Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg
**We talked to Anthony Levine, who said he made a wrong call on the blocked punt. What did you see from the protection? *(Aaron Wilson) *"On the blocked punt, there was a miscommunication at the line of scrimmage, and then it was followed up by another miscommunication. And then the fail-safe mechanism failed. So, it was a chain of events that led to a guy running clean on the punt protection. It was real obvious that something was wrong on that play from the very get-go. We've addressed it. Obviously, it's something that just cannot happen. It's too vital of a play in football for us to allow it to happen, and we'll continue to address it. The reason we practice every camp practice with punt and every OTA practice with punt and every mini-camp practice with punt is because it's so important. And we need to fix it."
**Was it a look that the Packers gave that caused the communication? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Well, it wasn't a complex look, if that's what you're asking. It was a simple front. We just communicated incorrectly."
**Was it at all similar to the breakdown on the first blocked punt of the season? *(Bo Smolka) *"No. The first one of the season was simply a man beating a man. This one was a miscommunication problem."
**What are your thoughts on what Jacoby Jones added to the kick returns? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I think we all see when Jacoby [Jones] has the ball in his hands, the ball advances up the field quickly. He's able to break what look like normal pursuit angles and change the geometry of the play. Had we been on a Canadian football field, it might have been a different story, but as it was, the line got in the way. We're still working on the angles. We need to get a little better blocking at the point of attack to give him a little more room, and hopefully, we'll get that done in the weeks ahead."
Offensive Coordinator Jim Caldwell
It seemed like A.J. Hawk came right up the middle on delayed blitzes. Is that something you guys have kind of addressed now and figured out what you did wrong on them? (Aaron Wilson) "We certainly did. It's something we're continually working on. We've got to get better in all of those phases. We had a couple; that wasn't the only one. We had a couple of glitches, and when those things happen – particularly when guys that you're playing against run as fast as, as well as, and tackle as well as [they do] – those plays are going to result in some sort of a loss for you. We have to eliminate that."
The goal line play where you went for it on fourth down – did they penetrate too quickly? Did that break down the play? (Aaron Wilson) "Every play had its own problems. Just like anything else, when you have a chance to look at the film … That saying, 'You're never as bad as you think you are when you lose.' You look at it, and you're just a hair away here or there. Those are the things when you're … Good teams block well [and] don't have the same type of issues we've had. That's where we've got to get to. We're an outstanding football team, but we're not playing like it now. That's what we have to do; we have to clean those things up."
You're a 50-50 run-pass [ratio] on first down. Is that where you kind of like to be to have a pretty even balance on first down? (Garrett Downing) "You like to try to be balanced so that you don't have too many things that are sticking out, just in terms of tendencies that they can game-plan against. But, that's not the end all and be all. Most good teams have some sort of tendency because they do some things extremely well and they don't care whether you know it or not. They're going to get it done. We try to keep as much balance as we can in most situations. [It] doesn't always work out that way, though."
What are you seeing from Ray Rice? Against Miami, the running game started to make some progress, and last game he wasn't having tackles broken or getting down the field too much. How is Ray's [Rice] confidence? (Aaron Wilson)"I think his confidence is fine. He's ready to go and really anxious to get this thing off and rolling. It's not just a one-person problem. That's the thing that we just have to get worked out. I think we have everything we need to be an outstanding running football team. We've just got to make certain that we do it on every single play."
John [Harbaugh] mentioned earlier in the week that you'll look at everything. You'll look at personnel [and] scheme in terms of the run game. How difficult would it be to change a lot in the way of scheme at this point in the season? Is it difficult to make any subsequent changes? (Bo Smolka) "In some cases, you have to make some. If things aren't going extremely well – you've got to make some adjustments. We look at every single aspect when things aren't going well. This business – that's the great thing about it – is a meritocracy. It's how well you perform; it's a performance business. When you're not performing, you better look at every single thing that you're doing to see if you can find out what the answer is and not just sit on your hands and say that it's going to be OK. We look at everything from a scheme standpoint, personnel – the whole bit. We've got to make the necessary adjustments to see if we can get this thing rolling."
Would you say you guys zone block a high degree more than a year ago (Aaron Wilson) "I would not say that. We had a pretty good mixture of both man and zone. I think we'll probably continue to work some of those. The running game is one where you can't just do one thing. You have to have a wide variety of things, so we do a little bit of everything."
In terms of protection, A.J. Hawk came free a couple of times last week. When you're right up the middle untouched, at this point, does it surprise you to see such a miscommunication at that point? Is that just the matter of a simple correction or is there a bigger issue on your mind? (Pete Gilbert) "Simplicity does not equate to this game, particularly when you talk about fast men that adjust quickly. There are things that we just have to get worked out. There are a few mistakes here and there. It's not just a one-person or one-area problem, but without question, that's a pretty glaring error that occurred. We've got to get it worked out, and we've been working on it. We know what the problem was in terms of assignments and those kinds of things, but we've got to put it all together."
What is the importance of the communication process going against a Steelers' defense that is probably going to do some similar things to what the Packers did? (Jamison Hensley) "I think, No. 1, regardless of who we're playing, is that communication is key. It's something that I think we all have to make certain we're all tied in together. That's not only on the interior and the backs, but the flanks and the outside as well. Communication is huge. That's where your No.1 breakdowns come about for the most part. When you're playing teams that are multiple, like the Steelers are that have great personnel, getting on the same page, on the right page, every single time is extremely important. You're not going to be perfect, but the fact of the matter is, you've got to be able to move the ball."
There was a lot of talk about first downs being the key to having more success. What can you do to have more success on first down? (Garrett Downing) "Just execute; that's what it boils down to. It's an execution game. We just have not executed consistently well enough to get the yardage that we need on first down, second down and our run-down situations. That's what we've been constantly been working."
Despite the line of questioning, there were many big-chunk plays for you guys. I imagine that's something you're excited about and wish to build. (Pete Gilbert) "We made some plays. I think some guys made some very, very good runs after the catch, which I think was extremely important. Dallas [Clark] had a great one. Marlon [Brown] had an outstanding one. We had some guys do some nice things for us in that regard, but we've got to get more and we've got to be better – that's the key. That's the challenge for us, and I think our guys are up for the challenge."
You bring up Dallas [Clark]. How have you seen him come along and what have you seen from him, in particular, the other day? (Matt Zenitz) "He's certainly catching the ball well. He was able to get free a couple of times there and make some pretty sizeable gains for us, the touchdown and the long run. He's been around awhile, but he's still got a little juice left in those legs. He's able to pull away and get some yardage. I think Dallas is coming along and adjusting nicely."
How much have you considered featuring Ray Rice a little bit more in the passing game because of some of the issues in the running game and the playmaking ability he has in the open field? (Luke Jones)"Like I said earlier, when you're looking at the situation, where maybe you're not quite moving it like you'd like to, you look at every single aspect. You exhaust it. I'm not necessarily going to tell the world what we're doing, but we look at everything. We look at every single opportunity we have to try to get the ball in the hands of our playmakers and see if we can get something going."
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees
**Lardarius Webb said that teams are going to continue to try him out and that they are going to pay if they do that. Just your thoughts on Lardarius' evolution, as he's a year out from the surgery? *(Aaron Wilson) *"I think he's alright. He's just getting back into playing – I don't know if I want to say playing shape – [but] playing mode, which sometimes takes a little while on stuff. When you're playing all the time, you're eyes are right, [and] it's not so much physical, it's sometimes more your eyes and just that kind of thing. And I think that will be true. I have the utmost confidence in him."
**[Lardarius Webb] often draws some of the toughest assignments, so he will get a lot of targets naturally… *(Aaron Wilson) *"Well, yes, it's not like we do a lot of flip-flopping the corners on personnel. We basically, most of the time, play left and right. Depending on the game, we might do it. He might get him, he might not get him. Everybody has got – to me – everybody has got two good receivers. There aren't a lot of teams that just have one anymore, and it's going to be the same thing throughout the year. Every team I look at down there and watch them on TV and watch the highlights and watch these guys going up and getting the ball. He's just got to keep playing, and I think the more he plays and the more he gets back into it, I think the better we're going to be. And like I said, I have the utmost confidence in him."
We talked so much last week about reading Aaron Rodgers' eyes and preventing big plays. You did that pretty well, except for a couple big throws to Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley. (Pete Gilbert)"It's a frustrating game in a way, because we were playing so well in some phases. Thank goodness we're playing well in the red area, because I wish we wouldn't get down there quite as much. But we're playing well in the red area, we've played well on third down, [and] we've really played well in the first half. To me, we held them to three points in the first half. They got the field goal right before halftime, but we did a good job in two-minute keeping them out of that. But we're not going to be a Top 5 defense until we quit giving up big plays, whether it be on a missed tackle or just a big play. Even if we eliminate four big plays out of the six games we've played, we would be in the Top 6 defenses in the league. But we're not, and we're never going to be until we quit giving up those plays. And a little bit of it the other day was missed tackles. They got the long run on us. They hit us on a play at the very start of the game, and after that, we settled down on the run. But then at the end, when we really needed to get them stopped, we make a play on the ball, but the worst part of that is we just need to make the tackle. If he catches it, he catches. We've still got a chance, [and] the ball is still backed up. You just can't let him go 40 yards down the field. Now, the ball is totally in their court, and we've got to pressure to try to … Even a field goal at that point in time really wasn't as vital as just getting them stopped. We've just got to quit giving up big plays. We've got to do a better job of coaching it, and they've got to do a better job of playing it."
**How would you evaluate Matt Elam's play? He said he's been remaining patient and waiting for things to come to him. *(Aaron Wilson) *"It's good. He still has his rookie moments in there, but I think overall, obviously, we like him because he's starting. If we didn't, he wouldn't be starting. I think he's playing well. He's the same way, but different from Lardarius [Webb] from the standpoint of 'Webby' just needs to get back into action and get back in the groove. We know what he can do. Matt [Elam] is still learning all the time and getting better I think every week. And the more he plays, the more he sees. You've got to remember [that] a lot of times, anything he sees out there might be the first time he's really kind of seen it live and in-person. It's different out here in practice where it's carded up, and there's not the noise and all that kind of stuff. It's different, and until you really see it … It's like calling a game as a coach. I've called a lot of games over the years, I've been a coordinator a lot of years, but it's easier to stand out here and call something in practice than it is in the game, when everything's really counting on it. If I make a mistake out here on a call going against our offense, then I made a mistake. Make one in the game, I don't take it quite the same way. It's like I was great in high school shooting free throws in practice. I was good. You come to the game, rock, right off the back of the rim. [It's] a little different when it really means something. So, it's kind of the same way with Matt. I love the way he plays. He plays hard. He's a go-getter. Sometimes, he's got to learn to play a little better under control. This isn't Florida, where you can fly around there and wallop somebody. These guys can make you miss. Sometimes, you've just got to learn to play a little more under control."
**Does Ben Roethlisberger look like the same kind of guy? You didn't get to play him last year, but from years prior? *(Pete Gilbert) *"He's the same guy. I don't think he's any different. The play starts about three seconds after the ball is snapped. That's what he does. That's what he does. He's the best at it. And like I told the defense today, this is the best group of receivers, every year at Pittsburgh, of getting open off of scrambles. There are a lot of teams that don't practice it. I don't know how they practice it or what they do or maybe it's just habit, because it happens in the game all the time. But you'll see a lot of teams, where a quarterback starts to scramble, and the receiver stands there like, 'I'm open!' Well, he's not open. The defense is going to cover him. These guys move. So if you're looking back at him, and this guy is moving, he's open. And that's what they do best. I don't see any difference."
Jameel McClain is back at practice. When he is able to get on the field, and where do you see him fitting in with the defense? (Garrett Downing) *"WILL linebacker. If he's able to go, that'll be John's [Harbaugh] decision and the trainer's and everybody else's decision. It won't be ours. But if he's ready to go, we'll be ready for him to go." *
**Is there any possibility of him being ready to go this Sunday? *(Jamison Hensley) *"I'd hate to speculate, because again, I don't want to say yes, don't want to say no, and then I'm wrong. So, I don't know. We'll take it day-to-day. We'll see how it goes. That's a decision for better minds to make than me."
**In terms of tracking the football, how much progress was that for Jimmy Smith in getting that interception? *(Aaron Wilson) *"That was nice. It was great to see. He really did a nice job of really going up and high-pointing that ball. Those are plays that we've seen [Aaron] Rodgers hit a hundred times. I feel bad for our players, because I really think they really tried to do the plan that we had. And I think we had a good plan, and I think the guys really felt like we were accomplishing it, and we just gave up a couple plays that we just can't do. But for the most part, I was pleased. I don't like the yardage and all that stuff. We hit Rodgers as much as anybody has hit him. But again, it goes back to big plays and missed tackles – you can't have them."
What have you seen in the development of Art Jones in the last year or two? It seems like he's a player who's not just good against the run, but consistently getting pressure on the quarterback. (Luke Jones) *"He had a sack the other day. He's the same way – the more guys play, the more they see, the more they just kind of understand what you want. When you're early on and you play on a defense that's a multiple-type defense, you really spend a heck of a lot of time just memorizing what the heck [you're] supposed to do rather than just playing ball. Once that kind of clicks in, it makes a difference in a player who makes more plays, because it comes natural now: 'I know what to do. Now I can kind of read the way the guy's blocking me, the way the guy's setting on me, and maybe I can beat it,' rather than, 'Hey, I've just got to be in the "B" gap.' I've seen guys [who are] supposed to be in the 'B' gap and end up in the 'A' gap and make a sack because they read the play. I just think he's another one. I'm real pleased with his progress, and I think he's playing well for us." *
**When you break down the film, is Elvis Dumervil playing as well as everyone else would expect? *(Jamison Hensley) *"Well, I don't know what everybody expected. I think we expected a lot when we got him. He's a heck of a player. The guy has got extraordinary balance, power, and for not a real tall guy, long arms and knows how to use them. I think he plays with great leverage [and] has got good speed. He's as advertised, I think."
**You mentioned how well their receivers get open off the scramble. How can you emphasize that, or how easy is that to prepare for? *(Bo Smolka) *"We emphasize it, obviously, in the meetings and on film and stuff like that. If you're watching Ben [Roethlisberger], you're watching the wrong thing. In zone, you've got to. But also, even in zone, [you must] understand where the receiver is in your zone, because zones are big, and you can't cover all of it. When he scrambles, all of a sudden, zone coverage doesn't really stay zone coverage. It's really got to turn into man coverage. It's the same thing if you're in man coverage. I've seen it too many times where a guy has got the back, the back blocks, so this guy takes off for Ben because he sees Ben scrambling, and then the back slips out and Ben flips him the ball. A hundred times I've seen it over the years. Well, if I've got that guy, I've got that guy. And if it's a zone, I've got to find the guy in my zone, and I've got to plaster him, I've got to get him. If Ben gains 100 yards rushing, he gains 100 yards rushing. But you can't come out of coverage on the guy. And we've got to do a good job on our pass rush of making sure that he doesn't get out of there, too."