The Steelers take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at Heinz Field, a game that features two teams that have been on win streaks as of late. The Steelers have won their last three games, while the Rams have won their last two games.
It will also be a homecoming for Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is from the Pittsburgh area and grew up a Steelers fan.
“It’s going to be a good experience,” Donald told the NFL Network. “That is my hometown where I was born and raised. A team I grew rooting for and cheering for. The opportunity to play against them and play at home is going to be big.”
Donald played at the University of Pittsburgh and this will be the first time he will be playing against one of his close friends, Steelers running back James Conner.
“It’s going to be good,” said Donald. “I am going to be out there talking a little trash. We were talking trash this summer. It’s going to be fun. I’m just going to be out there competing and he is going to do the same thing and we are going to get after it.”
The Rams also weighed in on a variety of other topics, including the Steelers defense, Minkah Fitzpatrick, the offensive line, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Tomlin and more.
Head Coach Sean McVay on the challenges the Steelers defense presents:
“They do a great job. I want to say other than New England they’ve taken it away as much as anybody in the league. They’re very opportunistic. You look at the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick, it has been a big add for them. They’re physical, they’ve always had that identity. They’re a tough, hard-nosed football team. They play physical on all three levels of defense. They do a great job of aggressively mixing it up. They’ll come after you, they can play sound coverage on the back end. It’s going to be a great challenge, especially playing in that atmosphere where you know it’s going to be a great crowd in Pittsburgh. They’re coming in rolling, so they’re feeling good about themselves. We’ve got a little bit of a streak. Hopefully we’ll be feeling healthy and play good football on Sunday.”
Quarterback Jared Goff on how Minkah Fitzpatrick changed the Steelers defense:
“He’s a great player, he plays that centerfield position pretty well. You see the way he’s able to make breaks on plays, he’s got great hands. He’s a great tackler. He’s a great player and has helped them a lot."
McVay on if Jaylen Ramsey will be matched up against JuJu Smith Schuster:
“I think there will be some situations that you can see him matched up against a variety of guys. JuJu is a guy that’s made a lot of plays. I think he is one of the better receivers in this league. In a lot of instances, he dictates and determines some of the coverage rotations. He has some of the best corners on the opposing team traveling with him. He can make plays down the field, he is great after the catch, he is physical, he can catch contested balls. I think what he has done early on in his career kind of speaks for itself. Kind of like what I think Mike (Tomlin) said the other day. I don’t think his stats are indicative of the impact he has had on the offense. I think he is doing a lot of really good stuff and he is getting better.”
Run game coordinator Aaron Kromer:
“A very talented front. High draft picks, productive, experienced, powerful, quick. I mean they’ve dominated. You watch the Colts game, and they’ve taken some of the top draft picks that they’ve had to the woodshed a little bit last week. We need to be prepared for that and we need to be on our aggressive edge. We need to be sound with our eyes and our technique and we’ll see what happens. But I believe we have confidence that we can get that done. They’re a very explosive and powerful group though.”
McVay on if the Steelers are tough to scout because of who they have beat and lost to and how he is able to gauge their talent:
“I think the one thing that is apparent in this league is usually the most recent performances are the best indicator of what to expect in the near future. If there is one thing that is displayed by this football team, even though things didn’t start out the way they wanted, they found a way to stay mentally tough, stay resilient. They have three big wins. You can see these guys don’t flinch if things don’t go their way in the framework of the game. They have beaten three pretty good teams. They have played pretty well as of late. These guys have played really good football the last three weeks.”
Goff on playing in Pittsburgh for the first time:
“It will be cool, never being there and knowing the history there and knowing everything that’s gone on on that field. It’s very similar to a place like Lambeau or something like that. You do feel that history and do feel that with their crowd and the passion of the city. It will be fun. It’s one I’m looking forward to.”
McVay on if he pays attention to what Coach Tomlin said, being that he quotes a comment from his press conference:
“Mike is a guy that whether we are playing them or not I have always had a huge amount of respect for the way he handles himself as a leader and as a head coach. You pay attention to that kind of stuff. I notice that. It’s not something that is exclusive to this week. He is just a guy that I respect, and think is one of the best at what he does.”
McVay on his impression of Tomlin:
“I’ve always been impressed with him from afar with his charisma, his presence, his ability to lead. All of the things you’d like to say you hope that you would be described as as a coach. I think Mike has a lot of those great traits and qualities. Guys follow him. He has a great competency in the game and a great feel. He is one of those guys that has a great presence about himself. I have been appreciative of how he has treated me and been willing to share information to help as you navigate through the ebbs and flows and the inevitable challenges you face as a head coach in this league. Nothing but respect for Coach Tomlin and their staff.”
McVay on linebacker Mark Barron, who used to play for the Rams, and how he can help the Steelers with his knowledge of the team:
“Mark’s a stud. I love Mark Barron. I think he is one of the toughest competitors I’ve been around. He has a great, consistent demeanor, especially watching him overcome some of the injuries the last couple of years. Great, physical, tough football player. I think he fits the mold of what a lot of those inside linebackers that have had a lot of success kind of identify and personify in that Steelers defense. He and (Devin) Bush have great speed. Great lateral agility. You can see there is confidence whether it’s blitzing them, whether it’s asking them to play in coverage. I am sure he can help in some ways. I just hope it’s not too much.”
McVay on the Steelers offensive line:
“They do a great job. I’ve really been impressed. Just being able to see the way that they protect the quarterback. I think they do an excellent job schematically picking and choosing. Balls coming out, finding backs on check downs, picking and choosing their spots, to take some things down the field when you get the structures that they want. I think Coach (Randy) Fichtner, Coach Tomlin, they’ve done an excellent job of being able to kind of put Mason (Rudolph) in some of the situations that help. They’ve got great veteran offensive line that’s played well for a long time. I want to say they’ve given up the fewest sacks of the league, they’re physical.
“When you talk about, ‘What is the epitome of a Pittsburgh Steelers team?’ Tough on both fronts, physical. That’s what you see form this football team, it’s going to be a great challenge for us. (James) Conner brings a different element, (Jaylen) Samuels did an excellent job against the Colts last week. You look at him catching 13 balls and you feel him as a runner as well. Making sure that we tackle well, swarm to the football and then account for those guys in the passing game is going to be a big point of emphasis.”
McVay on how the Steelers use Minkah Fitzpatrick:
“I think they’ve done a great job using him. You can see he’s gotten more comfortable from when he started early on and they’re able to mix in and use him in some different ways. When you just look at him, especially playing as a post-safety, his ability to play visual on the quarterback, make the appropriate breaks – when you’ve got really one shot to find an angle. I thought that was the play of the game, where he ends up having the pick on (Colts QB Brian) Hoyer, they’re running a four-verts off a play-action concept and he takes it the distance. They had a chance to go up 17-3 right there, then he ends up tying it and I thought you felt the momentum shift in their favor. He’s made a bunch of impact plays. He can play in the post, he can play down in the box. He’s a great player and he’s been a big addition for them.”