THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: STEELERS – WEEK 9
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
Compliment to LS Kevin McDermott that it seemed to be pretty seamless from the outside – didn't notice him much on his first game. (Luke Jones) "That's always a good thing in your first game. Kevin [McDermott] did a really good job of making a quick transition. And I also want to give credit to Sam [Koch] and Justin [Tucker] for their work during the week with him to make it work on Sunday. The two long field goals that Justin made are a testament to the fact that the operation is working. We still have work to do. We're still trying to get better. We're doing it right now as a matter of fact. But it's a very good start."
You go against … It seems like every week we ask you about a good punt return. Is this week still another challenge that way? (Jamison Hensley) "It's the same kind of situation, just a different jersey number."
And as far as P Sam Koch, have you been happy with how he has been able, with the strategy, to do the directional punting? Trying to negate what they want to do as far as punts? (Jamison Hensley) "One of the things that has been a real aid to us this year is the fact they've only punted 22 times. It makes a big difference. Credit to our offense and coach [Gary] Kubiak and all those guys. So, that matters. And when you're in a situation that we're in when you get a short punt and you're looking for field position and when you're going to long punt, you're trying to limit the opportunities for the opponent. As I've said many times in front of you all, there's only so much you can do. You can't just capitulate and throw it out of bounds. We have to get as much yardage as we possibly can with our punt team, give our defense an opportunity to defend the field. So, it's always a balance. It really is. It's a balancing act. And you're playing guys like [Devin] Hester. You're playing guys like Antonio Brown. You're playing guys like 'Pacman' [Adam Jones]. You take their skills into consideration every week."
**On the punt return game for you guys with WR/RS Jacoby Jones not fielding any punts last week – CB/RS Asa Jackson was another guy who returned punts, WR/RS Michael Campanaro – are there any new faces who are getting to get reps returning punts this week? *(Jon Meoli) *"We'll find out on Sundays. That's when the games start. We'll find out on Sundays."
RB LeGarrette Blount's size, how tough is that to prepare for that he's a big guy and he's fast as well? (Adam Vorce) "That's a very good observation. The difference that you face when you face a man of his type is that he can fall forward for yards, where others are going to go backwards after you hit them. It's no different than playing defense where you have to hit and wrap-tackle and move your feet, because if you expect to just knock him down, that's not going to happen. It's the same way if our defensive players when they're defending against a scat-type back; you can grab him and throw him down. With LeGarrette Blount, we better all get there and make sure we put the wall up and not let him fall forward for all those extra yards."
**Someone like LB Zachary Orr whose primary responsibility has been on special teams, he took his third penalty in eight games last week. What do you say to a player like that when they have such limited opportunities to impact the game and they do so in that way? *(Jon Meoli) *"I've been pleased with our special teams this year and not taking fouls. It has been an issue in our club before, and we've coached so hard and we've worked so hard on it. And I'm gratified that we're not amongst the leaders in penalties where in [the] past we struggled with that. And I think our guys are making really good decisions. There are different levels, there are different caliber of fouls when you're looking at it. Some fouls are just completely inexcusable. Post-whistle fouls, pre-snap fouls – those are the things we really want to avoid. In Zach's [Orr] situation, Zach was working hard to block a guy and the ball cut back. He had the opposite leverage on the play, and he didn't separate when the ball went away from him, which he was in the proper position. So, it's one of those fouls that you can understand, because a guy is working to get leverage and the ball cut back behind him. Like I say, there's a different caliber of fouls in those situations. And we're still working with Zach. The thing he'll learn as he grows is when he feels a guy separate and going that way, you know the ball is going that way. That's a product of experience."
Do you anticipate when it gets colder weather and it's supposed to be pretty cold in Pittsburgh on Sunday, that you'll get more chances to return kickoffs? Does the temperature really play a role? (Jamison Hensley) "Sure, absolutely. I'm not a scientist. I've not done the myth busters thing with the footballs, but I can tell you this: The ball doesn't travel as far when the mercury drops. Why that is I don't know exactly, but it's just a fact. Yes, we're hoping for more opportunities with the kickoff return in that regard."
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Gary, [in] Houston, the deep pass wasn't as big a part of your offense as it has been here in the past. How do you reconcile that with the tools that QB Joe Flacco and WR Torrey Smith have that were already existing here so far? (Jon Meoli) "You're always looking for big plays offensively as a team. [In] this league, it's very difficult to peck away, so to speak, and I think that's something we do well. But Joe [Flacco] has a big arm. He can get the ball way down the field. He plays the game off-schedule extremely well. We've had a lot of big off-schedule football plays made up to this point. Sometimes those things come in bunches, but I think our biggest issue right now the last two weeks [is] we [have] turned the ball over. [That is] something we have to fix if we're going to be successful, so it's been a big point of emphasis this week."
Gary, WR Kamar Aiken seemed to be close on making a couple big plays last week. With WR/RS Michael Campanaro being out for a little while, how important is he going to be, and how much confidence do you guys have in him? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm sure you all have noticed Kamar is very smart. He plays a lot of spots, so he's been playing a lot. He's been playing some X, playing some Z, playing what we call the 'Zebra' receiver – so Kamar has earned his way on the field. He's played well for us. Like you said, [he] had a couple big opportunities last week. We're down to five [wide receivers] right now with Michael's situation, so Jacoby [Jones] gets back into the big bulk of the work; Marlon [Brown] is back. So, it's going to take all of us. I think they're all capable of helping out. The good news is that they all play multiple spots when you're talking about Kamar, Marlon and Jacoby."
With T Rick Wagner, obviously, we're not asking too much about him because he's doing pretty well, but has anything surprised you by what he's done so far this year? (Jamison Hensley) "When I came in here, you had a starting right tackle that hadn't played much football, so I didn't know much. But I think the biggest compliment I can pay to him is that you haven't noticed much because he has just played very solid. He practices well; he's committed to what he's doing; he's a very steady player – doesn't make mistakes. He's on his way to being a very fine pro. So, we're real proud of how far he's come. But hopefully we keep the whole group together right now. James [Hurst] and John [Urschel] came in and played well for us and played a little bit more last week. But hopefully we're settling down a little bit now and those guys get a lot of time together."
You mentioned turnovers. How do you stress that during a week of practice? (Ryan Mink) "You know, it's interesting. It seems sometimes – I told John [Harbaugh] this the other day – sometimes you talk about them so much and they don't go away. Sometimes you have to maybe just not say anything. We've been pretty good protecting the ball, and I think as a team we have 12, and as an offense we have 10 of those 12. But five of those turnovers [have] come in the last two weeks. That's not good. We have too good of a football team. If we're protecting the ball, I think we're going to play really well. It's something that [Ravens QBs coach] Rick [Dennison] and I and Joe [Flacco] have to do a better job of, because we have turned it over four times via the air the last two weeks. So, it's something we have to get fixed."
Overall though, do you think QB Joe Flacco's decision-making [has been] solid overall? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I think Joe has played well. It's like anything else: Everybody can play better. We have to continue to do a better job with Joe – me and Rick [Dennison] – as we continue to grow with him and what he does best and what he's most comfortable with. We went into a real tough environment last week, [and we are] going into an even tougher environment this week. So, you want that guy as comfortable as you can get him, but we need Joe to play well. We need Joe to play solid, protect the ball and play well for this team to be successful. And that's what we have to continue to work at, because he's doing his part – he's doing the work."
Is RB Lorenzo Taliaferro a little more explosive than maybe you would've hoped for? For a big guy, he [has] a lot of "big-play" capability. (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, he really has. We suited two guys last week [at running back], which was a concern going into the game, but boy, he stepped up and played extremely well. I'm very impressed with him. We have a lot of good young players that have played well for us on the offensive side of the ball. We're going to need them all, and hopefully Bernard [Pierce] is back in the mix this week, depending on how things go. But I think on any given day, any three of those backs could be our feature guy. We just have to see what happens, see who's playing well, and just keep moving forward."
Is that something you'd like to avoid, just two active running backs? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Well, that's scary – I can tell you that. *(laughter) *When the head coach says that's the way we're going, you have to make it work. Now, John [Harbaugh] and I talked before the game, and it's always a conversation [of], 'Can you get by here? Can you get by there?' because you're looking for various situations. The key was Lorenzo plays all special teams, as you all well know. So, we go with two, he's a special teams player also, and Justin [Forsett] has been holding up. In the long haul, that was an excellent decision, because you suit six receivers, we lose two during the game. That's always something you're playing with on roster day and trying to get the best guys up for [Ravens special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry [Rosburg] and still feel as strong on both sides of the ball. We weathered a little bit of a storm last week."
You said a lot during the preseason that the big plays on this offense are going to come from the play-action. How would you assess that part of the passing game? (Jon Meoli) "We've had our opportunities. We need to make more of them. We've missed some big plays in the game last week down the field – I'm thinking of one [with] Kamar [Aiken] that really could have broken the game open. We've booted a little bit more here lately, got the ball down the field. You have to make those plays, too. It's one thing to call them, but you have to find a way to make them. Hopefully there's more to come."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
You talked back in camp about DT Brandon Williams and the things you were seeing from him. How much has that translated to the regular season? (Aaron Wilson) "I think [Brandon Williams is] playing really well. He's so improved from a year ago, and we saw that stuff in training camp, and were hoping that it would keep building through the season. And he's really playing very consistent inside. That's one of the things I like about him – maybe not quite as well last week as some of the weeks before, but still very good. And he's just been very, very consistent. That's what you need out of a nose guard. It all starts there."
It's pretty close between DT Brandon Williams' job of keeping the blocker off of the 'backers and also making plays himself. (Aaron Wilson) "It all just depends on the scheme. It depends on the call. There are some times when there's a chance that [Brandon Williams] can get singled up, and then he has to win a one-on-one battle. And there are other times where we're asking him to take on a double-team and really keep that double-team on him and not get any movement. That's the hardest thing for D-line guys – especially inside when they get double-teamed – is when you get movement on the double-team. It's not the double-team itself. It's when they get movement on the double-team all the way back to the 'backer and the offensive line doesn't even have to climb up to the 'backer or come off the double-team. That's not good. And he has done a great job of sustaining that just like Haloti [Ngata] has as a three-technique."
I know it's all the next-man-up stuff, but how difficult is it going to be to make up for CB Jimmy Smith not out there? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Jimmy [Smith is] a heck of a player, and we'll miss him. But at the same time, I don't think the Steelers are probably feeling really bad about it, so we can't feel really bad about it. We just have to go with the next guy – have to do what we can do [and] try to get the guys in the best position we can put them in as a coaching staff to give them success and go with it."
When you look at Pittsburgh going back to when you saw them the first time, they scored six points, and then a week ago they scored 51. How do you reconcile getting ready for the same team when they can be so different? (Pete Gilbert) "I think they have everything quickened, and they have a few pieces maybe that were missing before that [gone] aren't now. This game is so … Look around the league: It is so sporadic. Washington beats Dallas. Every week it's like, 'How does this team put up 30 [points] one week and then not score, get shut out the next week?' When you're clicking on all cylinders [a team can put up points], and last week that's what Pittsburgh was doing. Ben [Roethlisberger] was hot. We've seen hot before, and when he's hot, he's hot. He always has the weapons. He had the weapons in the first game. I think we just did a good job of corralling him and not giving him big plays. That to me was the key thing in the first game when we played them was they didn't get any big plays on us. And if you ever look back – and you guys do as we all do – whenever we have had any trouble with scoring points on us, it has been big plays that have set it up. We just have to do a great job of not allowing that to happen."
How much has the development of those young receivers from the Steelers … How much has that kind of helped things for the Steelers just by watching film? (Jamison Hensley) "I think it has really helped, because what it has done is you can't put all your attention on No. 84 [Antonio Brown]. It's just like anything, if you have other guys that are surrounding … If you have one good guy, you can usually find a way to get that guy taken out of it as long as you can hold up on the other guys. But all of a sudden, when other guys are showing up and making plays, it's hard. It's hard all of a sudden to devote all your attention to one guy. So, it certainly looks like it's helpful when we watch them on film. That's for sure."
**LB C.J. Mosley was named Defensive Rookie of the Month. Understanding he's still a rookie, is there anything that really surprises you about him at this point, just the way he has come along? *(Luke Jones) *"No. [C.J. Mosley is] everything we thought he was and hope he'd be. And I think he's playing at a very high level for a rookie. He's a very, very intelligent football player besides just being a good football player and a good athlete. He's a very, very intelligent guy. A lot of times, rookies come in, and you have to teach them how to study. And that was what was always great about having Ray [Lewis] and those guys around. They kind of followed his lead for a while. All of a sudden … He has Daryl [Smith], and Daryl does a great job. But he's [the] kind of a guy that was like that when he came in. That's what he is, and it's very evident in how he plays."
OLB Elvis Dumervil
On if he will turn to his bull-rushing skills to make an impact in Sunday night's game:"I'm going to rush the way I rush. When an opportunity presents itself, we'll see."
On if he takes this matchup as a fresh game or goes back and studies past games:"I study every game. I know it's going to be a tough challenge like it was last time. 'Big Ben' [Roethlisberger] is a big object to try to bring down, so it's going to be a difficult task for us. But there are a lot of good players on that team. They have Antonio Brown, [Le'Veon] Bell. So, we have a lot of guys we have to prepare for."
On if he takes a different approach to QB Ben Roethlisberger than he does with other quarterbacks:"He's such a strong athlete. He can make the plays on the run, sit in the pocket. So, he's a guy that we have to try to rat-pack and try to get to him as effectively as we can."
On if he's ever had a case with QB Ben Roethlisberger where a sack was eluded:"I'm sure the whole league has. I've had my personal cases. But it's a great challenge – a great opportunity on Sunday night. We're looking forward to it."
On preparing for Pittsburgh's running game:"We have to try and make them one-dimensional. They're a very effective offense. I think they're Top 5 in mostly every category, so we have our [work cut] out for us. We have to make sure we call our best game."
On how he's enjoying the Ravens-Steelers rivalry:"I love it. It's exciting. I couldn't ask for a better situation to be in a rivalry like this, so I'm glad to be a Raven."
On if the rivalry is as hostile as advertised:"It is. It's a blood bath. The intensity is very high, both teams really know each other well. I think it's the best rivalry in football. It's exciting, especially on a national stage. A lot is on line on this game, so it's going to be exciting."
On if he likes playing Sunday night games:"When it's playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (laughter) I like our 1 o'clock games, but against a rival, against a team that you know really well – tough competition – I think it's good for the league to showcase two teams like this."
On if the defense puts it on itself knowing that one play could change the outcome of the game:"On defense, we want to make the difference-making play. It's going to come down to a play that changes the game. So, we just have to make sure [we make that play] as we've been preparing all week and trying to get ready for this game."