Q. What does the Bengals defense do in the red zone to be as effective as it has been through this stage of the regular season?**
A. The thing they do in the red zone is the thing they do all over the field, but it just gets highlighted in the red zone. They're consistently capable of applying pressure on the passer with four, and that allows the other seven to be in coverage. When the field gets shorter that seven is able to cover that field a lot more competitively than when you have vertical grass. Their ability to create pressure consistently with the four-man rush they employ in their scheme really sets the stage for the success they've had in the red zone.
Q. Brandon Boykin entered the mix in the game against the Colts last Sunday. What impact did that have on the secondary?
A. More than anything, it kept the guys fresh and allowed them to be positive contributors, not only on defense but also on special teams. Antwon Blake made a tackle inside the 15-yard line on kickoff coverage, and when you spread the division of labor around, that's what it gives us. It gives us an opportunity to be a high energy group because of fewer snaps played by all involved.
Q. Is it fair to ask, why not get to that re-allocation earlier in the season?
A. Opportunities and reps have to be earned. Brandon was new to us and we were getting to know him. The train got going and we were having some consistent success with the mix of people we had. Sometimes you just have to bide your time and wait for your opportunity, and it has nothing to do with what you've done or what you didn't do. That's just football, but it's also life.
Q. DeAngelo Williams and Jacoby Jones both fumbled the ball twice against the Colts. You benched Jones but not Williams. What was the difference there in your mind?
A. One is a feature ball-carrier and the other is a return man. Obviously, a feature ball-carrier is a different standard in terms of ball security and the things they have to deal with. A returner, ball security is job. No. 1. The production they provide us is secondary to their ability to secure the ball for us. A returner is the first guy who touches the ball in a change of possession. We want to ensure that change of possession, so it's a heightened awareness and a heightened responsibility that comes with the position of returner.
Q. In deciding whether to bench a guy who has fumbled, does the way he presents himself to you on the sideline, maybe coming off the field, have any impact? Whether he looks intimidated by the turn of events?**
A. There's no cookie-cutter. Sometimes that interaction weighs heavily in the decision. Sometimes it has no weight in the decision. Sometimes the decision is made by the time the guy gets to the sideline.
Q. Over time, we have come to expect certain characteristics from a Steelers-Ravens game. Has Steelers-Bengals developed any characteristics?
A. Not to my knowledge.
Q. Do you have a sense going into a game that it's going to be chippy?
A. I think it's going to be chippy just because of the stakes. That's just part of it. I thought our game here last year was chippy because of the stakes. That just comes with football at this time of the year. I'm confortable with that. I like our team under those circumstances. I think we're built for it.
Q. Is a game plan ever tailored to the opponent's injury situation?
The Steelers traveled to Cincinnati for an AFC North contest with the Bengals. Photos presented by Bose.
A. Very rarely. It would have to be a significant injury to a really significant person. A quarterback. Something like that. But just in general, no. We focus on what it is we need to do, our collection and combination of people, and how we can put together the very best plan relative to that. When you start putting too much emphasis on what the other team has, or does, there are elements of the question you just cannot answer. Some of that is guessing, but if it's a significant guy or a significant position, it's an element of planning.
Q. What if it's numbers, such as three of the five offensive linemen, or three of the starting four defensive backs?
A. Very rarely is the information you get during the course of the week so concrete that you can build a plan around it. Somebody's practice participation is not a real indication of their availability for the game. I say that because it's not a real reflection of who's going to be available for us. It just tells you who was available that day.