STEELERS vs BROWNS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2008 KICKOFF -- 1:00 P.M. POST-GAME QUOTES
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Coach Mike Tomlin:That was the exclamation point that we were looking for to end our regular season. The guys did a nice job of staying focused and going out and executing. Hopefully that momentum will prepare us for January football. We will wait to see who we play here in a couple of weeks. On the status of Ben, he sustained a concussion in the game. At this point, all tests are negative, which is positive. We are optimistic of where is going to be capable of playing. The bye is going to be helpful in regards to that. That is all of the information that I have on his status at this point. Again, it is encouraging.
Was he taken to the hospital?
Is he still there?
I am not certain.
Was there a fear of a neck injury?
No, it was just a precaution. It was very similar to Andre Frazier when he went down a few months back. When guys get a potential significant concussion, we exercise caution and err on that side. That was what we were doing.
How prepared is Byron Leftwich?
Byron is a veteran, franchise-caliber quarterback. We have a great deal of confidence in what he can do for us. We always expect him to do well when he goes in, and he did.
Can you talk about the year that Hines Ward has had?
Hines loves to use that as motivation. I don't know too many people who are writing Hines off. He is a heck of a player; he tries to trick himself into being underrated and he is not. He is a heck of a talent and he has done it at a high level for a long time. We appreciate him.
Were you satisfied with the running game today?
I was; we shot ourselves in the foot some with the penalties and such. It was a productive effort. I thought that we controlled the line of scrimmage.
What is your plan for this week?
It will be similar to how we addressed the bye during the regular season. We are going to have a three-day work week – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in terms of practice. We will go from there. Anybody who is nursing some sort of injury, we are going to give them time to heal.
Will Ben practice at all?
It is much too early for that.
What things did the tests rule out?
He is not permanently injured or scarred at this point. He just has a concussion.
*What are your thoughts on the way that your defense played this year?
I thought that they did a nice job. The thing that will stand out to me about the performance is a guy like Tyrone Carter stepping up in place of Ryan Clark. I think that the guys have really embraced the concept of the standard of excellence not changing. We have had our share of ups and downs, and injuries; basically like everybody else in this league has over the course of the season. Along the way, we have had guys step up in stretches and deliver for us like he did today. Travis Kirschke; Lawrence Timmons plays everywhere that we ask him to play, and plays well. I think that is what I will remember about today and about this group of guys. We have 11 on the field, and the 11 understand the standard of the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense; they go about their job and they did a nice job today regardless of who we had in there.
QB Byron Leftwich
Re: Each time that you have come in you have looked very comfortable.
I understand it. The players that we have around us, it doesn't make my job easy, but it makes it easier with all the playmakers we have around. I'm just thankful that I got an opportunity to play, but you don't want to play under those circumstances.
Can you talk about the chance on guiding the team to the Super Bowl?
I have made it to the playoffs before, but this is the best team I've ever been on. When you get to the tournament any team in the tournament can win. You don't want to look that far ahead but I think we have as good of shot as anybody to win it.
Have you ever seen so many MAC quarterbacks on the field?
I'm telling you. What was there four of us out there today? That has to be a record.
How important was it for you to lead the team down to score right after Ben (Roethlisberger) went down?
I don't think it was important. I think it was important for me to get in there and get the ball into my guys hands and allow the guys to make plays. You're not thinking about that when you're going through the motions. I was just trying to get the ball into my guys hands and get some points up, and try to find a way to win the game.
What were you thinking when Ben was lying on the ground?
I've been in that situation before, just lying there. You don't know if it's good or bad. You don't want to see him in that situation, especially a guy as good as Ben. It was tough to see him in that situation. As a player you always want to play, but you don't want to play in that situation. It was tough to see him there, because you know what he does for this team, how hard he works, and how he wanted to go out and win this game.
How important is this playing time for you if you have to go out and play in the second round of the playoffs?
Any time I get a chance to be in the huddle with the starters it's a plus. I haven't been in since the Redskin game. I haven't taken a snap since the Redskin game, and it's good to go out there. Like I said when you get to go out there with those types of play makers around, as a quarterback it puts a smile on your face.
What do you sense is the level of confidence your teammates have in you?
I've played against these guys so much, we've sat and talked about the games that we've played against each other. I think everybody on this team knows that I can play football.
I'm just happy for me that I'm healthy enough to be on the football team.
Does your decisiveness come from knowing the offense, or do you just play without fear of mistakes?
I just try to go through my reads, and get the ball to the right guy. My job as a quarterback is to drop back, go through my reads and get the ball to the right guy.
*Coach Tomlin said that you are a "franchise type quarterback". What do you think about that?
They used to call me that before I started hurting my ankle. It can turn quick. Injuries have gotten me to this point as the backup on this team. Things happen for a reason. Like I said, I wouldn't change anything in the world just to be part of this kind of team. To be a part of these players and their mindset and focus on winning football games. I'm glad to be a part of that.
After what happened to Ben, is that easy to put out of your mind, and go out and play?
It's tough because you're always thinking is he ok, you always have it in the back of your mind anytime somebody gets pulled off on a stretcher. Once the game got started you never forget about it, you just try and focus on football as much as you can.
It looked like you said something to Ben on the field. Was he responsive at all at that *
He knew that I was right there but that wasn't a time for us to have a back and forth conversation. I just said what I said to him, and I'll just keep that between me and Ben.
What do you remember about your only playoff game? I know you were coming off a long layoff.
I was coming off a layoff, and I remember hitting my first twelve or something like that. Then the second half, me and New England it just didn't work out. We lost, they were a better football team. I do remember not playing for a few weeks before that because I hurt my ankle, then going back out there at halftime somebody told me I hit my first twelve.
RB Willie Parker
Is this what happens when you line up and decide to run the football?
"It was a good feeling today, knowing we were going to go out there today and run it. It was up to their defense to stop it. Their defense definitely didn't give up. We just had in our minds that we were going to run the ball, and we just kept pounding."
Do you like the way this team is playing heading into the playoffs?
"Yeah. We got a shut out today. That speaks a lot of volume. Our defense [has] been doing it all year. And our offense, we're trying to come around going into the playoffs."
What were you thinking when your quarterback was laying on the ground?
"You know how that is. Ben Roethlisberger [is] the leader of the team. I'm pretty sure he'll be alright. He was doing a lot of things that they asked him to do. So, he doesn't have us in doubt or anything."
What did it mean to you personally to rush for 100 yards?
"It meant a lot, just going out there and taking the carries and running the ball. I haven't done that in a long time. So it meant a lot."
Did you like running out of the I?
"I love the I-formation. I love the plays we were calling. I knew we were going to pound the ball so you know I definitely love that, being a running back."
Did you have something to do with that this week?
"No. It was actually Coach Tomlin. Coach Tomlin told us Monday [that] we were going to pound the football. That's what we've been practicing all week."
What's your confidence level with the offense and comfort level with it going into the playoffs?
"It's definitely got to be okay. This is the last game of the regular season. Going into the playoffs, you have to be on a high."
Do you think you can get it done doing it the way you want to do it?
"We have to keep working on it. We're not playing like our defense is, but they have to complement us, like they've always been doing, and we have to complement them."
How important was this game to you personally, doing what you did today?
"It was really important. You know I haven't rushed for 100 yards in a while, so to get back on my feet and rush for 100 yards, it felt really good doing it."
Did you think the problems you guys were having in the running game were correctable?
"Yeah, they are always correctable. We run the football. We're a running team. We have a running format no matter what we do. We can run the football. It's just a matter of doing it."
When you broke that long one to get back in the end zone, how long did it feel like it was since you had been there?
"A long time. I haven't really been practicing any end zone dances or anything. It was just kind of out of frustration. That was the first thing that came to my mind. I just chucked the ball into the stands."
Do you feel like things have finally opened up for you?
"Yeah because all we hear is '[you're] not falling forward' and all this crap. That may be the case. The thing is, we're just not doing the things that we need to do on offense. Today we just had our mindset that we were going to get this running game going. That's one thing we were going to get corrected in our offense."
You got it going. Is there any worry that this is Cleveland? You are not going to be playing the Browns in the playoffs.
"They are professionals just like we are professionals. It wasn't like we were playing some college team. They are professionals just like we are professionals. We consider this a get-right game."
* WR Hines Ward
*Congratulations on the 800 career catches.
"I appreciate it. 800 is a lot of balls. That's a lot of balls. I've caught them from all different types. It would be a great trivia question to figure out who threw Hines Ward his 800th catch. It was just great for Dennis Dixon to get his first completion in the NFL. All in all, we beat up on the Cleveland Browns. We did what we wanted to do going into the playoffs. It's great [that] along the way, I accomplished a goal of catching 800 balls."
Have you heard anything about Ben [Roethlisberger]'s condition?'
"No, I haven't. As far as I know, I think he's going to be alright. But they haven't said anything to the players [regarding] how severe it is, or whatnot."
What were you thinking when that happened?
"I didn't even see it. We were all running routes. Ben was trying to make a play. The doctors say he hit the back of his head on the ground. Usually, to us, we get a lot of concussions that way. We'll see. We'll see what happens."
Do you like where the team is right now?
"I do. We went out and we really started to establish the running game. I think we had some good, positive runs. We got Willie [Parker] involved. He made some huge runs today. He got over 100 yards. All-in-all, we took a step in the right direction heading into the playoffs."
Against this schedule, 12 wins is pretty impressive.
"It is. It prepares us for the playoffs because whoever we play in the playoffs, more than likely, we're probably playing them again. We went through a rigorous schedule throughout the whole season. I think that's something that we can build upon. Hopefully, it carries over all the way to the Super Bowl."
If it should come to Byron Leftwich playing, what have been your impressions of him?
"He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's well-liked in the locker room. Guys want to go out there and compete, scratch, claw, do whatever they can to try to go out there and make the game easier for him. But it's great to have a guy like Byron on our team. He's been in situations like that. They more and more you get your reps, if his number is called, we have confidence in him getting the job done."
S Tyrone Carter
Was there any chance you were going to be stopped from scoring on your interception?
"No. I got stopped the first time; I couldn't believe it. I thank God for having the opportunity to go out there and play, and thank my teammates for going out there, blocking for me, executing the defense and allowing me to make plays."
Is it tough to see a player like Ben [Roethlisberger] go down?
"Yeah, it's tough. When you have a key player like Ben – he's the nucleus of our offense – for him to go down like that, leading into the playoffs, it's kind of tough. Everything said he was okay. All the tests came back negative. So we've got a week of rest that's going to be helpful for him. So, we'll be alright."
With as many injuries as you've had this season and with the schedule you had to play, how big is it to get to 12 wins?
"That's big, especially when you are not playing with your starters most of the time. But that just shows the character of this team. Guys work hard so that when their number is called, they are going to let the coaches know that they are not going to lose a step, no matter what happens. We're just going to keep on moving. We've got some quality backups. [We are] a veteran team that is ready to step in when their name is called."
Head Coach Romeo Crennel
Coach Romeo Crennel: This is an end to a very disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns. We didn't expect the season to go the way it went, but it did. We tried to adjust and adapt the best we could, considering everything that has happened to us. You lose quarterbacks, you lose tight ends, you have injuries early in the year that impact the start of the season, so all of those things impacted us and then today we had to come down and face a good Pittsburgh team. Division champs, got a bye, going to the playoffs and we tried to hang in there a little bit but we end up giving up two touchdowns that impact the game and then in the second half the game got away from us, so it's disappointing but that's what it is, that's what we have to deal with, so we're going to have to go back and try to evaluate what things we can do to improve the team so we can be competitive in our division and in the NFL.
Jamal Lewis was a positive today because I think he gained enough yards to have 1,000 yards on the season and against this defense, that's an accomplishment because I think they were averaging giving up 78 yards a game, so for him to be able to get 1,000 and our offensive line to be able to block well enough for us to get the 1,000 was important. We're going to leave here, go back and have our final meeting tomorrow, but we'll go into the offseason to see what we can do to get better to be more competitive.
What did you say to the team in the locker room?
I told them that you still have to be a team in the NFL and we're a team. It was a tough year. A lot of things happened to this team that generally doesn't happen in a year's time. We had some injuries and we still have enough ability that we can be competitive in the division and in the league if we have everybody healthy. I think that was the major impact of this year, was the guys we lost to injury and then when some of them came back we were playing in the regular season and we weren't where we needed to be as a football team. Those things impact you and I know everybody had some injuries to deal with in the NFL but when you lose several people at a position, key positions and lose key players, it's hard to overcome.
What's your schedule tomorrow? Do you meet with the owner tomorrow?
I think the owner might be in the office tomorrow. There is no time that's been set for when we're going to meet because you have to be a little flexible with his schedule. It's a little different from time to time so hopefully I'll have the opportunity to sit down with him and talk with him. Whether it's morning, afternoon, I'm not really sure.
*Did any of the players say anything to you on the sideline or in the locker room?
No, not really. I don't know that they're assuming that I'm leaving.
When you meet with Randy Lerner, do you plan on having to state your case?
In that meeting, I'll find out which direction it goes. Right now, it's my job and I plan to keep the job and try to keep the job, so we'll see how the meeting goes.
How hopeless were you feeling down two touchdowns?
I thought that using him as a tight end (Scott Young) helped us. They've got two outside rushers that are pretty effective and to take an offensive lineman and put him out there, that was a good thought on our offensive coaches' part to slow them down a little bit. If you don't have the weapons in this league and the other team has their weapons, that makes it tougher.
*Do you think your numbers over four years are insurmountable for you?
They might be. But every situation is different. Everybody looks at the situations and what's happened and like I say if I have to make a case and I can do a good enough job making the case about this year and what happened this year vs. what happened last year then who knows.
Re: Self-assessment on the season
I saw myself compete as a player – go through some tough times, go through some good times, that's what it's all about. Being a football player in this league, you're going to have good games, you're going to have some bad games. You just have to make sure that you bounce back from each one.
Do you feel like you fit into the league as a cornerback now?
I never doubted that coming in to the league. I knew I had the ability to play at this level. I'm just going to try to work as best I can to try to help this team win some games.
What have you learned about what needs to be done to beat Pittsburgh?
This game I just learned that we got our butts kicked on the field. We couldn't execute on offense, we couldn't stop them on defense. That's pretty much been the m.o. for us all year. We just haven't been making enough plays to get the "w's".
Re: Frustrations stemming from this season.
For me as a player it's tough, seeing all the talent that we have on this football team and not being able to get the "w". Not executing like we know we can. Coming from my first year here last year, going 10-and-6, to going 4-and-12 is a total 180 for me. This is our last game, we didn't win it. We didn't win a lot of these games this year. We just have to work in the offseason to try to stay healthy, to try to get better, and come back next season and start all over again.
Re: Assessment of the punting game
Punting is difficult because everyone just looks at the stats. There are a lot of things I'd like to improve on. For example, I think I can improve on pooch punting a little better. There are always things that I have to look at and know that I have to improve on. Maybe the stats might show that, but for me I just look to improve. There's always some part of your game you can improve on.
What has the team learned about yourselves? *We have a lot of respect for each other. I think you learn that this is a business and a profession that you have to come with your "A"-game every week. This season kind of lets everybody know to get home, get rest, get away from it a little bit and when next year and offseason OTA's start, we'd better come ready to go and try to have a playoff-minded attitude.
*Do you think the coach will be back?
I'm not going to answer any of that. He's our coach now, and I look forward to getting away and coming back and having him as our coach. Whatever happens, happens, but I'm not going to comment on that.
Re: Season assessment
This is just the nature of the NFL. It is season-by-season. Because you win one year, doesn't mean you're going to be good the next year. We just have to try to work hard during the offseason, stay focused, and try to put some wins together next year.
How did your season go?
I'm disappointed in myself about not being able to finish the season that I wanted to. It is what it is. It's something to think about during the offseason. I look forward to next season and maintaining a high level of play all the time.
How were you hoping to finish?
Just stronger. I'm a better player than I've been showing, I think. I'm disappointed in myself because of that, along with the losses. We'll live to fight another day. We have a whole offseason to get prepared.
Did Coach Crennel have a message for you guys?
Just 'hang tough, get prepared, stay focused for next season.' Basically, things didn't happen the way we expected. Sometimes it goes like that.
Will the players think about going to bat for Coach Crennel?
Me, personally, he's the only coach that I know. This is my second year. He's a player's coach, he always has been. He's somebody that we believe in. We know that he's going to fight for us, and we're going to fight for him. It's really that simple.
Is there any word that Coach Crennel has resigned?
No, not at all.
Re: Injuries on offense
Being down to your fourth quarterback by the end of the year, it's going to affect you any way you look at it. As players and professionals we're not going to let that affect us during the week in preparation and try to do as much as we can out there as a group, and we're just falling short. Obviously it's hurting us out there.
Is there a sense of relief that the season is over?
You're still kind of frustrated about everything that's happened. Maybe next week you can start to relax, but right now it's embarrassing and it's frustrating to have a losing season. Right now it's tough.
Why would you be hopeful for the future?
Just being professional. Everyone's going to come back in March with an optimistic attitude and try to come back. It's silly to think that we're not going to come back and work off a 4-and-12 season.
Where do you think this season got away from you?
Early on, with key guys missing. We talked about that early in the year, with guys like Joe Jurevicius and Ryan Tucker. These are guys that help lead by example, and we're missing key guys like that. Coaches always say that when someone is injured, whoever the next guy is needs to come in and perform, but that wasn't always the case this year and we've kind of been struggling.
Re: Feelings about the season
Anytime you lose, you feel bad. It's the end of the season, it's the last time this whole group will be together, so you're sad about that – but you have to move on.
What do you think will happen with Coach Crennel?
I think it's very unfair that he's taking all the blame for this year. He didn't miss one tackle, he didn't throw one pick, he didn't drop one ball, so it's unfortunate that he's taking all the blame. We as players need to take more onus on our mistakes. The city deserves better than a 4-and-12 season, but you can't put the blame on him.
Can you reflect on your own future with the team?
Whatever happens with me is going to happen. I'm a firm believe in God, and he has a plan. Whatever his plan is, I'm going to live it out.
If this was your last game as a Brown, how were your years in Cleveland?
They were great. Even though we weren't winning when I was here, the relationships that I developed with a lot of these guys and people in the community, it's been great. Cleveland will always have a place in my heart. I will always root for the Browns, and I just hope the best for them.
If it was up to you, would you stay in Cleveland?
I would love to finish off my career here, but I'm not getting my hopes up. If I do, I do, if I don't, I don't.
How distracting was the speculation about Coach Crennel's future?
It's not a distraction. We try to go out there and play ball. We don't get caught up in all that, we have to get prepared for football. The games are hard enough as they are to try to win, so we can't focus on all the other stuff.