STEELERS vs BENGALS THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2008 KICKOFF -- 8:15 P.M. POST-GAME QUOTES
STEELERS QUOTES HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
Coach Mike Tomlin:This is a point where you kind of enjoy the short week. We got our work out of the way and we can watch everyone else get their work in this weekend. It was a great team win for us; by no means was it perfect. I thought that we stumbled out of the gate a little bit both offensively and defensively. They got up on us but the guys didn't blink. We stuck to the plan, got some execution and we were able to get a victory; we are very thankful for that. Big-time contributions from all three phases; I thought that the kickoff return game jump started us there, got us out to midfield, and then we kind of went from there.
What happened to Willie Parker?
I think that he just tweaked his knee but we will see where he is in the morning.
Did he do it on the fifteen-yard run?
I think he did it prior to that. I think that it became evident on that run.
Where you disappointed in the running game?
No, not really. I think that we ended up with about 120 (yards) for the game. I was disappointed that we started out slow as a football team. I think that the running game is just a portion of that. Once we got in a rhythm we were able to do what it is that we set out here to do; whether it was running, throwing or defensively.
How serious was the injury to Brett Keisel?
I don't know yet at this point. When somebody is on the ground and they are checking out their knee, that is not a good thing. We will see where he is when we get a chance to test it.
What did you think of the punting game tonight?
It was horrible.
Will you be taking action?
We will address it.
How about the hit on Santonio Holmes and do you think that it should have been a penalty?
I am not going to give you my opinion on the officiating. Thankfully he is going to be fine.
Could he have gone back into the game?
It would not have been smart for us to put him back in. The safety of our players, of players in general, is very important to us. It would not have been prudent to put him back into the game.
Did he have a concussion?
Can you talk about Gary Russell's performance tonight?
He is a young guy that is working and is beginning to seize an opportunity and expand his role. That is what a team is about and that is what the season is about. He is showing us that he is capable of being a splash-play kickoff return man. He is doing his job in short-yardage and he was able to get into the end zone for the first time in his career tonight. He is having fun; it is good for him and it is good for us.
Is that as good of a performance as you have seen from Holmes recently?
I don't know; as a team I thought we got in a rhythm and did some nice things. I haven't evaluated individuals' performances.
What does an 8-3 record mean to you at this point?
It is what it is. We are not over-evaluating at this point; we are just living week to week. We met this week's challenges and we will take a break and prepare for the ones that lie ahead next week. As long as we continue to live in a tunnel like that then it will continue to take care of itself. We are what we are.
How about Heath Miller?
It was great to have him back. Everybody is aware of what he provides in the running game and the passing game. He is just a quiet leader for us. It was just good to look around and see his face in the huddle.
How important was killing off the clock with the last two drives after not being successful in recent weeks?
I am not concerned about what we have done in the past; we did the job tonight. That 11 play, 73-yard drive there with about six minutes left in the game after they kicked the field goal was critical for us; that was Steelers football.
Aaron Smith doesn't get enough credit but today he had a couple huge breakups at the line of scrimmage:
I don't know who doesn't notice him. I know that he is revered in that locker room by his teammates and by the coaching staff. He is a critical cog in our machine. He is awesome; very consistent; performs very consistently at a high level. We have come to expect that from him.
How did you think that your secondary did limiting T.J. Houshmandzadeh?
Yeah, they did. I think that they had a nice scheme. They did some things to us early and moved some chains and moved the ball on us; they did a nice job. We settled in and made the proper adjustments as the game went on.
What were they doing to you?
They were doing a nice job of getting the ball out quickly. They threw some quick passes on first and second-down. I thought that was big-time. Then, on third down, they went protection first. They were running basically three-man routes; we weren't committed to be quite honest to getting there in terms of bringing the number of people that were required to break down that protection. They had a nice plan.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER
Re: Why he wasn't rushing before, and scoring tonight on a rush.
It just felt good to score. I saw Heath going into the flat. I saw him, but I wasn't 100 percent sure on it. The last thing I wanted to do was throw a pick, so I said to myself I'm going to pull it down and even if we get a field goal, that's still points on the board. Then the hole opened up and I found a way to get it in to him.
Re: Screen plays.
That's something that we've probably been lacking for the past year maybe two. I think the line did a good job of letting it work and Mo was patient with it and pulled it in and got more.
Re: Throwing the ball with the weather.
I was trying, but it was a blizzard out there. I was throwing a lot of sliders out there. The winds were coming from the side and the ball was going sideways, so you have to give the receivers credit for catching them. It wasn't easy, so I had to try and get through the wind somehow.
Was it nice to look up and see Heath out there?
It was. I told him before the game welcome back and I told him that I'm going to come for you tonight early and often because it was big play tonight. I saw him on the touchdown, he was open and I got it to him. It was good to have him involved and back out there.
What went through your head in terms of playing in this weather?
It was hard to see. It is kind of fun to be out there playing, if the wind is not blowing and that snow's coming down, but it is good and your heart is pumping and it was all right.
Re: Moving the ball at the end of the game.
At the end, when you were able to move the ball.
That's great because we feel like we have been struggling in doing that, running out the clock at the end of games. To goal, we went down the field pretty far on that last drive and used up a lot of the clock and we kept our defense on the sidelines. Scoring points, that's the biggest thing. You drive down and score, not just drive and punt.
Re: The time off.
It's going to be nice to just step away from football. To just get away, clear your minds and let your bodies heal and to get ready for the tough stretch of football that we have coming up.
Do you like where you are at this point, at 8-3?
I like the way we are playing. I think we have gone through our kind of mid-season struggles and we still have found ways to win. Not just our defense, our defense is great, but also offensively. Offensively, I think we've done a good job of coming out and moving the ball up and down the field. I think we possessed the ball for a lot of minutes tonight. It feels good and I think we're moving in the right direction.
Are you anxious to get back to New England?
Yes, when the time comes. I'm not thinking about that right now. I'm just thinking about getting some rest.
Re: Challenges of teammates stepping up after Parker and Holmes were injured.
Guys have done a great of stepping up all year. Its offensive linemen, tight ends, running backs, and receivers and you have to get a lot of credit to Limas Sweed. He had a huge catch on a third down coming all the way across the field. I told him, he has a huge challenge now because people have now seen him make that play and now they are going to expect that every time. I'm really proud of the way he steps up.
It's take what the defense gives you. That's what we've been trying to do the last couple of weeks. A couple of times, we have gotten it deep and it's a good balance. We're doing good things on offense.
Re: The hit and injury of Holmes.
I don't think it was dirty. That's what I went into the huddle and told our guys. I told them it was a dirty hit. He didn't try and hit him, he didn't lunge at him. It was a good solid hit. I told them not to retaliate on him. You don't like to see a guy get hit like that. I was the first one to him and I felt bad. He's a tough guy, he held onto the ball and it was a big play for us.
*Did you feel the pressure and frustration to score tonight?
I don't think we really felt too much pressure or frustration tonight. We want to get in, but it's not like we were sitting there pressing too hard. I think that was the key tonight is that we didn't press to hard. Gary Russell did a great job in the end zone and it was a united effort every time we are down there.
After the San Diego game and tonight's game, do you feel like the offense is carrying better?
We felt good. I think we were a little slow early, almost taking it for granted. We had some drops and miscommunications here and there, but overall it was a good offensive performance for us.
Talk about the guys that stepped up at running back after Willie stepped off.
We have had guys step up at every position. I think Gary Russell did a great job on our short yardage and goal line, Carey Davis who has been back there for us. Sean McHugh did great at fullback.
WR Hines Ward
"We just stacked another divisional win. We're going to enjoy this bye week right here, this mini, little bye week. We're 8-3. We're going to enjoy this one. We've got the New England Patriots. They beat us pretty bad up there. It's good to be 8-3 right now."
What is [Coach Tomlin] giving you off?
"Until Tuesday. We'll come in Tuesday, get a little work in, go through the week [and] get an extra day. It's a well-needed bye week right now. We've got some guys pretty banged up. I can't say enough about our team. We fought hard all year to this point. To be 8-3, we still have a lot of room for improvement. We left a lot of plays out there on the field, but, all in all, it's all about wins and losses. And we're 8-3 right now."
Comments re: having some success with players out with injuries
"That's been the whole motto all year. The guys have stepped up. Mewelde [Moore], he's running like a wild man. He's come in and done a phenomenal job. Limas [Sweed] stepped up big with some huge conversions on third down. So, that's just the motto of our team. Each week, different guys have to step up. If a guy goes down, the expectation level for that individual is the same."
How was Santonio [Holmes]? Did you talk to him at all?
"He was out of it. I was looking for the guy, [but] I couldn't ever get to him. But Santonio is a warrior. He'll be back. That's just the violence of the game. It was a clean hit. The guy read it, he read right, and he made a huge hit on Santonio. That's why I try to preach to my guys, 'Hit them before they hit you.' You know they are going to hit you, so any opportunities you can get, you have to try to take your shots. That's what I try to preach to the guys."
TE Health Miller
*What does running two tight ends do to a defense?
"I think it kind of balances our offense. We can line up in a balanced set and, as far as defensively, they can't make a strong side. They can just pick which side they want to make strong and which side they want to bring the blitz from. They can't really get a tip on which side we're running to."
How did the ankle feel out there?
"It felt good. As far as I'm concerned, it's a thing of the past and I'm moving forward.
Comments on being back out on the field
"It felt a little weird. It felt like I was a little rusty, but I just have to continue to try to play better."
LB Larry Foote
You guys have only given up nine points in the third quarter the entire year. What happens at half time with this team?
"Guys set the tone. We know that definitely that first series when we're out there is probably going to set the tone for the second half. You have to bow your back and stop them."
Re: success on stopping Cincinnati on third and short
"We did a good job. They tried to run it right at us and that's pretty hard to do. Up front, we stopped them."
LB Lawrence Timmons
*Re: defensive dominance in third quarter
"We just pretty much go out there and play. I think it's the coaches great planning that helps us out in the second half. You have an opportunity to go in at half-time, talk things over and correct your errors. That makes a heck of a difference."
They at one point went eight straight third downs without converting. You made them get off the field each time. That had to feel pretty good.
"Yes that does. When we're getting off the field, we're doing a good job."
Their offensive line was pretty banged up, but they held their own there for awhile.
"Yeah, they did. And [QB Ryan Fitzpatrick] was also getting [the ball] out fast. That kind of countered us rushing the passer. They had a good game plan coming in."
HEAD COACH MARVIN LEWIS
**Coach Marvin Lewis:Obviously the outcome of the football game we let it get away there in the fourth quarter. We had an opportunity again with 11, inside of 12 minutes with the football working our way down the field. We had an opportunity to get ourselves put back squarely in the football game and I think that, to me, is where it disappoints me. To go and convert and get a touchdown there and put us in a position where it is now a one-possession game. In hindsight after they take the ball and drive it down the field it doesn't look very good taking the field goal there but I thought we had an opportunity kicking the ball off to have a play we had with that and get them stopped and get the ball back to the offense again and kind of hold their position there. But obviously when they drive and score it doesn't work out that way.
Injury-wise, we came in pretty thin and we lost some guys today so we'll see how we are from that. I thought Anthony [Collins] did a pretty good job in protection tonight. I think when you bring new guys in there it's hard to tell what's going on with the other but we did a little better job protecting the quarterback for the most part but again we've got to be able to run the football effectively. I thought our inability too to convert the third downs was big in the game and then obviously in the last third and fourth quarter our inability to get to the quarterback on the ground. Ben ran for the two first downs, he scrambled for one and threw for the other and were huge when we had a chance to get off of the field.
Update on Chad Johnson:
We deactivated him like you were told today and Chad will be back and should be fine and will hopefully get his treatment and be ready to go tomorrow.
How much did he hurt you not being in there?
I don't know that the guy that way hurts you when you deactivate him so I think our other guys stepped up and got an opportunity to play and it's a good thing for them.
NFL.com quoted Thomas George that changes had to be made for you to stay with the Bengals.
Well, yeah. We need to change how we're getting things done. Playing, I'm not talking about anything other than that. I don't think when I spoke with Thomas, I didn't mean anything other than that context. We need to make sure that we continue to develop our guys and do a good job of coaching and playing. He was talking about overall. Just the future.
Is there frustration on your part?
No. The frustration is me. He's talking about me. Change is me too.
Have you thought about not being back here next year?
No. I have not.
Decision to kick a field goal.
I thought we had an opportunity at fourth-and-nine or fourth-and-seven whatever it was, the opportunity to score there. I took the points with the ability to kick the football off and we had an opportunity for a play and it didn't materialize within the kickoff and then have a chance to stop them and get the ball back. But obviously, we ended up having to kick the football deep as we did and at that point we never stopped them. They go down and score a touchdown and basically the ballgame is over.
How draining is all this on you?
It's part of my job. When you don't win, it's draining. When you win it's draining. It's all the same. It doesn't change much. Every time you come out here on Sunday it's a drain. You feel a little bit better about it on Monday for a little bit but that's about it. So tomorrow, I'd feel a little bit better about it if we won the football game and it would be Friday I'd feel a little better but that's it. You're on to the next week. So it's a drain. Always. That doesn't change. My feelings don't matter for anything anyway.
Re: Getting the start
It felt real good. They drafted me for a reason. They knew I could play. I just went out there and did what I was told, and played ball. I did what I did, and I had fun doing it, but the outcome was bad, and it feels terrible right now.
Was getting the start any different from what you expected?
No, not at all. Pittsburgh is our rival. All week I was told they were our rival. No nervousness. It's football. You go out there to have fun, and that's what's been told to me all my life – go out there and have fun, go out and do what you do. Do what you practice every day to do, and I did it. I stopped him (James Harrison), but he's a great player. He talked to me after the game. He said, "Just keep on working, AC." He knew my nickname. You can tell he did the research on me. All week the veterans were just telling me what to do, and to work on it and watch film, and I got better like I was a seven-year veteran. They just stressed to me to watch film, watch film, and I watched film and it helped me out a lot.
Re: Steelers defense
It was a great defense. It was a great defense. We stopped them today, but we didn't get the job done.
Re: Outcome of the game
We just didn't stop them, and they stopped us offensively. There's no moral victories, but the same thing happens every time. We were down a lot of guys, but we still had a shot.
Re: Chad Ocho Cinco situation
Chad's…I don't know what happened, actually. I know he's done worse. I think this was just a statement from Coach at this kind of season that we're having. He needs everybody on the same page. He suspended him, and he told us about it and we all moved on. I don't think it had a big effect on the game today. It is what it is. It's something you'll have to ask Coach.
Re: Field goal with six minutes remaining
I don't think anything surprises you, but that's something you'd have to ask Marvin. I don't know why they call the plays they call. I don't question them.
Reaction to the Chad Ocho Cinco situation
I have no reaction. They did what they felt was best, and whether I agree with it or disagree with it, it doesn't matter. He (Coach Marvin Lewis) is going to do what he wants to do, he's the head coach, Mike Brown owns the team. They do what they want. It doesn't matter whether anybody disagrees with it or not. It happened, and we still had to come out here and play.
Can you tell us what happened?
You tell me what you know.
My understanding is that Chad fell asleep in a meeting.
That's wrong. If they want to tell you what happened, that's up to them.
Did he walk out of the meeting?
He went to have a discussion with the coach. I don't know that he walked out of the meeting. I was in the meeting, I can't tell you.
Did not having him here hurt the team tonight?
I'm sure he would have helped. We've lost eight games with him, so I don't know how much, but of course he would've helped. Why wouldn't he? Chad's a good player.
Re: Four straight three-and-outs to start the second half *I don't know what happened in the second half – why we couldn't move the ball, why they played the way they did. I don't know.
*Did you face different coverages with Chad out?
I get double-coverage regardless of whether Chad is playing or not. They didn't triple-cover. When they were playing cover-twos, or two man, they might have had the outside corner be more aware of me breaking out than normal, but nothing different from what they've ever done.
Re: Lost opportunities to score
It's been the tale of our season – the defense plays great, and the offense sucks.
Re: Decision to go for field goal in fourth quarter
I'm not really surprised. At the time I was surprised, but thinking about it – no.
Re: Supporting Chad
They did what they thought was best, and that was it. It doesn't matter whether I thought it was insubordination or I thought this should've happened or that should've happened. It doesn't matter what I think in situations like that.
Did Chad talk to you before leaving?
He just told me good luck and that he'd be watching the game. That's it.
Would it be best for Chad and the Bengals to part ways?
That's not my decision to make. It's the decision of the people that have the power to make that decision. I don't have that power, and so I'm not going to concern myself with something that – if I thought it was best for him to go or I thought it was best for him to stay. It doesn't matter. I don't have that power, I don't have that control, so why worry about it when I can't do anything about it?
Is the incident over now? Will he come back next week? *I don't know. Why wouldn't he? We'll find out.
*Did the incident have an impact on the team mentally?
No. We play football. Could we have used Chad? Yes. But we play football. They did what they did. It gave guys like Andre (Caldwell) a chance to play, Glen (Holt) a chance to play, and you just have to make the best of opportunities.
We got into a good rhythm on that drive that we scored and felt pretty good about the plan that we had going into the game and the things that we were going to do to exploit them. I think the biggest thing that happened today is that we're not a good enough football team to overcome mistakes. It's not turnovers, fumbles, interceptions or anything like that. It's not being able to convert on third -and-one. It's me missing a hot on third and five and having to throw the ball away. Dropped balls. Those kinds of things are very hard to overcome and the good teams do it and unfortunately right now we're not able to overcome our mistakes.
It's like a blueprint. You're in the game and then it slips away.
Yeah. One of the hardest things about when you play the Steelers is that you're going to be limited in your possessions in terms of they make those three-and-outs hurt that much more because they're such a possession ball control offense and because they can eat up the time on the clock. You have to take advantage of the opportunities when you get them and unfortunately we didn't do that today.
Did you miss Chad [Johnson]?
Yeah. Obviously having Chad on the field is always great but I thought Glenn [Holt] made a couple nice catches and it was nice to see Andre Caldwell out there making plays. He was very impressive today in really his first action at wide receiver. He had the right look in his eye out there.
What did you see?
The game is definitely not too big for him. I think part of it is probably coming from Florida and playing on a big stage but he was out there. He wasn't shy. He wanted the ball. He wanted to catch the ball. He wanted to make plays and he did that on a few occasions. That was something that it was good to see out of him.
What effect did the deactivation have?
It's a curve ball but really we had the guys step in today that knew the game plan. We knew how we were going to execute it. Nothing changed. It has nothing to do with the end result today. I guess it was more of a curve ball.
Same look in the eye on the O-line?
Yeah. I thought AC, [Anthony] Collins did a great job today and Nate Livings as well. Pretty much the whole game I stayed clean and that's a testament to those guys up front and they pass blocked. It's not an easy thing. We learned that the last time we played these guys with all the sacks. I thought they did a good job out there.
We helped a little bit, chipped in with tight ends and backs but for the most part he did an unbelievable job. I can't even think of an instance where I was pressured from his guy. AC in particular. We'll look at the film but it was impressive for him to step in his first time.