Q. Making news in the NFL recently was a team where the starting quarterback was benched for a series for breaking a team rule that was announced as not wearing a tie on a team flight. Do you have rules like that?
A. I have some rules that are detail and team-oriented things, but it's done for the team. The consequences of those actions probably were catastrophic for their group. My goal is to make sure everyone has his hand in the pile, and if they don't, punish them as opposed to punishing the team. And you have to acknowledge that was punishment for the entire group.
Q. Are those kinds of rules common in the NFL?
A. Those kinds of rules are very much a common thing, and it's not necessarily the rule itself or how trivial it may be, it's just setting the mind-set within your group that they have to be willing to do whatever for the cause and put the collective cause ahead of their personal or individual agendas or causes. I think that's the true spirit of anything. A lot was written about that incident and maybe how trivial it was, or was it trivial? The bottom line is that football is the ultimate team game, and if the team requires that you do something then it's required that all men do it. Because that's what winning and winning culture is about. So forget how trivial it is. Forget how seemingly insignificant it might be, the fact is that when a team asks you to do something it's to everybody's benefit that everybody adheres to it.
Q. Can you give me an example of the kind of rule you just described?
A. It can be timeliness. Being respectful of other people's time. If we say we're starting at a certain time and you're two minutes late, you've held a roomful of men up for two minutes. That's just not acceptable. It's just about common human decency and courtesy and thoughtfulness regarding the people you work with.
Q. You keep all of that confidential?
Q. Why do you handle it that way?
A. Because it's not anybody's business. Certain things are best handled in-house. You peel back the curtain and expose all of the gory ugliness of our business, it's not good for the game. And quite frankly, in most instances, fans don't care.
Q. You and Ryan Shazier kind of broke in here together. He was your first No. 1 draft pick. What makes him special?**
A. First of all, you have to talk about his availability and/or durability. This guy has been doing it for a long time. I can't even remember the last time he's missed a game, or if he's missed a game, or even if he's missed a practice for that matter. He's uniquely talented, no doubt, and that's why we took him where we took him in the first round in 2007. But his level of availability is extraordinary over that period of time.
Q. What about some of the off-the-field things?
A. He's a highly-respected guy. He plays a physical brand of football and always has, and at the linebacker position that's honored and respected. Really, he's respected as a fun-loving guy. Lawrence is a gamer. If we walked out to his car right now, he'd have a bowling ball, a pool stick, and some darts in his trunk. You can convince Lawrence to compete in anything, and I think that's why he's had the type of career that he's had. He thrives on the competition.
Q. Understanding that it's the same for both teams, is the effect of snow on a game the same as rain, or is it different?
A. It's different, because often times footing is less compromised in rain. You really have to acknowledge the footing aspect of it when there's snow on the ground. They quite easily adapt and build shoes to combat wet weather conditions, but to play in snowy conditions from a footing standpoint, it is new and different.
Q. Were you pleased with the outside linebacker rotation system against the Giants?
A. I was OK with it. It's amazing the life this thing has taken. It's not that big a deal to me. I answer questions regarding it every week. The bottom line is we're getting significant contributions from five guys. It's good that five are capable. I like the guys to have a rhythm, so I like to go with the hot hands. The hot hands will stay on the field, and the reps will reflect that. James (Harrison) has been the hot hand, and his reps reflect that. Bud Dupree is extremely talented and has had fewer reps than the others, so he'll be given a right of way based on that, because he has to get caught up to speed and he hasn't had the opportunity to produce the results the other ones have. I'm sure I'll continue to get asked about it, but it ain't that big a deal for us.
Here is a look at the statistical leaders for both the Steelers and Bills heading into Sunday's game at New Era Field.
Q. When playing time is up for grabs, is it most often won by somebody being productive, or is it lost because somebody isn't?**
A. It's all about perspective. It's all about what type of picture you want to paint. Most of the time both things are occurring, and it's just what type of mood you're in.
Q. If I lose my playing time, can I get it back? Or does the other guy have to lose it?
A. You don't necessarily get it back, but almost always there's a chain of events, or a sequence of events that lead you to an opportunity to redeem yourself. And that's what it is: when you're on the field you have every control over your quality of play; when you're off the field you wait for your opportunity to get back on. That's something we believe in and sell to our guys.
Q. Ladarius Green has made some contributions since being activated and looks to be a player on the rise at an important time. He has said publicly that he's thankful for the support he got during his long rehab. How did you support him?
A. More than anything, just staying the course. We had a vision of what he was going to provide us when we acquired him during free agency. There were a lot of things that transpired after that signing to make those plans less stable. We just stayed true to those plans. We didn't blink. We supported him through the things he needed to be supported through, but to his credit he made supporting him easy. He was an upbeat patient, he was eager to get back involved, he stayed in tune and wired-in mentally even when he wasn't able to physically participate. And that has aided him once he has come back. We stayed true to the plan, but he was an easy patient. And he should get credit for that.
Q. Buffalo's Lorenzo Alexander has played 10 years, for four teams. Over nine of those seasons, playing for three different teams, he had nine total sacks. This year, he has 10. How does a Lorenzo Alexander happen in a league where pass rushers are so valuable?
A. Probably in the same way a William Gay happens. Sometimes it's just a guy and an opportunity, being in the right place at the right time. If Joey Porter doesn't end up in Miami, we might not know James in the way we know James. That's why we have such respect for the game and the people who play it at this level. Often, I say there's not much difference between being a quality R-5 on kickoff coverage and being a Pro Bowl outside linebacker. Well, guess what? Lorenzo Alexander is one of those Pro Bowl caliber, quality R-5s on kickoff coverage. He has been to multiple Pro Bowls as a special teams player, and if you're capable of dominating the game in one phase – special teams specifically – it's not earth-shattering to any one of us who are in this business that he's capable of dominating on defense as well. Sometimes it's just a case of being in the right place at the right time, and being given an opportunity. He was acquired by Buffalo to mentor a young, talented No. 1 pick named Shaq Lawson. In the midst of that mentoring, he's gotten hot and produced some plays for them. You tip your cap to a guy like Lorenzo Alexander. You respect what he does. But you also know there are many potential Lorenzo Alexander-type guys out there.
Q. How do you rush a quarterback like Tyrod Taylor?
A. Thoughtfully. We have to be conscious of rush lanes, or escape lanes, depending on how you want to identify them. We can't have guys behind him. We have a very different rush challenge this week. You knew where Eli was going to be. You don't know where this guy is going to be.
Q. How do they use Mike Gillislee? Is he an either/or with LeSean McCoy, or are they a tandem?
A. He's specifically a third-down back, and a third-down back who's really evolved into a short-yardage back as well. He's No. 1 in the league in short-yardage running. He's 8-for-8 on third-and-1. I think they want to take some of the banging off LeSean McCoy, the third-down, short-yardage stuff, and he does a great job of supplementing him in those ways.
Q. What kind of game are you anticipating today?
A. It's going to be a knock-down, drag-out. It's December. We're going to be in a hostile environment. We're playing a team like us – that's very much fighting for its life – and when you put those characteristics together, there are going to be fireworks.