* STEELERS VS. TEXANS SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2008 AT HEINZ FIELD - KICKOFF 1 P.M. POST-GAME QUOTES*
Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Coach Mike Tomlin:It was a great opening day here at Heinz Field; a beautiful day. We had great energy from our fans. I think that we played a good game in virtually all three phases. It was not perfect but I liked the energy and enthusiasm from the people who went out and made plays for this football team. That is what it is about. I am glad that we got this win today but tomorrow we move on. I will answer any questions.
Can you talk about your defensive pressure?
We have some guys who showed us what they did in the preseason. We didn't give them extended time in a lot of areas in the preseason but this wasn't unexpected based upon their performance in the preseason. James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley; those guys created a little bit of havoc coming off of the edge. That is why we are optimistic about what we are capable of doing, because of those guys. That was a good collective effort and I think that when you talk about applying pressure and getting sacks, you have to talk about the coverage.
Talk about the play of the offensive line:
I thought that we controlled the line of scrimmage. Last night when we met, we talked about September football; that we were going to dress eight offensive linemen and six defensive linemen and it was going to be a game of attrition. I thought that both of our lines responded to that. I would like to see us finish plays there in the fourth quarter but you know that is something to work on; we will come back and look at that. They got after people and they finished piles off. Willie (Parker) ran the ball and finished runs off very well. I am pleased with the performance of those guys.
In the beginning of the third quarter why did you keep running the ball?
Because he (Parker) ran off an eight-yard run and a 10-yard run to start the half, there is nothing more complex to it than that. When you start the half off with a couple of double-digit runs, you keep feeding him.
Can you talk about the plan to rotate the six defensive linemen?
Regardless of the score it was our intent to rotate our six defensive linemen; we wanted to keep them fresh. You worry about September football and the first opportunity to play four quarters. We took that precaution and we came in with that mindset that we were going to play those guys, and they did a nice job. We have a great deal of belief in those guys; that guys like Chris Hoke can come in and the standard of expectation will not change. We know that that guy can come in and perform; that includes Travis (Kirschke) and Nick (Eason).
How would you rate Rashard Mendenhall's first game?
I thought that he did some nice things. He is a work-in-progress just like this football team. We are growing as he is. I like his demeanor, I like the look in his eyes, and I thought that he communicated well when we had him out there. It was a good start; we will come back to work tomorrow.
Did you feel comfortable with Willie Parker?
I felt comfortable with Willie going into this game. I might have been referring to something else. Willie Parker looked like we expected him to look. He is a very good back and a great competitor; I am glad that he is a Steeler.
How are you health-wise?
We have some normal bumps and bruises. Ryan Clark's eye closed up when he had his helmet come down and get him pretty good. Donovan Woods had some knee discomfort but we will know more (tomorrow) and we do not expect that to be serious. Deshea's (Townsend) foot was bothering him a little bit. We are pretty good from an injury standpoint and I think that all of these things will disappear before next week, which is good. We are going to move forward and have all hands on deck as we come to work tomorrow.
How about the pressure from James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley on the outside?
It was a good start. I think that that shows you what they are capable of doing. You like to see them (doing that) in the fourth quarter when we have a rush to eat, if you will. They did a nice job. I think that bookends ultimately determine a lot of outcomes in two-minute, fourth quarter football. I am not complaining because thankfully we did not need that today. You will know more about that group when they get in that kind of situation.
**Running Back Willie Parker
Re: If this was a statement game.
*Willie Parker: Statement? It's the first game. I just wanted to get back out there and just play. It seems like it's been a long time coming. It seems like I've been waiting forever. I know I was only out one or two games last year, but it seemed like the whole season. I've been working and training hard. I just want to get out there and make some plays.
Re: Scoring three touchdowns.
It's definitely something I always wanted to do. Last year, I wanted to do more, being a goal-line back, that's part of being a running back, finishing off the drive.
Re: His spin moves.
The defense always tells me that I don't have any moves. So that's what I've been doing all off-season, just working on my moves. I feel it's a little harder for a linebacker, coming down hill, and tackle someone when they're running full speed and spin and use their momentum to spin off. The defense always tells me that they don't like running backs that spin all the time. So I had to add it to my repertoire.
Re: Offensive line.
As an offensive unit we still have a lot of improvement and they did well for the first game. They have a good defense over there, Houston. We knew that all week long. We practice all their schemes and looks. Everything that they do, they do it around No. 90 (Mario Williams). We knew their defense was going to come in fired up. They're still on the rise.
Re: Ever remembering a drive like the one that opened the second half.
Probably not this early into the season. We probably never throw the ball like we did this early into the season. It usually takes time to get comfortable, like mid-season. We really like sticking it in there and scoring, and we finished the drive off.
Re: If this game answers all the questions about his leg. *
It's just the first game. We have 15 more games. It's not how you start, its how you finish. We just have to keep plugging and hopefully we go as a team.
*Re: Why the run game did better in the second half.
We came into halftime, made a lot of adjustments. Every play in the first half was close to breaking for a long play. We came back in halftime, made a few adjustments. A lot of them were in the open field in the second half.
Re: Running out of gas on the final run.
I was a little tired. When I chased, I think it was DeMeco Ryans, when I chased him down it took a lot out of me. I know we went into halftime and rested but I was tired. I was done for the rest of the game. I think I need to condition a little more.
Re: Playing goal line.
It was real big. I think my teammates know that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be the goal line back. That's what I was trying to show today, running hard down to the goal line.
WR Hines Ward
*Re: the performance of RB Willie Parker and his recovery from injury
"Willie's fine. He worked his tail off to get back from his injury. You have to credit the offensive line. Those guys went up front and did what they had to do. [It was a] total team effort."
Re: the perception that there have been a lot of people questioning the offensive line
"[There has been] no question from the players. You guys questioned it more than them. It's just a matter of getting an opportunity. I think they did a great job. Each guy who hasn't really been a starter, got his opportunity and made the most of it. And they went out and opened up some huge holes for Willie [Parker] to run through. Hats go off to the offensive line for doing a great job in opening up big holes for Willie Parker."
On the offense scoring touchdowns instead of field goals
"That's what you have to do. In this league, you have to score touchdowns. We like Jeff [Reed] and all that, but we like to score touchdowns over field goals. All in all, it was a great opening day performance as a team. The defense went out there and played their tails off and, offensively, we felt like – other than the one turnover – we felt like we were sharp."
*Re: the importance of scoring on the first possession of each half
"That's good. That's what we're supposed to do. That's what we were very good at last year. We started the game off and drove it down and put up a touchdown. Then, to come back in the second half, that's what you have to do. Good teams respond like that. But, it's just one game. We're not going to over-react. There's a lot of mistakes we made out on the field. We learn from it and move on."
LB LaMarr Woodley *
*Describing his interception
"I was dropping back into coverage. Deshea [Townsend] told me right before the play started, 'Make sure you get underneath that guy.' And I just did what he said. I got underneath him and got the interception."
Re: what it's like dropping back into coverage as a guy who was converted from a defensive end in college
"Once you get used to it and you get reps at dropping back in coverage, you start to get the feel of everything. Once I started getting the reps, starting from last year, I got really comfortable doing it now."
Talking about his sack
"That's nice, too. When you get a sack, you have to get credit to the guys up front and the guys in the back – the guys up front for applying the pressure and the guys in back for sticking to their coverage and allowing the quarterback to hold the ball a little bit. Let me get in and get the glory."
* * Comment about the importance of stopping the Texans on fourth down on their first possession of the game
"It feels good because teams across the league are going to watch that. When teams go for it on fourth and one, how far are they getting? We went in there and we stopped them today."
*Thoughts on the younger players on the defense needing to play larger roles in the defense
"As a rookie, not playing a lot, you come in and it's kind of like a learning experience that first year. After that first year, you're not a rookie anymore [and] guys expect a lot out of you. You should expect a lot out of yourself, and your teammates are going to expect a lot out of you."
WR Santonio Holmes
General comment re: the offensive's overall performance
"We really didn't have a lot of opportunities until the third game of the preseason. We were pretty much sound through our practices this week and we put everything on the table."
Re: today's gameplan
"To put up points. And that's what we did."
DE Aaron Smith
*Re: the performance of LaMarr Woodley
"I think it's very important. It's just going to build confidence. A guy like Woodley is only going to get better as the season goes on, the more comfortable he gets and the more confidence that he gets. I think it's important that the young guys get out there and get after it a little bit."
Comments on pressuring the quarterback today
"We came out [and] got after the run. Then we forced them into the passing game. After that, we can get you with our pass rush. That's what we're really trying to do – stop the run and get after the quarterback."
OT Marvel Smith
Re: Going against Texans DE Mario Williams
"He's a great young player, but there are great players all across this league. I don't look at it as, 'All right, this week, I've got a tough test.' Every week is a tough test. It's just a matter of going out there and trying to do the best job I can."
*His impressions on how the offense handled Williams
"I'd have to look at the film. But we did what we needed to do to win the game today. That's the key."
OT Willie Colon
Re: the drive to start the second half
"Our goal, every time we come out at halftime, we try to go for the kill shot. We understand it takes us up front to get it done. Ben [Roethlisberger] got a little dinged up, so we understood that any time he's not going to move it, we have to step up right there. I think we did that today."
QB Ben Roethlisberger
Re: how he looked today
"Good. You're always happy to get a win and get out of there."
* * Comments on RB Willie Parker's performance
"I could talk about his performance all day, the O-line's [performance] – everybody did a great job. I'm glad he silenced a lot of critics. People wondered, and even as players sometimes you wonder how someone's going to come back from a big injury. And, obviously, he came back just fine."
Comments on how he did calling the game
"I think we did good. We managed the game. It felt good out there. Obviously, anytime you go off your gut instincts you're not sure how everything is. But you go watch it on film, and that will kind of be the determining factor of how we played today."
Re: the importance of getting off to a fast start
"It's always important, whether it's the first drive of the game or the half. And we did it on both of them. We went down and scored. That's big for this team."
Comments on why the team ran the ball so frequently to start the second half
"We felt like our offensive line was really dominating their front seven. Our offensive line was doing a great job all day. When you get a big chun on first down, [then] a big chun on second down, you don't have to throw the ball. We threw one naked [bootleg] in there, just to throw them off, but you have to give our offensive line a lot of credit."
Thoughts on whether this is what the offense is capable of this season
"I think, not watching it on film and seeing all the little things yet, that we really didn't stop ourselves. We had two sacks that were just small, little things. It was nothing big, it was a little thing here, a little thing there. It was nothing big. So I don't think we made a lot of mistakes and I don't think we killed ourselves."
Comments about the offensive line's performance against a Texans defensive line that is talented and much talked about
"I can't say enough how good they did today. Take nothing away from the defense of the Texans, but Marvel Smith and Kendall [Simmons] and [Chris Kemoeatu] and Justin [Hartwig] and Willie Colon did such a great job of run blocking and pass blocking. They did a great job today."
Re: Willie Parker's performance
"It was really fun to watch him run. I get caught sometimes not carrying out my fakes because I want to turn around and see him make guys miss. He had a great one today on our side. It's just great to watch Willie Parker be Willie Parker."
Comments on his concern about being sacked twice
"People are still going to talk about the sacks. But, like I said, those two sacks were two small things. The tight end and I need to get on the same page a little quicker on one and the second one – well, Mario Williams is not a chump in this league. He's a pretty good player. So, you know what? It's little things that we'll get corrected. I'm not worried at all."
Re: the options he has to distribute the ball
"Heath Miller – I don't have any stats, obviously – had a great game. I think we showed a lot, but yet we still have a lot of weapons that didn't get utilized. [Santonio Holmes] might have had one catch, I'm not sure. We have some guys that can make some big plays that we kind of kept under wraps today, which is fun."
Comments on the evolution of his relationship with Coach Mike Tomlin
"It's doing well. We've learned a lot from each other and learned how to be serious, joke – we communicate well."
* * Thoughts on if it could have gone any better offensively
"Yeah. We got stalled on two drives on third down because of sacks. We played well. We're not going to judge too much without seeing the tape."
Comments regarding success on third down
"It felt like we were good [on third down]. It felt like we didn't get stopped and we really didn't stop ourselves. And that's a good feeling when you are out there."
"We had guys get open and the line's giving me time. It's fun to sit back there and find Heath [Miller] and Hines [Ward] and [Santonio Holmes] and Nate [Washington] and [Matt] Spaeth and just throw the ball."
** HEAD COACH GARY KUBIAK
Re: Assessing the performance of the offense
We knew it was going to be hard sledding. We felt like we could run the ball. That was our game plan. We did it early, we kept ourselves with decent third downs, but we didn't make the third downs. When you get down like we did, it's hard to stay committed to it.
*Re: Steelers running game *I'm looking at it (the numbers). They ran for 183 yards, a 4.7 yard average. They're a ball-control team. When they're able to do that, and they're 5-of-5 in the red zone, nothing good can happen to your football team.
**Re: Assessing the offensive line in regards to the sacks
They're capable, coverage-wise, of making you go in the hole. They do things that'll make you hold the ball. At the same time, sometimes you have to throw it away and go on to second down. We knew that going in – they didn't do anything different from what we had seen.
Re: Steelers performance *They're a hell of a team. A hell of a franchise, and a hell of a team. Their quarterback is one great player, with the job he does for them. They don't give up big plays. We know that coming in, and you have to find a way to go toe-to-toe. When you turn the ball over against the Steelers, you're in deep trouble.
*Re: Most disappointing aspect to the game
I can't focus on one thing. I'm disappointed in me right now. I'm the one that has to figure out why that happened -- why we went two-and-a-half quarters and played as poorly as we did.
Re: Failure to get touchdown after starting at the Steelers 12
That was big. We had two runs in a row and ended up with third-and-15. If we get the ball in the end zone there you go in for the half at 21-7. They made a couple good plays.
What is your message to team?
My message in the locker room is that we start with me tonight. See what . We have to bounce back from getting our tail kicked. We're back on the field seven days from right now and we have to be a lot better. We don't have a choice. We play this same type of football team next week. A physical, nasty football team.
Re: rotating Slayton and Monahan
The plan was to rotate them, three plays at a time. That was the plan all along but we never got into a rhythm.
RE: lack of improvement vs. the run
They only threw the ball 18 times. In the National Football League, when you only make the other team throw the ball 18 times, you are in deep trouble because they are controlling the football game. I know we were in a lot of eight-man fronts with the corners on an island but you have got to be able to stop them. We were poor again today.
Re: Assessing today's performance
I don't know. We have a lot of work ahead of us. That's about it.
Re: Steelers dominating the game *We didn't play very well today. We'll watch the film and see what happened.
*Re: Reaction to the results
Very shocked. We thought we had a good game plan, we had a good week of practice. I thought we were ready to go.
Re: Bouncing back from the loss
Well, you have to. It's week one. We have 15 more games to go – you can't go jumping into the tank already. We just have to go back, take a good look at it, prepare, and go out there next week.
Re: Reaction to the results
We're not going to get too low. It's a long season and we have to get back to work.
Re: Assessing the performance of the offense
We struggled as an offense early, and you can't do that when you come into a hostile environment like this. We knew it was going to be loud, we knew it was going to be tough. We turned the ball over and that's what hurts. We put the defense in bad positions, and you can't expect to come on the road and win, and be successful on offense, when you do that.
Re: Steelers defense
I don't think they surprised us at all. We did it to ourselves. We were playing against a good group, but we didn't execute. I think we did it to ourselves. It's nothing really that they did. We just have to make smart choices and execute better on offense.
Re: Are the Steelers tougher and more physical? *No. Absolutely not. No, definitely not. It might have looked like it out there today, but we're physical. We're going to run the ball well. We didn't run the ball well today – we didn't play well as an offense today. We're going to look at the film tomorrow and correct our mistakes. We'll be back.
*Re: Concerned about Matt Schaub's performance?
No, it doesn't concern me. Matt's going to come out and have a great game. Matt's the leader. He's a great quarterback. You can't just put it on the quarterback's shoulders – it's the whole offense. We're all in this together, and if one fails we all fail. We all have to be on the same page or obviously it doesn't work.
Re: Looking forward
This is the first game of the season. Everyone starts undefeated. The Super Bowl champs lost their first game. We have to correct our mistakes. We have a home game next week against Baltimore. We're going to correct the mistakes from this week and move on.
Re: Assessing the performance of the defense
It was all of us, really. We as a group missed too many tackles. They had a lot of yards after the contact. We have to go back and really assess our missed tackles and get better at finishing the plays.
Re: Embarrassed about the results? *Of course. Any time you lose, and the other team is taking out their starters in the fourth quarter, it's embarrassing. At the same time, you have to learn from it. You can't dwell on it. Tomorrow we have to go back to the drawing board and get better.
*Re: Two long Steelers drives in the third quarter
We missed too many tackles. We were hitting them early, but they'd bounce off and go for another 7 or 8 yards. That really hurt us. We have to go back and assess exactly what went wrong.
Re: Are the Steelers a more physical team?
No. I wouldn't say they're more physical. Today we just got beat. They were a better team today. I wouldn't say they're tougher than us. It was embarrassing, but I just can't say they're tougher than us.
Re: Do the Steelers offensive numbers tell the story today?
They don't tell the whole story. We missed a lot of tackles. A lot of those came from missed tackles from all of us – the defensive line, the defensive backs. We have to go back and reassess the film.
*Are you disappointed about this game?
Most definitely. We had all the intentions to come out here and make things happen. From a defensive point of view, from the d-backs to the d-line, we have to tackle. We missed a lot of tackles. We have to figure out why. We had the whole preseason to go out there and hit guys. They did everything we knew they were going to do, but we missed way too many tackles.
Are you bothered that some of your teammates seemed to be manhandled?
What happens to one of us happens to all of us. I'm part of this team. I can speak for the defense, we just weren't playing football right.
Is Pittsburgh a better running team than you expected?
It's missing tackles. That's the bottom line. We had plenty of guys stopped after two or three yards, but then we'd miss a tackle and they'd bust out for 40 yards.
Are you worried about the season after this game?
Today was definitely not what any of us wanted. I won't sit back and say it's OK. But when there's something like missing tackles, it could easily have gone the other way.
Any satisfaction from your two sacks today?
No. Because we lost. From a personal standpoint, I look over at their bench and see Ben [Roethlisberger] with his hat on and that's the beginning of the fourth quarter. I don't like that too much.
RE: speculation that Pittsburgh's offensive line wasn't going to be good
They did exactly what we thought they were going to do as far as run blocking and pass blocking. We just have to make something happen. One-on-one, we have to be accountable and take care of business.
Did you get caught going after Roethlisberger and the Steelers then ran to your side?
There was one third-and-long where we were definitely thinking pass and they hit us with a draw. That was definitely a great play.
I am extremely disappointed in myself, my performance, our team's performance. I thought we were ready for this game and we're capable of a whole lot more, but we didn't execute to the best of our abilities. We expect a lot out of ourselves and we weren't even close to that.
It's hard right now to put a finger on why. It's something that we'll evaluate in the next 24 hours. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and us as a team. We'll get in there tomorrow and piece this together and come back this week ready to go.
The one was a very poor decision on my part. I should have just thrown the ball away. The second one. The first one I was trying to make a play on my guy in the flat and they jumped it. The second one was a whole lot worse.
RE: turning the ball over on downs on the first drive
I'm never going to say I was affected by something like that. You have to go out there and play. I thought I got the first down. I got a pretty good push in there behind my guys. It's always a tough one. I thought I had plenty of yards for the first down but it's always hard for those guys to see where you got the ball down. I think that was a pretty important call on their part.
You look in this league and a lot of times the difference in winning or losing is one play. We had something going on that first series. We were moving the ball and had the ball at midfield. If we get that fresh set of downs, who knows what would have happened. We could have set the tone for the football game getting seven or three from the first drive. But you can't just go back and that play turned the tables.
Are you worried about bouncing back?
I'm not. As a football team, there's a lot of veteran leadership on this team. We're going to pull ranks and pull together and get this thing right and be ready to go home next week against Baltimore
RE: Sack/Fumble by Roethlisberger, 6:47 second quarter
That was a big play for us. I had just turned the ball over and they got it right back in the red zone and we got to third and long and they covered and we dumped the ball in hoping our guys could get a play there. We had to settle for three and you always want to get seven out of that situation.