OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD HALEY**
Re: Martavis Bryant this week in practice:
Like I said last week, he is a guy that has been working hard to try to get a helmet on Sunday. We will see. So far, so good. There have been some ups and downs but it's a little different when you aren't on cards (running scout team), because you have to start thinking more a little bit. But he has done a good job. He is working hard. He is studying. He made some plays today. We will see as the week goes on.
Re: Teams blitzing you less this year:
We always know percentage wise what teams are doing before we play them, and afterwards we take a look at what they did. It's definitely down but that was true for last year also. We generally get less pressure from what we've seen in our breakdown, a 4-5 game breakdown. We always seem to get less.
Re: Cleveland even blitzed less:
Yeah they had one pressure the whole game.
What do you do when the other team drops more players in coverage?
You have to play the plays that you call versus what you are getting. We like to feel like everything we are calling has an answer. You have to run the ball well. Sometimes blitzes are run-stopping blitzes. Sometimes they are for specific pass situations where they are trying to get to the quarterback. So we have to handle pressure and non-pressure and execute, and be successful whether we are running it or throwing it.
Re: The running backs being more active in the passing game and if that is contributing to less blitzes:
I can't get inside the other team's heads but when you have threats out of the backfield and the receiver position that will factor into it. Teams are banking on when they are pressuring in pass situations that they are going to disrupt the football, get to the quarterback and the ball isn't going to get out. So you have to make a decision there. It's a risk-reward.
Does anything change when you get to the road zone? Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown have big numbers but there are red zone struggles.
When you get down in there tight the game changes, and how the defense can defend you changes. We generally get eight in the box and man-to-man outside. When you are getting that it's going to be tough sledding running the football. When you are throwing it you have to win on one-on-one situations. That's just the way it is. I did a study last night. It's easy to statistically point at the red zone and say we just aren't good in the red zone. But I came up with 11 plays, getting knocked out with a sack or a penalty, in the fringe area that we got no points. We dropped balls in the end zone that cost us four points because we had to settle for a field goal. Touchdowns came off the board against Cleveland the first game. I counted 37 points that non red zone plays that you would statistically look at that we left out on the field by getting no points in most cases. Like I said we would get a penalty on the 33-yard line that put us out of field goal range. We don't even get to kick the field goal twice. That's six points. We would take those 37 points in a heartbeat. We would be averaging 26.5 points and the output would match the point total. The point production would match the yardage output. Yes we want to score when we get in the red zone. We want to score touchdowns. But we have to be a smart football team in that fringe field goal area because we can't afford not to get those three points, and we end up with zero like it has happened too many times this season in six games.
Re: J.J. Watt:
He is the real deal. We've been talking all week. Everybody has to handle him. He moves all over the place. He is a unique and special player at his position, which is multiple positions. You don't generally see 300-pound guys running down the sidelines scoring touchdowns from 60 and 80 yards. He is a freakish athlete whose motor never stops. You aren't going to keep him off the stat sheet entirely. I think that would be a reach but what we have to make happen is limit the game changing plays that he has shown on tape. He has scored three touchdowns as a defensive lineman. What we can't let happen are those game changing plays that he is very capable of making. It's going to take everybody and everybody is going to have to handle him. But we have to get the job done.
Re: Not allowing players to be one-on-one against him and getting the help:
Generally you are going to try to figure out a way to get two bodies on him. They have a great defensive coaching staff that I know very well. They do a very good job of scheming to get him into those one-on-ones even when you are trying to allow it not to happen. It will be a full-time job. He is going to make plays. What we have to prevent is the game changing plays that you see on tape.
Did looking at the tape and the study you did reassure you that what you are doing on offense is just lacking the execution?
It really did, because again that's just getting the minimum points. That's not counting the times we could have scored a touchdown. That was based on kicking the ball through the uprights and taking the three points. We would be averaging 26.5 points and it would match up with 400 yards per game, and we would be up there where we need to be scoring points, and we would probably have at least one, maybe two more wins. Those are things we can control. We need guys to make plays in the red zone but like I said the book is out. We are going to see eight in the box and man-to-man coverage. We are going to have to have guys make plays in the red zone also. Most importantly we have to get three points in the bank once we hit whatever the field goal range is for that day. You aren't going to make them all but we have a pretty good kicker that makes a lot of them. We have to bank those points whenever we can. We can't take them out of the bank.
What goes into game planning?
It's a little bit of everything. Coach Tomlin is in it a bunch with us in the beginning of the week, talking from a defensive perspective and kind of how he sees it, which is very helpful for us as a staff. And the rest of it is us as an offensive staff. There is some input from Ben, who puts work in on the tape, and he definitely has some input. But it's the group bouncing things off each other and figuring out what gives us the best chance to succeed. What is the mode of operation we want to be in. is this a no-huddle week? Do we have to pound it and run the ball? There are a lot of good discussions. I've touched on this, I love our staff. Our offensive staff is probably as tight as it has been in the time I have been here. There is great dialogue and communication throughout the week. And game day is just as important because we are making those adjustments we need to make to have a chance to be our best.
Does the playbook get larger or smaller as the season goes on?
I'd like to say it stays the same but it happens every year, some things are going to come up, some good ideas and some not so good ideas. But you kind of keep a running total and you log them so you make sure they don't get lost and just become something you ran one week and forgot about it, especially the good ones. There is always a bit of an evolution but we try to really make sure as we go through the offseason and training camp that we are really working hard at the things we want to be good at.
Re: Deciding what plays work and if you are set on running certain ones:
We try not to be that hard headed. We have a great coaching staff. The bottom line is that we do what gives us the best chance to possibly succeed this week against the defense that you are playing, and what suits your players that you have in for that particular week, due to injuries or things like that. I think good coaching is being able to adjust and to give your guys the best chance to succeed.
Re: Media saying the offense is too finesse and your response:
I am worried about here and what we are doing. Like I said, there has been a lot of good signs. When you are running the ball efficiently like we are, or throwing it and moving the ball between the 20s. It's pretty cut and dry for us where we need to get better. I've touched on it. We have left a minimum of 37 points out there that we would take right now. If we aren't doing those things that are causing us missed opportunities, there probably wouldn't be as much criticism if there is criticism.
Do you hear it? Do you block it out?
Only from you guys when you ask the questions. (Smiles)
Re: It was Bill Cowher and Hines Ward:
That's their job. We are doing ours. We have to do a better job of what we are doing.
Re: Percentage of plays called by you versus Ben Roethlisberger:
We are somewhere in the 27-28 percent range. Again, it changes game by game. There are different percentages for different weeks, and then situational football factors in.
Re: 28% that he would call:
Yeah. Don't hold me to it. But we try to practice that percentage so that we are practicing what we need to get practiced. But at this point, no-huddle, we have a lot in the bank on it and I feel pretty good about it where most of the guys that have been playing are with it. And I feel quite good about when we are in that mode of operation.
Is that where a large percentage of his play calls come from?
Yeah. And there are audible alerts. We call them alerts. But there are run-pass, pass-pass and pass-to-run, those kinds of things.
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DICK LEBEAU
Re: Putting Stephon Tuitt in with the number-one defense and why did he do that during training camp:
Well the more snaps these young players can get the better off they're going to be, the better off we're all going to be and we try to get him in there as soon as we can. He's had some snaps and there's no experience like game experience and playing in the contest. So we're looking forward to seeing what he can do in there.
How is Tuitt a better player than he was 6-8 weeks ago?
He's a young player. He's got great raw material, tremendous size, he's got really outstanding athletic ability. He's going to be a good player, you can write that down. I think you have to give all these young players a chance to grow. He's making progress. He's going to be seeing more action obviously because of the process of necessity, but he's going to be a good player.
How difficult is the challenge of facing the Texans and their running game for a rookie?
I think it's a challenge for all of us. They have a great back and they got a wonderfully solid blocking front. They run the ball and they run it well and we're going to have to stop that to win the game.
How difficult it is to deal with moving parts on the defense?
I think it's really business as usual there. When you go into an NFL season you know you're going to have everyone your defensive room have a hat and has to play and have to play and have to play a significant amount of time. This is just one more year that's playing out that way. I don't think it's any greater or any less of a challenge. It has to be that way in the NFL and the next man up has to step in there and do his job.
Is there something more difficult for a rookie on the defensive line to adjust to the scheme?
We've had a lot of young players contribute for us on the defensive line. We were pretty fortunate there for a lot of years that we had Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel. There wasn't anybody going to step in that alignment too much. But we had young guys that came along, got ready to play (and) got ready to play fast. I think that anybody that has the raw material these guys have, Dan (McCullers) has got the size and strength (and) Tuitt has the athletic ability. They're going to be able to contribute and they have to start right now.
What's the key to defending stretch runs and cutbacks from a front-seven perspective and what he asks of his players?
Well I don't think there's any mystery about that, everybody has got to get his gap and they got to keep up on their feet (and) they can't get cut. They do a good job of stretching in the backside and offensive linemen go down low and they cut. If one of our guys go down that's what the stretch implies. They just look for a gap and then they take it north and south. If there's no gap, there's no play. They just keep bouncing to the sideline. But you got to have good leverage at the point of attack and you got to have people in their gaps coming down the line, and you can't have people on the ground. It's not that difficult.
How do you think your players have done against those types of plays?
Well our running numbers are nowhere near where we need them to be so that answers that question. But we're going to get better.
How does McCullers get leverage at his size and at his position?
He's got enough strength that he doesn't always have to be the lowest guy. He's still very difficult to move even if sometimes they do get under him. But he's got strength and I think you'll see that.
Would you be comfortable playing McCullers an extended number of snaps?
I would be, yes.
Has McCullers moved around well?
I think he has. I think he's moving well for a man his size and I think Coach Garret Giemont has done a good job down there in the strength and conditioning area of things and I think all our players develop under Coach Giemont.
Are you looking to get Brice McCain more snaps this week at cornerback?
You've been out to practice, haven't you? I think the answer to that is yes.
Are the inconsistencies still plaguing Cortez Allen?
He's still basically a young player and he's at a difficult position and sometimes there are some ups and downs out there. I have great confidence that he'll find himself through this and be a very strong player.
Can it help players like that to step back and watch for a week?
I'm thinking that it does, we'll see.