Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley**
Have you ever been a part of a four-game stretch like you are in right now with 450 yards per game?
I really don't know. We were moving the ball well. I know there are areas where we have to continue to improve. For us, our mentality is that we are in the fourth quarter of the season. This is the stretch run. We have a four-game season. It doesn't really matter what happened in the past. It's about these four games, starting this week against Cincinnati.
Re: Playing without Heath Miller and the guys filling in for him:
I think the guys stepped in and did a good job. Jess James. Matt Spaeth. Will Johnson. They made a couple of plays. It just shows those guys are preparing and working hard. Obviously when you don't have a player like Heath, it's a big loss for us in a lot of different ways, even from a leadership standpoint. I thought they stepped in and made plays when their number was called. They did a good job in the run game. So that's a good sign.
Heath had a good game last time against Cincinnati. Can James do the same if Heath can't go?**
He showed good signs, Jesse. He made a couple of good plays in the middle of the field, especially the one on the basic cross, where he had to extend and catch the ball. That's not a play everybody makes or can make. Again, we are just pushing Jesse. I know Coach Daniel is pushing him, accelerating his learning process, growth and development as fast as we are with all the guys. As we have seen this year, you don't know when it's going to be your turn or when you are getting the opportunity to step in and do the job. You have to be ready. That's all we are trying to get done as coaches.
How far has James come from his first game in Canton in the preseason?
He has come a long way, but not unlike a lot of young guys that you see. They have a lot to learn early on, and one of the biggest things is just their physical conditioning. To me, that's where he's made the most growth. You've seen his body change already. He slimmed down. He's increased his speed and quickness. Just his overall ability to run a bunch of reps, whether it's in practice or in games. Early on in training camp and in those early preseason games, he looked like he was dying on the vine. That makes a pretty quick impression for those guys. They understand there aren't 72 guys out here taking the load off of you. I just think like most young guys, he's grown and developed, and that's a testament to him and the coaching staff.
Re: Third-and-short and you taking a shot:
Third-and-shorter yardage, that 1-3-5 yards, is generally the most predictable coverage you'll get. A lot of defenses choose to play man. When you know what the coverage is going to be, it allows you to potentially take some of those shots. Like I've said, even going back 3-4 years, most route concepts we have, there is some vertical route in there. I just think as you gain confidence and as Ben Roethlisberger gains confidence in those guys outside and with what they are doing, then it gives him confidence to take those shots. Obviously we aren't going to back down from an aggressive standpoint. Because when you make big plays and you get field flippers, it gives you a chance to put points on the board.
Re: Intimidation factor being important:**
I think it's great for us. It's great for our guys. They know that the head coach, and we have confidence in them. We aren't going to back down. We are going to keep attacking. We have the players with the skill sets to do it. It starts with Ben, obviously. He's made great strides in his development in that deep ball. We've worked awfully hard at it. We have some techniques and little, subtle things that we work on hard, and have been working on. It took a little while for everybody to get on the same page. But I think it's paying off now.
Re: DeAngelo Williams and what you knew about him before he came here:
I actually did a lot of work on him when he was coming out of Memphis. I knew he was a really good player coming out. I watched him in the league. He had a couple of really big years. I didn't know a lot about his personality, but Randy Fichtner was with him at Memphis. He knew a lot about him. He kind of filled us in. Nothing has been disappointing about him. That early description from Coach Fichtner was all positive. "You will love him. He has a dynamic personality." Really, he has just been a great addition to the locker room in general. He is a confident, high-energy guy. He's an energy bringer. He has displayed it on the field also. I think it's not a shock, but I think it's been pretty impressive for him to come into a new environment after being in one place for a long time, and assimilating in and getting up to speed quickly on all areas of the offense.
Do you go into a game thinking that the other team will give you the middle of the field or give you the deep ball?
Obviously they are human beings and not computers. There are tendencies that show up on tape and in pass games. But at the same time, just like we can adjust and change, they can do the same thing. You have to be prepared for everything, but from a tendency standpoint, you know the teams. Oakland, for instance, you knew going into that game it was going to be middle of the field closed. It was going to be a game played outside the numbers for the most part. Other teams, you know there was going to be a heavier dose of middle of the field open zone. Now you have to work inside the numbers. It's not always a guarantee but at least it gives you a starting point.
Does Cincinnati play you the same way?
No. They've changed through the years. Obviously they changed coordinators with Coach Guenther. They are still doing a lot of the similar things but at the same time, we've seen them adjust to us specifically in how they play.
Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler
Could you take 16 points away from Cincinnati this time around?
Yes. Our goal is 17 points. They've got a good offense, we played them well last time. We have to keep up with the turnovers, if we give up turnovers, we have to create turnovers. The turnover ratio is going to be important in this game, as it was in the last football game. So, it's going to be a good game. This is what the NFL is all about, two teams like this playing each other.
Do you see another low-scoring game this time?
I don't know. I don't know about that. You never know until you step into the stadium and things start happening. I don't know. I think Ben Roethlisberger is going to be better. He was coming off an injury at the time, he's going to be better. If he's better, then we might score some points. If we score some points, then it's going to be one of those things, because they're going to try to score some points too. So, who knows how the game is going to go.
Re: On missing Stephon Tuitt and Ryan Shazier last time they played Cincinnati:
Shazier played a little bit, but I don't know if he played the whole game. The guys who filled in did a good job. This is a big game for us, they know it. We enjoy playing these guys, they're in our division. These guys, Baltimore and Cleveland. We'll be ready.
Re: On Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck saying they saw things against his defense that they haven't seen before:**
I think in the NFL, if you do the same thing all the time you're going to get beat. We have to try to show them some things that maybe they haven't seen. For the most part, there's only so many things you can do. We've tried to change it up a little bit. I'm a big believer in "You can't run the same things all the time." Unless, it's working. Most people will figure it out and once they do, they can put points up on you if you're not willing to change.
Re: On dropping eight into coverage:
We've done it a little bit, we've done both. It's a change up for us. We want to rush four sometimes, we want to rush five sometimes and if it appears, rush six sometimes. We play different coverage and aren't in single-high all the time. So, we try to change it up in rushing coverage as much as we can.
What sort of adjustments do you need to make on A.J. Green this time?
You make your adjustments for A.J. Green and somebody else is going to get you. They have a lot of tools, so we have to defend the totality of their offense, not just A.J. Green. A.J. Green is a good player, there's no doubt about it and he makes a lot of catches over people. He has good length and he's an excellent receiver, but they have other good players. So, it's not just going to be about A.J., it will be about all of them. At the same time, you're saying, "If you don't take away A.J., you're not going to win." Well, maybe, maybe not.
What did you like about the redistribution of snaps at the cornerback position?
I liked it, I think it helps us. Our guys were getting worn out this time of year. We played a lot of football games, including five preseason games. Those guys have never played that many snaps in a season. It was starting to wear on them, I think, both mentally and physically. It was good for us that we ran some people in and out and they were productive. And hopefully, we can keep that up.
Do you have to sell them on that?
No. They all like to play. Most of our guys are good guys, on defense. Defensively, you can't be selfish and be very good. You have to be a team-oriented guy. I always felt like as a player, I tried to be the best teammate I could be and I think these guys do the same thing. They try to be the best teammates they can be and that involves unselfish play, or not playing.
Re: On if it's hard to get Vince Williams snaps, because of the guys in front of him:**
I mean, you have Lawrence, Ryan and Spence. We have a lot of good linebackers, really. They all do a good job for us. Vince, the good thing about him, is if we have somebody who gets hurt, we have somebody who is dependable. They know the defense well enough now, they've been around long enough that we can stick them in and they can still be productive. I'm glad he's coming along. Again, we have to hold these guys down as much we can, and all of the sudden we've become a good defense.
Most defenses play two corners and they will have a third guy. What are your thoughts on going in a different direction?
Our corners do a good job on special teams too, especially Antwon Blake. He's a good special teams player for us and we're not willing to sacrifice that play on special teams to get him more snaps. So, we're trying to keep him rested, we're trying to keep Ross Cockrell rested and put William Gay where he can best help us. He's helped us both inside and outside. If you look at last year, I think he made our three touchdowns that he intercepted. And that was at the corner position, I believe, if you look back at that. He's been productive at both inside and outside. It doesn't hurt us to put him inside sometimes, or put him outside sometimes.
Does it risk your continuity or communication?
I don't think so. I think both safeties do a good job of making sure the communication is good. William Gay does a good job, that's the reason he stays on the field quite a bit, because he does a good job at talking too. So, we have two or three guys that try to keep all the defensive guys where they're supposed to be.* *
Re: On James Harrison:
James has been a good football player for a long time here. He's played outside linebacker, he's played inside linebacker. I call him sawed-off, because he's a little bit short. He is so powerful and he's got such good leverage, it's very difficult to block him. Even at his age, because he works his butt off. There's no secret to why he's doing the things he's doing, it's because he works his butt off. There's no secret to A.B. There's no secret to him, he works his butt off. There's no secret to Cameron Heyward. Those guys work their butts off all the time in practice and they don't ever slack off. That's the reason they've done what they've done. That's the key to the puzzle for any young guy that wants to play in this league, look at those three guys. Look at those guys and see what they do. If you want to be a good player in this league, that's all you have to do.
Re: On if it's hard for outside linebackers around the league, because so many defensive linemen are getting sacks and there's a quicker passing game:
It's gotten a lot quicker, but again, its coverage and rush. It's a combination of both and sometimes we get pressure and the ball comes out. We get some interceptions. Sometimes, we get pressure and the ball doesn't come out. We hit it. What I talked about in terms of changing things up, I was talking about coverage in particular. If you change up the coverage and make them read the coverage, it takes a little more time. As a consequence, sometimes we can get to them. If they have an idea when they hit their back foot where the ball is going, a lot of times you're not going to get to them. Somebody asked about dropping eight, that's the reason we try to change things up a little, so those guys can't get a rhythm on us. As a consequence, hopefully we can get some more pressure.
The Steelers prepare for the week 14 matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.