STEELERS vs CHARGERS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2008 POST-GAME QUOTES
*HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN
*Coach Mike Tomlin: *It was a great team victory for us. All parties involved had an opportunity to anti up and kick in. We faced some adversity, some adverse situations throughout the game. I thought that this was just a great team effort. Defensively, of course, they made significant plays; particularly early on that kept us in the football game. The sequence just prior to halftime was big-time. James Harrison continues to make splash play after splash play for us; he is one of the main reasons that we were successful today. Offensively, to take the ball the length of the field at the end to provide us with the win was big-time stuff. We shot ourselves in the foot; obviously we are going to continue to struggle a little bit until we become consistent in short yardage and goal-line. We have to be able to run the ball effectively on people in those situations. We will remain un-waivered with the standards in regards to that. On a positive note, I thought that Gary Russell did an awesome job in the second half and provided a spark for us in that area. On special teams, Jeff Reed is Jeff Reed. It is great to send a guy like that out onto the field and know what you are going to get from him. I thought that we did a nice job on coverage units versus their return game. 43 (Darren Sproles) is an awesome return man; I thought that they did a nice job.
*Can you talk about the officiating?
I don't want to talk about it.
Have you seen a game with this much disparity in penalties between the two teams?
No, I have never seen a game with 13-1 penalties. I am not answering questions about the officiating.
Can you talk about the goal-line plays?
Part of that is our doing; we accept responsibility for that. We had the ball down their inside the one and they were not able to punch it in. It is discouraging but we are not a finished product. Maybe we found something with Gary Russell; we will see.
So Russell is a guy that you might utilize down there?
I think that based upon what he showed us in this football game, he is a strong candidate for that; just like when given the opportunity to return kickoffs for us, he has shown us that he is a fighter in that regard. He has done some nice things for us over the past couple of weeks in expanded roles.
Did you have a pitch count on Ben (Roethlisberger)?
No, I did not.
Can you talk about Matt Spaeth?
This is not his first solid performance replacing Heath (Miller). We have been teasing Matt here the past couple of weeks that he does a nice Robin and we want to see if he can be Batman; he has been Batman. He can drive the Batmobile pretty good.
Can you talk about that last drive?
We had significant time and we had moved the ball pretty good. It was really no cause for alarm provided that we did not put ourselves in long yardage situations due to penalties.
*Ben didn't throw deep much again. Was there a reason for that?
It was very similar to last week in the Indianapolis game because they were playing a lot of Tampa-Two. We were taking what they were giving us and playing pitch-and-catch. I thought that we did a very nice job of that. I thought that maybe we had a chance to hit Tone (Santonio Holmes) early in the football game down the sidelines but we weren't able to connect on that. We will keep working.
Willie (Parker) shook the rust off today?
Yes, he did. Willie is a competitior; we spent a lot of time talking about guys that had an opportunity to step up and deliver for us in certain roles. Matt Spaeth, William Gay, Darnell Stapleton, the list goes on and on. I thought that the deciding factor tonight, and really as we go forward, is those so-called eight-players. Those guys are some of the best in the world at what they do. I am very blunt about the expectations there; guys like Ben, guys like Willie, guys like Hines, guys like James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Troy (Polamalu) and Potsie (James Farrior) to be exact. Those guys are Pro Bowl caliber players and they have to play Pro Bowl caliber level. I challenged them last night and almost every guy on that list that I just named played good football for us.
Did you come out healthy?
Talk about Hines stepping up on the last drive after he got the holding penalty:
The team fought and they responded to the adversity that the game of football presents. Whether it was penalties or Steelers versus Steelers with self-inflicted wounds or just the fact that San Diego is a pretty good football team, they answered the call time and time again.
What is it about James Harrison that makes him the player that he is?
First of all, he is just a great player and he has a great work ethic. I think that his stature works in his favor. He is not a small guy; he is a short guy. I think that his advantage is a game of pad level. He can turn the corner and he has enough power to run through and lean through contact. He is just a really good football player. Take nothing away from what he does and what he is willing to do to put himself in a position to have performances like he had tonight. His work ethic is second-to-none.
It must be nice for the offense to have a friend like the defense:
I think that the defense will say that the offense was their friend after they gave up a field goal in the fourth quarter.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER
*Re: Coach Tomlin challenging the leaders of the team.
It was time for me to do it. I don't like to say it's time for us to do it because some of those guys have been doing it all year. It was time for me to step up and make some plays. I'm proud of the way our guys played tonight.
Can you talk about the yardage that you, Willie and Hines had, and not getting any touchdowns.
I would say it was frustrating, but we felt good out there on offense. We kind of bent, bent, bent, but didn't break. You have to give them a lot of credit the got down in the red zone and really buckled it down. There were a lot of little things here and there. One time the ball went through my hands on a snap. The big thing was we won the game and we moved the ball well. It was a good performance on offense.
Re: On the big third down on the last drive to Hines, was Santonio the first read?
He was. We had the look that we wanted and when I looked at him I was going to throw it to him, and him and Hines were all jammed together with the DB's. I thought "oh great I'm in trouble," the pocket kind of collapsed to the right, I slid to the left and to tell you the truth I saw were Hines was and really thought that I threw it to the ground because I got hit by one of the defensive lineman. I heard the crowd cheer and we move on. I don't really know what went on, but I know if I can get it close to Hines he is going to make a play.
Re: The defense really seemed to be a good friend out there today.
They have been really good for us all year, and we've struggled a little bit offensively, kind of all year. It was a big day for us not turning the ball over. We possessed the ball for what seemed like a lot of the game. This was a team win the offense played great, defense played great, special teams, this was a great team win.
Re: coming in tomorrow for a short week.
It's going to be tough. We've had short weeks from a Monday to Sunday. We've never had a Sunday to Thursday that I can remember. We will have to evaluate how everybody feels. It's a physical game out there so we'll see and hopefully everybody is ok and we are ready to go.
Re: On recovering from a physical game.
We are a physical team, so that helps. It's not like we have the other team coming in just pounding us up and down the field. We're a physical team. That helps. Like I said it depends on how we came out of this game. It always feels better when you win the game. It makes it easier to get ready for Thursday.
Re: On how many points you thought you would have if you knew you would throw for 300 yards, Hines, and Willie would each have 100 yards.
You would think quite a bit. I have no idea on what the stats were on completions or who caught balls. It seemed like everybody caught balls, Matt Spaeth, Mewelde (Moore), Nate (Washington), Santonio (Holmes), Hines (Ward). Everybody got involved tonight, Sean McHugh. It was just great tonight I Could spread the ball around and everybody made plays.
Re: On Matt Spaeth filling in for Heath Miller.
The thing is, is that people think that he is just a back-up. Spaeth and Heath are both like starting tight ends, it just depends on what formation we start the game in. He's done a great job stepping in in our no huddle situations.
S Ryan Clark
"It was huge. Especially at home. The last two games we lost at home [in] close games. A lot of talk has been about finishing. For our offense to go down, drive the ball, score a touchdown, have that called back, come in and kick the field goal is a huge play for us and a huge drive."
Comments on shutting down LaDainian Tomlinson
"It was big for us. I'm not going to say that snow didn't help. It did. The weather conditions kind of turned it into our type of game – the most physical team, the team that impose its will would win. I think our guys did an awesome job of just containing L.T. He's going to get his yards. He's the best running back in the league, but we did a good job on him."
Thoughts on playing the game with two starters out of the secondary
"You get a guy like Fernando Bryant who jumps right in [and] plays great ball. You know, we've got the guy with the hair back there. We've got Troy [Polamalu] back there. He's making plays. Willie Gay played an awesome game and he's been producing for us all year. We weren't nervous. We weren't scared. These guys are big receivers but they were going to have to play a good game. I think our guys came in and really did a good job today"
You guys have been talking about making turnovers and scoring points. How did you make that happen today?
"[With] Pro Bowlers. You've got James Harrison [and] Troy Polamalu out there and the guys made plays. Coach Tomlin said last night that our "A" players had to play "A" football. And they came out and did that."
WR Hines Ward
*Re: game-winning drive
"You couldn't ask for any other drive like that. For us to go down, and it was negated by a holding call that set us back a bit, but we overcame that, went down there and scored the game-winning field goal. It speaks volumes about our team. San Diego is a great team. It was a hard-fought battle. There were a lot of missed opportunities for us. We got the ball on the goal line, we don't get it in there. They do a goal-line stand. Take some of the penalties away – we had opportunities. But it's great that we battled and the way we won the game. It's real good."
Did that last drive overcome everything that went wrong about the offense?
"Yeah. It's a credit to our team. We never gave up. The defense, once again, played their tails off. When the offense had to make a play, we made plays."
Did you need to finish a game?
"We did need it. It was big to win. Now we're 7-3. In the month of November, teams are starting to separate themselves from the rest. It's a great win, considering when you look back the Indianapolis game, we felt like we had that game. You guys said we had the toughest schedule. But playing teams like this is only going to make us stronger in the playoffs. This was a playoff atmosphere. Our fans got behind us. We're not going to blow teams out. It's going to come down to a play here or a play there. Tonight was our night and we made more plays than they did."
You threw 40-plus passes two weeks in a row. Is that going to be the norm now?
"I don't know. San Diego gave us some opportunities to throw the ball. We couldn't get the ball going in goal-line defense. But it opened some lanes up for Willie [Parker]. We took advantage of it. In the passing game, I think all the receivers made plays."
LB Larry Foote
*Comments re: the importance of stopping a two-game home losing streak
"We started having that doubt come into our heads during the week by what was going on at home. But we responded today. Any time in this league, when you lose one game, you have to win the next one. That's what we did. We just have to come back and win Thursday."
LB James Farrior
"It's that time of year. It's November football right now. It's crunch time. It's getting down to the end and you've got to have your big players step up in big games. All these games are going to be big games from here on out. You want the guys that you count on, day in and day out, you want those guys to come in and produce and [have] everybody else just do their part."
How important was it to hold them to three points in the fourth quarter?
"That was big. We were kind of upset that we let them get down there that far. They sustained a good drive on us. You have to give those guys credit for making plays, but when it really counted, we held them to three points and gave our offense a chance to go down and win the game in the end. And they did that. You have to give the guys on our offense all the credit in the world because they fought hard all day long and they come out with it in the end."
LB James Harrison
*Re: interception at end of first half
"Actually, I didn't think he was going to throw it considering [that] I was already out there and [Antonio] Gates wasn't too far away from me. I thought he would throw it a little wider, but he threw it straight to me, so I did what any of our linebackers would have done – catch it and take off."
How sweet is it when the two points make the difference? You kind of did that on your own.
"No, we did that as a defense. There are 10 other guys on the field. I just happened to be the guy that got to the quarterback."
Re: holding the Chargers to a field goal on their last drive
"It was really critical. If they get seven points, it's a whole different outcome to the game."
This is the first 11-10 final in NFL history. Is that something that is fun to be a part of?
"It's all right. These are the kids of games that we like to play in."
K Jeff Reed
*Comments on missing his first field goal of the season.
"You want to go perfect. That is your goal. But I'm human. I'm not really glad I missed because if I had that kick back, I would kick it differently – play the wind a little more, take smaller steps, that kind of stuff. But that's part of it. I'm not going to make them all. I'd like to, but you have to look forward. And if I would have let that get into my head we obviously would not have won this game because I had a lot more opportunities."
You are prefect – 9 for 9 – in the fourth quarter and overtime in close games. What's the reason for that?
"I don't even think about a stat like that. It's a great stat to have, but at the same time, all I'm really trying to do is if I get a chance to do my job to come through for these guys. Because I know it was a complete battle out there and we needed this win."
Re: game-winning field goal
"As soon as I hit it – it was probably my best hit of the day – and I knew it was good. I'm not a big fan of middle kicks. I wanted left hash, but it was middle. The odds were against me with the field and the wind and all this and that. But that's part of it and I'm glad I came though for us."
*HEAD COACH NORV TURNER
*Head Coach Norv Turner:Coming into this game, before the weather conditions were the way they were, I think as a staff we felt it would be a field position game. Felt it would be a game that if we managed properly we'd have opportunities throughout the game and opportunities in the fourth quarter to win the game. With the weather, particularly in the first half, it had an effect in terms of the game. As the game went on, in the second half it wasn't as big of a factor. I thought obviously at the end of the half we had opportunities. We had opportunities to make a couple of plays that could have given us the opportunity to win the game. We didn't capitalize on those opportunities and they put together a great drive at the end of the game to win the game.
After stopping most of the game, explain last Pittsburgh drive.
They're an outstanding team and we made a number of plays throughout the game where they had us on the verge and we'd come up with a third down stop or a pressure. We came up with plays and we weren't able to come up with that kind of play. A couple plays and he scrambled to the left and made a hell of a throw from the left where he got the ball to Ward it was a big play, and they executed extremely well on the last drive.
Re: Game changed to end first half with interception.
I don't know if it changed. It was back and forth and it was that way. Philip was throwing the ball and it was hard to tell where he was throwing the ball to the back corner, he'll explain it to you better than I can, but the ball, he yanked it and it got away from him. Vincent Jackson, if you see it again, he had Vincent in the back corner with two or three steps on the cornerback and the ball got away from him. I thought when the play started it was going to be a touchdown.
Re: Defense was on the field a lot.
That does have something to do with it. They moved the ball and made converted first downs. Like I said we came up with some big stops. The game even when they had drives going it seemed like they'd get right on that verge of field goal range and we'd come up with a big stop.
Rivers has made some big mistakes in the last few games
I don't know how to explain it in terms of that wasn't a decision. The ball got away from him and I don't know how it got away from him but it was a good decision and I think he was making the right decision to throw the ball to Vincent and it didn't get there.
Did he hold the ball too long on the safety?
It's hard because we were … we had someone running outside and then we had two guys hooked up across the field. I think he was getting ready to throw it away when he got hit.
Did you ever consider just letting them score at the end?
It's something that I guess you talk about. You think about it, it's not something I've ever done.
Re: Incredible field position advantage in the first half
[Mike] Scifres is a great punter and again that's what I was talking about. It seemed like the times we had them backed up they did a good job of moving it to midfield and again when we had opportunities, they're an outstanding football team. They're first in the league in defense. They're one of the obviously top two or three in the red zone. As I said, the first half the conditions for us weren't going to allow us to keep the thing do anything crazy with the football and we obviously had some situations we didn't take advantage of.
You're two games out with six to play.
We've been in must-win mode. This group of guys, there's no quit in this group. This group fought as hard tonight, that was a physical football game and that's a very physical football team we're playing against. Every guy was in it on every play and guys being helped off and someone going in and fighting for them and that's the way we're going to play next week and that's the way we're going to play every week. That's what this group is about.
Re: Defensive game plan and pressure on the quarterback
That's our main thing – that's what we're known for as the Chargers. Getting after the quarterback. That's something we work on and work on. People knock on us for not getting after the quarterback as much. We went out there and executed and got after the quarterback, so other than that I can't really say what's going on. That's football.
Re: Field conditions *Field conditions don't matter. Football is football. Plays need to be made, and we've got to make them. That's all there is to that.
*Did the lopsided time of possession wear you down?
I didn't feel that way at all. I felt that we dominated on both sides. That's the way I feel. Unfortunately we just couldn't do enough to win the game.
Did it feel like you were out there an extended amount? *No. I felt as though we had a lot of three-and-outs. Just doing things that we needed to do right, and we did those. Therefore we were getting off the field early. During the sequence in the first, second, early third – after that, I don't know what happened after that. They just came down and drove and got that field goal. Nothing to worry about. We're going to bounce back off of that.
Re: Goal line stop on fourth-and-one (end of first quarter) *We went against that a couple of times this week in practice. We just got in and executed.
*Did you just put your head down and look for some legs?
No, I hit him up high. You just go. It's the goal line, you have no time to think. You play downhill football, and that's what we did. It wasn't enough to win it, though.
Re: Losing winnable ballgames
It's tough. They're close, and we feel like we're real close to winning it, so it hurts.
Re: Responding to criticism regarding getting to the quarterback
No matter what you do, you always go back and you can do something better. It hurts when you don't do enough to win. That's what we want to do every time we come out, and we couldn't do that tonight.
Re: Mindset with six games left
The mindset is keep on playing. You can't roll over. We have too many high-character guys to lie down. That's just not going to happen. We're just going to go watch, and collect the things that we did wrong in this game, and get ready for the Indianapolis Colts team and their quarterback Peyton Manning.
How badly does this one hurt?
Each loss hurts. It doesn't really matter when it comes. A loss is a loss. All of them hurt the same. We're going to keep on playing football. We get paid to play 16 games, and we're going to give you sixteen games.
Philip Rivers said that he felt you had the game in control most of the way.
We always feel like we're in control. Even if we're down – we get paid to play football. Any chance we get to be on the field, whether it's offense or defense, we go out there and we leave it all on the field. We can't worry about what the score is, we can't worry about down and distance – we just have to keep on playing and play every play like it's our last, offense and defense.
Were the four sacks today encouraging?
We can say, 'yes,' but I don't want to say so because we didn't get the win. I'd take no sacks and a win any day of the week. I think we had one last week and the win. I'd take that over four sacks any day.
Re: defensive strategy
We were rotating guys. We played some different packages. Our defensive line was rotating guys, keeping guys fresh to keep guys after him. We had some success in sacking him and taking away some of his reads. That was the key, really. I think it really wore on us. The field wasn't ideal. It probably took away some of our speed.
Did the field conditions hurt?
Not so much. Both teams have to play on the same surface, in the same situation. Probably playing in London on that bad surface helped in preparation for this, so we dealt with it well.
Re: Mindset of the team with six games left
We're continually backing ourselves into a corner, and we're probably facing the corner now. Speaking for myself, we're excited to play three games at home. We feel there's a great opportunity with a very good Colts team coming to town.
Re: Games coming down to final drive.
It's tough. It's situational football. Clock management and things of that sort. Today, our offense wasn't the juggernaut they have been, so it was for the defense to step up. We did a lot, but it wasn't enough.
Were you on the field too long?
Not necessarily. We got three-and-outs a few times there. They had some long drives where we forced them to kick field goals, or held them to no points at all. You can see that in the score.
*Was the result frustrating?
It is. The defense kind of carried us throughout the whole game, and it just came down to which team executed, and which team made the most plays. It came down to a fourth quarter game. We knew that coming into the game, and Pittsburgh was just able to come up with some huge plays.
Where do you go from here?
You continue to grind. We said from day one that this is a marathon. You just continue to play one game at a time. Our whole focus has definitely switched to the Colts. We're going to have a chance on Monday to go look at the film and make some corrections offensively, and move forward. That's all we can do.
Re: Losing winnable games
Yes, it was (winnable). Our main focus is just to protect our home, at this point. When it's all said and done, you play 16 games and then you add them all up and decide whether or not you made the playoffs. That's still the goal, absolutely.
Re: Steelers defense *You have to give them credit. They came out, they made us do some things that we didn't want to do. We tried to make some second half adjustments, but they constantly made plays. Troy Polamalu made a huge pick, Harrison made a big pick. Those are keys to victories. We didn't protect the ball like we know we can do or we're capable of doing. On that last-second drive, I thought about the situations where we made turnovers, and they came back to haunt us.
*Lost opportunities and turnovers seem to be a recurring theme
It's frustrating when you know that's not the San Diego Chargers. That's not how we play football. With all due respect, the Steelers are a great defense – but that's not how we play football. We finally got the running game going, but the turnovers killed us. We made some huge turnovers going into the second half. I felt the play Harrison made was a big part of the game because they ended up getting points out of that. It ended up catching up with us in the fourth quarter.
Re: Mindset with six games left.
It's still the same. One thing about the team is that we've bought in to what we're trying to accomplish. Once you play 16 games, you total up the wins and losses and decide whether or not you go to the postseason.
On interception at end of first half
It's one of those you can't really explain. It just kind of stayed in my hand too long. I had Vincent there on what I think might have been a touchdown but I think at least would have had us down inside the five. Really just a poor throw. Really no other explanation for it other than the ball got away from me.
On excellent field position particularly in the first half
We're playing a tough defense. We ended up scoring a touchdown on our second possession so that was good. There was another opportunity for a touchdown there or at least get three before the end of the half. It turns around they score. That was obviously a crucial play in the game and had a chance late down there and really put the pressure on them to have to score a touchdown and came away with three. But I thought our defense was outstanding. Take away the safety and even the interception there they probably wouldn't have scored. Any time a defense gives up nine points, we should win the game. Really, six. We didn't get it done.
Theme of turnovers – mistakes - lost opportunities
It is becoming too much for us to overcome, obviously. When you lose by one point, that's what you've got to look for. Blown opportunities. When you play a real good team, on the road, you can't do it.
You're two games down with six to play. What is your Mindset?
Mindset is next week is another week. You play the game and see what happens. At this point you have to continue to keep hope alive and hopefully things go your way down the stretch and just keep fighting.
Every game a playoff game?
Pretty much. That's the way we have to look at it especially being two games back now.
How difficult moving ball vs. their defense?
They're a real good defense. We knew there was going be some plays that would be tough for us to move the ball, some plays we'd be able to get against the. For the most part, I thought we did a pretty good job of moving the ball. We were in scoring position quite a bit today. We didn't capitalize on some of the situations when we were down there.
Did you feel in control of the game?
I felt like the game was right where we needed it to be. Don't know about having control but it was right where we needed it to be. I certainly felt like at times we were going to take control of the game but we never did. We never took control of the game like most of us expected to during the game.
Head Referee Scott Green
*Re: Final play of game.
"There were several passes. The first pass was illegal, an illegal forward pass. The second pass was backwards. The rule that kills the play is if it hits the ground. There was some confusion on which illegal forward pass we were discussing and it was decided that the illegal forward pass hit the ground and that would have killed the play and there was no time remaining so that would end the game."
*The ball was dead once it hit the ground?
What is the process of reviewing this?
"The normal review was a minute. You have a minute to look at it on the screen. The first pass was the one that was illegal but it only kills the play if it hits the ground. That was incorrect to have killed that at that point. The ruling should have let the play go on. That's just the way that it played out. We believe the second pass was legal."
So the play was ruled dead because the first pass hit the ground?
"That's what we ruled but it didn't hit the ground because it was thrown forward. The rule is if he possesses it you can let the play go on. If he drops it or it hits the ground then you kill the play."
* So if the first pass didn't hit the ground why was the play killed?
"We didn't kill it on the field. After discussion we decided...there was some confusion over which pass we were talking about and it was decided that it was the second pass that was illegal that did hit the ground and therefore we killed the play there."
But the second pass was legal?
"I know. The rule was misinterpreted."
So it should have been a touchdown?
"We should have let the play go through in the end, yes. It was misinterpreted that instead of killing the play we should have let the play go through."