Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau talked after practice on Thursday about this week's game against the Denver Broncos.
Offensive Coordinator Todd HaleyRe: Having Mike Wallace back:It's good. Like I've said all along, we are going to coach the guys that are out here. We knew he has been a big part of this and he will be a big part of this going forward. He's had a couple of days now to get acclimated. He's been studying. He will have a chance to succeed.Re: Wallace's approach this week:You can tell he's a professional, a true veteran. In the time he wasn't here, it's clear he put time into studying the playbook. Since he's been here – he spent five or six hours a day last weekend with Coach Scottie Montgomery. He is getting up to speed. He's a smart player, which gives him a chance to succeed.Re: Denver's front seven on defense:Having coached for Kansas City, seeing them a couple of times last season and watching them on tape, those guys have grown into great players. Elvis Dumervil has been there longer but he fought through the injury he's had. He looks like he is all the way back. They have two of the premier pass rushers in the league. On the inside, they drafted a young guy named Derek Wolfe. They have some active, physical guys that play hard. Their linebackers are about as good as any group you will see.Re: Differences between them playing the 3-4 and now 4-3:From what we've seen on tape, it's clear they have made the transition to a 4-3 front. Some of their guys have had to adjust, mainly Von Miller. He is the guy that has really had to change his mindset. Dumervil goes back to what I think he likes to do, and that is putting his hand on the ground. They both have to drop into coverage a number of times each game and they look like they are pretty good at it.Are there any advantages to facing a team early when they are transitioning on defense?I am more worried about us.How close is Rashard Mendenhall to returning?Every day he is out here is a good sign. I hate to talk about on schedule, off schedule or ahead of schedule, or talking about running backs coming back from a major knee injury. He's been out here working. He doesn't have the different color jersey on anymore. You can tell he is gaining confidence every day.Re: Rotation for running backs on Sunday:We have a plan but I am not going to tell you [laughs]. We are excited about the group. Mendenhall is back, whether that's this week, next week or whenever it happens. He is getting himself ready to go. We have nice variables at the running back position. We have some big guys that can move piles. We have some quick guys and we have some in-between guys. I know they are up for the challenge. They are looking forward to Sunday night and getting themselves ready to go.Re: Preseason for Jonathan Dwyer:**I really didn't have a lot to go off of when I got here. He's not a player that I spent a lot of time looking at while I was at Kansas City. We watched a lot of tape of him and visited with the coaches. We got a feel for him. I want to go by what I see. Everything I've seen is that he is a young, developing player that has made big strides from last year to this year. When we had young running backs come into training camp, Dwyer was tutoring them on every play and during the walkthroughs, stuff maybe you guys didn't see. You saw some real encouraging signs from a kid that is growing up and realizing he is going into his third year. That becomes the make or break time.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeauDoes watching the film of last season's playoff loss to the Broncos serve any purpose?I think there's some good to it. We've talked about it. I think they're better served looking at Peyton Manning rather than looking at that video of last year. We want to remember what happened out there and keep that from happening again.
Re: The players not wanting to remember last season's playoff loss to Denver:That's fine with me. I'm just saying I think it's good if we remember it and don't let it happen again.
Does the loss to Denver still bother you?No. We just picked the wrong time to play poorly. Last year we played quite a few good games but our first and our last games were not some of our better games. When you do that, you're not going to give your team a chance to win and we can't let that happen.
Re: Why Denver chose the play they did to beat Pittsburgh in overtime:Teams can make plays at any time and (Demaryius Thomas) is a big, talented wide receiver. But we have to get the guy on the ground. He can catch the ball and gain 16 or 18 yards and we've still got field to defend. We didn't get him on the ground and that's the thing you can't let happen. You're not going to stop every pass but you've got to tackle. That's something we didn't do on that play.
Did you do anything on the play where you lost that you were doing because Tim Tebow was the quarterback?No. I doubt if we'd be in that particular defense again because the coordinator didn't call a very damn good defense. Really, we seem to be getting bogged down on 2011 and there isn't a whole hell of a lot we can do about that. This is a brand new year and this is what we're focused on.
Re: The defense Pittsburgh was playing on the play the lost on in overtime:Let me tell you something. Over the years I've made a lot of bad calls and I'm man enough to step up and say it. When a play ends your game and ends your season, it can't be a very good call.
Re: What the player's learned from the last play in the playoffs:Hopefully you learn something from every play you're in there. The lesson there is that you've got to tackle the receiver in this league. I think last night the Cowboys threw a 20-yard pass at the end of the game and the guy ran for 40 yards and a touchdown, and that made the Giants 14 points behind. If you tackle the catch, you get the ball back and you may still be playing.
Re: Facing Peyton Manning:I don't see anything different in him. He's played about three quarters here in the preseason. I don't see any throws that he can't make. I've seen him get sacked and jump right back up. He just looks like Peyton Manning to me and that's a challenge.
Does he have the same type of players in Denver that he did in Indianapolis?He's got half the receivers he had in Indianapolis with him. Let me be the devil's advocate, if you had Peyton Manning, how much of a different offense would you put in? You're going to get Peyton Manning's offense. They'll run the ball a little bit more because they're a little bit better of a running team than he had some years in Indianapolis. But it's going to be Peyton Manning stuff.
Re: The talent of the Broncos wide receivers:It seems to me Demaryius Thomas did pretty good against last year. We keep getting back to last year [laughs].
Are you comfortable with Chris Carter filling in for James Harrison?Definitely, he's a promising young player. He really brings a lot of energy. He's in great shape. He played the whole preseason like he wants to be here and he wants to be on the field. That did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff. Are we going to be perfect, no. We've got some young guys and some new guys that are going to play hard. I feel good about him when he is in there.
Re: The young cornerbacks:I think Keenan Lewis did a great job for us last year. Our pass statistics went up and I think it was because of him, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen. Those young corners stepped in there and did a good job for us. They're a year older so hopefully they'll be a year smarter and better. I feel good about those players.
Re: Only having four cornerbacks:We're blessed here. We've got the four cornerbacks but Troy Polamalu can always double-up and play any of those corner-type positions. We're bringing some of the other young guys along so they can double-up. We've got five safeties but we look at two of those guys who can go out there and be the fifth cornerback for us.
How has Jason Worilds performed since his return to practice?I think you need to talk to Coach Tomlin about that. But from my observation I think he's done great.
How did your defensive linemen handle the altitude in Denver last year?This has always been my personal take on it, I think the altitude is way overrated and I don't think it's going to be a major factor for 60 minutes of football. I've always felt that way. It goes all the way back to when I was playing but I was little guy and it didn't bother me. I think it might bother the bigger guys some. But I don't think it's going to be the deciding factor in any game that's played out there.