STEELERS at TITANS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2008 KICKOFF -- 1:00 P.M. CONFERENCE CALLS
HEAD COACH JEFF FISHER
Can you believe that it has been three years since your last game versus Pittsburgh?
Yeah I was saying the same thing when I was talking to our media relations staff about how long it has been. Actually I believe that it was the opener that year because it was (former) Coach (Norm) Chow's first game with us.
Does Pittsburgh still seem like a rival to you?
Of course it does. It is still a real exciting week because we still have a few players who remember the old days. We also have a number of players who have a great deal of respect for the Steelers that have battled with them when they were members of other teams.
Do both teams try to balance winning and staying healthy knowing that each of you is guaranteed a bye?
I think that both teams will take the same approach; I am not speaking for Coach (Tomlin) but I think that both teams are going to play everybody and do whatever you can to win the game because both teams know that if you are fortunate to get to that second week, how important home field advantage is.
Do you agree that you have everything to lose and they have everything to gain?
Not necessarily because I think that there are a lot of stakes in this game. Whoever wins this game will benefit. It is not a matter of who has nothing to lose and nothing to gain. I think that this game is significant because at the end, whoever wins is going to have home field throughout the playoffs.
How is your depth on the defensive line?
Clearly, we are going to miss Albert (Haynesworth) and Kyle (Vanden Bosch). We were fortunate earlier this year in Weeks 2 and 3 to begin playing some of the younger players. Then, we had a few weeks where Kyle was out, so we played the younger ends and we got some production. They have gotten plenty of experience and they are excited about this opportunity. I think that anytime you lose a starter, a backup has to step up. You don't dwell on it; the backup gets his job done and becomes a better player.
How much does this affect your pass rush?
Obviously when you don't have Albert and Kyle other people have to step up. We are going to have to find ways. It is certainly not going to be easy. I am very, very impressed with the continuity on the offensive line and their ability to protect the quarterback. The sacks are misleading; this is a very well-coached and physical offensive line.
What kind of fit has Chris Hope been?
He has been terrific. I was really, really honored to go find him; guess where I had to go to find him to tell him that he was selected to the Pro Bowl? All I had to do was go into the weight room on a day off; that is where I found Chris. That is Chris; that is what he did there and that is what he does here. He has been a great influence not only on his fellow defensive backs, but on all of the defensive players.
What has been the key to causing so many turnovers?
Turnovers usually come in bunches; they have come in bunches against us the past couple of weeks. You practice trying to strip the ball out just like every other good defense does. I think that if you can get pressure on the passer, then good things happen. We were able to do that for the most part this year. The guys in the secondary have benefited from it.
How do you do anything good with consistency against the Pittsburgh defense?
We are going to try to put together the best practice week that we can and see if we can make some plays.
Does having two different looks at running back help you run the ball against Pittsburgh?
No, I don't think that it is going to affect this defense because they have such a great combination of strength and speed. They close so quickly. I looked back over the course of six-eight games and looked for explosive plays; some people say they are 15 and some say that they are 20 yards or more; there are very few of them. When you do find them, the ball carrier is going down right at 20-21 yards. They just recover so well because of their team speed.
Are you surprised that only three Pittsburgh guys made it into the Pro Bowl?
Yes, I was; I am sure that they will use that as a motivating factor. I thought that Ben (Roethlisberger) was worthy of it; I thought that he has played very, very well. In 2002, the last time we played the Steelers at home; we beat them to get to the (AFC) Championship Game, we had nobody in the Pro Bowl.
How about Kerry Collins?
Kerry has done fine since we gave him the opportunity. He has taken advantage of it and had fun; he has been very professional and he works hard. He is the same on the practice field as he is in the game; he is enjoying it. He has been a very good influence on Vince (Young); Vince is ready to play if we need him to play.
QUARTERBACK KERRY COLLINS
Can you comment on Joe Paterno coming back for another three years?
I think everyone is excited that Joe is coming back. He has the ability to put a winning team on the field and has the desire to do it. I think he deserves to coach as long as he wants. I think the whole Penn State community is excited.
Are you still tied in with that at all?
A little bit. It's hard, I obviously would like to get back there for games and stuff but I keep in touch with members of the coaching staff and I certainly try to keep an eye on with what is going on.
As far as you can tell, Joe hasn't changed his involvement or enthusiasm?
Everything I've heard and everything I've seen from up there, he still has the energy, still has the desire and he still has the ability to do a good job. I think he deserves the opportunity to coach more.
What kind of energy will it take to score against this tough defense?
It's going to take a lot of energy. It is going to be a huge challenge for us obviously. I watch it on tape and there are no weaknesses in their defense. Certainly we know we are in for a big challenge and we've got to play a heck of a lot better than we did last week, that's for sure.
Do you ever wonder if you will ever have the opportunity like this again, to be a starter on this type of team?
I certainly did wonder. I guess being relegated to backup was difficult for me and certainly I wasn't sure if I would ever get the opportunity to be a starter in this league. That is why this year I tried to embrace it and tried to make the most of the opportunity.
What do you feel the importance is of getting the number one verse the number two seed?
We've got one game at home, but obviously home field advantage throughout the playoffs is something that you strive for when you get in the playoff run. It's obviously a big deal to both teams. I think we would both like to have it. It certainly is going to be played hard because I think both teams are really striving to get it.
You and Ben Roethlisberger are two top quarterbacks and neither of you made the Pro Bowl this year. Does that say something about how the Pro Bowl quarterbacks are picked?
I don't know. I think a lot of this has to do with the numbers and the stats. I think at the end of the day we want to win and we both have been able to do that this season. So while everyone would like to be acknowledged for their personal accomplishments, I think at the end of the day, wins are the most important thing.
Was your '94 team better than this year's team at Penn State?
I think it was. I think it is hard to compare and hard to say that offensively there will ever be a team that was as good as or better than we were in '94. We were extremely balanced and it was one of those special years where everything came together. While I take nothing away from this year's team, they are a heck of a team and have a heck of an offense, but you have to think that because we went undefeated we will always be considered one of the best teams at Penn State.
You have only been sacked eight times so far this year. How much of that is the job that the line is doing and how much of that is you knowing when to get rid of the ball?
I think first and foremost, the offensive line certainly has most to do with it. Certainly getting rid of the ball helps. Also, tight ends, running backs, everyone is involved in that. Week-in and week-out, our offensive line has done a really good job at pass protection.
Can you describe your relationship with Vince Young?
Vince and I have a good relationship. We've had a good relationship from day one. It's never been strained at any point. I supported him when he was a starter and he has been supportive when I've been a starter, so at no point have we never not had a good rapport.
Can you comment on taking control as a starter?
When I got the opportunity to start, I wanted to do it to the best of my ability. I think part of that is being a good leader and being someone that can be counted on week-in and week-out. As the season is going on and through all of the things that go on during the season and all of the wins that we have been able to accumulate, I felt like this has become my team. I try to take ownership of it, I worked hard week-in and week-out and I think that ultimately this has become my team. It is something that I wanted to happen and I am glad it did.