The guys up front are doing a great job. We’ve had some moving parts. There is some cohesion happening. You can see it happening across the board, starting with
Do you have a better comfort level going against Baltimore given what has happened the past couple of games?
I’ve said that I felt like we have gotten better here for the last month and a half. You could feel it. You could see it happening. We had figured out the guys that replaced the other guys and figured out strengths and weaknesses along those lines. Just the comfort level in general was better, and things were looking good, at least out here on the practice field. It hadn’t shown as far as a complete game goes. I still don’t think we’ve done that yet. We are in the second half of the season. We have the biggest game of the year. This would be a good time to play our best.
Le’Veon Bell has the ability to make people miss. Did you see that when you evaluated him? Is that unusual for a big back like him?
I think he has a unique skill set starting with that he’s a little more linear tall than some of the backs you see. We were all excited when the pick came up and he was the guy we were picking. I know everyone on offense was excited for those reasons. He is a big back that had been in a pro-type system and ran a lot of the runs he would have to run with us. He can catch the ball. He is smart. He had the makings of a complete NFL back, and he is growing into that role. He obviously had a little slow start with injuries and things like that but he has continued to make progress. He is by no means there yet but there’s enough for all of us to be excited about him going forward.
Does he need that signature game to put him in that next level?
I don’t know about levels. I am happy he is here and happy that he is getting better every week. I am excited to have him as one of our offensive weapons, because he’s very conscientious about the blitz pickup and things like that. He takes his job seriously, even though he is a young guy. I think he wants to be good, and those are usually good things to have around.
Are you convinced
You would have to talk to him. Obviously, we are happy to have Heath here. Any time he is on the field for us, it’s a good thing. He has worked his way back here as the year has gone on. But each week, you’ve kind of seen him look more and more like Heath. That’s also exciting for us, because a healthy, 100% Heath, is a good thing for the Steelers. I am just happy he is here. He is a big part of everything we do, even if sometimes it’s taking a couple of guys out the way for others, which he’ll do unselfishly. I think he has gotten closer and closer every week.
Re: Pass protection and no-huddle:
We’ve worked probably more on no-huddle than anything else we have, going all the way back to last year and the offseason. With
That’s a confidence level too [when the players feel confident]. It takes me back to Arizona. That year we ended up getting beat by the Steelers, that [no-huddle] was a heavy part of our operation. Any time you have success, guys are going to be confident. The last two games, that has been a big part, probably more in the Detroit game than last week, but we’ve done good things in it, including two-minute and moving the football down the field. In the New England game, we were in it for a good bit of that second half. We’ve been practicing it a lot, sometimes not as much as we want to in game situations, but I think the guys in general are gaining confidence and we are making progress.
Is Ben getting the ball out quicker now in no-huddle than he used to?
Ben is an elite quarterback as I’ve said. I am pretty confident in his decisions on when things are coming out. Sometimes when the ball gets held it’s for other reasons than maybe him just holding it. At the same time, what is critical when you are in no-huddle is that you don’t get behind the chains. First down doesn’t become second-and-18, that’s what really will stymie you. I think that he clearly understands that. It is showing up in his play. Understand that an incompletion isn’t always a bad play, especially in no-huddle, because second-and-10 is a heck of a lot better than second-and-18 or worse. I think he is preparing, a big part of that is his preparation and being ready for the opponent, because when he is out there, he obviously has to make some decisions that we all have to trust and count on him. He’s done a very good job of it. That’s good stuff.
I am not going to compare him to anybody that I’ve been with. He has a little different body type than the top guys I’ve been around. He is having a very good year, and he’s a big part of us turning this around. He has been consistent from day one in making plays. I know he comes out here every day trying to be the best he can be. I know it was a big challenge for him last week, playing a really good cornerback in Joe Haden. I thought he clearly held his own. I saw Joe after the game and he had some very positive things to say about him. He’s doing all the right things, and he obviously has a unique skill set. And I am not even talking about the punt return big play capability for us. I am happy he is here. He’s a big part of what we are doing obviously.
Re: Ray Rice and the Ravens run game:
Ray Rice is one of the best backs that ever played. As long as he’s in there, they’re going to have a good run game. The problem is they’ve got a great pass game with him. He’s second on their team in pass receiving. Many a year he’s led them in rushing and pass receiving. He’s just a great player. You’ve got Ray Rice and you’ve got a good running game.
Re: The Steelers nose tackle situation:
We always have a progression in case any of our players are injured. It’s just normal procedure. The guys that have practiced there for depth will be ready to play.
I think he can be both, and those players in that role, you want them to be able to play more than one position. We thought that he had the anchor ability certainly to sit down in there and police the middle of the formation. I think he did a good job last week when he went in there doing it, but I think he does a good job at end too. I think he can play both of those positions.
He is a nose tackle. Those guys, much like Chris Hoke when we had him, we will have them play some end, but their basically nose tackles.
Oh yeah. Ever since he’s come here, we’ve given him some snaps at nose tackle, just like we were speaking of earlier. You have to have depth, and you have to have a Plan B and C, really. Ziggy has always been a depth guy for us at nose.
What is Plan B if
We just got done playing the last two games without him, so we’ll just keep the rotation as normal in there.
You were asked about Fangupo. Where is he in his development and his progression?
Well, he showed us something, or Mike [Tomlin] wouldn’t have kept him here. He’s got good anchor ability. He’s young, but he’s not a rookie. He’s been in the league. We think he’s got a future. He had a hat last week and played several snaps and did okay in there.
We’ve asked you the last couple of weeks about Worilds, but is there anything in particular that has led to his ability to get to the quarterback this year, perhaps more than past seasons?
I think it’s just a normal progression of a young football player. We spoke of this before, in Jason’s case, through no fault of his own, he just didn’t get a whole lot of preseason practice both of his first two years. There was a lockout one year and he had a wrist injury the next year. Those are valuable practice sessions for a young player, and I think you’re just seeing the development and evolvement of a good player becoming real good.
Is it obvious that he plays better on Woodley’s side?
Well, I don’t know if that’s true or not. One thing that is obvious is that he’s done a great job here recently of getting consistent pressure, and I think he’s done that from both sides because we’ve rolled those guys around quite a bit. I think he’s productive on either side.
You have your full secondary back this week. Will that be important against Baltimore? Are they still running that no-huddle as much?
They no-huddle, but the thing that they have is the balance on the outside. They’ve got not two, but three very adept deep receivers on the outside. I would say any able bodied defensive back would be very welcomed against those guys because they’ve got a great deep passing quarterback with guys with a lot of speed.
Have they done enough with Tyrod Taylor for you to have to prepare for him out of that zone or whatever he does?
No doubt. They’ve got about 16 snaps with him back there and that’s plenty. We have to prepare for that, and he has the capability. He’s a quarterback, and he can run and throw, so you’ve got to be careful with that. No doubt you have to spend time on it.
When we first started together, Troy was the dime player. You remember him picking the ball off, I think it was against Baltimore, to send us to the Super Bowl. He ran it back for about 35-40 yards and a touchdown. He was a dime player then, but he has had several years – ever since Lawrence [Timmons] came to us, we started playing him as the dime and Troy went back to permanent safety. I’m sure that it took him a little time to get back into the timing of playing that position, no doubt.
How much of the success you guys have had in the last couple of weeks is due to the confidence the guys have in each other because they’ve had a while to know each other and the young guys? Jarvis Jones and
There is no substitute for experience and we have a different mix in the younger group. I think you’re seeing the normal progression, and I do think that’s part of our improvement. Hopefully, we’ll continue to show that.
These games with Baltimore are always close games and they’re always defensive games.
Yes, they are. It’s two very proud football teams, proud franchises in the same division, same conference, and we know each other. It’s alarming when you look at the scores how many three-point games there have been, particularly. I think there is every reason to anticipate that this will be a three-point game. That’s the way we play.
In your years in the league, have you ever seen two teams that consistently play games like this?
I don’t think so. Not with that regularity. It’s always going to be pretty close, and I think the history of the two franchises is involved in that.