DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DICK LEBEAU **Re: Carolina's offense:
They were 12-4 or something last year so they're a very successful team. Beyond that they're a team that had some adversity. I think they started like 1-3 last year and then maybe ran off eight or nine straight games and I think you can chart that right to their quarterback. He just kind of took over and said we're not going to lose. And that's the way he was in college. He's a special athlete and he makes them tick. He can keep plays alive. He's a much better passer than maybe people give him credit for. But he can do it all and he's a big guy. We'll have to play well to keep this offense in check. I think we can do it but we'll have to play well.
Do you expect him to run more than he did last week?
We'll have to see about that. He's coming off that injury. If I'm guessing I'm thinking yeah. He's seven days removed. He ran some last week (and) is probably going to run a little bit more each week.
Has Newton evolved into more of a pocket passer compared to his first couple of years in the league?
He can throw the pocket balls but I would never call him a pocket passer. They put him back there with a couple guys and they run the read-option (and) the pistol stuff. He's the quintessential modern quarterback. He can do both.
What do you have to do to improve the run defense?
We have to quit shooting ourselves in the foot. Most of the runs that we've given up we just haven't got in our detailed assignments enough. The guys are working on that and we have to get it done, no doubt. You're not going to give up those kind of runs and be successful in the NFL.
How does that impact the pressure on the quarterback and down and distance and does that all play together?
I think it does. If you're playing good defense on first and second-down (then) they're going to be in longer yardage on third-down and you have a bigger playbook and the offense is more predictable. It definitely goes together. We had some plays that we really showed some good cohesiveness in the game but we still had too many breakdowns. But our breakdowns right now are breakdowns of our own accord and those are the best kind to have. You don't want any but those are the kind that if we get our act together we can get that fixed pretty quickly.
Are those issues attributed to being overaggressive or trying to do too much?
I don't know why we didn't quite get where we were supposed to get but hopefully it's due to a lack of playing together. Let's put it that way. We have to be tied together better and not let those guys get any openings in there. And you have to be consistent down after down (and) quarter after quarter. And then you play good defense.
Did you have extra linebackers in for goal line packages and is that something new?
No it isn't anything new. They did a good job with it really other than the passes. We'll be working on goal line passes this week but we played the run pretty good down there really.
What are your impressions of Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell playing together?
I think that they're going to give us one of the best safety combinations in the league. I've said that all along and I still feel the same way. Again, with the whole group, we have some new faces and the sooner we can tie it all together (with) all 11 guys knowing where the other 10 are going to be, the sooner we're going to get to looking like I want us to look.
Do you believe the turnovers will come when you establish the continuity that you're talking about?
I do. I do. I think we can turn the football over. You have to get the people in longer yardage situations a lot of time to get those turnovers.
How do you work on tackling in practice?
The whole league is in the same package there. You have so many contact practices. Ours was yesterday and then we try to drill the tackling aspect and the blocking and all that on the day that we have on pads. But you do the same that you always do you just don't get as much time to do it.
Is there an adjustment period with Mitchell as far as learning how to play with Polamalu?
I don't think. It's still football. I wouldn't call it that it's just he's in a new environment and a new system and I think he's only going to get better and better and more comfortable and more comfortable. But he's always been a good football player and he's playing good football right now.
Is it clear what will or won't be called as far as hits on defenseless receivers?
I think the rules have been pretty constant now for well over a year (or) a season and a half I believe. We're trying to target it low and not too low because you get penalized there. But we're trying to play within the rules and it's a judgment call sometimes. You still have to go hit a guy. You have to tackle him. We were just talking about missed tackles (and) if you start worrying about where you are going to hit the guy you're going to miss him for sure. But we're trying to just lower the target and hit that guy not with our head and not in the head.
Who have seemed to be the most instinctive linebackers in your career?
I wouldn't want to go there. Any linebacker that's really successful has got great instincts. I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of them. I wouldn't want to start naming names.
Did you like Luke Kuechly coming out of college for his instincts?
Yeah, he was a really productive player and I think he's one of the most productive guys in the NFL right now (in) total tackles and playmaking and stuff like that. Usually a guy who demonstrates that in college is going to do the same thing at the pro level.
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD HALEY
How do you think the hit on Ben Roethlisberger affected his game last Thursday?
You'd have to ask him. Ben is a tough guy that is going to fight it out until the end regardless of hits taken in games. We know offensively that our entire group needed to do a better job.
What have you seen from Lance Moore and are you expecting him to play?
That decision will come down to Coach Tomlin. Those decisions haven't been made as far as we are concerned but Lance has been getting reps and getting back into it, which is good to see.
What does Lance bring to the offense?
Experience, first and foremost. He has played a number of years in the league and had success. He made some big plays in big games. You can see that experience every day, even when he wasn't able to practice. You could see him talking to the young guys as he was working his way around the field. I think that has been a big benefit as he's missed time. But we are looking for him to get back on the field and start being a part of the action.
Re: Using the shotgun formation more this year and its benefits:
It gives the quarterback more time with the ball in his hands from a passing standpoint. Tendency wise, when you are under center you are running it and when you are in the gun you are throwing it. We are just always working hard on self-scouting to see what we are showing and what we are in. I think as much as anything in the run game it's a balance. But it allows you and gives you some freedom to do other things as far as some of the underneath handoffs and things you are seeing to our receivers or Dri Archer, those guys. It opens up a little different from the standpoint of what you can run out of the gun.
Does the versatility of Le'Veon Bell make it go?
I think Le'Veon's versatility is going to show regardless. When you are in the gun you get running backs on the edge a little quicker in the passing game. At the same time you have to be able to run successfully out of it. You don't want to become a softball type of team. You still have to have your downhill runs, and we work hard when we are running it to make sure it doesn't change anything from our run game standpoint as far as being physical and trying to win the line of scrimmage.
Is getting Luke Kuechly blocked the primary motive?
Yeah. When you have a guy that's made 20-some tackles in a game and led the NCAA in all-time tackles – he's a great player. He's very instinctual. He is very quick to the ball in the run and pass. He is highly competitive and a really good tackler on top of it. I think he got a ball out last week on a one-on-one tackle. But really you have Thomas Davis right next to him. That's really an unbelievable story with some of the things he's gone through with the multiple surgeries on his knees. To be out there running and hitting the way he does, those two really are the cornerstones of their defense as you watch them on tape. They are in the middle of the action, down-in and down-out. Obviously the guys up front, they have a great rotation of guys that come in and get after it in the run game and in the pass game. But I would say it starts with No. 59 in the middle.
Do you have any comparisons to him?
Coach Tomlin had said Brian Urlacher. I was with Brian. But I am not going to comment or compare Kuechly to guys that I've been around. But he's one heck of a player. He is tough, hard-nosed and highly competitive. He plays with emotion. He is all over the place. He finds his way to the football and the football finds its way to him.
Is the no-huddle more of an option this week? Or does being on the road affect that?
We were on the road last week in really one of the louder crowds that I've been a part of at Baltimore. I've been in Carolina for a night playoff game. Their fans get rowdy and loud. But again we've worked hard to do what we do regardless of the circumstances as far as crowd noise goes. I thought offensively we did a good job handling the noise other than one critical penalty that probably came at the worst time. But I thought for the most part we handled the noise. And we were in the no-huddle for a good percentage of the game. It's going to be something that we do. It's going to be a weapon for us. We just need to make more plays, whether we are in it or not. Guys need to do what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to do it just a little more. I think we would have been happier with the outcome last week had we done that.
A fumble here or a sack there or a penalty on the offense, and are you surprised about that or is that just early season troubles?
I don't think you are going to be what you are going to be until the end of the season. The idea is to continually get better. We showed signs in the first game. Last game that was an important thing, to show some signs of being a good offense. We didn't show enough. But really when you broke it down in the first five possessions there were one, two or sometimes five plays that if little things had been done, and I am not talking about major things, just little technique things, there would have been a different outcome on those possessions. Obviously the fumbles are easy to see and the most obvious but on that first possession we probably had five plays that had one guy done their job just a little better or a little more the way they were supposed to do it, we might have scored before that play even occurred. We just have to really stay focused on that, guys doing what they are supposed to be doing and doing it the way they are being coached. And I think we have the ability to go out and be a really good offense if we do that.
On those plays, is that a product of the defense or is that just someone on offense not handling their business?
In my opinion they were minor enough details that we weren't asking too much of each individual guy, whoever the spotlight fell on during that particular play, but we were just asking to do their job a little more the way they are supposed to do it. Baltimore has a good defense. At their place they are even better. And this week we are going to have a real test. Carolina has a quality defense that plays really well, whether they are home or away. They create turnovers. They make you go the distance of the field. They don't give up big plays. We are going to have to be on our game. We can't have many of those plays I was just talking about.
Ben has always improvised and made plays throughout his career. Is there a number you have per game of plays that you'd like to have him in the pocket or on the move?
No, because some of that is ad lib when he keeps plays alive. But again, I think it's important at this stage that he picks his shots. He can't make that necessarily happen every play but he is a competitive guy that plays to win on every snap. He's done a good job to this point getting the ball out when it needs to come out and keep the play alive when it needs to be kept alive. He's obviously as good as anybody in the league at doing that.