STEELERS-FALCONS POST-GAME QUOTESSEPTEMBER 12, 2010HEINZ FIELD
STEELERS QUOTESCoach Mike Tomlin: It's great to get a hard-fought win. The summary of the game is indicative of Week 1 football. I like the way our group did ride the emotional roller coaster of staying on task throughout. There were many outstanding efforts to identify but largely I thought we stayed together and played team football, and we did it until the very end. We got some things to work on, absolutely like all 31 other teams do, but we get to do it while we're 1-and-0. We will prepare for our next thing, which is to take it on the road. We'll do that, we'll analyze this performance; we'll aim to improve. But we're thankful that we were able to get the job done today with a big, collective effort in all three phases from about everybody in hats. On the injury front, Max Starks has sustained an ankle sprain; Casey Hampton sustained a hamstring injury. I don't know the extent of the injury; we'll have more information next time we sit down and talk. Other than that normal bumps and bruises and we'll march on to Week 2.
Was Troy Polamalu's interception something that he read?
That's just Troy being Troy. A part of being a great player is not only delivering big plays but delivering them in a timely fashion. I thought that play was indicative of the kind of player he is. I thought that sack by James Harrison around mid-field that put them behind the chains a little earlier than that was a signature of what kind of player he is. The examples go on and on. I think that's the recipe you look for when you have great players and guys that can be great players. They not only have to make the big plays but make them in a timely fashion. Rashard Mendenhall is a young guy trying to be a big-time player. Delivering those kinds of runs in overtime has to be a big part of him going where he needs to go.
RE: Dennis Dixon's performance:
It was a winning effort. The scoreboard says so.
Dennis seemed to be throwing a little low. Was that him being tentative?
I don't necessarily want to call it tentative. He just was a little off target initially, at least earlier in the game. The thing that I really liked was there was no panic in him. There was no panic really in anyone. He kind of stayed status quo to allow him to get himself squared away and he delivered some big-time throws particularly in the second half to get us going, going to reliable veteran men such as Hines Ward. When you have a young guy in there at quarterback and you need big-time plays, you're pretty comfortable when you can deliver to old 86. We know what he's capable of and he just about always delivers for us.
Did you expect those kinds of mistakes from a young guy rather than just Dennis?
I am an optimist by nature. I understand your question but we just don't live in that world. Our glass is half full. We're excited about an opportunity for this guy to play some good football for us. His first time out as a starter he took us to a hostile environment took us to overtime and put us in a position to win. He was in a better environment today to say the least at Heinz Field, so we were optimistic about those chances for various reasons.
Did his performance guarantee him another start?
We'll talk about next week next week because today we're going to bask in it along with Dennis.
Can you talk about your thought process at the end of the half attempting a long field goal?
Jeff [Reed] had just banged a 52-yarder in the direction we weren't interested in going. So we felt even better about going the other way. As you can see on both kicks distance wasn't the issue. Jeff is a very good kicker. He's got about as much experience and success at Heinz Field as any many breathing. I'm always comfortable giving him the opportunity to put points on the board particularly in a situation we though points might be scarce, because of the situation with a young quarterback and so forth. We had an opportunity there, which is comfortable in his range. Though it was a 55-yard kick we felt he was capable of hitting it. Distance wasn't the issue; it just hit the up-right. If I had the do-over again I'd give him an opportunity again.
Was this a game where you felt comfortable going into overtime with your defense?
I felt comfortable because of our guys. I always get a lot of my feelings off of feelings and interactions I get from them whether it's the play or attitude from a communicator on the sidelines. Largely I felt the football team was great in that area all day. That's why I was optimistic.
Would you have maybe played defense if you won the coin toss?
No, we were taking the football. I'm not going to give Matt Ryan the football. He's a good quarterback. Playing the rules that we play under right now, first team wins, there's no way I'm giving Matt Ryan that football.
Did you switch up the defense with Bryant McFadden being back?
We didn't change our approach in terms of calling the game with having B-Mac back. It was great to have him back. You saw he challenged just about every throw out there to a top-notch receiver in Roddy White. Roddy made some tough, contested catches. B-Mac won some battles. I thought it was just a great battle of veteran players over there on the defensive left side for the better part of the day. It's great to have him back, but in terms of calling the game it wasn't anything conscience from our standpoint in terms of having B-Mac back, no.
How did the guys on special teams guys do?
We're going to comb through it tomorrow. Particularly in that phase you look through a lot of things in that area. We had some young guys contributing. Jason Worilds ran down there and made a tackle early on. I thought a significant play was that big-time punt by Daniel Sepulveda late in regulation. It was a big-time football play. I'm pleased with the performance of our team largely, and special teams was a big part of that.
How did you think Maurkice Pouncey did?
I thought he did a nice job. I thought he had a great demeanor. I don't think he miscalled a thing all night. You saw those guys move around quite a bit. They're very multiple in terms of what they do. The quality of his work, the physical quality of his work, we'll leave that to the video. In terms of his demeanor, in terms of his pre-snap declaration and things, he played like a veteran football player. And really that's why he's in there because he's not playing like a rookie.
Did you play a little conservative on offense because of Dennis?
We did what we had to do to win the game today. Next week we'll see.
Hines Ward: This was an amazing victory. It was the first time that I beat Atlanta. Being from there. I really wanted it bad. How dramatic, Mr. Automatic, Jeff Reed comes in and I knew that the game was over. He ends up missing it, we go to overtime and they win the toss. Our defense played great all day keeping them out of the end zone. First play, it was a great execution of the play. D.J. (David Johnson) came around and sealed, and I end up blocking the strong safety. Next thing you know I felt Rashard Mendenhall blow by and I didn't see anything but green grass. He stayed up, and I knew that we won the game. Any ballplayer you ask, they would love to win the game like that. All-in-all it was just a great team victory today. I'm proud of Dennis Dixon. He played his tail off. All the guys did. It was just a great team effort from start to finish. All the guys stayed in it together and nobody hit the panic button.
I just talked to Dennis, and he said he was pretty nervous in the first quarter. Could you tell?
Yeah he was nervous. I was over there trying to keep him up, make him smile. As the game went on he started to pick up on things. The one interception he was just trying to put that perfect ball into Heath Miller. All he had to do was lob it over the guys head. All-in-all we couldn't ask for any more out of Dennis. He did what we wanted him to do, and it was a great learning lesson. We can watch the film and learn from it. We have a tough one on the road next week in Tennessee. I see that they one big, so it will be another challenge. It's just always great to start the year off with a win. Especially in dramatic form like we did.
Re: Another record. The team record for 100 yard games.
It's like Forest Gump, I can't explain it. I'm 34 years old, and every year regardless of what people say it's my mindset that I have to go in and prove everybody wrong. That's my motivation. We left some plays out there today. I told the guys to go out and make the routine plays as well as the hard catches to get Dennis into a rhythm out there. If we do that we'll be fine in the passing game. To pass 11,000 yards, and at the same time I got to watch Tony Gonzalez go over 1000 catches. It was just special to be part of that. I can't explain. Every year I seem to amaze myself.
Re: Having a fullback in the offense.
Today I think we dedicated to the run game. At times I kind of got a little angry, but I understood
we had to do that. Mike (Wallace) came to me and said, "Man all we do is run the ball." I just said we had to. One thing that we tried to teach Dennis is that it's alright to punt the ball. Our defense is going to hold their own. They didn't let the Falcons score in overtime, then Rashard scored at the end of the game. We executed our game plan the way we wanted to. We didn't want to put too much on Dennis, and we also had bad field position all day long. You don't really want to go out there and throw the ball around and give them a cheap one. We just pounded and pounded, and at the end of the day we ended up winning the game from it.
Re: On your block on the last play of the game.
It was amazing. It was a great execution by everybody on that play. We called that play maybe fifteen times throughout that game. It was 22-double, we just kept calling it. That was our magic play. We just kept pounding and pounding and it finally broke free. It was the same play almost similar to the Super Bowl with Willie Parker. Everybody executed the play; had a hat-on-a-hat. It was just a great team victory. Springing a guy open like that I get just as excited as catching a touchdown.
TE Heath Miller
Can you talk about that final play?
"For that play to work, everybody's got to do their assignment and get their blocks. And I'm not sure anybody touched [Rashard Mendenhall] until about the 10-yard line. So that says [that] everybody did a great job.
How do you think Dennis [Dixon] did today?
"He did great. He lead us to victory. He ran the show on offense. He had command in the huddle. It was just what we all expected from him."
I'd imagine you'd rather score a few more points?
"Yeah, you know what, we kind of bogged down. I don't even know if we got in the red zone, but we kind of bogged down in that fringe area. That's where we just have to keep making positive plays and get it across the goal."
When did you know Mendenhall was going to take that [to the endzone]?
"When I looked up, he was about 20 yards downfield. So I thought he was going. Their guy made a good play to get a hand on him, but [Rashard] did a great job."
C Maurkice Pouncey
What was the message the coaches gave this week to the offensive line?
"You have to win it up front. You've got to drive them off the ball, and that's exactly what we did."
Did you know coming in it was going to be a heavy workload?
"Oh, yeah. Those guys play physical. And they are fast off the ball, so we had to really prepare."
What kind of runs – inside, outside?
"We were doing everything. Everything was looking good today. We had some mistakes that we have to practice on Monday."
What had the most success?
"Probably our inside plays."
Did you know, on the play that Mendenhall sprung, that you were having success with it?
"Oh, heck yeah. That was a good play. That's always a good play."
What's the key to that working?
"Move them off the ball. Every play, on any down, on any running play, you have to move the guy in front of you."
Who did you hit on that play, and did you see Rashard [Mendenhall] breaking loose?
"I was driving [Sean Weatherspoon]. The coaches told me at the beginning of the week that it was 'you versus him. Rookie versus rookie. Let's see who plays better.'"
Who played better?
"I don't know. I think we got the win."
RB Rashard Mendenhall
"All day on the run, we were creating seams. In the run game, you just have to be patient. We knew that something was going to open up. And it did in that overtime."
Re: end of touchdown run
"He got my foot a little bit at the end. I almost went down. But I was able to stay up and get in."
Is that the biggest play of your career?
"To this point, yes. I definitely think so. It feels great right now."
Trai Essex was really happy. Did he throw a good block on that run?
"Yeah, he did. Trai's been a guy who has been talking to me all along in the locker room about confidence, as does the whole offensive line. So I know he was just as happy as I was to see that."
What does this do for your confidence?
"It feels good. I've been preparing for moments like these to this point. I just want to build on that."
QB Dennis Dixon
How good did that one feel? Just hand it off and watch him go…
"It felt good. Going to overtime, I got déjà vu after last year with Baltimore. My whole motto was to go out there and be mentally focused to try to get into field goal range."
What were you thinking after watching the field goal miss at the end of regulation?
"Obviously, you want the game to be over at that point. But, then again, it's an opportunity to play again. Obviously, we seized the moment. The defense stopped them, and the offense had to make something happen. And we did."
How do you think you did?
"Overall, I got over-excited in the first half. I'm just happy to have someone like Hines Ward – some of these savvy veterans off to the side to really calm me down. In the second half, it became easier for me."
You didn't run the ball too much. Was that a focus of yours – to stay in the pocket?
"That was a main focus for me. Obviously, everybody knows I can run. I want to be able to read the defense and take what the defense gives me as far as the pass."
Did any of those veterans say anything to you at halftime to calm you down specifically?
"Of course. Hines Ward was one of the main ones, and B.A. [Bruce Arians], my position coach, Randy [Fichtner], and, of course, Chuck, too. Charlie Batch came to me. I got a lot of confidence out of that for the second half."
Did you feel like you were off a little with the rhythm of some passes?
"I wouldn't say that. I think I was on point with everything. I would love to get a couple of balls back, of course. But that's why you play football and that's why it's a total team game."
What happened with the ball that you tried to hit Heath [Miller] with?
"It came out of my hand kind of wrong, then I tried to put a little touch on it. It was a situation where Heath can go over the top, or break it off a little bit. We weren't on the same page when it came to it and it was pretty much unfortunately for that."
There were some other misses too with low balls. Was that aiming it a little bit?
"Yeah, I have to say it was probably aiming it. As far as the reads, I didn't really make too many bad decisions out there. But that's why you play the game of football, to make those connections.
Coach Mike Smith:I thought it was a well-fought game, especially for 60 minutes. I thought both teams battled toe-to-toe; unfortunately we didn't do a very good job in any phase of the game in the overtime. We won the toss and got a penalty on the kickoff that put us inside the ten yard line. We weren't able to convert a first down; we did convert a first down and had a holding penalty which put us in a long-yardage situation. We punted the ball, it wasn't an outstanding punt, had the ball on the 50-yard line, we defended 15 yards, and of course, the missed-fit there on the last play of the football game for the 50-yard touchdown, game over. That's the way it goes in these games. We got a lot of things that we've got to correct and get better at as a football team. I thought they were a very physical team; my hat's off to Coach Tomlin, his coaching staff and players. They were the better team today.
RE: The decision to kick on 4th and 1
I felt in that situation right there that we needed to tie the game. It was an opportunity to tie the game. It was a relatively simple question really when you talk about the percentages that we wanted to make sure that we were going to tie the ball game. We felt like there was enough time that we could potentially get a stop, which we did, and get the ball back to the offense and have a minute and 40 seconds.
RE: Polamalu's interception
I saw just what the official saw. It looked like they did the right thing, went up to the booth and saw that both feet were in.
Re: Rashard Mendenall's run in overtime
Definitely a missed-fit. We were in eight-man spacing and we miss-fit it. I thought that we did a good job up to that point after the first drive. I thought we weathered the surge in terms of their running game. We absolutely miss-fit the run, and when you miss-fit it in eight-man spacing there is a chance for an explosive play. Unacceptable defensive play, we have to get better at it.
Re: Handling Dennis Dixon
Dennis Dixon's a good quarterback. He played well. They drafted him to come here and be a quarterback. He was a very good quarterback in college. And I thought that he did what he had to do today in terms of running their offense. Again, I think our guys on defense played well in the 60 minutes of regulation, and again, I don't think that it was a very good performance all-around in the overtime.
What did the Steelers do to take your running game away?
Well, we didn't block them up front. I think we didn't get movement on the line of scrimmage. That's something that we have to look at, analyze and get better at. We're not going to make excuses in terms of what we did and what they did. They obviously had the best of us in the running game.
Re: Roddy White
Yeah, I thought Roddy had a good game. I think 12 receptions, 102 yards. Roddy's a Pro Bowl receiver. He is the guy that we like in the matchups. It really doesn't matter who they put on him, we feel like Roddy's going to run his share. I thought that he played very efficient. He had 12 receptions I believe and 102 yards. He did some really good things; Matt got the ball out of his hand.
Were they giving you deep outs?
Our offense is based off of how people are going to try and defend us. They weren't rolling up, they were playing soft coverage and he was able to push the guy off the line of scrimmage and come back. We were going to take what they give.
With all the high-profile guys you have on offense, why couldn't you get in the end zone?
I think that's a very good defense over there on the other side of the ball. You got a safety that didn't play for them last year that missed, I think 11 games. And I think he's the main piece to their unit, and they are the fifth-ranked defense in the league. We have got to make sure that we go back and evaluate everything we're doing and make sure that we make the corrections. Usually from the first week to the second week you see advancement in what you're trying to get done. I Hope we will improve in week 1 to week 2.
Re: Harry Douglas
I thought that Harry had a couple of catches; I don't know his exact numbers. I thought three catches is what he ended up with. It was good to see Harry back out there. Harry's had a long battle coming back from that knee. He is going to be an integral part of what we want to do offensively.
Outside of Owens, are there any other injuries?
Christopher came back and played in the ball game. We had a couple of guys that had issues that were in and out of the ballgame. I will have an update for that on Wednesday.
FALCONS PLAYERSMatt Ryan:It was a hard fought game today. A lot of the credit to the Steelers, they made the plays when they needed to and we didn't. So in a certain sense, frustrating, but with that said our objectives should now be to get back to work. It's one game, get back to work. Improve on some of the things we need to improve on, and do everything we can to get a win next week.
Talk about your vantage point on Polamalu's interception.
Troy made a really good play. It felt like I had enough of a window to get the ball outside. Thought I made a pretty good throw but against him you have to be perfect, and he made the play in that situation. In order to win those types of games, when it's tight, you have to make those plays, and he made a good play.
What do you think about the opportunities the defense gave you?
The defense played really well. They gave us opportunities the entire day with good field position a number of times. I was impressed with how hard they played, they tackled well. So they gave us a chance, they kept them out of the end zone throughout regulation. So I thought the defense played really well.
RE: How tough it was with your running game at a halt?
I think Pittsburgh's defense and specifically the front seven is really good. They played really well today. Obviously, any game we would like to run effectively. We didn't do it as we would have liked to today, but I thought our pass protection was pretty good. But at the end of the day we need to make some more plays and we just didn't make them.
On the 4-and-1 play in the redzone, did you think he got it, or should have gone for it?
No, I think Smitty (Mike Smith), we trust his decisions all the time, and I thought it was the correct decision, obviously to tie up the game in that situation. I was hoping we got it, but he was short. Again, it was a pretty good play. The defense made a good, solid tackle. We're very close we need to continue to work on those things and continue to improve. If we do that, we'll build ourselves opportunities to win.
Re: Tony Gonzalez's 1000th catch
I thought it was a great milestone for Tony today for him to get his 1000th catch, and to be the guy to deliver it was pretty special. That speaks to his consistency throughout his career. To my knowledge he is the first Tight End to ever do that, so it's incredibly impressive and couldn't happen to a better person.
Re: Getting into a defensive rhythm after some early Steelers' successes
They came out kind of fast. We kept them out of the endzone, and they kicked a field goal. We got into some rhythm there. For four quarters, we kept them out of the endzone. We did a good job of matching them. They obviously made more plays than us. At the end, it's unfortunate, but they made the play. Give credit to them.
Describe the situations near the end of the game that resulted in back-to-back sacks.
He (Dixon) probably had it in his hand an extra second. It's a credit to the whole defense. I was getting double-teamed, and beat the tackle and tight end for it, so Curtis (Lofton) is there. I had a tight end on me, and he kind of flushed out, and Curtis showed up on the end to get the sack. They were two good plays, but it's unfortunate that we didn't get the win.
Re: Emotions during last couple series
You're always going to have ebbs and flows in the game. You can't get too high, and you can't get too low. You try and stay consistent, and play consistent and smart. There were definitely some momentum changes there towards the end, on both sides. When it comes down to it, they made that extra play that mattered. It's unfortunate, we'll have to look at the film and learn from our mistakes, pay attention to the details and go after it because we have another one next week.
Re: Evaluating this game from the perspective of a rookie
Mammoth offensive line. Big guys up front. They do a good job of firing off the ball – pretty athletic guys, and they have a quarterback who can run around. That makes it a little bit tougher.
What did you see on the Mendenhall touchdown run?
It was tough – obviously you want to make that play. It's first down, you want to get out there and get a hit and stop them to get the ball back to our offense, but it just didn't work out the way it was planned. It's tough to see the guy run into the end zone.
What happened when he (Mendenhall) cut to the right?
It's just a play that they always run. We have to do a better job of fitting it up -- everybody. I came downhill and hit a lineman and just saw the guy run to the other side.
What goes through your head when you see that happening?
It's tough, man. You fight so hard the whole game – tough game – and the last play of the game is when the first touchdown is scored. That's tough. We fought and we fought, and those guys made one more play than we did. That determined the outcome of the game. It's definitely something I'll always remember. I'll just try to work a little bit better and a little bit harder to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Re: Play of Dennis Dixon
Quarterbacks (at this level) know they can't run around out there, you have guys out there trying to take people's heads off. He did a good job of staying poised. He made some big throws for their team, and made some good plays. On one third down, he was about to go out of bounds and he struck one down the sideline and it was a big play for them. They gave us pretty much what we thought we were going to see, and he did a good job.
Reaction to outcome
Their defense made more plays than ours, and in the future we have to step up to the task.
Re: Making adjustments after some early Steelers' success
The first 15 or 20 plays are going to be scripted – we knew that. They were doing some things – we just had to settle down and get into the game and start doing what we do.
Describe the emotional reaction to the peaks and valleys near the end of the gameIt was a roller coaster. Ups and downs. That's what football is all about. When you're down, that's when you have to come through and make a big play and get off the field and get the ball back to the offense. We didn't do that today.
What happened on the touchdown run?I haven't seen it so I don't know. It must've been a misfit, like coach said, but I haven't seen it. It was horrible. I feel horrible. As a defense, I felt we played pretty good the entire game, then to let them have a big play like that at the end, it just makes you sick to your stomach.