Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Opening Statement:Good afternoon. As always I will start with a quick assessment of our last game. It was a disappointing game for us, because of the things we did and didn't do, quite frankly. We always like to take a certain amount of responsibility for the outcome of the football game. We acknowledge the quality of play of the people that we play, but oftentimes, we focus on the things that we can control. Obviously, we had a part to play in the outcome of the game. There were some things that we did that were not characteristic of how we desire to play or how we played at times this year. We talked about it openly after the game. The penalties were disturbing. That's not how we are going to play. We are going to fix that as soon as possible. But it was an issue in the game. We were penalized 10 times. That hasn't been us. Penalties have been an asset to us over the course of the season. It's been a winning edge for us, and it's something that we take pride in. But we were highly penalized in the game, and it was a detriment to our efforts in many instances. We turned the football over. We aren't going to turn it over three times, and lose the turnover battle, minus-one, against an undefeated team and feel comfortable about your position within the game. It was a big impact in terms of the outcome of the game. We did do a pretty good job of minimizing the explosion plays that their offense has produced with guys like Marvin Jones, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert and some other guys. They had really put some field-flipping plays in games, but that's what we focused on coming into the game, minimizing big plays, not being highly penalized and not turning the ball over. We only got one out of three done. That's probably a critical element of the loss for us. We had a good day yesterday analyzing those things and others relative to the game. Now we are ready to move forward with this week's challenge. But first, I think it's appropriate to talk about some injury-related things.
Obviously, Le'Veon Bell was injured significantly in the game. He has been placed on the Reserve/Injured List. We haven't talked openly about what the plan or course of action is for him regarding surgery and what not. I think he is meeting with the team of doctors and our medical staff this afternoon or tomorrow morning. Really, there is no timetable there. Obviously with him being on IR, we are going to do what's right and appropriate, and take really good care of him. We were able to acquire Isaiah Pead, a guy that we are familiar with. He has been in St. Louis. We saw him on tape already this year in preparation for that game. He is a guy that we evaluated when he came out for the draft out of the University of Cincinnati. We have a great deal of comfort in him. He has a skill set that is going to help us at some point. And I emphasize at some point, because he has to learn what to do. As we prepare this week, we are going to prepare with the men that have been here and know what to do and can detail assignments. We will see how Pead progresses in terms of learning what to do. When he is above the line from that standpoint, we will consider how to utilize his skill set. As I sit here today, obviously, he is just starting that process. So I don't have a lot to comment on that or what he may be able to do for us. I think all of that stuff will be revealed to us over time as we proceed. Right now, we are going to rally around DeAngelo Williams. This is not his first rodeo, professionally speaking, and with us. He did a great job for us over the first couple of weeks this season when Le'Veon was out. We will get back with him being the feature guy in our backfield, and we will supplement the others around him in what we do in the run and pass game from a running back standpoint. Terence Garvin will still be out this week with his MCL sprain. Mike Mitchell is going through concussion protocol. I don't have any additional information on that. Will Allen and Stephon Tuitt both appear to be in position to practice at least in some capacity tomorrow, and like with all the guys we deal with, we will let their level of participation and effectiveness be our guide in terms of the next step. But both guys are prepared and are scheduled to participate tomorrow. Ben Roethlisberger had no negative repercussions from his participation from a physical standpoint up to this point in the week. That appears to be behind us. We will push forward towards getting ready for this opportunity to face the Oakland Raiders. They are 4-3. They have won their last two games. They are playing really well. I'll start with their offense and highlight some things we need to be concerned about with them. It starts with their second-year quarterback Derek Carr. He has all of the physical talents that you are looking for at quarterback, and he is displaying that consistently on tape. He has very good arm accuracy and strength. There isn't a professional football throw that he can't make, and he displays that routinely on whatever tape you are looking at. His mobility is an issue. He is able to move around in the pocket by design and by improvisation. They do both. They consciously move the pocket with some misdirection passes and some play-action passes. He is capable of breaking down and extending plays, and creating when the pocket disintegrates. He does a good job of making good and fast decisions. He is spreading the ball around to a variety of people. Amari Cooper is a talented rookie out of Alabama. This guy is showing special, and I mean what I say when I say special, he's showing special physical characteristics already in his career. He is both quick and fast. He has strong hands. He is a disciplined and mature route runner. He can drop his weight at break points. He gets in and out of stuff very cleanly. His run after the catch is very good. He puts the ball away quickly. He gets up field quickly. He appears to have very good vision once he gets the ball in his hands. They are finding ways to get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways, whether it's in the perimeter screen game or supplementary runs, or moving him within positions. They are putting him in the slot some. They are doing some nice things in terms of keeping you off balance to give him an opportunity to get the ball. Opposite of him is Michael Crabtree, a former first-rounder out of Texas Tech. He is a combat catch guy, a veteran and physical guy. We have to do a good job of combating him. He does a nice job of leaning on pressure and creating separation at break points, making combat catches. He is a rough-and-tumble type of guy. We respect him. We have to be prepared to match those differing styles, depending on who our cornerbacks are playing. They have three tight ends, and they utilize all of them in a variety of ways. They really have different skill sets. They do a nice job of mixing them up. Lee Smith is their blocker. Clive Walford, the young rookie out of Miami is a combination guy. He excels in the passing game. He is good as an end-line blocker as well. Mychal Rivera, their young tight end out of Tennessee, is more of a move or a pass catching guy, an H-back like guy. They will use multiple tight end sets. They will use all three, two and one. They will use different packages with one. It's really going to be challenging to match some of those things that they do and the personality they have when those guys are employed in the game. At running back, Latavius Murray has really done a nice job of rising up and seizing an opportunity as their feature runner. They do a nice job of running the football both inside and outside. Taiwan Jones supplements him. He is more of a perimeter and speed guy. He is very talented. The last time we played them I think he was a cornerback. He is back in his original college position. He is really doing some nice things for them. On the defensive side of the ball, it's about their young talent. Khalil Mack is a talented young linebacker that they moved to defensive end. Regardless of what position he plays, he is an impact guy. He is a run and hit guy. He has pass rush capabilities. He leads them in sacks with four. They've been able to add Aldon Smith, who is a dynamic pass rusher. Malcolm Smith is a talented second-level defender, who is now in a new city. He is doing his thing in Oakland, much like he did in Seattle. And they have the timeless one in Charles Woodson. What can you say about him that hasn't already been said? As a young assistant in the league in 2002, I was with the Buccaneers, and we played the Oakland Raiders in the Super Bowl. One of the feature defenders for the Raiders was Charles Woodson. That was 13 years ago. I am still talking about him as we get ready to play the Raiders. The guy is timeless. He ages the way quarterbacks and James Harrison age, and nobody else. He is a tremendous player. He can blitz and cover. He has ball skills. He is aware. We have to be conscious of where he is at all times. They do a nice job of rushing coverage. We have to protect the quarterback. We can't let their ends and edge rushers break us down. But more than anything else, and we respect these guys, the run they are on and the position that they are in, and the significance of the game. But for us, it's about the things that are in our control and the quality of our play. We can't be highly penalized, we have to win the turnover battle and we have to take better care of the football than we have in the last two weeks. It's been a formula for success for us in the midst of some adversity, and really in the last two weeks we haven't taken care of the football. That's probably the central reason we lost the last couple of games. That's going to be our focus. We are going to keep it simple, roll our sleeves up and get back to work as we always do. We are excited about doing that with the compliment of men we have this week.
Is Mike Vick 100% healthy and is he your No. 2 quarterback?
I don't know that he is. We'll see. That's one I should've mentioned, along with Will Allen and Stephon Tuitt, in terms of letting their participation or availability to participate be our guide in terms of how we proceed.
Would you have preferred Dri Archer returned that last ball, instead of downing it?
No. I just wanted to get the ball to our offense. Oftentimes that play is another play for the offense. We hadn't done a great job in that game, at least blocking Cedric Peerman. He tackled us twice inside the 20. Dri did what we told him to do. If he brings that ball out, he probably gets to around the 20, based on what we had seen. He runs off four, five, six seconds, and I think that's what was on the clock for the last ball that was snapped. So, we wanted to preserve that time and give those seconds to Ben. And that's why we took the approach we did.
Will Dri be returning kicks for you this week?
Re: On giving up 38 seconds before the two-minute warning and if he would make the same decision again:
I thought I was pretty clear why, and I outlined that decision after the game. I thought having the ability to stop the clock was more important once we had the ball. Oftentimes it dictates the coverage that defenses play. They have to defend the middle of the field when you have the ability to stop the clock. If we don't have the ability to stop the clock, they would get in their cover-two structure and rush their four men, really protecting the sidelines. That scenario was going to get increasingly more difficult if they got in that structure. I thought by possessing a timeout, it would give us an opportunity to at least have the ability to challenge the interior of the field and maybe dictate some of the coverage they play, give us a better chance to navigate down the field. We were comfortable with that. That's the plan we went with. If had it to do over, I would do it again.
Did you think about the alternative of using just two of your timeouts, so you would save the nine seconds they used after the two-minute warning?
Again, I outlined it in great detail, the thought process I went through and why we did what we did. Now, you might have done it differently and that's your choice.
Re: On Players getting fines for not following the uniform policy:
The guys know the rules. We spent a lot of time talking about, from an apparel standpoint, what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. We have a uniform presentation every year at the beginning of training camp. There's no need for overkill.
Do you think there was any intent to injure from Vontaze Burfict on Le'Veon Bell? Your thoughts on him kind of celebrating after the hit?
I don't know the man, so I can't speak to his intent. The tackle was a legal one.
If Will Allen is ready to play this week, is he back in the starting lineup?
Again, I'm not big into the hypotheticals. I'll see how he looks and then decide.
Re: On Robert Golden's play:
He's been above the line.
The best photos of Safety Mike Mitchell from the 2015 season thus far.
Do you have a problem with Mike Mitchell running across the field after his big hit?**
No. He didn't stand over an injured player, or demine him or show any disrespect in any way. He was excited about a positive play he made for us. He made a conscious decision to really get away from the man. No. I have no issues with what he did.
What encouraged you the most about DeAngelo Williams in the two-game body of work he had early on?
I'm just encouraged, because I know he's an established, capable guy who we know can deliver, a guy who has delivered for us, a guy who had delivered for the Carolina Panthers over the course of his 10-plus years in the league. There's a great deal of comfort in knowing his capabilities and equally as important, he's displayed the necessary will that's going to allow us to do what it is we need to do.
Is Jordan Todman your No. 2 running back?He is, but it depends on the circumstance, and I think that you'll have an appreciation for that. Like I said, the last time we played without Le'Veon, it's a multi-man job replacing the skillset of Le'Veon Bell. We're going to look at all the guys we have at the position and others and decide what's best. It might be a collection of men. Usually, it probably will be.
Re: On only scoring more than nine points in two first halves this season:
I hadn't looked at it really to be honest with you. We made a conscious effort. We thought it was important we start fast in this past game and we did. You see where that got us. We're just concerned, specifically, with doing what's required to get out of stadiums with wins.
Do you plan to audition a punter this week? And you've got a good punt returner, but you're not getting returns. Does that point the finger at the blockers?
You knew the Cincinnati Bengals were going to do a good job at minimizing Antonio Brown's impact on the game. He's hurt them in the past as a punt returner. Most of their punts were in the red zone, where you're not going to get a great opportunity to get a return in those instances. They were punting inside the 20-yard line. I think one open-grass punt they employed, they kicked it out of bounds. Not a lot of production in that area, but for obvious reasons. I'm completely comfortable with where we are with our punt team. We have a talented young punter and we're going to continue to work with him.
Re: On evaluating Khalil Mack when he was drafted:
He was so high on the universal board, it was just for entertainment sake. When did they take him? Fourth overall? I didn't spend a lot of time looking at him.
On the first interception, it looked like Antonio had a chance to compete for it, if for no other reason, to keep the guy from catching it. Or is that unrealistic?
They made the play. I don't want to take anything away from those guys and sometimes, in a lot of ways, you do that. They made a nice play on that play, specifically, but on the other ones as well.
Re: On if Bell's ACL is intact:
It is intact. They're (medical staff) not trying to figure out what to do, they're just going to have a conference and discuss the options, set a timetable in which to do it.
Re: On if he has an update on Maurkice Pouncey or Mike Adams:**
There is none. No.
Re: On if he's optimistic Pouncey will return this year:
I'm optimistic about a lot of things. That's just me though.
Re: On Steve McLendon and Daniel McCullers' performances:
I thought they both did some good things. Particularly, in terms of getting push on the pocket. That's something that obviously concerns you when you're losing a talented rusher like Stephon Tuitt. I thought both guys filled the bill, but filled it in a different way. They're pocket pushers, as opposed to edge guys, but I thought both guys did a nice job in that area.
Could we see McLendon play more in the nickel package?
We did [in the last game]. We make those decisions based on the players that are available to us. Based on the mix we had last week, we thought it was appropriate, and he did a nice job. We will see what the mix is this week and beyond.
Re: Antwon Blake:
I thought he did some nice things, obviously the red zone interception was a big one. I like his consistent physicality at the position, particularly in some of the perimeter football that we see with opponent's quick screens and their quick game. I thought he was a consistent tackler on the perimeter. I thought we minimized a lot of yards after the catch, which gave us an opportunity to keep the score down. Green caught a lot of balls, but most of the time he was tackled immediately or soon thereafter. I think that's reflective of Blake's play, and Ross Cockrell's play as well.
Re: Second-half passing game issues:
The Bengals had a lot to do with it. When you look at the game, it was a defensive contest. Both defenses were making plays applying pressure, and they made splash plays at times. Really, aside from the penalties and turnovers, the game can be characterized by the offense that was able to make a play or two off of what was teed up by their defense. Cincinnati's offense made more plays than ours off of the plays that were teed up by their defense.
Re: Rust associated with Ben's play last game:
It doesn't matter [Laughs]. The outcome is the outcome. The quality of play is the quality of play. I am sure he has that same perspective as well.
Re: Pead working in the kickoff return game:
Again, first and foremost, it's about teaching him what to do and then him getting an opportunity. We will evaluate what he is capable of after that.
Re: The fake spike and what it is designed for:
It depends on what transpires and what coverage they employ and their overall readiness. It's to get some free yards. The clock is going anyway, but there is also a potential for run after the catch if someone is asleep. That's been around football a long time. I think back to Dan Marino and the Dolphins when I was a kid the first time I saw it. I've been enamored with it ever since.Re: Offensive line play:
I thought they were above the line in the running game and in the passing game. We weren't perfect by any stretch. But I think they are representing themselves well and finding the necessary continuity to move on from some of the adversity they have faced.
How much, if at all, will the running plays change with Williams?
That's an if, and – in some instances that won't change at all. In some instances they will, just based on the style of the feature runner, or maybe the schematics that this week's opponent employs. You may see some things different in the run game this week but it may have nothing to do with DeAngelo or Le'Veon. It might be based solely on what the Raiders do or opportunities they provide us.
The best photos of TE Heath Miller from the 2015 season.
Re: Getting Heath Miller involved:**
Like I was just talking about in regards to the schematics of the opponent, the Bengals did a nice job of playing some zone defense, in many instances an umbrella defense that protects over the top and the sidelines, like we talked about in regards to the final two minutes. That opens up the middle of the field for opportunities. Heath does the majority of his work in the middle of the field. That provided an opportunity for him to impact the game.
Are you getting enough from Markus Wheaton?
Again, it's all interrelated. If Heath is catching 10 passes that means that the defense is primarily rolled up on the outside, which means that there are minimal opportunities or less opportunities. I am not displeased with the quality of Wheaton's work. He is not getting as many opportunities as maybe he would like or we would like him to have, but some of that stuff is outside of his and our control.
Did your defense play above the line?
At times. Obviously our goal is to win the game. They created some splash. They challenged a very tough offense, one that was hot and that created a lot of big plays. We minimized those things. We were competitive. I thought we played well in situational football, third-down when the field was short. But we didn't get out of the stadium with a win. That's how we approach it.
Will you work anyone else at safety this week other than Allen, Mitchell, Golden or Thomas?
I think those are the safeties.
Re: Decision to not kick the 50+ yards field goal being a reflection of his perceived range that day:
You can take it as such.
Re: Mike Mitchell running on the field at the end of the game:
I think he was trying to communicate something to someone that was on the field that was going to play that down. Guys prepare themselves for situational football in those moments. He was obviously prepared to play and was prepared for that moment. He had lived from an inside the helmet perspective on a lot of moments leading up to that one. I think he felt like he had some information that might be helpful to those that were on the grass. But I am speculating there. I didn't get the detail of what he communicated to the guys that were on the field.
Was he ruled out at that time of the game?
He was in concussion protocol, yes.