The Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to Paul Brown Stadium for an AFC North matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Initial comments ...*
"Well, that's AFC North football right there. It's good to be in the significant ones, and it's good to come out on top. To do that we had to have quality contributions in all three phases. We got turnovers on defense, maintained possession of the ball on offense, won possession downs, (Chris) Boswell kicked some quality kicks for us, and just generally solid on special teams. I take my hat off to the guys and what they were willing to do to get out of the stadium today. From an injury standpoint, just bumps and bruises. I think Mike Mitchell has a shoulder. We'll see his level of availability as we get into next week. Bud Dupree had a lower back, or something. Both guys should be OK. They'll just probably need management things in the early portions of next week. It's good to get a win. We'll enjoy it today. We'll get singularly focused and start preparation for our next challenge."
What did you see with the pregame confrontation?
"You know, I'm not worried about that. We're on our side of the 50-yard line warming up and the confrontation happened. You come into our area, there's going to be a confrontation. We were in our proper place."
Is this as nasty of a game spirit wise as you can remember?
"It's always us and somebody. You know, we seem to attract that type of atmosphere. Maybe it's us."
In the last game against Cincinnati, you scored a touchdown on your first drive and didn't score another one. Today you kept chipping away. What was the difference in this game and the last one?
"The last game's the last game, this one was this one."
How do you keep the guys from getting caught up in some of the chippy play that was going on?
"We don't. We're going to defend ourselves aggressively. Those confrontations occurred on our side of the ball after plays, outside of the ball, or outside of the 50 in pregame. Hey, that's our side of the 50. Our guys are going to be where they're supposed to be, but they will defend themselves aggressively."
How good is this offense?
"I think they're still writing that story. The big thing is (that) situations are going to be less than ideal, and they've been for us. That's why I don't subscribe to numbers and some of the things that are talked about. The bottom line is we've got to score one more point than our opponent each and every Sunday, or whenever we play. That's our mentality."
You were on the field talking to Wallace Gilberry and a couple other guys at one point. Can you shed any light on what maybe was discussed there?
"No, I cannot."
On the Stephon Tuitt interception, was that a good read by him?
"We anticipated something like that — not specifically that — but don't take anything away from him. He made a heck of a play. I didn't get direct eyes on it, but he made a heck of a of a play."
Was this as nasty a game as you can remember between these two teams?*
"Pretty chippy, wasn't it? But you expect that from rivalry teams, and it's always fun when you win 'em."
How important was it to get the lead on that opening drive of the game and make them play from behind, especially after how the first meeting between these teams went this season?
"That was big for us. We went down and converted some big third downs on that drive to go down and get points — and not just three 3, (but) seven. That just set the tempo and the tone."
Can you talk about your team's reaction to this game afterwards ... Was something going on in terms of a celebration today?
"Not that I know of ... A lot was made this week of them being able to clinch/win the division and get in the playoffs, and we didn't want us to be the reason that they got in. We wanted to come out and play a good game and you add in some of the chippiness, you add all that — the terrible weather — and it all just added up to a little bit more of what you heard (from us)."
Was the weather that bad?
"No, it was awesome. In Southwest Ohio this time of year, I know it's not supposed to be like this."
You guys are 14-3 in this stadium during your time with the team ... Does this just feel like home for you guys?
"(It's like) Yager Stadium (at Miami-Ohio, where he played in college). You're playing a divisional opponent and you're coming here — it was probably as loud today as it's been that I can remember in a long time. The fans were into it and they're a great football team, and it just kind of gives you a little bit of extra fuel."
How much of what you and tight end Heath Miller do is by design, or just being able to adjust to one another from knowing each other so well?
"It depends. We have a chemistry. We've played together for so long. I always say he's the best teammate that I've ever been around and one of the best all-around tight ends in the game. He's making tough catches, he's catching screens. Down on the last drive, he cuts off a guy that — not a lot of tight ends would stick their nose in there — and springs off a big run. He's just so selfless about it and when things break down — whether they break down or they don't break down — you're just looking for Heath."
Do you know what started the pre-game skirmish?
"I don't. I was looking for (Bengals quarterback Andy) Dalton to see if he wanted to go or not (laughs)."
Did you find him?
"No. We said it would have been really funny if — because Andy and I get along — it would have been really funny if we had had something planned like were rolling around like we were fighting something planned."
Did you get to talk to Dalton after the game?
"No. I saw him go right in ..."
The word is his thumb is fractured ...*
"That's too bad. You hate to see a fellow quarterback get hurt. I've had some thumb issues as well, so hopefully it's not too bad."
Markus Wheaton said your number one option was covered today and you had to do some more checking down. How do you resist the temptation to force something?
"Well, they're a very good defense. They did a very good job disguising and mixing up coverage (with) safeties starting high and coming down and starting low and going back, so your first read is not always going to be there. That's when the middle and some late check-down stuff opens up, and that's where every guy needs to be ready to make a play, and I think guys did it today."
You've won eight games in a row in December now. Is that something that is pushed by your coaches or ...
"No, that's just us. He (head coach Mike Tomlin) doesn't just sit there and say 'Hey, we gotta win now because it's December football.' We just know it's that time of year. It's crunch time and you gotta get hot at the right time."
How is the team playing as opposed to where you think your peak is?
"I think we're doing some good stuff. This was a great team win. Offensively, we thought we could have been better. We got down there and kicked some field goals. We got some penalties and got behind the chains, but we converted third downs a lot early. We want to score touchdowns. We understand they're a top-five scoring defense, so we understand they're not going to make scoring easy. But we get disappointed when we don't put points on the board. Our defense stepped up, and I thought special teams did some good things. (It was) a good team win."
How did you guys keep your composure with some of the chippy things going on?
"Just being smart, knowing that you don't hurt the team. We always say 'Don't hurt ourselves.' There was a lot of extracurricular stuff going on under the piles. Like I said, chippiness. That's AFC North football, I guess."
Was that as nasty of a meaningful game that you've played in while?
"Yeah that was probably one of them. That game — it was grimy out there. That's how we like to play. Once they started yacking and all of that, we knew that's the game we like to play. We fight during practice. Once we knew the game was going to come out like that, we were just ready to go."
Take me through Stephon Tuitt's interception and how much of a game changer that was ...
"That was a game changer because it was 7-0 and they started driving on us. When Tuitt got that interception, it was real big. That was a 10-point turnaround. They could have at least gotten three points, and we held them to zero."
Is that as satisfying of a win as you've had this season?
"Yeah, it feels good to win on the road against a division opponent. Hopefully there'll be more and this will be down on the list when we're done at the end of the year."
How big was this win today?*
"It was a great team win — an AFC win and an AFC North win."
Was this as nasty of a game that you've been a part of in quite some time?
"We just want to come out and do our assignment. We wanted our game plan to be better than their game plan."
Did you send a message today with the win now that you've beaten division leaders in each of the past two weeks?
"Yeah this team's playing really well. If we can stay healthy, and barring any more crazy injuries, I'm glad the direction we're going is up."
Do you relish playing in a game like this?
"I love it. It was a good feeling today. Today was a good football game. Their crowd was electric. We had a plan and we just executed. It wasn't pretty. Sometimes we got threes when we could have got sixes, but that's part of the sport."