The Steelers take on the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field, facing a coach who is very familiar with the team in Doug Marrone.
Marrone, a former offensive lineman, spent time with the Steelers in training camp in the early 90s, but was released by the team and never made the 53-man roster. He remembered the practices at Saint Vincent College under Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Noll and how intense things were.
"Practicing up there and wearing those black, like those sacks," said Marrone. "It wasn't even like jersey material, with no numbers on it. I remember going up there and we used to have to run our 40s in our pads. They wanted to get a true time of someone running. I remember, in the locker room, everyone's trying to change into quarterback pads and trying to get as light as possible. When I first got there, I said to myself, 'I have a chance of making this team because they don't have any numbers on their jerseys so maybe they'll confuse me with one of these better players and I have a shot.' After a while, I think the coaches know your stance and how you play, and they were able to see through that."
While Marrone talked about his past memories, him and the Jaguars also talked about today's team, including Ben Roethlisberger, the receivers and more.
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Coach Doug Marrone on the challenge the Steelers defense poses to the Jaguars' offensive line:
"Obviously, you like to be able to control the ball, keep it away from their offense, which is obviously a high scoring offense, but how do you do that? Do you try running the ball against this front seven, which is probably the best front seven that we've played this year? They're good at both levels all around and I'm just focusing on them, obviously their secondary is playing very well. If you get yourself into a game where you get behind, then they're going to eat you up. You talk about guys that can rush the passer at both inside and outside, guys that have been hitting quarterbacks, sacking quarterbacks, doing all that stuff and it can get ugly fast.
"You have to find a way to be able to control the tempo of the game offensively where you're picking up first downs, you're keeping this manageable, you're keeping things where it's 50/50 run or pass what you're going to do because there's no doubt, and it's been shown for these past nine games that they've played, that when teams do get behind, it's a big advantage for them. They have guys that can disrupt the passer, they have guys that can cover and it's just difficult. I think when you play teams like this that are playing extremely well and have excellent talent you can get yourself out of whack quick and you just have to kind of stick with the plan and be able to execute."
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on the Steelers defense:
"We're going to have to step up. We're going to have to raise our game to a level that we haven't seen yet. We're playing an elite team. They're physical. They can run. They pursue to the football. But most of all, they're really sound in what they do. They protect the edges very well with their outside linebackers. Their inside linebackers can run. Their defensive linemen are big and strong. There really aren't a lot of weaknesses there. They're sound. They're strong. They're tough. And they run to the ball."
Marrone on the history of the Jaguars playing tough against the Steelers:
"It's hard for me to go and look at the past and all that, different teams, different players, different coaches, all the different dynamics. But I'm going to admit, you're right about that and sometimes I think in the past we've matched up pretty good. I think that we have probably the largest difference in the matchup for us going against them and I'm only speaking of the teams I've been a part of here going against them. It's always tough. Mike Tomlin has done a really good job. The one thing that shows out on film is not only do they have really good players, it's just the effort that they're playing with is outstanding. It's unbelievable. Hopefully, that plays into it. There's no one that wishes it more than that and trying to get this game in the fourth quarter and try to find a way to win the game or try to get takeaways and things like that. But they'll come down there, they'll be ready to go. They have a lot at stake, 9-0. They watched us play last week where we played a tough game, we have turnovers, we have a special teams play, so they'll be ready to go. You're not going to catch them or anything like that. It's not an issue of weather. The weather will be fine. It's not going to be 98 degrees and hot as hell, which is sometimes an advantage when you have those teams coming from up north coming down here. I just think that sporadically it's been fortunate that the games have been tight, but we have a lot of challenges this week in all three phases that we play."
WR Keelan Cole Sr. on the Steelers secondary:
"I mean they're undefeated for a reason. I've watched tape, but I don't really have to look into depth. There's no point of looking in the depth when you know there's a team that's going to come ready to play. I know they're coming ready to play so I have to come ready to play on my behalf. Because like I said, we obviously know they're coming to work, so I have to come ready for my 9-0 mentality I guess I should say, tuned in mentality."
Defensive end Josh Allen on Roethlisberger:
"I grew up a Steelers fan. I was a Steelers fan right up to when I became a Jaguar, so I'm excited about this week and I finally get to play against the man that I grew up loving. That's definitely a big accomplishment that I can write on my check list."
Quarterback Jake Luton on the Steelers overall:
"Growing up, I always kind of viewed them as kind of the blue-collar, hard-working physical team and I think that kind of still stands. That's what they stand for. It's a great organization that I think everybody has a lot of respect for."
Marrone on how to defend Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive weapons he has:
"Try to keep everything in front of you and try to make sure there's no yards after the catch. I think that's a big thing. I think he's having a great year. He's been around for so long now, but he's playing at a really high level right now. It's interesting, they're sixth in offense but from an explosive play standpoint, they're not as high. So, I think when you just look at that right off the bat, I think the first thing you think of is how well he's distributing the football, how well he's seeing the field, his accuracy. Again, this is back to back weeks of going against guys that are probably going to be in the Hall of Fame and that played a long time. It's very difficult to defend because you're sitting there and you're trying to just picture yourself as someone that's seen a lot, that's very, very comfortable in the pocket, understands what everyone's doing on the field, and then all of a sudden he knows what you're doing defensively. Right away now, whatever you want to talk about progressions and things like that nature, right away you know where you're going with the football. Obviously, [he] has a strong arm. He's tough to bring down. [He] doesn't have the scramble ability like he had years ago but that's not alarming. He can still pick up a first down if he needed to, but he's very difficult to bring down. I would point out his accuracy. It's been lights out when you go and you watch where he's placing the ball, especially against teams with man coverage. They have a lot of crosses in there, guys going over the middle. The one thing is, if you're going to make a mistake in coverage, and I think we saw that last week, he'll take advantage of you. He can see the field so it's not like he's running through the progressions. If something happens and someone thinks they're in cover three and they're in two deep and someone's running down the seam free, which we saw in the Cincinnati game, he's just going to turn around and throw it. He's going to be able to get that guy the ball. So, he's playing at a really high level right now and they're playing with a lot of confidence."
Luton on T.J. Watt:
"He's a great player. He's a physical player, he's fast, he has great moves. That shows up on tape every week, but you can't get too caught up and focus on where one guy is. Especially a team like this, they're good across the board. They have a lot of good players."
Gruden on the Steelers culture allowing them to be consistent:
"You have to credit Coach (Mike) Tomlin, number one. He's done a great job at keeping that thing together and obviously Big Ben (Ben Roethlisberger) has a lot to do with that. He's the calming influence back there at quarterback. You have stability at quarterback, you have a head coach, you have a system in place that you build your system around and throughout the draft and free agency and everything works well. They've been fortunate they've had some different pieces, but the main parts are still there. Coach Tomlin obviously, Big Ben, and some of these other guys that have been there for a while. Hats off to them. It's something that every franchise strives to be, consistent, a winner, somebody who's always in the mix at the end of the year, and that's something we're trying to get to with our young football team."
Marrone on if the Steelers have the best receiving corps in the NFL:
"I don't think I've seen everyone. I think a couple teams come to mind but they're playing well. They have (Chase) Claypool. He's big, he's strong, he's fast. He's hard to run with. He's really done a good job for a young player. JuJu Smith-Schuster's always been solid in what he can do. [Eric] Ebron obviously has size, speed. He's a matchup problem. JuJu's (Smith-Schuster) more of the real precise route runner, good hands, good versus the zone, good versus man. Claypool can run away from anyone plus he's hard to bring down. He's tough and you have a bunch of things going on what they do with him. Then you have this other group: James Washington has made plays for them, another receiver that they have. You look at those four guys and the tight ends and then Vance McDonald, if he plays, they even become more dangerous in what he can do. He has a lot of weapons and their screen game is outstanding in what they do. Again, you're talking about a team that hasn't lost so there's going to be a lot of positive things going on and there's going to be a lot of great challenges and you have to defend a lot of things. They make you defend the whole field and then their running game, which they're a physical team. It's a lot of guys out there. We're up for it. We feel good. We'll have a good plan and then obviously it's going out and executing that plan. But they have a nice mixture of guys, size and speed, size in route running ability, flat speed, matchup problem at tight ends. If both of them [their tight ends] play it's even a tougher matchup if Vance plays. That's why they're one of the top offenses."
Marrone on the Rooney family and Steelers tradition:
"They have a great culture. I think they've always continued to draft well the players that play. They've done a nice job. Like I said, I have a ton of respect for the Rooney family, I really do."