Q. How do you decide to allocate your in-season padded practices?**
A. It's really decided for us in today's NFL. It's less of an issue. We have 11 padded practices over the course of the first 11 weeks of the season, and then we are allowed three over the remaining weeks. Essentially what you're talking about is one padded practice per week until you get to that breaking point, and then it's one every other week.
Q. Do you choose a day in pads because you want to work on something in that practice, or might it be used to send a message?
A. I do it to meet the needs of our team at that particular time. Earlier this season, we came out of a Monday night game so I didn't carry pads on that Wednesday because it was less than 48 hours since the last performance. I pushed it to Friday. You look at the variables of the week and make the decisions that are relative to that week.
Q. Would you hold a drill until you have a day in pads based on whatever that drill is?
A. I do the drills on certain days, and very rarely do I deviate from that. I'll move the padded practice to a drill, but I won't move a drill to a padded practice.
Q. How will you and your staff utilize the bye week?
A. We have a couple of unfamiliar opponents on the other side of this bye, in New Orleans and Atlanta, and I think it's appropriate that we familiarize ourselves with them and what they've been going through this year and what makes them tick. Two of our remaining games are against Cincinnati, and we're familiar with them and they're familiar with us, but two of those games are against NFC South teams, teams we haven't seen in some time.
Q. What kind of season is Maurkice Pouncey having?**
A. It's very good, a Pouncey-like season. Whatever type of discussion you're having about the center position, he's in that discussion as one of the best in the world. He has talent, but his passion for the game is unique. His love of work, his love of the process of game readiness, the things that others call drudgery, he enjoys, and coupled with his talent that's a formula for success.
Q. You have said that after Ike Taylor was injured, Maurkice Pouncey became the player to "break it down" in the locker room before games. Why did you choose him, or why was he chosen by the rest of the players, for that job?
A. It's a very natural thing. Some of those things, some of those leadership things, you're missing the boat if you're doing a lot of appointing. Really, you just look around and see who's ready, willing and able. He's always one of those guys who's up real close, and the longer he's in this league the more of what he says carries weight because he earns it daily. There's a certain level of respect the guys have for him, which makes him a natural in that regard.
Q. What kind of season is Lawrence Timmons having?
A. Really solid. We've asked him to do a lot. He's played with different people. He has had to flop positions because he's played with different people. One of the things about Lawrence is he's always available, and that's an asset we really like. He's very durable, he's good for all situations, and over time he has proven to be very versatile and valuable with his ability to play multiple spots and do a good job of making a complete linebacker corps regardless of who we have available to us.
Q. How do the Steelers stop the roller coaster ride that has characterized so much of this season?
A. We just have to find consistent, above-the-line play. It starts first and foremost with not beating yourself, and that characterized our performance a week ago. We were minus-4 in the turnover ratio, and that speaks to two things: we're not taking care of the football, and we're not capitalizing on our opportunities to get the ball. Hopefully we rectify that tonight.
Photos from the last regular season game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans.
Q. Might there be some more James Harrison playing offense tonight?**
A. If we get down there on a short field. He is always ready and willing to run down the center of somebody, and we like that quality.
Q. Did Harrison request that duty?
A. No, James doesn't ask for much, but he doesn't turn down much, either.
Q. The Titans have used all three quarterbacks at various times this season. In instances such as that, do you have to prepare for the possibility of seeing multiple players at the position?
A. We haven't. I think they've been pretty clear about Zach Mettenberger being their quarterback for the remainder of the season. Locker will be the backup tonight, and we saw him a year ago when we played the Titans at Heinz Field. They are different. Mettenberger is a pocket passer, while Locker has great mobility. But we focused most of our efforts in preparation getting ready for Zach Mettenberger.
Q. Bishop Sankey was the first running back picked in last year's draft, and he's the starter for the Titans. What does he bring to their offense?
A. He's got a good compact running style. He's a one-cut runner. He doesn't give you a lot of surface to hit. He's a good, all-around football player.
Q. Is Dexter McCluster a prototypical third-down back?
A. McCluster is more of a slash. He plays in the backfield, he plays out of the backfield. Leon Washington is more of a defined third-down back for them. McCluster is more of a gadget guy, a space player, if you will.
Q. What's it going to be like for the Steelers to face a defense coordinated by Ray Horton?
A. That Ray is going to be thoughtfully non-rhythmic. At times, his personality changes, and it changes by design. A week ago against Baltimore, he dropped eight guys into coverage on just about every third down. A week prior to that against Houston, he brought at least five pass rushers on the majority of the third downs. He's an innovative guy, he's an aggressive guy, he's got a great deal of belief in what he's doing. That makes him difficult to prepare for and compete against.
Q. Mike Munchak is a former head coach of the Titans and now is on staff as your offensive line coach. Have you picked his brain at all this week?
A. A little bit, but Mike made the point at the early portion of the week that with change comes change. There are not a lot of core components still there, even from 12 months ago. There are some significant changes in Nashville, and he's getting up to speed on it the way we are.
Q. Defensive lineman Jurrell Casey leads the Titans in sacks and is second on the team in quarterback pressures. How does he get the job done?
A. He's just a really good football player. He doesn't necessarily fit the cookie-cutter of what you expect a defensive end in that scheme to look like, but he utilizes his hands well. He's very aware, and he has that short-area burst that all good defensive linemen have.