Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Opening Statement:** Good afternoon. As always, I will start with a quick assessment of our last performance. A couple things happened in the game yesterday that were critical for us. We were able to stack a winning performance on top of a winning performance. Obviously, if you are going to be a good team, you have to be able to do that. We were able to go into a hostile environment, a road game setting, and secure a victory. Those things were positive. Obviously, it was a tough game in a lot of ways. It was a competitive game. It's good to come out of those games with a win. It's good to grow from. You learn a little bit about yourself as you get an opportunity to rise up against some natural adversity that the game of football presents. I tip my cap to St. Louis. They created some of that adversity, particularly with their defensive front. They played really good football. I thought we matched it and played good football as well. Two defenses really controlled the game as it went on. It's good to be in those types of games. It's good to know that we are capable of winning games in different ways, because games don't always go according to the script. The bottom line is you have to find ways to win them, and we were able to do that. We got significant contributions from men in all three phases. That's fun this time of year. We were able to overcome the loss of our quarterback and get out of the stadium with a win. That's a positive. Now, we get seemingly a week's worth of preparation over the next several days for our next opportunity. Obviously we will be excited about rallying around Mike Vick and working within his comfort zone in an effort to win this football game. But we were able to do what was necessary to get out of that game under those circumstances. That's a positive. Largely being critical of our performance, offensively, I thought that we stopped drives with penalties. That's kind of been the case for us. It's not necessarily about what our opponent does. It's about how we do it. We had some holding penalties and some hands to the face penalties, penalties that created first-and-20. When you are playing against a quality front like we were playing against yesterday, those things are difficult to overcome. That was the case on many of the drives that stalled. At some point during that drive we sustained a penalty that killed it and put us behind the chains, and put us in a less than advantageous position in terms of being able to win downs and move the chains. On defense, I thought we quite frankly missed too many tackles. I thought the guys played hard. I thought we were where we were supposed to be and seeing what we were supposed to see, but oftentimes I thought we missed too many tackles that created run after the catch opportunities and yards after contact opportunities. That can't be an issue for us if we want to win this football game on Thursday night. Steve Smith, Sr. is a guy that is very difficult to get on the ground. You have to do a real good job of tackling him. If you don't, you saw yesterday what he is capable of doing. I think he went 50 yards or so after a couple of missed tackles. I have a great deal of respect for him and everyone else that we prepare to play for in this game. We have to do a better job of tackling in general than we did yesterday. On the injury front, we released a statement regarding Ben Roethlisberger's health. He had an MRI. He has an MCL sprain. He is going to be out for a number of weeks. I don't have great detail about what that length of time might look like or might be, to be quite honest with you. I know he is out this week. And under the circumstances of us having to deal with a short week, and getting this group ready to play, that's about all the information that I need. I will fall back in and get more details regarding him and what the rehab is going to look like, what the process is going to look like and when we can start anticipating his return. I will address that as we come out of this game, probably no earlier than Friday of this week. Ryan Shazier is still nursing his shoulder. I don't know what his availability is going to be. As soon as he gets above the line from a strength standpoint, he will be allowed to return to participation. He wasn't there as of the other day. We will see where he is as we prepare for this game. Daniel McCullers is still working on his knee. We will let his availability in terms of practice be our guide in terms of whether or not he is able to participate. The same thing can be said for Cortez Allen. Cortez has had some inflammation in his knee that has limited his preparation from a practice standpoint. I've been following the guideline of those that practice and perform at practice get an opportunity to play. He hasn't been able to practice fully over the course of the last several weeks, so I have chosen to play other guys. We will see where he is in preparation for this one, and obviously, if he is healthy enough to practice and sustain the practice reps that allow him to prepare, then we will utilize him. But we will see how that goes. Some other in-game things that happened, James Harrison has a thumb injury that is being evaluated. It shouldn't keep him out of action, but it may limit him in some way. Matt Spaeth has a hand fracture that is being casted right now. We will take a look at his availability to function with that hand cast and let that be our guide in terms of his participation for the football game. It's obvious the Ravens are 0-3, but I would imagine that 0-3 doesn't define them. I would imagine that they are not demoralized. Quite frankly, I would imagine they are angry. Having been in that circumstance in the past, I can honestly say that's probably more of the reaction when you have the type of team that they have than to be demoralized. They've been in some tough football games, two games out west on the road and then a tough divisional opponent in Cincinnati. They are 0-3. That's what their record says. But we all know and acknowledge that they are a dangerous group, a talented group and well-coached group, and one that we have to get ready to do battle with on Thursday night. On offense it starts with Joe Flacco. There is nothing he can't do. He can make all the throws. We are very familiar with Joe. He is tough to get on the ground. He has only been sacked twice throughout the course of the first three games. His vertical passing game is spectacular. His deep ball accuracy and touch is special. He seemingly has increased autonomy every time you turn the tape on from year-to-year. I would imagine that's the natural maturation and progression for a quarterback of his talents. He is changing things at the line of scrimmage, getting them into ideal plays, things that you would expect from a franchise-caliber quarterback like him. The rapport that he has established with Smith, Sr. has been spectacular through three weeks. I am very familiar with Steve, even from his time with Carolina. But he is playing at a high level right now, doing classic Steve Smith Sr.-like things. He is making tough, combat catches. He is a tough guy to get on the ground. He makes all the significant situational football-like plays for them, third-down and fourth-down plays. He is a quality player and has been for 15 years or so. Nothing has changed there. They have some really talented tight ends. Crockett Gillmore out of Colorado State is playing really well for them. Maxx Williams, their first-rounder of out Minnesota, is really talented. They've been a tight end oriented team for some time, going all the way back to Todd Heap. It continues with these two new, young additions. I think they are playing at a high level. They have good offensive line play. Marshal Yanda is the anchor there at the right guard spot for them. He has been around. I would expect Eugene Monroe to be back this week. He's an anchor for them at left tackle. He's a savvy, former first-round, veteran player. He is a guy that always competes hard against us. I have a lot of respect for those guys. We have to play good football, especially given the circumstances on the offensive side of the ball. Our defense has to be at their best to work to minimize their points, yards and possessions, and obviously anything we can do in terms of gaining posessions will help our offense in terms of winning the football game. Looking at their defense, the significant pieces of the puzzle that aren't there that have been there in the past are Haloti Ngata, who they lost in free agency, and Terrell Suggs, who they lost in Week 1 due to injury. But other than those guys, the group, largely, remains intact. Their two inside linebackers, Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley, they are men for all situations and are really impact and good players. Mosley is an awesome player. He has two sacks. He is a sideline-to-sideline tackler. He is a talented and young football player. They have some savvy veterans up front, guys like Chris Canty who has been around. Brandon Williams is a young nose guard for them that is stepping in and playing. We are familiar with him. We've seen him in the past. Their outside linebackers are Courtney Upshaw, a former first-rounder out of Alabama, and Elvis Dumervil. They've had an embarrassment of riches and depth at that position in the past, when you put Suggs in with that group. But they've taken the necessary steps to fortify that group. They acquired Jason Babin, a former first-rounder a couple of weeks ago, who has yet to play. I would imagine that he is ready from an assignment standpoint. We can just proceed with the understanding that we are going to see a rotation at outside linebacker that includes Babin this week. I think it's prudent for us to take that approach from a preparation standpoint. He is a talented rusher. We've seen him in several cities over the years. He will compliment that Dumervil and Upshaw tandem nicely. I am sure they are excited about that once they get him up to speed. On the back end, they have a savvy veteran cornerback in Jimmy Smith. He primarily matches up against top-flight wide receivers. I wouldn't be surprised if I see him following Antonio Brown around on Thursday night. Working with him is Lardarius Webb, who is a savvy veteran guy. Those two guys comprise a solid, veteran cornerback tandem, who we have weighed some significant battles with over the years. We have a great deal of respect for them. Will Hill is a return safety for them. They are going to play hard. They have been in some tough football games. They haven't come out on the positive side of those games. I would imagine that they are undeterred by that. I would imagine that they are excited about having a short week given the circumstances. That's neither here nor there. I am not concerned about their mindset or how they develop their plan. I just think it's appropriate that we focus on ours. We have a few things that highlight that sense of urgency or perspective. Number-one, it's a short week at the early portion of the year, so we have to be sharp about what it is that we ask our guys to do to make sure that they are able to execute at an above-the-line level, but also that we are complex enough that we are not predictable. We have to make an adjustment in terms of starting Vick and bringing the game to him and allowing him to play. We have to find what his personality and our personality is with him, letting him get a week's preparation from that standpoint. Defensively, like I said last week, it's less about the people that we play and more about the continued growth and development of this defense, the building of this defense. I just think that's appropriate. We have to be smart about what we ask our guys to do to make sure that they are playing fast and error free if we can, because that's a recipe for good defense. It was this past Sunday against St. Louis. Hopefully it will be that way this Thursday. Obviously when you are minus a quarterback like we are, particularly one of the significance of Ben, if you can get a leg up on special teams that can be significant. So we have some work in front of us in that area as well.
Does Vick know the whole offense? Or, are there areas where he's still not up to speed after one month?
He is, but that doesn't mean we will ask him to execute our offense in the manner in which we would ask Ben Roethlisberger to. Ben and Coach Haley have been together for three years now and Ben has been in Pittsburgh for over 10 years, so there's a certain comfort with that continuity. We're not going to assume things, because Mike is a veteran player and he's up to speed on our large-body of work. We're going to work in his comfort zone and bring the game to him to allow him to put us in the best position to win the football game.
How relieved are you that Ben will be out a number of weeks, as opposed to a season-ending injury?**
I didn't assume that it was a season-ending injury. I never assume anything when someone gets hurt. I try to wait until I have medical information. When I got it, that's what they gave us. I don't spend a lot of time, or waste a lot of time speculating.
What did you think of the hit on Ben?
I'm not going to be critical of the hit or the officiating. You guys know we got a letter a week ago stressing us not to do that, so I'm not.
Did you offer any words of encouragement to Ben after his injury? If so, what was that conversation like?
No. Ben is a been-there done-that guy. No words needed.
What's your message to the fans that are worried about the rest of the season, because of this injury?
I'm not worried about the rest of the season, to be honest with you. I'm worried about our preparation today and our effort to win the game Thursday night. As far as the message to the fans, I'll see them on Thursday night.
Could you expand on Ryan Shazier's injury?
He's experiencing some weakness in his shoulder and until he gets that weakness above the line, we're going to hold him out. He's been working hard with our medical staff, in terms of regaining that. He hadn't been able to do it to this point, so we are going to hold him out until he does.
What did you think of Sean Spence's performance?
I thought it was above the line. Not only him, but Vince Williams. We will continue to utilize both of those guys in place of Ryan. Both guys have played for us in the past and both guys are capable of playing good, above-the-line ball. Both are high-energy guys and good communicators. We are comfortable with our depth at that position.
It was just a year ago Mike Vick had a really good game against you guys. Does he feel he's far removed from when he was a starter?
I'll let him answer those questions. Right now, he's starting for us this week. We are going to rally around him and appropriately so.
There were a couple of time where linebackers lost coverage. Is that where Shazier really shines?
I don't know what specific instance you're talking about, but Ryan has some unique talents from a linebacker-range standpoint. Obviously, in the misdirection game and chase plays, he's is unique.
Does it make it any more difficult that you only have four days to prepare your backup quarterback?
It does, but it's also difficult for them, because they have the same allotted time for preparation in Baltimore.
Do you feel like Landry Jones is ready to be the second-string quarterback?
I do. If I didn't, I wouldn't have kept him on our football team.
Is it viable for DeAngelo Williams and Le'Veon Bell to be in the same backfield for a bunch of plays?**
It just depends on the circumstance, or the game. We had that package available to us, and you saw a glimpse or two of it. I imagine it's going to continue to grow as we move forward.
When you saw Le'Veon jump like he did, do you continue to encourage that?
He's a football player, and I encourage him to do what comes natural. My concern is ball security. He's been great with ball security, not only in that circumstance, but in all circumstances since he's been here. I want these guys to play and play within their personalities. Oftentimes, when you ask those guys to do things that aren't them it puts them in harm's way, as opposed to letting them play and play freely. There's a calculated risk taking in the game of football. Le'Veon plays a certain way, Big Ben plays a certain way, and Mike Vick plays a certain way. The way that they play allows them to be the special people they are. I never want to handcuff that.
What have you seen from Vick since his number was called? Was he in early today? Any anxiety?
He was in early. It's not his first rodeo.
It's been reported that Martavis Bryant is back with the team. Is that the case and will he be reinstated on Friday?
I'm not going to comment on Martavis' circumstance. I've been pretty open about what the issues are with him and that he is dealing with some things more important than football. At the end of his suspension, I'll be ready to address how we move forward with him and along with him. Until that time, I won't have a lot to say about it.
Do you plan to add another quarterback to the practice squad or roster?
I don't anticipate it at this juncture. No.
Do you see a bigger role for DeAngelo Williams in wake of the injury?
Not in wake of the injury. He's a guy who is capable of helping us win. As long as he and Le'Veon are available together, we will find ways to utilize both of their talents. It may mean a rotation, it may mean both of them on the field at the same time. We'll see how that unfolds.
Can you think of a guy in your experience who has short-area quickness that is even comparable to Antonio Brown?
I'm sure I could. Steve Smith Sr. isn't bad, and I spent the morning looking at him.
What did you learn about your defense yesterday?
I think time is going to tell that story. I'm not one to draw conclusions or paint with a broad brush. We did what was necessary, in terms of winning the game. I acknowledge that was significant, especially under the circumstance of losing our quarterback. It's something that they can hopefully grow from and we all can grow from. We are as good as our next opportunity and that's coming quickly on Thursday night against a team I'm sure is going to be fired up to play with some big-time weapons. Our challenge is going to be a big one this week.
How much, if at all, do things change for your offense with the switch between a right-handed quarterback and a left-handed quarterback? Particularly, protecting the blind side.
We're not overly concerned about that. We will do what is appropriate, in terms of some of the misdirection passes and things of that nature that highlight left-handed and right-handed quarterbacks. Other than that, Coach Haley has to be cognizant of play-action and things of that nature. Nothing overly concerning from a protection standpoint or the utilization of people standpoint. No.
Does you approach to the two-point conversion change at all with Mike Vick instead of Ben?
No it does not.
It looks like Mike Mitchell is delivering the kinds of blows he was in Carolina and blitzing a little bit. Is that accurate and if so, why is that?
I think when you play well collectively, you can pick out individuals and talk about what they are doing. I just thought we played good, collective defense yesterday. You can talk positively about Mike's contributions, but you can also talk positively about Will Allen. The bottom line is I thought those guys played extremely well together. Not only the safeties, but the defense. We kept a lid on it, we hustled and we hit. Those are good building blocks for the type of defense we desire to be.
Where are Brandon Boykin and Ross Cockrell in the depth chart and in the scheme of things?
We'll decide this week what our personality is going to be. Oftentimes, it's a matchup or how the game unfolds. We'll develop that as we get ready to play Thursday night. Both guys have been viable to us and we appreciate the efforts of both. We will do what is appropriate, in terms of the matchup, this week.
St. Louis' defensive line turned it up as the game went on. Was that because they were winning one-on-ones, or because you guys were behind the sticks more often as the game went on?
They won some one-on-one battles, like they are capable of doing. We also got into some situations when we made it advantageous for them to win, due to penalties. I think it was a combination of both. How can Bell, Brown and the rest of the guys help the quarterback?
By being themselves and doing what it is they do. I'm fairly comfortable in saying that when you step into the stadium, 84 is going to be 84 and 26 is going to be 26.