Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley Did Guy Whimper's performance surprise you?I thought he did a good job. That's our motto around here, next guy up. We obviously had some shuffling on the offensive line. I thought he stepped in and did a commendable job to help us win.Re: Whimper playing the right side the last couple of years:Yeah. One of the reasons we were excited about making him a Steeler was that he had some notches on his belt. He started a bunch of games in the NFL. So we knew he had experience there, and obviously ability.Re: David DeCastro last week:I thought the entire line played probably their best game of the year. We obviously need them to keep getting better, keep coming together and playing like that. He was a big part of that. You could go right down the line and probably say all played their best game of the year to this point.Do you go back to Marcus Gilbert this week?Again, we are seeing where he is health wise. That's a head coach question. We will talk that through as the week goes on.Have you seen any flashes of that improvement week-by-week on the offensive line, or was it kind of, there it is?No. I think they obviously played good against the Jets. The Jets are looking like one of the better defenses in the league, and we knew we'd have our hands full. I thought those guys fought it out all day against a really good front. They have a bunch of big guys that can be very disruptive. So for us to go into New York and win the game, and play pretty efficiently, the offensive line had to have played a pretty good game.Is the Raiders' pass defense different this year with Charles Woodson in there or other players than last year?I think they, overall, improved. I think the entire group is playing well together as a defense. He is obviously the leader of the group, a true veteran of the group. But you don't see any fall off in him. He's a legend. You have to believe he will end up in Canton. He is one of those guys that I describe as, the ball just kind of comes to him. If you have a chance to ever get your hands on one of those types of defensive players, you try to get them on your team because you want the guys that the ball comes to. When he gets it, he does spectacular things a lot of the times. We have to not allow that to happen.What were you looking to get out of the wildcat last week?It wasn't anything new really for a lot of people on the field. Obviously the operation and the ball handling was new but we knew we had Felix Jones and Le'Veon Bell, both had some experience handling the football in a situation like that. It just gives you a little different look and another way to keep the defense off balance. I think in that particular game, it was effective in the snaps we ran it.How's Ben Roethlisberger as a receiver? Have you tried him out there?[Laughs] No. We need Ben to stay out of the mix.Was the game last Sunday the way you thought the offense would look like? Yeah. I think we need to continue to improve, number one, in the run game. We obviously hadn't, for a lot of different reasons, been able to do that up until last game. Things kind of fell into place. The hard work is starting to pay off. Having Le'Veon in the mix has helped. He's healthy and is getting more experience each game. Any time you can run the ball efficiently and make yards, and play on first-down the way we did, that's a big thing for us. Win on first down. When you are 6-7 yards a clip on first-down, which we have done in a couple different games this year, that gives you a chance to be successful in whatever you do as long as you are protecting the football. That was more like it but we aren't going to settle for where we are right now. We obviously have to keep getting better. We know that it was a pretty good defense last week and the week before. Really, every week, we've played defenses that look like they have a chance to be pretty good when it's all said and done. So, we just have to keep getting better, keep being efficient, win on first-down, which will keep us out of third-and-long situations. And I don't even know if we had one last week. When you play like that, and you protect the football, you generally will have a chance to score points and be successful.Has Jonathan Dwyer worked his way back into the mix?Yeah. I am excited about all of our running backs right now. I think Felix is chomping at the bit to get opportunities. When he gets in there he's done a good job. Jonathan, when he gets in there has done a good job. I like the way all of those guys go about their business. They are acting like professionals. When their number is called, they are getting things done for us. There is good competition there. Guys are hungry and want to play. That's always a good thing.Are you surprised at all what you've gotten from Fernando Velasco?**He's replacing maybe the best center in the league. In my opinion, he is the best center in the league, Maurkice Pouncey. That's big shoes to fill, no different than a backup quarterback having to come in and try to play for a big-time, elite quarterback. He is touching the ball along with the quarterback on every single snap. He has more communication than anybody else. He is a veteran that had experience in the league starting. That's why he was a name that came up in the first place. I wouldn't say surprised, but it has been very impressive how he has worked himself into a new situation, new terminology and language, altogether, new people, and he's assimilated in a pretty impressive fashion.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau**
Can you talk about Lawrence Timmons performance against the Ravens?
We had him at I think 17 tackles and four assists. That's pretty good. He was all over the field. I think they only ran 60 plays. Some of those were incomplete passes on the other side of the field from him. He probably was in on half the plays that they ran.
Are you surprised he did that with a broken hand?
He's a linebacker. Linebackers are tough.
What kind of problems does a guy like Terrelle Pryor present? Do you defend him any different than you did with a guy like Robert Griffin III?
I think they're similar people. They can beat with you with their arm and with their legs. From that standpoint the problem is the same. They're running a lot of the same type of plays. It's been a long time since we played Washington, but we did get to play against the offense a little bit in New York against the Jets. Their quarterback is very athletic, too. I don't think he's had the ball carrying experience that Oakland's quarterback has had, but we're hoping there will be some carryover there for us.
With Pryor's size, is there a difference in trying to be physical with him as opposed to maybe Robert Griffin III?
They're both pretty big, and Oakland's quarterback is bigger than any of those other guys. As I recall, he didn't lose too many games in college because of that. They couldn't get him on the ground. It's definitely going to be one of our big challenges, when he does keep it, to get him on the ground. He's like having another tailback in the game, really. He's a great athlete.
Do you think players sometimes underestimate Pryor's speed because he's so big and it looks so effortless when he's running?
I think maybe at one time that was true. But I think he has done so well, and they've seen him on so many videos run away from people. He ran his time over at [the Combine in] Indianapolis for the world to see. I don't think it's any secret. He may not look that fast but we all know he is.
Was last game the most extensive playing time for Shamarko Thomas on defense?
Probably, because Baltimore went all three wide receivers pretty much. They probably didn't have ten snaps of regular or extra tight end guys. Shamarko is in that package. He'll play every snap if that's what we get.
What did you get from Thomas?
I think he's growing. He's a physical guy. That's what we liked about him. He's getting more comfortable in the defense and you're seeing some of that physicality show up. He made several really strong plays, and I'd say he's on schedule. He's a young player but I don't worry about him when he's in there. I know he's going to go wrong on some plays because he is new, but he's going to be a good football player.
What did you think of William Gay's performance against the Ravens?
Willy Gay has been playing good for us ever since we've had him, going back to before we didn't have him. I don't know how that came out but that's not quite right. Before he left us and came back. I didn't know Yogi Berra was talking. He's playing well, playing consistently and he played well in the Baltimore game.
When he came back after the year away, were you just looking for a guy who was dependable and you could call on him if you needed him to start or fill whatever role you needed?
Coach Mike [Tomlin] says often that your tape is your resumé. He had good tape when he was here. He had good tape when he was in Arizona. We knew he was a good man. We were in the process of losing a cornerback and he definitely fit us. I was glad that Mike brought him back.
How disciplined do the outside linebackers have to be with the read-option?
Yeah, again, that's one of the reasons I'm glad we did play Washington and we did play the Jets. Some other people are running it, but not to the extent that these guys do. The factor that these guys have, they have a tailback that's hurt us before too. That's if he leaves it in the tailback's stomach. And they've got a quarterback that can hurt you if you don't play them both right. They present problems and you have to have it ruled out and everybody be on the same page. That's what we're out here working on. Our guys are working hard. We'll see how we do Sunday. I think we'll play them hard.
The secondary prides themselves on being able to tackle. How is it that you guys are able to stay sharp when there isn't a lot live tackling done, or any live tackling done during the season?
Well, there are some games that I wish we tackled a little bit better in the secondary, to be honest with you, and across the team. I think overall we have a good tackling secondary. We have two great safeties who can get people on the ground, and I think our corners will rate up near the top of the NFL in terms of tackling. We want to be a good tackling team. In direct answer to your question, tackling is a heck of a lot of desire and wanting to. You don't have to practice tackling every day to want to tackle and to do a good job in a game. We expect them to get the ball carrier on the ground, whether it's their receiver that caught the ball or someone coming out of the backfield. I won't be happy until they tackle them every damn time. We're still working on it.
Has the evolution of the tight end been one of the changing challenges of being a defensive coordinator?
I think that it's just more of an inclusion in the spread offenses and a lot of the no-huddle offenses. The tight end becomes a force in the middle of a defense that has to spread out to cover boundary-to-boundary. They've always got the possibility of a little bit of a size mismatch with him down in there on your safeties. It's not really any different than the great tight ends of years ago. But we can't touch the guy once he goes five yards and that's a little different. The tight ends use to kind of take their life in their own hands when they'd go over the middle and that isn't the case anymore. It's just another weapon that the offenses have. I think the big factor is the speed spread all around them and it forces you to defend from sideline-to-sideline, and it does give the tight end more room to work down in there.
These guys are as fast as wide receivers used to be back in the day.
Again, if you go watch your local high school play, they are liable to go no-huddle and throw the ball 40 times. These guys are getting their passing and catching skills from the time that they're 14-18 years old. Then they go to college. They never huddle there and they throw the ball more like 55 times. Football is becoming a throwing game, and I think that's why you see the faster tight ends and more gifted receiving tight ends.
Is Lawrence Timmons finally putting it all together and nearing the top of his game?
In my honest opinion, maybe it's somewhat biased, I think he's played at an All-Pro level for several years. He's all over the field. He's always one of our leading tacklers. He's been a good interceptor and made a lot of long runs after he got the ball. I don't know what more you want the guy to do. To me, he has played at an All-Pro level for several years.
You have set the bar so high, the defense is number-one or top-10 every year. Do you think it's taken for granted and people say he is a linebacker for the Steelers so of course he is pretty good? Do you think he's maybe judged differently than other players are?
If we are number-one, which we were last year. Somebody out there is making a lot of plays, and on a lot of those plays it was Lawrence Timmons.
You said All-Pro and not Pro Bowl. There is a difference. All-Pro is top one, two, three.
I think you could put Lawrence Timmons in anybody's lineup and he's going to stand out and play good football.
Did Timmons ever lobby you to get some time on the other side of the ball? He was talking about what a good receiver he is.
Lawrence will lobby you for a little bit of everything [Laughs]. I'm happy with him right where he is.