Q. Congratulations on winning the AFC North. What does winning a division championship mean in the grand scheme of things?
A. It's very necessary. If you want to put yourself in position to chase the ultimate goal, which is being world champs, you have to start in the things the NFL signifies as significant. The way the playoff structure is formatted, the way our regular season schedule is formatted, it puts a premium on division games, on division play, on division dominance. So it's very important.
Q. Is the fact you won the division ever mentioned in a full-team setting after the immediate postgame, you know in the locker room when they hand out the division champion hats and T-shirts?
A. I could not eloquently explain how important those hats and T-shirts are for us. We had a sign up all last week that read, "All we want for Christmas is a hat and a T-shirt," and it's true because of what it signifies. It signifies an automatic ticket to the dance and not only that but a guaranteed home game. An opportunity to perform and pursue our ultimate goal and do it in front of Steelers Nation. You can't put a price tag on that.
Q. You've experienced Steelers Nation in stadiums all over the world. Talked about them a bunch. But to me, Christmas Day was special. Over 66,000. They were into it. And they stayed until the end. What's your takeaway from the atmosphere at Heinz Field on Christmas Day?
A. It was a special thing. Thankfully I've been here long enough and doing this long enough that I can appreciate it as the special thing it was when I was experiencing it. It's a surreal feeling to walk out of that stadium after a game like that and see little kids in their Steelers jerseys and knowing that they had a lifetime experience, that they saw something they're going to remember and talk about for the rest of their lives. It's humbling to be a part of that. It's an honor to be a part of that.
Q. Several weeks ago, we talked about William Gay's pick-six in Super Bowl XLIII and what completing that play said about him as a player. In the same vein, what does that 4-yard touchdown play say about Antonio Brown?
A. It said what we have always said about him and what people don't get a chance to see displayed all the time – that his talents are spectacular but what he's willing to do is more impressive. His will, his commitment, his overall commitment to growing and developing as a player, whether it's about skills relative to his job or just his strength training. It would be interesting to see a before and after picture of him now and him in 2010. To see the commitment he has made to strengthening himself for moments such as that is spectacular, and that's what I think about when I see him make a play like that. It is a spectacular play, but it's a display of will, a display of a commitment that he's had for a very long time that puts him in position to take advantage of opportunities and maximize them in the way that he did.
The Steelers grant the wish of a young fan from Alliance, OH.
Q. The way he was holding the ball, with his one hand around the nose, so that he could extend it quickly to get it over the plane of the goal line without exposing it to getting slapped away and creating a fumble. Is that an example of what you mean when you talk about "attention to detail?"**
A. Absolutely. I wish everyone could come to practice and see him on a day-to-day basis be very deliberate with his eyes, in terms of seeing the ball in and putting the ball away, his tremendous commitment to ball security, the points of pressure he puts on the ball. He often times in practices extends the ball across the plane of the pylon as he's running down the sideline to simulate a play that gets him into the end zone. He's always readying himself, and when you have that mentality geared into your daily work, it allows you to make special moments out of circumstances and opportunities like he did there.
Q. Should there be "unabated to the kicker" like there is "unabated to the quarterback?"
A. There's no question. If you look at that play on the extra point (against the Ravens after the final touchdown), it just doesn't seem significant enough to have an offside, 5-yard penalty, and to have that type of contact with a kicker. It could be very much interpreted in the ways you interpret unabated to the quarterback in an effort to ensure the safety of not only the kicker but also of the holder.
Q. The victory over the Ravens was No. 600 in the regular season for the Steelers franchise. Only three other NFL franchises have 600 regular season wins – the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Football Giants. What did you think when you first heard that?
A. That's football royalty right there. That group, those teams are the pillars, the mainstays of what is the NFL. I believe this organization belongs in that discussion and with the others mentioned, not only in terms of championships, because our number of Super Bowls is well documented and needs no endorsement, but largely being competitive, and being competitive over an extended period of time.
The best photos of QB Ben Roethlisberger from the 2016 season.
Q. Le'Veon Bell was voted MVP by his teammates. In your view, what makes him deserving?**
A. He delivered for us and delivered for us time and time again, particularly in the thick of the schedule when we were facing adversity and needed 'A' players to play 'A.' He played 'A.' It's one thing to deliver positive contributions to our effort. It's another thing to step into a stadium with a target on you in the way he does week in and week out in terms of the opponent's commitment to minimize his impact on the game, and he still has the impact on the game. I think that his teammates understand and respect that, and I think that's why they voted him MVP.
Q. What are you plans for the quarterback position today?
A. Landry Jones gets the start. It's an awesome opportunity for him. I thought he represented himself very well, minus a couple of plays, against New England, and for him and for us, it's about the subtraction of those couple of plays. He's worthy of playing above the line. We expect him to play above the line. He expects to play above the line, and we're excited to watch him lead us to victory today.
Q. Understanding that the object today is to win the game, do you also view this as an opportunity to get some of the younger guys in a groove for what's to come in the playoffs, maybe get some of them or some other guys some game repetitions?
A. It's a tremendous opportunity for a lot of people in a lot of different ways. We just talked about Landry Jones, but also a guy like Le'Veon Bell, who had surgery some time ago and had to recover from that and really hadn't played a lot. He's watched Le'Veon Bell a lot in recent weeks, so it's an opportunity for him to knock some rust off and be a featured ballcarrier and do some things for us. It's also an opportunity for young guys like Demarcus Ayers and Johnny Maxey, who got their first NFL action a week ago, to build upon that positive experience. And just continue to grow as players and ready themselves for those moments.
Q. What does it say about a team when it can answer a four-game losing streak with a six-game winning streak?
A. That they don't succumb to the outside noise, first. And you have to acknowledge that the outside noise is a part of today's professional football. It just is. It shouldn't be. You'd like to think that in an ideal world men can stay singularly focused on what matters, and what matters are the men within the room and the task at hand. But in today's sports climate, the outside world can be divisive, particularly when things aren't going well. I thought we persevered that and we were able to remain focused on the task at hand, the challenges at hand, and preparing ourselves to play. And then ultimately going out and playing, and playing one game, one snap at a time. It's no secret that you have to stack wins. You have to stack successful plays, successful performances, and our guys lived in those moments.
Q. Tomorrow starts the postseason. Is it any different?
A. It is not. Not in terms of our approach, in terms of our commitment, in terms of what each man must be willing to do to help us. We're not going to pretend this stage is any bigger than stages we've been on in recent weeks. You can go as far back as Thanksgiving, and we're in Indianapolis. We're 5-5 and they're 5-5, and that's elimination football when you think about it. We've been in this state and been in that mentality for some time, and I think that's going to serve us, hopefully, as we continue.