THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: TITANS – WEEK 10
Head Coach John Harbaugh
On CB Jimmy Smith's season-ending foot surgery: "The plan for Jimmy was to do more testing once the swelling subsided in his foot, and that was done this morning. With the exam this morning, the doctors decided that he needed surgery, and they repaired the injury. That means Jimmy is finished for the season, but will recover for our offseason program."
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Jerry, last week was LB Arthur Brown's first game action. [What are] your thoughts on how he played on special teams? (Luke Jones) "He was ready to go. He had been practicing so well, which was part of the reason we wanted to use him, because we knew we had a good player there. He has developed skills in coverage and his blocking, and he played very well."
[Was it] a relief to see WR/RS Jacoby Jones not only comfortably field the ball, but then break free like that? (Pete Gilbert) "I wouldn't describe it as a relief, necessarily. There is a certain amount of joy for the man. We all felt that, because we need him. And that was a very difficult play to make. There are not too many guys who can make that play. We had the ball in the hands of the right player for that particular play. The guys did a great job of blocking for him, and he delivered."
The key last week you mentioned is P Sam Koch hadn't had a lot of opportunities to punt. Given the volume of work he had last week, so that kind of bare out what you've seen? (Jon Meoli) "He's doing a great job. He's limiting the return opportunities and he's putting the ball where we want it. With the new snapper [Kevin McDermott] we have, he continues to be a great holder. He's delivering the ball right where Justin [Tucker] needs it, and we're converting."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Gary, you guys are nine games in. RB Justin Forsett was saying yesterday that he feels like you're real close to kind of putting together a complete game. Sort of a bit frustrating that it has been a little thing here and there? (Jeff Zrebiec) "The frustrating thing the past few weeks has been turning the ball over, because that's something we really pride ourselves on. If you look at the last three weeks – I want to say [we've had] maybe six turnovers, seven turnovers as a football team – and that's very detrimental to what we're trying to do. That's something that we have to get fixed. If we're not doing that, I think we're going to have an excellent chance to be successful. That's a big point of emphasis right now. We have to get back to running the ball better. We have not run the ball as well the last two weeks as we have early in the season. A couple of those things that have fueled us early in the season have hurt us here the past few weeks. [We] have to get back going the other way."
What do you say to RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, a young guy who has had some great success this year, but then puts it on the ground? (Pete Gilbert) "My nature as a coach when that happens is to go right back to him. It's like Joe [Flacco] throws a pick, and we go right back out and throw it and go right back down the field the next drive – have a chance to tie the game. I believe in the guys we have, and I believe in what we're doing. We wouldn't have him out there if we didn't trust him. Sometimes those things are going to happen. They can't happen too often; we all know that. But I think your players need to know that you're going to come right back to them and expect them to rectify what had taken place and make some plays to make it up."
John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco both talked about the offense needing to do more to make Pittsburgh pay for the amount of blitzing that they're doing. In your mind, what didn't happen that needed to on Sunday in that regard? (Luke Jones)"I thought we moved the ball good in the first half. We just hurt ourselves. We missed a big play at 7-0. Without me going through every play, we missed a big play that could have been a difference in the game. We missed a big play that ties the game, and then we give them 14 points basically by turning the ball over. When you get down in this league like that, they're going to pin their ears back and come get you. On the road, in that environment, that makes it even tougher. I think that's just part of the job, and it's something you have to handle. We didn't handle it very good. We just need to play cleaner as an offense, and it starts with us running the ball, protecting the ball. If we're doing those things, we're probably going to find a way to make some big plays. Just staying focused on what we're doing and working [is important]. And [we had a] great day today, worked really well today."
You don't use the shotgun as much as a lot of teams in this league. Do you prefer the quarterback [under center]? Is that just a preference for you? (Jamison Hensley) "I like [the shotgun formation]. [It] depends on the situation we're in and where we're playing, those type of things. I think our quarterback plays really well under center, so that probably has a lot to do with it. I think [Joe Flacco's] rhythm … I really like his rhythm when he's playing under center. I don't know. On a given week, you might see us back there 20, 25 times, [or] you can see us back there 7 or 8 times. I don't know, it kind of all depends on what's going on, but I like the way Joe plays the game under center."
Does it limit you when you are in a shotgun? Do you feel it kind of takes away some things that you're able to do and maybe disguise some things for the defense? (Jamison Hensley) "You're not a big run threat back there [in shotgun]. It's not that you can't run the ball – you can still run the ball and do those types of things – but from a percentage standpoint, the way people prepare for you, you're probably going to be throwing it. Your launch point is pretty much the same all the time when you're in the gun, as far as people rushing the passer. There are some things that make you want to be under center, and at the same time there are things that happen defensively with certain blitzes where you better get back there, or something bad is going to happen. I don't know. We'll do a little bit of both. Hopefully we can do it better."
Gary, is the production of the receivers where you like it? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think when you look at the big picture, I think a lot of guys are contributing. Obviously, Torrey's [Smith] numbers, I'd like to see those get up. I think Steve [Smith Sr.] is having a heck of a season from that standpoint. But if you take all the little things with each guy – you take Michael [Campanaro], you take Kamar [Aiken], you take Dennis [Pitta], obviously Dennis played for us through three weeks – but when you look at the combination of all those things, I think the production has been really good. It's just coming from all over the place. It's not coming from one or two guys. I really think this is what gives us chance to continue to improve, because I watched Kamar make plays. Campanaro was playing excellent for us before he goes down. Marlon [Brown] has gotten involved here the past few weeks. I don't care where it comes from, but it has to come. We're kind of spreading it out a little bit.'
**Speaking of WR Steve Smith Sr., his numbers haven't been the past four weeks quite what they were in the really hot start. Is that because you're spreading it out more? *(Ryan Mink) *"I wouldn't say that. [Steve Smith Sr.] had some really big plays early in the season, had some big balls, so hopefully there are some of those to come back. Some of those plays are all scheduled, too. You never know when off-scheduled plays are coming. But he's doing a good job. He's playing hard. We are taking Steve and Torrey [Smith] out 20, 25 plays a game, keeping them fresh, so that gives Marlon [Brown] and those guys ability, and gives Torrey and Steve a chance to stay fresh. I think we'll continue to play that way, but hopefully we can find some bigger plays for him."
TE Owen Daniels has had a rookie under him the last few years in Houston and now here with TE Crockett Gillmore. How have you seen him take to that mentorship role? (Jon Meoli) "Crockett [Gillmore] is really lucky. Not many guys in this league … When you're a rookie and you step in a [meeting] room, obviously there are a lot of influences on you, and there can be none better than that one [in Daniels]. Crockett has benefitted from that. We're a two-tight end team right now, so [we're] really asking a lot of those two guys, and [we] missed Owen for a week. But I think Crockett is becoming a really good player. If you had asked me early in the season, 'Was this guy going to be that much involved in what we were doing and that big of a factor?' I wouldn't have thought so with Dennis [Pitta] and 'O.D.' [Owen Daniels] here. But things change, players get hurt, and I think he's answering the bell. I think he's getting better each week."
And the same with TE Owen Daniels – you said things change, people get hurt – did you expect him to have this big of a role? (Jon Meoli) "I thought [Owen Daniels] would have pretty good role, because even if Dennis [Pitta] is healthy, we're probably a big two-tight end football team. So yes, I thought he and Dennis had opportunities to both have big years. Unfortunately, we get the injuries. It is what it is. We have to keep moving forward, and that makes Crockett's [Gillmore] role even more important."
Gary, people have been constantly learning the offense, learning you, your tendencies. Where are you guys at with that process? Is it you don't even think about that anymore? (Jeff Zrebiec) "You're talking about me personally, or are you talking about our guys?" (Reporter: "Guys.") "I think they've been really good. We've tried to escalate what we do. But I also think when you go out and turn the ball over for a few weeks and don't play as well as you want to play, you have to look at yourselves, at coach [and] say, 'Am I going too fast here? Are we doing too much?' I don't know. You're always looking at that, and next week, obviously, is a bye week where you stop and really, really take a hard look at where you're at after that period of time. It's something that's constant. The bottom line, you want to be putting your players in the best position where they're comfortable and they're successful. That's something you're always looking at as a coach."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
Dean, [there have been] a lot of changes in the secondary this week. [What are] your thoughts on getting these other guys up to speed and kind of making it all fit together on Sunday? (Aaron Wilson) "Tramain [Jacobs] should be up to speed if he's been here the whole time. Even though he's been on the practice squad, he's in every meeting, he's in all the installations – all that kind of stuff. I don't think it's going to be a problem with him. The good thing about Danny Gorrer is the fact that he was here once, so there is carryover on the stuff that we're still doing when he was here. And also, 'T.A.' [Lions defensive coordinator and former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin] up in Detroit was doing a lot of the stuff that we do, so there is a lot of carryover, even in verbiage. Generally, when you bring in a guy from another team, you'll do a lot of the same things, but the verbiage will be the hardest thing for him to overcome. I think with Danny, it's not going to be as dramatic because there are just an awful lot of things that we've talked to him [about], saying, 'Is 'T.A.' using the same thing that we called here?' And a lot of it was, 'Yes.' So, I think it'll be a little easier transition for him."
One person who is not new, but he's only played a couple of weeks, is S Will Hill at safety. He played the most last week that he has since he's been playing. Is that kind of the expectation for him moving forward, to get a lot of reps and be in that sort of role? (Garrett Downing) "Yes, I'm planning on him being the safety. The first week we thought, 'It's his first week back,' played him a little bit, then I can't remember how many weeks now … This is all kind of running together … But our plan was to get him in there and get him playing, and the only way he's going to get better is just to play and play and play. And so, we saw a lot of talent when we had him, even when he was suspended back when he could practice, and felt like when we got him back we just had to get him up to speed. So yes, we're looking for him to play a lot."
What stands out most about S Will Hill? What do you like about [what you've seen] the most? (Jamison Hensley)"He's a physical presence. I really do think that when he gets a little more comfortable, I think you're going to see some range in the deep part of the field, which is really what we need at safety. We need some guys that can go hawk the ball from back there deep and go make plays on the ball. I think he has that ability. I think he's also a good tackler. And then probably the third thing is that because he's a big guy like he is and can run, he's also a very intelligent football player. He's a little better matchup on a lot of the tight ends that we face, because a lot of times if you're a smaller safety against these doggone huge tight ends that everybody has, that's a tough duty – especially down in the red area where they just like to throw the ball up to them. [I would say] those three things."
LB C.J. Mosley talked yesterday about wanting to improve in coverage. How have you seen him make strides in that area, and how is he growing in his ability as a cover [linebacker]? (Garrett Downing) "I think probably what he's alluding to is the fact that in college ball, it's not really a drop-back game anymore. Everything is kind of off the option read, some play-actions and all this kind of stuff. And I think that him getting used to just route concepts on, 'OK, when this guy does this, my eyes go to here,' and then you multiply that times 10 different coverages. To me, with C.J., he has all the talent, all the knowledge [and] all that stuff. Now it's just a matter of the more he sees it, the better he'll be. That's true of any linebacker. Whether it is the run scheme or the pass scheme, the more you see something … You can go and ask Ray [Lewis] or [Tedy] Bruschi or any of those guys: The first couple of years, it just all of the sudden becomes second-hat – especially in coverage, because they're just not used to all the concepts that you see at this level. And he'll get better just the more he does them, the more he sees them, even out here in practice."
Dean, what did you see in terms of going back to review the tape of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing his touchdowns? What did you see from there and from the common thread? What did you see in terms of being able to make the corrections? (Aaron Wilson) "The common thread is just 'stay on top.' There isn't any magic. We're playing really good football for most of the time on defense, but it's the same thing: We cannot give up a big play. I don't care whether it's Roethlisberger or who it is, you just can't give up a big play. We got beat on the one in the two-minute drill. It was simply [that we] just didn't stay on top of the guy, just got run by – period. A couple of the other ones were maybe a little bit with leverage that we were playing on the guys, which you can correct, and a little bit of it was guys inexperienced having not played that coverage much. But the other thing is just – and then the one that he ran through the defense – just a missed tackle. They can complete the ball – that doesn't really bother me so much – but the fact that we missed the tackle then in tight man coverage is just inexcusable. We have to coach it better, we have to play it better and just be smarter in those situations."
You're facing a quarterback [in Titans QB Zach Mettenberger] making his second-career start here. You're an aggressive defense anyway. Are you more willing to take more risks by putting pressure because of the youth of the quarterback? (Jamison Hensley) "I still think we have to do what we have to do. Remember that the guys on the other side, they had a week off now, so they can change a lot of things. And [they] go back and you take a little time to self-evaluate, maybe what we're doing formation-wise, what we're doing here, what we're doing there, and I think you have to be a little careful saying, 'Well, OK, it's a young quarterback, so we're just going to kind of turn it loose or do that.' We have to do what we have to do. We have to play within our scheme. We're not going to change. We're going to be who we are. You're always going to evaluate the other team's personnel and see how you can match up and what you can do against certain people and what you can't do, and we'll try to do that. But along with that, we probably have a corner that's probably going to be starting for the first time, too. So relatively speaking, they're looking at the same thing we're looking at. They have a young quarterback that's going to be starting. Well, we have a young corner starting. So let's not also put him in a position that he can't be successful."
If you have a team that's struggling at 2-6 coming off a bye week, is there more of an unknown in that regard? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, I definitely think it's an unknown. I think it's an unknown simply when you change quarterbacks. You don't know what the mindset is of what they want to do offensively now. They're going to decide if that's the direction they're going to go with this guy. Does it mean they're going to run more? [Are they] going to throw more? You don't know. And then you add on the fact that anytime you have a team coming off of a bye, generally if they're rolling really good into the bye, not a whole lot is going to change. There are two ways that you can look at it though. That's the problem with it: You can say, 'OK, [we're] 2-6. Let's make some changes.' But then they also may be saying, 'OK, we're 2-6. We're going with a new quarterback. Let's establish a system that this guy can get used to for the future.' I don't know. I wish they'd tell me, but I have a feeling they won't." (laughter)
You mentioned covering tight ends earlier. The numbers [say] you guys have done pretty well doing that so far. Is that your assessment as well? (Jon Meoli) "Yes, it seems like it. I thought we did a pretty good job against the guy from Carolina [Greg Olsen]. I think [Heath] Miller didn't have a catch up until that pop pass that they got us on. That may have been his only catch. I don't remember if that was his only catch. But yes, I think our guys have done a pretty good job on that with the linebackers and the safeties."