STEELERS vs CHARGERS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2008 KICKOFF -- 4:15 P.M. CONFERENCE CALLS
HEAD COACH NORV TURNER
*Did the bye week give you a chance for things to settle down?
I think and it helped us. I can't imagine not having the bye after our travels and return from London. It gave us a chance to number one, physically get rested. It was a demanding trip. Then obviously with the way our games have gone, our season has gone, mentally I think it helped us.
Anything different about the defense since you made a change on that side of the ball?
I think subtle things. There are things that maybe didn't show up or partially did. I thought the second half, the way we responded and played defense on third down was a big part of the reason why we were able to win the game. We forced five-and-out, three three-and-outs and a four-and-out in the first five series in the second half. So that was big in terms of getting them off the field.
You guys still had to sweat one out.
Yeah. We are like everyone else in this league. These games all seem to be coming down to the last few minutes or the last play.
How are you with injuries?
I think we are doing alright. Again the bye helped us in that area. Cletis Gordon actually started the game and he got hurt and he won't be in the game this week but I think for the most part we will have our guys.
You have played a lot of games in the Eastern Time zone – do you have a routine for travel issues?
Well we have a routine and it has worked real well. Like everyone, you have mixed results when you go across the country and play a good football teams. It is a schedule that we have used for a long time and it works. It is a little different when you are playing a one o'clock game. Obviously because your body is telling you it is 10 in the morning. If it is a 4:15 game, I think it gives you time to adjust.
Is your offense more dependent on Philip Rivers?
There are a number of reasons and that is not by design. We want to have balance, and we want to run the ball. There is a combination of things. We played good defensive football teams that are capable of stopping the runs. We played in games on the road where people have scored a lot of points and we had to do what we could to try and win the game and find a way to try to score more points, which at times means throwing more. There are a number of things and we are like everyone else I think, searching and trying to find balance and want to be a good running football team.
What is it like going against the Steelers who are missing top two of three cornerbacks?
The Steelers corners they are missing are awfully good but there is a reason they are the best defense in the league. They create a lot of problems for any offensive football team. They have played at an unbelievable high level against good offensive football teams, so we know that whoever is lines up, it is going to be a challenge.
*Did you notice a difference in defense in the Pittsburgh defense with LaMarr Woodley missing?
He is a really productive player and another guy you have to account for, but they got good pressure on Peyton (Manning). He does a great job of getting rid of the ball and getting in protections or getting the ball out on screens when you pressure him. So it is a challenge to get to him.
How important is this game for you?
We are at the time of the year. It is November and every game is critical for everyone and obviously our season didn't start the way we wanted it to and we're trying to get better. We think we made some improvement last week on the defensive side of the ball. We want to try to continue to get better. We know we are playing a real good football team so we want to go out, play our best and give ourselves a chance.
How much did that blown call early in the season hang over you?
I would like to think it didn't hang over us. We won the next week but you have to win every game you have a chance to and you have to try to control as many things as you can. There are certain things that are out of your control and if they are out of your control you have to move on, whether it is in the second quarter that something happens or the last play of the game. You just move on and you have to keep going.
What do you see happening down the stretch with playoffs and teams having close records?
It is going to be and there are some great games that are going to be played over the next month and a half. Our team, we talked a year ago and we were able to do it. You want to be playing your best football in December and you want to put yourself in a position to win those types of games that you have to win to get in the playoffs. There are a lot of good football teams in both divisions and it is going to be a challenge to get in.
QB PHILIP RIVERS:
What did you see on film from the Pittsburgh defense?
They are everything that you would expect to see after you see the stat sheet; that is what they are when you turn them on. They are up there high in the league in every category. Playing them a couple of years ago, it was obviously a huge challenge and it will be the same this year.
Do you keep tabs on what Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning are doing?
Yeah, I think that all quarterbacks watch other quarterbacks. We grew up that way; pulling for other quarterbacks, watching them and enjoying them. I think that is everybody, but I think that you throw in the guys from your draft class and I think that we are all linked together in that regard. Any chance that you get to watch them, or keep up with them both; it is certainly a lot of fun.
What happened with your slow start? Are things better now?
I think that it has been a grind and the month of October wasn't very good to us. We went down to Miami, didn't play too well, and got beat. We came home and beat New England in a Sunday night game but then went to Buffalo and London (against the New Orleans Saints) and got beat. It was a tough month for us; we didn't play very well. If you throw in those other variables it was rough. I think that the bright spot about where we are is that we are still in the race for the division; we know that we have our work cut out for ourselves this week in Pittsburgh but we are right there one game back. That is encouraging considering the slow start that we got off too.
What is wrong with LaDainian Tomlinson and the running game?
It hasn't been where it has been in the past; certainly not where we want it to be. You just have to keep grinding and working through it. You feel like eventually everything will just click and mesh the way that we want it too. Teams are geared up to stop the run, so that is one of the factors. We just have to execute better. Statistically, as an offense, we are doing a lot of good things but ultimately there have been five times this year where we have not scored enough points to beat the opponent; that is what we feel that our job is each week.
What do you see differently with your defense in practice?
Every coordinator and coach has their own touch on things; I see the differences being very subtle. We are who we are on both sides of the ball; any tweaks are here and there. I don't see any huge changes in scheme. They held the Chiefs to 13 points until the last score; they had five possessions in the second half where they got us the ball within five plays. We certainly feel like, while the win wasn't pretty, we made a lot of progress on both sides of the ball. I think that hopefully we will gain a little bit of momentum as we head into Pittsburgh.
Is it hard for West Coast teams to travel east?
We will come out there on Friday. I think that you can make it as big of a deal as you want to make it; we can say 'oh it's an East Coast game again.' I think that earlier in the year, we were playing at 1 p.m., and that is like a 10 a.m. game out here (in San Diego). You can come out with as many excuses as you want; we had to go to London; the bottom line is that we didn't play well in those games. When the ball was snapped, I don't think about how much sleep they got and how far we had to travel. We are going out there and trying to play. I don't necessarily think that has been a factor with how we have played on the East Coast. I think that one positive, and we have all noticed it as players, is that we are playing at 4:15 p.m.; that is a 1 p.m. start for us out here, which is our normal start time. We won't feel like we are waking up at 4:30-5 a.m. had we played a 1 p.m. game. From a mental mind set, that certainly makes the approach more normal.
What have you seen from James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley?
Those guys are tough; I think that combined they have 20 sacks. They create a lot of pressure. If you mix those two guys rushing along with all of their pressure packages, they apply a lot of pressure. It is a very attacking, aggressive defense; we are going to have our work cut out for ourselves with all of the different protection issues. It is fun though; I know for myself as a quarterback and for us as an offense, going against the top defense in any category is a challenge and it is fun to play against the best in the league.
Are you aware that the Steelers have already lost Bryant McFadden and Deshea Townsend to injuries?
Yes, I am.
What does that mean to you?
Every team in this league goes through injuries and has guys step up and make plays. We have played other opponents this year where guys have stepped up and played well against us. One thing about it is that you might not be as familiar with the guy going in there this Sunday as opposed to who you have seen on film in a guy like Townsend who has been in there all year, and who we played against here two years ago. I think that you have a lack of familiarity with these guys, but guys step up; we are dealing with the same issues here that every team is dealing with. I think that from a mindset, you can't think 'there is a spot that we can attack now because there is a different guy in there' because I think that every guy in this league is chomping at the bit to get that opportunity. I think that if you look at the guys that will be in there for them, they will be excited to go.