Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Cleveland Browns.
Q. During the week of preparation, did the Turnpike rivalry take a back seat to the playoff picture?
A. No it didn't. We realize what's between us and where we want to go. This stage is as big or bigger than any. We're a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other type of group, and it makes it important that we go to Cleveland and play well.
Q. Is Steelers-Browns still a big rivalry?
A. It is, because it's important to our fans. Our fan base touches and overlaps with their fan base, and we're in the business of entertainment. It's important to our fans, so it's important to us.
Q. What do remember most about the first game between these teams – on Oct. 17 when the Steelers won, 28-10?
A. That we ran around and made the necessary plays to win. I thought James Harrison provided a James Harrison-like performance. When we need quality plays from a big-time performer, guys like him and Troy usually deliver.
Q. What do you remember about Colt McCoy from the first meeting between these teams, and what impresses you about him?
A. He doesn't make a lot of the critical mistakes that young quarterbacks typically make in situational football. In the red zone he doesn't get them beat, on third down he doesn't get them beat. He's a pretty poised guy. He has great mobility and escapability, and I think those are some of the reasons why he was good against us and why he has been good since.
Q. Peyton Hillis hasn't practiced all week because of a rib injury. Besides his imitation of a steam-roller, what abilities does he bring to the football field?
A. He has extremely soft hands, underrated hands. A lot has been written and said about the way he plays from a running style standpoint, and rightfully so, but we're also talking about a guy who has 60-plus catches and is really a vital part of their offense in the passing game as well.
Q. Their offensive line has a nice pedigree on the left side with tackle Joe Thomas and guard Eric Steinbach. Does that make them a left-handed offense?
A. No it doesn't. They do run a significant number of plays over the left side, but they're also a power-run football team. They run a lot of powers and counters that involve a pulling guard, and when they go to pull a guard it's usually Steinbach. A significant number of their plays go to the right.
Q. Do you expect to see a lot of wildcat from the Browns on Sunday?
A. I don't know. It could depend on a number of things. Peyton Hillis' health is one thing. The wildcat is a run-game alternative, and so if their feature runner is banged up or if they want to limit the exposure of their young quarterback to the defense, we could see a lot of it. But if Hillis is doing well and the quarterback is doing well, we might see very little of it.
Q. What makes rookie Joe Haden so good as a cornerback?
A. Ball skills and general football awareness. He can catch the football. He's had interceptions at every level – in high school, at the University of Florida and now here in the National Football League, where he has six interceptions already. His general football awareness – he doesn't see the game through a straw. He can see the big picture. Backfield action, he can feel route depths and break points. He has the overall general awareness of a top cornerback.
Q. Marcus Benard had 3.5 sacks last year and 7.5 already this year. What's the difference?
A. He's getting more opportunities. They've put some packages in for him where he's consistently playing on third downs. Last year, he was a spot guy where he might have weeks of inactivity at a time. It's probably just the natural maturation process of a young guy and getting the reward of playing time that comes with it.
Q. Are there any similarities between the Jets and Browns because of the Ryan brothers?
A. No, not specifically defensively. I think if you coach football, particularly defensive football, you do what your guys are capable of doing and do it well. I think they are working with two different types of units, outfits and I think they cater their assault to fit their people.