Head Coach Doug MarroneQ: Can you update us on your quarterback situation?A: Sure, we had both quarterbacks practice today, EJ Manuel and Thad Lewis. EJ took the majority of the snaps today and we're just going to evaluate and see where they both are. But I feel good about it unless there are any setbacks.
Q: What's it been like for you to this point with that position?A: Obviously it's been challenging. In the beginning of the year our whole secondary wasn't playing which was difficult and we had to move Aaron Williams. And then obviously with the quarterback situation that's always tough. But you know what, if someone told me it was going to happen I'd want it to happen now. I think that you can see the adversity that's hit this team early on and the players are working hard and fighting through it. I know I have a great appreciation for what they're going through also.
Q: What do you see when you look at the Steelers' defense?A: I've gone against the Steelers' defense for a while. I did it when I was obviously with the New York Jets and we had the playoff game there, then when I was with New Orleans and we went to Pittsburgh and competing against Coach (Dick) LeBeau, obviously three or four times. I've always had great respect and I've always said this publicly, that I think for me, when I was involved heavily with the game-planning that was always one of the most difficult teams we ever had to game plan against. I always thought that their coach did the best job in breaking down protections. I think that for whatever reason they went out there and didn't play as well this past week. But I know that we'll get the best from them because I know that organization and Mike Tomlin and the coaches and the players that are there how much pride they have. So we're prepared to see their best.
Q: Can you talk about what Shamarko Thomas did for you (at Syracuse)?A: He was outstanding for us. When you talk about, we were involved from the beginning; from the recruitment stage. Someone who has really overcome a lot of adversity in his life which has been pointed out. And as far as a football player, that's what he is. I think that he represents what it means to play. He's a guy, I remember talking to him in his senior year and he had an injury to his shoulder; one that he could've continued playing with or could've gotten surgery. I remember when I brought him in and I knew that he had a future in the NFL. And when I spoke to him I said, "Listen, I know you have a future in the NFL and I would understand, but I want to make sure you make a decision: do you want to have surgery now or do you want to wait until after the season?" He said, "Coach, I'm finishing the season and we're going to a Bowl." I was like 'Whoa.' He's probably one of the best strikers or hitters that I've been around.
Q: Has his lack of height ever been an issue?A: No. He's so strong, can jump. I think if anything he uses that to motivate himself.
Q: Are you able to survive with a Pitt guy in Doug Whaley around your neck up there?A: Let me tell you something, I'm surrounded by a lot of Pitt guys. You guys know I'm a Syracuse guy, but you know what's weird? I've always gravitated to, and most of my friends now in life, are Pitt guys. So I always say I probably could've played there with those guys, I like them. From (John) Congemi to Danny Crossman obviously my best friend, he's here and is a Pitt guy. Years ago Bob Buczkowski and I were roommates at the Raiders. So Doug's (Whaley) just another part of that whole Pitt crew.
Q: They have to be killing you, right?A: You kidding me? We work together. We're side-by-side. I love it. Pitt guys and Syracuse guys, honestly, they'll play against each other and get after each other. But at the end of the day they're the same kind of guys: tough guys.
Q: You still friends with the guy coaching at Penn State?A: You know that's hard for me. We worked together; our wives were roommates and stuff. I've never been a Penn State guy.
Q: Is he going to join you in the NFL soon?A: I have no… I think he has a great challenge there and he loves it. I know he's working extremely hard with the challenges and adversity that he's going through. But he loves the group of guys that he has and is working extremely hard to keep things going.
Wide Receiver Stevie JohnsonQ: Stevie I'm wondering, you see a defense that gives up 600 yards, 55 points, do you start licking your chops a little bit? Or do you still see them as sort of the Steeler defense that was number one in the league last year?A: No, I don't see them as being the number one defense last year. I don't see them as being a terrible defense because a team put up 600 in one week. I just feel like, you know, they're still good. Every defense is good, it's the NFL. Any week it could be something different. So they could come out and shut us down for 60 yards or we could come out and put up 600 like the Patriots did. So they're still a good defense, you know it's any week, anything can happen any given Sunday.
Q: Stevie have you noticed they've given up a lot of big pass plays, you as a receiver do you take note of that? Have you seen anything that's gone on that maybe has created some of those?A: Yeah, I just watch technique. Once again, just because you see a guy make a big play down field, doesn't mean that that DB is susceptible for it every play. Means you got to watch the technique that the receiver used and that the DB used in certain situations and maybe you can take advantage of it. That's how I see it.
Q: When you talk about technique, I gather you're talking mostly about the corners? And you've played against Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu in the past. Do you see anything different from those guys this season then when you played against them before?A: No they're still busy. Troy is still busy from what I've seen. Ryan Clark, I have seen him play aggressive and play aggressive is how he usually do. But he know how the game go. And if you aggressive, you got a 50/50 chance of making a big play or a big play being made on you. You know so hopefully it will be our big play.
Q: Do they look more vulnerable than they did? You know you guys almost beat them a couple years ago, obviously had your chances. I mean, do they look more vulnerable than they did the last time you saw them?A: You know I don't see them as looking vulnerable at all. They're probably missing a couple of guys that that city is used to cheering for, but they still don't look vulnerable to me, they're still the Steeler defense.
Q: What's it been like for you to have, what have you played with three different quarterbacks now? How difficult can that be on you as a receiver?A: Very. You know at first I didn't think much of it, even with just having a new QB. But now we've been rotating quarterbacks like every week, so I mean it's harder than I thought man. It's harder to build that chemistry than I once thought it was.
Q: Stevie you were teammates with Richie Incognito for one season in Buffalo. Did you know him well? And are you surprised hearing some of the stuff that's happened in Miami?A: He was here probably a couple weeks. He got after it on and off the field. I heard about the things down in Miami. It's a tough, tough issue, but at the end of the day you have to respect each other man, and that's what it comes down to.
Q: Stevie have you had much contact with Doug Whaley up there?A: Yeah have I had contact with him? Yeah I've spoken to him, he's always at our practices. We talk it up here and then.
Q: How's he doing for you guys?A: Yeah he's good, he's cool man. He's alright. He's got that thing out there in Pittsburgh. He's trying to change the mode out here. Bringing in good players, you know trying to build here.
Q: I didn't catch the beginning of that, could you repeat that?A: Yeah he's just trying to build here with players and personnel and all that. You know like he helped out down in Pittsburgh.