Q. I'd like to start with something you mentioned last week. You said at that time you don't spend a lot of time worrying about how to combat an opponent's offensive line, and that you imagine opponents spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to combat your defensive front. Then you said, "That's just the 'hunt mentality' of defensive play that not only should permeate your locker room but also should be in the minds of your defensive coaching staff." What is "hunt mentality" as it pertains to defensive play and strategy in the NFL?
A. That you're either feeling pressure or you're applying it, and we're a group that prefers to apply it. We acknowledge that pressure is ever present, particularly in this game at this level, and we want to be the group that applies it. That's just our general approach and philosophical approach to play.
Q. What characteristics, skill-sets, are you looking for in players to maintain a "hunt mentality" from one generation to the next?
A. Guys who display fluid decision-making, meaning you don't see herky-jerky movement in their body movement as they process information. That they can process information in attack mode. That there's fluidity in their movement as they react to what it is they see.
Q. Do you want everybody on defense to be a hunter, so to speak, or are there some positions where that mentality could be a detriment to the performance of the unit?
A. I think any asset can be a liability if not properly directed. That (hunt mentality) is something I covet, really, in all defenders.
Q. Since you've been hired by the Steelers, who have been some of the best "hunters" on your defensive teams?
A. Guys who have really good eyes and really good fluidity in their movement. Ryan Shazier immediately comes to mind. Devin Bush also. Those are the things that immediately attracted me to those guys. But again, they represent what we're talking about. We're talking about all-situations linebackers, who are involved in the run and in the pass, in the pursuit of the ball sideline-to-sideline. You see a lot of that at the safety position. Very rarely do you see herky-jerky movement. You see very decisive and fluid movement from Minkah Fitzpatrick, for example. You tell me the player, and usually if they have a unique skill-set, if they have a resume, it's because they're fluid decision-makers in terms of their movement as they key and read.
Q. Your defense has either led the league or been among the league leaders in sacks for several years in a row and counting. Is that a point of pride?
A. It is, but not for any superficial reasons. We believe if we get you behind the chains, we have an opportunity to get off the field. And not only on third down, but on any down, and so that's just a philosophical approach. We feel like the minute we get you behind the chains it's advantage Pittsburgh Steelers, and so it increases our chances of getting off the field, thus winning, and so that's the focus for us.
Q. Back in the old days, stopping the run was the No. 1 job and a point of pride for a defense. Has that now changed to "pressuring the quarterback?"
A. I think it's points (allowed), because the variety of things you see offensively week in and week out in this league kind of dictates some of those other discussions. But if you're playing good defense, you're keeping the point total down, and that's always been in the discussion of elite defensive play – the ability to keep the point total down.
Q. Is getting pressure on the quarterback a job you want to get done by any means necessary, or are there things you won't do schematically to try to accomplish that?
A. I believe it's a job that has to get done by any means necessary. It's our job, and it's our desire to have continual pressure on the quarterback. If we can do it with three, great. If four is required, then four is required. If more than four is required, we do what's required in terms of maintaining consistent pressure on the quarterback. We feel like that's the catalyst for creating the type of atmosphere we desire.
Q. We've talked about the Steelers MVP Award just about every year. What did you think about T.J. Watt being voted the award by his teammates for a second straight season?
A. I think it speaks for itself. This is a guy who is really talented, but it's beyond his talents. His day-to-day approach, his work, his detail, his productivity is recognized and respected by his teammates. I think that's what the award represents.
Q. Generally, do you find the players vote for the player you would've picked as the MVP if you were simply naming a winner?
A. Most. Certainly. I think everybody shares that mentality. I think in most instances when you put a group of men in a room who have worked as intimately as this group has over the course of the last six months or so, it's almost universal.
Q. Have you found that these votes for the team MVP Award are ever really close?
A. There have been years when that has been the case, where the voting was close. But that wasn't the case this year.
Q. Going back to the second half against Indianapolis and how your team performed specifically on offense – how could that half of play help that group, and maybe the whole team, heading into the playoffs?
A. You can convince yourself that it was some momentum swing if you so choose, but I'm not seeking comfort. I'm a believer that productivity is born out of work and preparation and focus, and then productivity results from that. So I'm excited about what we were able to do in the second half of that game. It was much needed, obviously, for the victory, but we have to repeat processes as we proceed into this next stadium and subsequent stadiums. It is the process for me. It is the focus. It is the preparation. And then ultimately it is the play. So that remains my focus.
Q. Based on your perception, what role does confidence play in this process? Might the second half against the Colts have helped the team's confidence, and then therefore helped the preparation process, and then ultimately helped the performance in the future?
A. No question. But I think confidence is fortified through preparation, and so no question the performance may have been a boost, but then how do you carry it into subsequent weeks? You do that by heaping quality preparation on top of that performance. I truly believe that true confidence is born individually and collectively through cooperative work and preparation.
Q. At your news conference last Tuesday, you talked about "airmailing" some guys into the playoffs by making them inactive for this game vs. the Browns, and you said Ben Roethlisberger would be one of those. What factors do you weigh in choosing who gets the available "airmail" slots?
A. Position related things. Experience, or health related things. Those are elements of it, but a lot of it has to do with the availability of people around them at their position. You'd like to take care of everybody, but you're not afforded that opportunity in this environment, so if you have people leaking at a certain position you better fortify that depth with numbers. And so, the ultimate deciding factor is the collective health of each individual position group, and if you're afforded the opportunity to sit one from that group in order to preserve him, then you do
Q. So it would be inaccurate or a mistake for people to look at the inactive list for the Browns game and assume the airmailed guys are the most important people on the roster?
A. It would be inaccurate. Certainly.
Q. Sitting T.J. Watt would prevent him from having a shot to break the franchise's single-season sack record. If he came to you and asked to play to pursue that record, would it have mattered in your decision-making, and is he the kind of guy who would do that?
A. It would not matter, and I don't think he's the type of guy who would do that. If I choose not to play him and airmail him into the postseason, he understands why. It's for his benefit and for ours, and certain individual accolades and recognition are secondary.
Q. What do you want to see from Mason Rudolph today?
A. I want to see maturation. I want to see growth and development. This is his first extended opportunity to play in 2020. This guy has worked extremely hard, not only through this season but dating back through the offseason, and so it's reasonable to expect a legitimate jump in the quality of his play and the consistency of it. And also how he leads the group and his level of communication, and the amount of poise that he displays in those moments. So I'm looking for an uptick in all of those areas, and I think he is as well.