Coordinator's Corner: LeBeau & Haley

Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau

How much does a group of pass-catching tight ends give you problems when they also have A.J. Green?Well, the more weapons they have, the tougher they are to defend. They have two really talented guys there. I would rather have three real good tight ends and no A.J. Green. I'll put it that way. It gives them a good combination. They have a similar personnel package there that New England had when they were rolling their two tight ends. In fact, they [New England] probably didn't have a receiver as good as Green. They have a good running back and now a veteran quarterback. They are a formidable offense, no doubt.

Re: Dual tight ends that can catch becoming a trend?Actually, that's been around for a long time, depending on how the team is put together and how they drafted. Two tight end formations, even going back to the late 70s and 80s, teams used three tight ends a lot. Most people that put two tight ends out there, they have confidence that they can run pass routes.

Re: Al Woods getting more playing time:Al is in our rotation now. He is going to get his snaps. He virtually has the role that Steve McLendon had last year. Like Chris Hoke did for us, Al can play end and nose. He's a valuable guy for us. He played well against Tennessee. We are going to give him snaps, particularly early in the season when the weather is hot. It's good to roll your linemen if you have the people you can roll with.

Shamarko Thomas said he got the word at halftime last game that he was going to play nickel and that he was a little shocked. How do you think he did?He did fine. He better get used to it. You never know what's going to unfold in the game. You are only one snap away from not only playing in the nickel but playing strong safety all the time, too. We tell these players all the time, you better practice like you are in the game. One of these games or weeks, it's going to be a fact. It just happened very soon for him. He probably was a little excited but I thought he did very well in there. He's a good football player. He is just learning and growing. I am glad we drafted him. I'm glad we got him.

How tempted are you to blitz him, since he was so good at it in college?I think he is going to be a good blitzer. He's a good tackler. He has good quickness. He is very compact and solid with his acceleration, which makes you a good tackler. He's a willing tackler. Those kinds of guys generally make good blitzers. He just needs experience. You can't expect him to be a veteran safety in one game.

Re: James Harrison's role on the Bengals:I'll be honest with you, I haven't seen their defense. I don't even know where James is playing. But I know this, wherever he is, he will help them. He has a defensive demeanor, and that helps any team. I don't even know what they are doing with him.

Re: Steelers' offense being ready for him:I don't know what we are doing with him but I know he can play football, and you know that.

Is Kion Wilson as bright in the defensive meeting rooms as he is with the media? He seems like a pretty sharp guy. And how much does that play into the fact that he might have an increased role, like making calls during the game?I think our linebackers are very alert people. I think we probably have a little more depth there than we've had in some years. With Larry Foote going down, we are definitely going to need him. Again, they are just young players learning what to do. I think they've all made great progress to this point. They will probably get some playing time pretty damn quick. I am confident. I know they will play physical and play hard. We just have to coach them and get them in the right place.

What about Vince Williams? How ready is he?He's ready. He will see some time. I've been pleased with those two young guys and the way they played throughout the preseason. I am sure that's why Coach Tomlin kept them.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley

What was your message to the offense this week?
Well, we have to be better, number one. We can't turn the football over and expect to win. Protecting the football has to be a priority for anybody touching it. We've got to be more efficient in the run game, clearly. We've got to stay on the field. After the first drive, third downs, things like, everything went downhill, and we have to be better across the board. Just execute and do your job and better things will happen.

How can you be better in the run game? What do you have to do better?I think how things played last week had an effect. Again, injuries are a part of the game, but probably the worst case scenario as far as we were concerned offensively, just how we planned to go into the game; and losing Maurkice Pouncey when we did it really affected three guys. And LaRod Stephens-Howling going down, he had a specific package. We obviously didn't get it done, and we need to be better in a lot of areas. Having a week to prepare, understanding and figuring out what our strengths and weaknesses are is a big part of what we do as coaches, and those variables changed this week with a couple of personnel changes. We made the necessary adjustments, and we had a couple good practices.

Do you plan to use Kelvin Beachum a lot to help in the running game?Yeah, the plan was that he was going to be involved in it a good deal. Again, that's been a position that we've had some people out, Heath Miller being number one, but he's a very versatile guy that we felt would give us some benefit in that area in that particular game. Like I said, injuries are part of it. It happens. You've got to adjust on the fly, and we just didn't do a good enough job from an adjustment standpoint or an execution standpoint.

What have you seen from Fernando Velasco?You can tell he's been in the league for a number of years, and you can tell that he's played the center position. We're trying to get him up to speed as best we can, just like any other player that comes in new to us that has missed an offseason and a training camp because there are terminology issues and calls. Really, for an offensive lineman there is a lot to learn. Our coaches are working night and day with him trying to just get him up to speed.

Will there be a committee approach to the running backs or will Isaac Redman get the bulk of the carries?As the week goes on we're still working through that. We need Isaac to bounce back and play a better game. He didn't play his best game, along with really all of us. We didn't coach our best game. Everybody has got to bounce back and play better football, and better things will happen.

Is Felix Jones more equipped now to get some carries having been with the team for a couple weeks?Each day that he is here is better. When you come in new and you missed all the time that he's missed, and it's a totally new environment and system for him, he's playing catch-up, along with any of the new players. Each day that he's here, he's making progress. We're excited that he's here. We've just got to keep getting him ready to play, so when he gets the opportunity he can make things happen.

How much closer is Heath Miller to getting back and what dimension would that add to the offense?As much as I love Heath, I can only worry about the guys that are out here. Heath has now been out here, which is great. He looks like he's making progress, but that will be coach's and the doctors' decision. It's just great to see him out here practicing with the guys, and as the week goes on, I'm sure those decisions will be made.

Do you have pregame goals in terms of actual rushing yards or certain markers you'd like to get in a given game to know that your run game is productive?Yeah. There are goals, but it's not something that affects how the game goes, so to speak. I think sometimes if you're just thinking of that one area and have a goal that you're trying to get to, you may get to it, but you may not win the game or not play good enough or score enough points. The bottom line is to be efficient, play good offense, run, pass and score points. Convert first downs or convert third downs, and stay out of third downs. We need to be more efficient overall. I thought at times in the game last week we were, but most of the time we weren't. We have to be better across the board.

What, if anything, did you want to address regarding the Deadspin article? What in it was true? What in it was untrue?I'm very surprised that when I came to work this morning it was an issue. I'm very surprised. I will, however, because you're asking, it's a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. My wife, my family and I are staying in a hotel until we close on our new house. We went down to have a couple appetizers, and like I always do, I got asked for autographs, and the guy said, 'I'm a huge Steelers fan.' So, I signed it 'Go Steelers.' And then he said, 'No, not really. I'm a Chiefs fan.' So, I wrote what I did in jest. It was funny. It was no disrespect to the Chiefs. I've never at any time said anything negative about the team that gave me a chance to be a head coach. I'm grateful and enjoyed my time there. It was in jest between me and the guy, which we laughed [about], and that was it. There was no other incident. So, as far as I'm concerned, that's why I'm surprised that it's even being talked about when we have as big of a game as we have.

So, did you refute or corroborate what was alleged to have been said to the guy who was heckling you?I just addressed the only incident that there was, which was that I wrote something about my former team that I probably shouldn't [have]. There was no incident.

So you didn't say, 'Why are you being gay?' to the one guy?There was no incident. I had no conversation other than talking about or writing what I wrote.

In regards to the wide receivers, do you challenge them this week to make a play or make a great catch?We're challenging everybody. Nobody played the way we needed to play or the way we can play and expect to win. Like I said, we turned the football over in the tight red, which cost us points. We turned the football over which led to their only touchdown scoring drive in the game. That all happens for a reason, not executing. Some of that is due to combative situations in the game, which come up with receivers and defensive backs and the football. We've got to make more of those plays than we don't. And it's no different in the running game. At times runners are going to have to make yards when there may not be any. We need to be more efficient across the board and some of that falls into that area of making combative plays.

What do you have planned for the center position?We're trying to get two guys ready to go. Any way that it plays out, we've got to have both guys ready to play. Beachum was the backup Pouncey and did I thought a very commendable job, coming into the game and having practiced all tight end throughout the week. To move after one series and play center, which he had no snaps at during the week, I think it's important to be said that I though Beachum did a great job. We needed an additional center obviously with Pouncey out and we're happy to have Fernando here. We're trying to get him up to speed and we're trying to use every amount of time we have with Beachum to get him going.

Just a look for Fernando Velasco at center today?Like I said, we need them both ready. That's the bottom line because, no different than what happened last week, we could be in the same situation. So, we need to have both guys ready to go.

Is it tough teaching a guy who's never played center to play center?Ask Coach Bicknell that. Beachum, from day one, we ought to stop being surprised because he rises above expectations most of the time. You're talking about a guy that came in here in the late rounds and found his way onto the team, then started a bunch of games at tackle for us and played pretty efficiently. We had him playing some tight end, then he's playing center in the preseason, next thing you know he is playing center in regular-season games. The guy is a hard worker that obviously takes to coaching and wants to be the best he can be and help us in any way that he can.

Is there anything you guys need to get back to in the running game? And it is important to be as effective running the ball as it used to be in the NFL?I think you have to be efficient running the ball. I was coaching the Arizona team when we probably didn't go over 100 yards, maybe once or twice, if that. But we stayed on the field, we ran a bunch of plays and we scored a bunch of points. So, you just have to be able run efficiently, meaning that in situations where you have to run, you're able to run. Also, when you are handing it off that you don't have minus plays and you're not putting yourself behind the chains, and you're staying on schedule, so to speak. We just have to be more efficient. Again, I don't care if we throw it 45 times and run it 10 and win, or vice versa. I think that they both have a positive effective, provided that you're efficient.

At center, would the ideal scenario be to put Velasco in there when he is ready and then keep Beachum as maybe a super-sub?I think the best scenario would be the best guy plays. The guy that plays center is the best guy playing center for us. I wouldn't think or look past that to work towards another position. We've got to get both guys ready to go, like I said. Every day counts.

As a coach, have you ever been around a player that's done what Beachum is doing in learning all these positions?I think it's pretty unique. We had a guy that played all five, but usually if a guy is that versatile then the tight end, the blocking tight end I should say, I don't want to offend the tight ends, but he's exceeded expectations in every situation. So, at some point you probably have to say maybe we're setting our expectations – we need to set them higher.

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