Q. Earlier this week, the players voted for their MVP, and T.J. Watt was the winner. What was your reaction to that outcome?
A. I don't know that I had a reaction. I think that everyone thought it was a joke that we were even voting. It was that definitive. He has made plays time and time again. He has been a consistent contributor and splash-playmaker. He's got a really professional approach. The longer he's here the more vocal he is in terms of leadership. I think it was a foregone conclusion by the time we got to the vote who the 2019 MVP of the Pittsburgh Steelers is.
Q. With football being considered the ultimate team sport, why do you think there is value for a team to go through the process and vote for an individual as its "most valuable."
A. Because he's an individual who gets the award because he was voted by his teammates. Because it's "by his teammates," and because it's in-house, there is no perception and no weighting. For example, the quarterback position isn't weighted heavier than others. The men inside that room understand that guy played outside linebacker at an extremely high level, and that's why they recognized him as such. A lot of times when an award is voted on by outsiders, or by the media, positions get weighted differently, those that comprise highlights on SportsCenter and so forth, but this is really a reflection of what he does and how his teammates feel about it.
Q. How does the process work? A show of hands or a paper ballot? Do any of the team captains speak, maybe on behalf of a player they believe is worthy? Are there any ground rules?
A. There is a blank piece of paper with one line on it. I stand up and I say, "Whatever MVP means to you, whoever you think the MVP of 2019 for the Pittsburgh Steelers is, write that name down on that piece of paper." And that's all we say. The more you say, the more you frame it, and the next thing you know you're leading people. And we want it to be what it is. We want it to be the guy the men in the room believe who performed and performed at an extremely high level.
Q. Over the course of this season, you have had instances where players were acquired from other teams during a week and then were gotten ready to play a game at the end of that week. With the exception of an emergency-type situation, could that happen with a quarterback?
A. Yes. Whenever you're making that move, it is an emergency-like situation. I laugh, because if you're acquiring somebody mid-week and you're working him to get him ready to play, it is an emergency. All the instances that you've mentioned could be classified as emergencies, and if you're doing it at the quarterback position, you probably could put it in that category as well.
Q. How would you go about that with a quarterback?
A. If you need a quarterback on short notice, you better go with a veteran guy, maybe a veteran you have experience with, or has experience with your system or your language of offense. That cuts down on a lot of the things. It's a very narrow space. I think that's why you see a guy like Josh McCown get hired repeatedly, and under circumstances similar to those things. Or a guy like Ryan Fitzpatrick, for example. They're veteran guys, they've been around a lot of football, they've been in a lot of systems, they understand language, they're capable of working above an acceptable line in a very short period of time.
Q. At your news conference last Tuesday, you said you didn't have much exposure to Paxton Lynch since he was brought here. Could you turn to Paxton Lynch today in a non-emergency situation with any sort of confidence?
A. Why would I go to him in a non-emergency-like situation? Again, it depends on how you define emergency. If I'm going to him, I'm going to him because I need to, and it's as simple as that.
Q. What are your plans for running back today?
A. We're going to lean on the talents of the group collectively. We always do that when we're playing without James Conner. I think the other guys lack experience and exposure, and the strength is the pack in those instances. So we're going to divvy up the work, and maybe as the game unfolds a hot hand will develop and somebody will be a feature guy. But as we get off the bus, we'll get off the bus with the understanding that we're going to utilize all of the guys.
Q. When it comes to your offense, is there anything, any aspect of performance you believe you can count on from one week to the next?
A. We've gotten consistent play from a veteran offensive line, but that is to be expected. Often times, consistent performance gets overlooked because of statistics and the outcome of games, and rightfully so, because there is a lack of experience and execution around them at times. But largely they have been the group we have expected them to be. I think we got strong, consistent play from the tight end position at times. Vance McDonald's availability has been limited at times, but when available he has been who we expected him to be. Offense is a very collective thing. Often individuals comprise the highlights and things of that nature, such as getting the opportunity to score touchdowns and make significant plays, but we're not going to function as a group unless we're getting a certain level of performance across the board and collectively. It's been tough to find a consistent formula within those circumstances based on obvious variables.
Q. Is there a certain, specific type of football you have to play today against the Ravens to leave Baltimore with a victory?
A. We cannot allow them to be on schedule, and in an effort to minimize that we have to stop the run. We have to stop the run in every facet, whether it's running back runs, whether it's quarterback runs, whether it's quarterback scrambles. The running element of play cannot weigh in their advantage today. It has weighed in their advantage all year. They're probably averaging 35 minutes of time of possession per game. They've only punted 37 times all year, etc., etc. All of those things are transpiring because they're on schedule, they're moving the chains, and the run game is a big time asset for them. It starts and ends there for us.
Q. The Steelers have had to overcome a lot of injuries this season, but I honestly cannot ever remember a team having to overcome an injury to its play-by-play announcer. Any words of advice for Bill Hillgrove as he's about to tackle rehab following surgery on his back last Saturday?
A. He better take it day-by-day and not come back too soon (laughs). Hey, much respect to Bill. Wishing him the very best in his rehabilitation. I enjoy working with him. He's an icon, and we look forward to seeing him back on the task very, very soon.