited about all the corners we're taking in. Hopefully we'll be at full force in there – hopefully. We don't know yet. But, I'm excited about all the corners we have going into this game. I'm really confident with them."
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Wrapping up the last ball game, [we] had a heck of a start! Shoot! A score on the first drive, overcome three offensive penalties – man alive! Too many penalties. We turned the ball over. Typically, you have to be pretty clean to win games in this league that way. We had too many drops; we had some chances at some plays there. Now, big game Sunday, Pittsburgh coming in. [We're] right in the middle of the preparation – long week. Don't quite know quite who's available at certain spots, so we'll see how the week ends up there. What a great opportunity, great challenge. This Pittsburgh defense certainly has been playing well really since our game. They've given up very few points. They're playing fast. They've minimized big plays. They have a heck of a front. That second-level group is very, very good, and they have some excellent cover guys."
The injuries, and obviously adding a new player to your offense, is it a challenge Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and what you want to do, not necessarily knowing who might be in? _(Brent Harris) _"Yes, and we have enough there. That's part of this deal. That's part of what we do, and we have to be able to adjust, and adjust sometimes very quickly. That's where we're at, and we'll tie it together towards the end of the week when we know a little more on who is available."
What are your early impressions of RB Ty Montgomery, and what are your thoughts about working him into the gameplan? (Garret Downing)"We got him out there for individual [drills]. He got in some of the plays, more than a handful of plays yesterday. He looks great. He's a fine player. He's really studying hard. Much of it is familiar to him. Some of the verbiage is just a little bit different, so he's working hard to get himself ready to go."
The running game averaged about 5.0 yards per carry, but then there was also the blown block on the RB Alex Collins fumble. What are your thoughts on the positives and negatives from the run game on Sunday? (Jonas Shaffer) "A lot of positives early, and then we had a missed assignment and put the ball on the ground. You have to stay away from that. And then, the score sort of dictated what we did from then on, which we were out of the gameplan just a little bit trying to get a score or two there and get back in it. We got within two scores there briefly, and then we had to go back at it. We'll keep it coming. We'll keep the run game coming. We'll be fine right there. We're pretty varied now. I will say Pittsburgh has done a nice job, especially as of late, with the run game."
How much of a challenge is it to get everyone in sync when there are so many injuries across the offensive line? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, I know one thing, and that [it's] a great opportunity for the fellas that are available – a great opportunity. Your point is correct. That continuity goes a long way, so we have to gain some continuity like that, period. Right? We have a game coming up Sunday."
Does that involve simplification? (Pete Gilbert)"I hate to do that. I hate to do that. Too much is just as bad as not enough in those types [of situations]. But there is that fine line – you make a good point. I learned this a long, long time ago: Let's not underestimate how much the players can do and perform. They can do an awful lot. We have a lot of sharp guys. Now, doing it together becomes important. So Joe 'D' [D'Alessandris, offensive line coach] has done a fantastic job. I mean, hats off to the fellas who played last week! They played well, [but] now [have to be] even better. We have to do better – all of us – starting with me. We have to do better. So that's where we're at up front."
Along those lines, what have you seen from T Orlando Brown Jr. the last few weeks? (Luke Jones)"He's done well. He's done well. His challenge is getting better every day, let alone every week. Every day we get better. We get better at something every day. But he's done a fine job."
When you have a game like last Sunday, where no one is particularly happy with the way they played, do you have a recipe for how you like to come back from those kinds of games? Or is this week pretty similar to any other week?_ (Childs Walker) _"No, it's not similar. Look, everybody is important, everything we do is important, how we do it is important. Now this is Pittsburgh week, so you know, it's going to be natural, some of that. But yes … Look, you put it on the table. I think I'm pretty consistent that way. Put it on the table, let's get better at what we need to get better at, all those things, and let's roll. That's kind of how we operate."