Q. The third preseason game has been referred to as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Is that true?
A. It's probably more similar to the regular season than any of the other preseason games, but there are some things that are different. We'll still have an eye toward evaluating people and looking at different combinations of people, but the third preseason game does reflect the regular season in terms of our approach to the preparation. This journey we took them through in preparation for this game really reflects what a normal week is like in-season.
Q. Could you go into a little more detail about what you meant by "the journey we took them through?"**
A. Sure. Monday represented a normal in-season Wednesday, when we lay the foundation for our plans for all three phases of the game. Tuesday was a regular in-season Thursday, where we focus on some of the details relative to special teams. Wednesday was an in-season Friday, and so it was about situational football – third down, red zone, backed-up, goal line – and really rounding out the game plan and hardening it up as we push toward kickoff.
Q. Was it your plan all along to play all of the healthy guys in the third preseason game?
A. It was, yes.
Q. Why do you think it was important to get them playing time at this stage of the preseason?
A. They have gotten a lot of good, quality work, not only in training camp but in our practices against Detroit. They've had some exposure to people who are not on our team. Now it's time to take them into a stadium and take the next step in preparation. Some of the guys who haven't played (in the preseason) have done this for an extended period of time. They might not need the exposure that others need, but I do think it's an important thing to get into a stadium with overall game readiness and deal with the things and the emotions associated with getting ready to play. They're going to do it, and then we're going to move on.
Q. What has Ben Roethlisberger shown you during this whole training camp/preseason process?
A. I think he came in shape, and he's doing a great job of being him and doing the things required for him to do. The thing that sticks out the most is the pinpoint accuracy of his deep ball. His deep balls have been uniquely accurate, even for him. And that's exciting.
Q. Do you believe that a team can have defined strengths and weaknesses as it heads into a regular season, where one aspect of the team's game is going to have to compensate for another aspect?
A. I like to refer to it as perceived strengths and weaknesses, because the reality of it may be different. I think teams come in with perceived weaknesses and strengths, and only the team's play bears that out and often times I'm prepared to be surprised.
Q. In making your plan for a particular regular season game, do you ever look at it that way, as perceived strengths and weaknesses? This is what we can do to maybe offset this weakness of our game, or maybe to take advantage of a weakness in the opponent's game?
A. I acknowledge the existence of that, but the issue of strengths and weaknesses for me as we get closer to game-time is about whether or not it's relative to the team we're playing. What might be a weakness might not turn out to be a weakness in a matchup in a particular week. That's usually my focus. I focus on the strengths and weaknesses of our group relative to the team we're playing whatever particular week we're talking about. It's a changing thing for me, and I think the opponent is an element of it.
Photos as the Pittsburgh Steelers traveled to New Orleans, LA to take on the Saints in a preseason matchup.
Q. So on that particular Sunday or Monday or Thursday, might that dictate your strategy going into the game in terms of being aggressive in a certain area?**
A. Most definitely it does, and that's why I tied it to an opponent or an opportunity at a particular time, because that mentality based on those circumstances are variables that may change week-to-week.
Q. The first round of cuts is coming up early next week. What are the factors you consider when making those moves?
A. I really just look at who is out of place, or even who is ready to go. Often times guys are worn down mentally, and it shows. That first round of cuts usually is more obvious than the round of cuts that occurs a week or so later.
Q. Do you consider the numbers at each position, so that the lines in practice don't get too short?
A. It becomes an element of that, but usually that's less of a factor at this juncture. At 75, we're still functional positionally in terms of being able to operate in practice.
Q. A new NFL rule for 2016 involves the elimination of the 'probable' designation from the weekly injury report during the regular season. This came from the Competition Committee, and you're on the Competition Committee. What was the thinking behind this?
A. Just for clarity. We try to cut down on some of the red tape and some of those administrative things as much as we can, and the bottom line is a guy is usually playing, or he's questionable. That 'probable' designation has been dated, and we wanted to streamline, and hopefully it does that.
Q. Do you like the new way of doing it?
A. I do. Generally in my mind, being someone who's been in this business at this level for a long period of time, that is often the case. Either a guy is playing, or he's questionable. That 'probable' designation doesn't affect those who are borderline in terms of participation.
Q. What is your understanding of the reason why the league believes it's important to disclose injuries during the regular season and list players in categories: out, doubtful, and questionable?
A. I think the catch-phrase that's often used is 'competitive fairness.' That's one phrase that's thrown around a little bit, and simply it means that everyone is given an equal and fair opportunity to put a capable team on the field to win the game. Disclosure of information, to have a certain level of transparency regarding that, is a big element of what makes the NFL game an attractive one. Everybody has an opportunity to win.
Q. Outside of the requirements set forth by the league, you don't like to talk about injuries, especially during the training camp/preseason period. Why is that?
A. Because quite frankly, most of the time we don't know. When we get pressed, we're guessing. When people ask us how long somebody is going to be out, or whether or not we think he's going to be available, the root of the matter is we really don't know. We coach football. We're not doctors, and we're not the people who have the injury. There's a certain element of speculation in those answers, and often times that's why coaches are naturally resistant to give them.
Q. Is it also a possible factor that the player is hears the assessment, and it impacts him and his approach to his situation?
A. That's not an element of the equation for me, but it may be for others.
Q. In your last 15 preseason games, the Steelers are 2-13. I'm not going to ask you whether you care about that, because winning is why the games are played. But does that record mean anything to you in your evaluations?
A. I hadn't thought of it cumulatively, particularly in terms of the record being over a number of years. The preseason is something I view as an opportunity to get this particular group ready for the 2016 season, and the variables change. So I don't have a reaction to that.
Q. What do you want to see from your team tonight against the Saints?
A. I want to see it playing winning football. Now that you put me in the tank with that 2-13 record question, I might play Ben the whole game. (Laughs) No, I want to see us respond to a road environment. I want to see our offense operate in it, and I want to see our defense compete against a capable guy like Drew Brees. I'm excited about watching them execute a game plan. There are going to be a lot of things to look for tonight.