Coach Mike Tomlin talks about this week's opponent – the Buffalo Bills.
Q. In the recent series with the Bills, the Steelers have won three in a row, dating to 2001.
A. But today is a new day, and we respect these guys, particularly what they've done of late. If you look at their last five games, they lost to Baltimore in Baltimore by three points in overtime, they lost to Kansas City in Kansas City by three points in overtime, they lost to a 7-3 Chicago team by three points, and of course they've won their last two. They are a team on the rise. They are defining their division of labor. They have a personality, and they're playing to it and they're playing winning football because of it.
Q. What's the difference in the Bills now when compared to early in the season?
A. They had some turnover, some new coaches, they traded running back Marshawn Lynch to Seattle, they have some young guys contributing. It's taken them a while to find their personality and etch out their division of labor – what people are going to do situationally. You see that now, and usually when you see that you have a chance to put together winning football. And that's what they're doing.
Q. How much has Chan Gailey changed their offense?
A. He has changed it significantly. It's classic Chan Gailey football in that he plays to his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. He's going to use people situationally, and he has some guys with some unique skill sets. It's really his signature all over it.
Q. Do you believe that Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick can benefit from his previous experience against the Steelers?
A. He won't be wowed by some of our pre-snap looks. This guy played against us two times in 2008 as a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals. I'm sure that experience, that exposure, is going to help him at least in terms of identifying us structurally and how we move pre-snap. He's a ridiculously sharp guy, a Harvard educated man, and so he's going to be OK in terms of some of those things.
Q. Fred Jackson had another good game last week against the Bengals. What kind of running back is he?
A. He's no one-hit wonder. He rushed for over 1,000 yards a year ago under adverse circumstances with a bunch of shuffling along the offensive line. He's a good player, and his story is like the story of a lot of guys in the National Football League – he was given an opportunity and he's taking advantage of it. The most impressive thing about him is that he never misplaces the ball. He's got good leg drive, good contact balance, but the most impressive thing is that when you watch the end zone copy of his tape, you never say, "Boy, that thing is nicely blocked but he misplaced it." He always puts the ball where it's supposed to go, and they have a chance because of it.
Q. Steve Johnson also had a 100-yard game last week. What are his strengths as a wide receiver?
A. He started out this season as an outside player, and he made some splash plays when called upon. He does a nice job on the back side of three-by-ones. I used to work for a guy who said if a player can do a nice job on the back side of three-by-ones, then he's a big-time wideout. This guy makes big plays on the back side of three-by-ones, he's also taking advantage of some misfortune with Roscoe Parrish in the form of injury, and he moves inside in some of their spread formations and gets good matchups vs. linebackers. He's taking advantage of opportunities and developing a great rapport with Fitzpatrick.
Q. Is the Bills offensive line getting better game-by-game?
A. Particularly their interior men. Eric Wood and Andy Levitre, their two guards are second-year men we held in high regard going into their draft, and they're making the natural progress that second-year players make. They look really stout, and we better be ready to play ball in there.
Q. Can you talk about the Bills' special teams?
A. It doesn't matter who their return man is, Buffalo's special teams are special. C.J. Spiller, Leodis McKelvin – they have players who have first-round pedigree or experience in the Pro Bowl as return men. The one constant has been Bruce DeHaven, their special teams coordinator, a long-time Bills man who worked with the likes of Steve Tasker and others. They have history and tradition there on their side.