STEELERS at BENGALSSUNDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2008 KICKOFF -- 1:00 P.M. POST-GAME QUOTES
Initial comments ...
"It was a great win for our team today. To see the fans and the support we had here today was really moving, not only for me, but for everyone in the locker room. The game was typical for us and was something we were concerned with coming out of the bye with the quality of execution early on. The positive thing was that we played hard and we played fast, just not with the quality of execution. We also had a little rust. The guys didn't blink and they continued. We didn't change anything we were doing; we just have to do it a little better. We were able to get some plays and go on to get a great victory here in a hostile environment against a division opponent on the road. We don't take those for granted. We're glad to get a win and we'll put it with the rest of them. We realize some of the challenges that lie ahead for us and we'll start tomorrow readying ourselves for those."
Can you talk about how Mewelde Moore has stepped up and stepped in?
"We just gave him a game ball in there. He's become the locker room favorite and we make no bones about why we feel the way do about each other. It's based on deeds. This guy is delivering time and time again with his legs, with his hands. He's just doing a nice job. He's a pro; he prepares himself. He's doing a nice job for us."
Can you talk about how you were able to keep the running game on schedule which opened some things up in the second half with long passes and things like that?
"First and foremost, we were controlling the line of scrimmage. We were running some of our interior zone plays, and on some of those double teams, we were getting pretty good pushes, even as we were shooting ourselves in the foot a bit in the first half. I thought we were controlling the line of scrimmage and our hat goes off to the offensive line for what they did today. Whoever we handed the ball to today had a chance because of that surge. We had some guys who had quality performances. I think Ben (Roethlisberger) had quality time and had quality looks down the field. Max Starks stepped in at left tackle and, based on how we moved the ball and protected, I can say he did a good job. Darnell Stapleton took a nice step. I think that group is coming together and they had a nice performance today."
What does it mean to get another win within your division?
"We cherish all of our wins, and division games are extremely important. We have a lot of respect for what this rivalry is and the support we get when we come down here and play. The guys did a nice job and they were sensitive to that."
Your linebackers were very active again today and had some big sacks. Can you talk about their play?
"The fun thing about those guys right now is they're competing against one another. James Harrison is the bus driver, and if he gets a play off, he's going to let 56 hear about it, or 94 hear about it, or 51. That's how they're playing. The biggest competition is in your backyard, and that's how they approach it. We have a good group there. They're not a selfish group. They work, but they drive each other, and that's awesome."
Where are Bryant McFadden and Troy Polamalu
"Troy got dinged. We'll see where he is. I don't want to make any judgments with regard to that. Bryant has an arm injury. We're in the process of getting that looked at right now. Hopefully it's not anything long term, but if it is, we'll accept it. That's the nature of football, and the next men have to be ready to step up, whoever they are — whether it's William Gay, whether it's Anthony Madison ... we have to keep marching. We're no different than any other team. Cincinnati sustained a few injuries today. We can't let that be an excuse. There are too many guys ready to perform like Mewelde Moore out there, and that's what we embrace."
Where would you say your offense is in terms of developing its full personality?
"I don't want to put any ceiling on us with my thoughts of what we're capable of. We just try to come out every week and be better, get better and be more efficient. We left a few scoring opportunities out there in the first half. We had an opportunity to get a first down and messed up a third-and-one. We just barely moved ourselves out of field goal range with a few penalties. We're just trying to be the very best we can be, and I think any judging at this point is putting a mental ceiling on what we're capable of. We're going to keep working and seek perfection."
Ben (Roethlisberger) has been sacked a lot this season. Does today show an improvement in your pass protection?
"We're not trying to paint with a broad brush based on today's performance. We're glad to win today. We have to prepare to play next week. We'll judge it when we're done and through the course of the season. No question we had a nice game today and guys did a nice job protecting Ben. We have some new and different faces in there working, and they answered the challenge."
The schedule gets considerably more difficult in the weeks ahead. Is that tough to talk to the team about or do you take it as it comes?
"What I've told the guys is that if we continue to play the way we're playing and keep our focus, we'll see everybody, but we can only see one of them at a time, once a week. That's how we're going to approach it. We have a formidable opponent coming up next week and we respect them and what they've done. All we're going to do is prepare ourselves to play."
This spot is usually reserved for quarterbacks. Does this tell you what kind of game you had?
"I've been here before. I just want to thank God for the opportunity to go out there and for all of the abilities that I've been given to go out there and play the type of game that I played. I want to thank the offensive line, and the wide receivers for blocking downfield. We've got good camaraderie right now and chemistry. Big seven is always going to be there. Big Ben (Roethlisberger) is always going to show up and he is definitely been leading us all."
What was the difference between the offense in the first half and offense in the second half?
"It was in our game plan to try and neutralize their blitz packages. Early in the game, that's what they did and Coach B.A. (Bruce Arians) put in a great game plan to try and neutralize that. Once we felt like everything was coming back to playing basic football, we were able to start running the ball a little bit more."
What's it like to step up in a big spot for your team and get the job done?
"It's awesome to come here, be the new guy, step in, study hard, work hard and see your hard work paying off. With my teammates, I'm just working hard to get respect and constantly trying to put together positive yards, impact plays and explosive plays that help our team win."
Can you talk about how the offensive line is coming together?
"Max (Starks) did a great job stepping in for Marvel (Smith). You can see the type of chemistry that we have on our offense with guys being nicked up and going down, and guys stepping up to take their place. It's just one of those things that we want to keep our heads focused on doing all the details — being focused on the small things that are going to help us continue to win football games."
How important is it to be balanced to be able establish the run and then set up the play fake?
"In this league, it is one of those things that is tremendous to be able to run the football, pass the football, have halfbacks catching the ball out of the backfield and also have wide receivers with the ball in their hands on reverses and screens. What it boils down to is having a lot of guys on your team that can make plays and are hungry to make plays and want the ball in their hands."
Did you get the perception that the Bengals didn't know what was coming?
"I think they did. Everybody watches film. We study it just like we are studying for a mid-term. Each week is so important, and we take it in stride."
Take us through your first two touchdowns ...
"On the first one, it was set up through our game plan — our script of the first 15 plays. We wanted guys to make big plays downfield. I don't think we got through our whole 15 plays. We just got into a goal-line (situation), made a good play call, Ben made a great throw, and we scored a touchdown. On the second one, we got a log on the backside, we got some guys trapped up in the A-gap, which gave us all the room in the world on the backside and I got a great block by (Darnell) Stapleton and was off to the races."
Did you guys have to remain patient out there today?
"Oh yeah, this game was totally a patient game. Looking at the film and studying, it was going to be a methodical deal. You have to let the game come to you, and that's what I was looking at. We actually put some drives together where we had some big explosive plays, and normally that's not their type of game. They usually let you do it in chinks and chunks. Being able to hit those big home runs like we did was a big deal for us."
Was this game a showcase of what you can do when you get the ball?
"For me, it's just executing the game plan. Coach believes and understands the type of abilities that I have, and they utilized those. It really puts the defense in a tough situation. Its just one of those things where we are always trying to create mismatches, and we are doing a great job."
Did it feel like a home game today with all the Steelers' fans out there?
"It did, and that's why I love Steeler nation. The fan base is awesome. It was just like back in high school — the type of passion and tradition that the fan base gives us. It just makes you want to play harder. We are just getting out there on the field and giving it all we've got and coming up with some big wins."
How good can this running game be when Willie Parker comes back?
"I signed here to do a job, and that's an 'in-case-of' (in case Parker was hurt). Right now, we are in a 'in-case-of' type of situation, and I know that when Willie is healthy and ready to roll, I'm going to go back to doing the things that are asked of me, and that's just the way it is."
You guys had a slow start today before pulling away in the second half. Was there a little rust from the bye week?
"Yes, a little bit. We just didn't execute. It wasn't anything that they did. We just didn't come out and execute like we wanted. We started off quickly, but we stopped converting third downs. Eventually we started doing what we had to do to win the game."
How about the way Mewelde Moore played today?
"He did a phenomenal job. Willie Parker goes down, Mendenhall is out for the year, and he steps in and does everything we asked him to do. He's run the ball well, and that's all you can ask of the guy. When guys go down, other guys need to step up, and that's exactly what he's done for us."
With the big block today, I guess you backed up your words when you said your style of play wasn't going to change ...
"I'm not doing anything illegal. It was a clean hit. I didn't stand over the guy or anything. I just celebrated the same as a guy does when he gets a sack. We'll see. I'm not going to change my ways. If they're going to keep fining me for that, then I'm going to get fined all year. I don't know if I hurt him or not, but that wasn't my intention. I saw he was hurt, said a little prayer for him, and that was it. I've been playing like that for 11 years. I guess I don't know what people are griping about."
You guys are now 5-1 through six games. How much room is there to improve?
"There is room for us to improve. We've got a lot of guys banged up, and we have a tough stretch of games ahead of us. We're going to just take it one game at a time. We need to continue to grow, and I think we'll do that."
That was a pretty good throw from Ben Roethlisberger on the touchdown ...
"To tell you the truth, that might have been the best deep ball he's ever thrown me. That play was part of our game plan this week. We knew we had an opportunity to throw the pass, and he did a great job of hanging in there and throwing a great ball."
Are you starting to feel like a bigger part of this offense?
"I've never felt out of place in this offense. There are always opportunities there, it's just that we've been taking advantage of those opportunities lately. I'm getting more opportunities now, but these coaches and players have never made me feel out of place."
Why was the first half so different than the second half?
"I don't think we played up to expectations in the first half. We jumped out on them so well that I think we laid back from there. They turned it on at the end of the first half, so I think that got us to come out in the second half and do what we were supposed to do."
You've had two long touchdown receptions in each of the last two games. Are you starting to gain some confidence?
"I don't know what it is. I'm just glad others have confidence in me. I'm not here to beg for catches or be in the spotlight. When the opportunity arises, I want to be accountable, and have the other guys believe that I can make plays."
Talk about Lawrence Timmons. Was this a coming out party for him?
"I hope so. He had some big plays out there today. He had two big sacks and could have had three. He's coming along and getting better every week."
Are there enough sacks to go around on this defense?
"There might not be. The linebackers had plenty today. We love the competition that exists among us as linebackers. When we have good days like this, we are really proud of each other."
Did you turn up the pressure on the quarterback today?
"I don't know if we blitzed any more than usual. Guys were just getting to the quarterback."
Initial comments ...
"The point I just made in there was the halftime score was 10-7. And after Cedric (Benson's) run in the fourth quarter, for whatever reason, we just seemed to dissolve in every area. Where we had the momentum — we had some energy and excitement — and then we allowed a negative play to creep in. It got us off schedule and off track, and we were never able to recover. When you're in the football game and you've got the football across midfield down by a touchdown, you've got an opportunity there. We didn't get the thing done."
Did you express anger or were you more in a teaching mode during your post game speech?
"I'm angry. It's not good. It's not what professional football is all about. Every week you have guys get injured, (and other) guys have to come in and play. You've got to respond to that. You've got to understand what your responsibility is, what's going to happen, how are they going to attack, and how we attack. We didn't protect our quarterback worth a darn today. We have a hard time getting the ball up and down (the field) like that."
Did you sense that your players are getting worn out?
"No, I didn't. Until 25 minutes ago, things were good. We had some momentum going. Then we were sacked there, and we never recovered. We've overcome a lot. Obviously, in the first half, Kyle (Larson) didn't punt the ball very well a couple times. We overcame those and were able to hang in the football game. We did a good job in the return game, and that helped us. But we have to be able to fight through the tough times there."
What was the basis of your decision to start Cedric Benson at HB?
"With what we've seen from Cedric in practice, we just decided to give him an opportunity. We're not happy with where we are. We gave Cedric a chance and got him going. But there are some things that come up within the game that sometimes you can't get covered in practice, given the brief time he's been with us."
Do you think the team has a fragile mindset when something bad happens?
"We haven't had that until today. I think it would be interesting to see the sequence of plays and events that occurred that brought that on. But it still can't happen. We get the run, we give up the sack. We're reeling. Then they get the ball and they make a six-play, 91-yard drive with the big throw. You can't have that. Third down ... we played well on third down up until that series. And that became the big difference in the game."
Do you have any word on LB Keith Rivers?
"Keith sustained a broken jaw, so he will probably be lost for the year."
Did you find a rhythm in today's game when things started to click?
"I thought, going in at halftime, we had good momentum. We strung some more plays together after the half. Going into the fourth quarter, it was 17-10 and we thought we had a great shot at winning the ball game. Our offense had picked up and was putting things together. Unfortunately, we let it get away from us."
Can you put your finger on the difference in changing from five consecutive three-and-outs to being able to put a successful drive together?
"It is being successful on first and second down. It gets tough when you don't have a manageable third down, especially against a defense as tough as this (Steelers), with their relentless pursuit of the quarterback and guys up front. Like I said, I thought we had some good rhythm going into halftime. We had figured some things out and had momentum. Unfortunately, we couldn't put enough points on the board in the second half."
Did this loss feel any different because it got away from you toward the end of the game?
"It was hard to look at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see the final score was 38-10. For three quarters, we hung in there and had a shot to win the game. It slipped away in the fourth quarter."
Was the momentum lost on sack?
"That definitely hurt us. We were between the 30- and 40-yard line. If we had gotten that first down, who knows? I feel like we would have gone in there and scored with the way were moving the ball at that time. It definitely took some wind out of our sails."
You were sacked seven times. Did you feel like there were plays there, but the pressure was too sudden?
"Yes. It's hard with that number of sacks (seven) to say I felt comfortable dropping back. There were a number of times when I felt very comfortable back there. There were times when I felt too comfortable back there. Because of that, maybe I felt too comfortable and didn't step up as much as I needed to. At the end, they pinned their ears back at the edges. Seven sacks you can't have. The blame falls on everybody."
Does this become a mental difficulty to get through at this point?
"I said the same thing last week. We are professionals and we're all fighting. We want to go out there and win games. This 0-for streak is so hard, because there aren't many of us who have had to go through something like this in our careers. It's more about forgetting about this game and moving on to the next one — going back to the drawing board, coming out with energy and enthusiasm, and coming out for the next one.
Was Keith Rivers' injury hard for you to get over during the football game?
"You have to move on from those sorts of things. More than anything, that made some guys on the team want to play harder. In every game, someone gets hurt or dinged. Unfortunately, Keith got hurt pretty bad today. It's part of our business."
Do you feel like you were seeing things that you needed to see today?
"There wasn't a lot today that we didn't expect. Sometimes they do things with corner leverages or different ways to guard Chad (Ocho Cinco). They mix it up a little bit. It does change throughout the course of a game. You can never really guess one way or another what they are going to do."
What was your reaction after facing the Steelers defense firsthand for the first time?
"Yes. They are really tough up front. I kept saying throughout the week that they were relentless. That's what people were telling me. That's what I could see on film and they are. At the end of the game they pinned their ears back and came after us. They are definitely a good defense. There is a reason why they are consistently in the top five or 10 in the league every year."
You made a lot of plays and good tackles today ...
"First of all, I want to say that my prayers go out to Keith (Rivers). He's a really good friend of mine, and I'm really broke up right now about his condition. It's part of the game. (As for the game), I really don't have an answer. Just get it together, I guess."
Sounds like he has a broken jaw. It seemed like the officials were debating on whether they should have thrown the flag. What do you think?
"No flag came out because it wasn't a quarterback. If he was a quarterback, then they definitely would have thrown the flag. If it was a receiver they would have definitely thrown the flag. It's just something that comes with playing defense. If you play defense, then you're pretty much expendable, I guess. It's part of the game. It was a good block. If I was in Hines Ward's shoes, I probably would have taken the same shot. You can't really blame him. But like I said, if he was playing quarterback, then there would have been a flag."
Do you think guys get fragile mentally because of the way things are going?
"I think that is a possibility, but by the conversation that were having in the locker room, we're not going to let that happen. We need to stay mentally tough, we need to stay focused, and we need to stay poised for ourselves. We need to keep our swagger, so to speak. We need to be men and football players at this point. We need to work really hard."
The first five possessions were three-and-outs. Can you put your finger on what took the offense so long to get going?
"To be honest with you, the first five series were rough. It's a combination of a lot of things. It's probably one guy here, one guy there. I'm sure there are some technique errors and some mental errors in there. It's hard right now without watching the film to put a finger on it."
What was the difference between the long drive and the first five series of three-and-outs?
"I think it was just a little spark. We got a lot of feedback from the fans after that first-down. I think that was the spark we needed. We just needed a little bit of momentum. It made such a big difference to get this offense going."
What happened late in the game?
"It's a little hard to put your finger on it. In the NFL, it's always going to come down to the last minute. You are always stressing fighting to the end of the game whether you're ahead or behind. I think today we might have shot ourselves in the foot by letting the momentum get away from us."
You've had some tough times personally. Now at 0-7, how does this compare to what you've been through?
"This is nothing compared to real life out there. This is something that you can definitely turn around. We talk about it week in and week out — turning things around and making things better. I'm sure it's starting to sound like a broken record player, but it's still possible. The team has been challenged with a few things like not having a starting quarterback, and me coming in late trying to get the playbook in. We are challenged in a lot of different ways. It's nothing that we as a unit can't get together and pull through."
The defense has been asked to step up again. The first drive didn't go so well, but after that, you were able to hold them for a while ...
"We tried to settle down after that first drive. We got a good feel for what they were trying to do."
Marvin Lewis used the word "dissolved" when describing the fourth quarter. Was that his message to you guys at the end of the game?
"Going into the fourth quarter, it felt like we had the momentum, but then it just opened up. It's not good for a defense to end up that way."
At 0-7, what do you play for?
"I can probably speak for everyone else. We are still trying to win. If we put our heads down and just go through the motions, we will be 0-16 before you know it. We are still trying to fight, and we are trying to get some wins."
Can you put your finger on what went wrong in the fourth quarter?
"There were a couple of third downs where I had a chance to make a play that I would like to have back. I don't know if it was that I just didn't finish the play or what. We just didn't get off the field when we needed to get off the field."
What was Marvin's message to the team after the game?
"You have to keep fighting. Going into the fourth quarter, who in the stadium believes that we are going to win the game? We have to fight the whole 60 minutes."
What is the mindset of this team after the losses keep piling up?
"There were several games this year that we feel like we should have won. We have to keep playing for it, keep getting better and play a full game. If we play a full game and don't win, then we can look around and say, 'Hey, there's a problem somewhere."
There's not a good chance of making the playoffs. What do you play for the rest of the season?
"Self respect. We're not going to tank it just because we're not going to make the playoffs. We still have our pride."