Q. The Bengals have the highest-paid defensive line in the NFL. Did that unit earn its paychecks in the opener against the Bears?
A. I saw signs of that. I’ll leave the evaluations up to Marvin Lewis, but they have some quality young players, some guys they have drafted and developed. That’s good to see from their perspective. They’re quality men, men we have to contend with tonight, starting along the inside with Geno Atkins.
Q. How do you game plan for Atkins?
A. You run the ball at him some. Running the ball away from him, I think he’s too quick and disruptive for that. Obviously, running at him isn’t the best solution, and so you have to mix and match. The reality is that it’s going to require multiple people to neutralize what it is he’s doing, and that’s usually the case when you’re talking about great interior defensive linemen.
Q. Do the Bengals count on Atkins occupying extra blockers in order to free up their other guys along the defensive line?
A. Absolutely. Someone is going to get a one-on-one. Just do the math: There are five offensive linemen, and four defensive linemen in the Bengals’ scheme. You commit two guys to Geno Atkins, and that results in three one-on-ones. That’s how those guys function, that’s how most great 4-3 defenses function.
Q. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is in his second season, and he led the Bengals in tackles with 14 last week against the Bears, and he added an interception. Does a quarterback now always have to be aware of where Vontaze Burfict is on the field?
A. He’s an emerging player, a player for all situations, a three-down linebacker for them. It’s interesting to watch his growth and development as a player. He’s a very good player for them.
Q. What does James Harrison bring to the Bengals’ defense?
A. He brings James, and that’s really all that needs to be said. He’s a consummate professional and competitor. He brings a certain demeanor that people feed off. He’s a really good football player, but besides his play and his persona, the way he approaches his business is inspiring to others.
Q. Are the Bengals using Harrison differently than the ways he was used during his time here with the Steelers?
A. Absolutely. He’s doing the same things that Manny Lawson was doing in their scheme last year. That’s just a testament to James and his versatility.
Q. Can you assess the development of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton?
A. He’s no longer considered a young guy. You can no longer get him with thinly-layered defensive schemes, you’ve got to spin the dial and be thoughtfully non-rhythmic. He’s just one of those guys who’s a franchise-like quarterback. We have a lot of respect for him.
Q. How do you handle wide receiver A.J. Green?
A. Much like Geno Atkins, A.J. Green is a multi-man job at times. We have to be very thoughtful about when we put ourselves in one-on-one matchups with him. He’s capable of taking the top off the coverage, but he’s also capable of doing the underneath stuff and the run-after stuff where it’s usually the much smaller-statured guys who are excelling.
Q. The Bengals used the draft to add a second tight end who is an offensive weapon in his own right – Tyler Eifert. How has he impacted their offense?
A. They have some quality tight ends, and last week both Eifert and Jermaine Gresham caught five passes, and they were highly involved in mis-direction passing. I would imagine on third-and-long you’ll see a big matchup in the middle of the field between Gresham and
Q. Was the loss of
A. Obviously there’s a certain amount of anxiety that comes with losing your center, but also losing a man who was pitted to leveling the playing field from a tight end vs. defensive end matchup standpoint going against a 4-3 defense was something extra we had to deal with.
Q. Are you planning on augmenting the tight ends package with anyone else?
A. We’re going to continually look for the backup linemen to provide flexibility there, until we get guys back like
Q. During training camp, the competition for the backup spots at inside linebacker was pretty fierce, and the cut-down at that position was difficult. Is that fortunate now that
A. I’m excited about watching these guys play tonight.
Q. There were no takeaways for the Steelers in the opener. Does the consistent lack of splash plays concern you?
A. I’m not concerned at all, to be quite honest with you. When we’re not moving the football and scoring points, then your opponent can play ping pong, if you will. The Titans ran the ball 42 times, and it’s not like they were having great success because they were under 3.0 yards per carry. The Titans didn’t expose themselves to the potential of splash plays defensively. That’s why it’s important that we score so our defense can have the opportunity to create those kinds of plays.
Q. What are the keys for the Steelers tonight in this matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals?
A. To not beat ourselves. To get off to a clean start. To not have a lot of negativity early. To find a rhythm and allow ourselves to settle into the type of game we can play.