Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Cincinnati Bengals.
Q. The Bengals have played one more game than you have since the meeting in Cincinnati. Have they changed?
A. They have. That's always the case in the National Football League. Teams are always continually evolving. I know they have changed in some ways – the emergence of Andrew Hawkins as a slot guy for them. The loss of A.J. Green for that short period of time fostered a growing relationship between Andy Dalton and Jermaine Gresham, their young tight end. They've changed in some ways, but they're still going to feature Cedric Benson and that is going to be the centerpiece of their offense.
Q. What did rookie quarterback Andy Dalton show you during your first game against the Bengals this season?
A. He makes good decisions and does it quickly. He displayed a little more escapability and pocket movement than we had anticipated. Here is a guy who is very capable of feeling the rush and still keeping his eyes downfield and making the subtle movements and adjustments in the pocket to keep himself clean and buy additional time to deliver the football to whatever receiver he wants to deliver it to.
Q. Cedric Benson has been nursing a foot injury. How does that impact Cincinnati's game plan in your view?
A. I think it won't impact it at all. They play Bernard Scott some, they play Brian Leonard some. But more importantly than that, Cedric Benson has proven himself to be a very durable guy since he's been in Cincinnati. We anticipate him showing up and showing up as his usual self. No question he's probably less than 100 percent, but the vast majority of the men could say that as you push into the early portions of December. This man is a competitor and this is a big game. I wouldn't imagine that has changed their approach to this game one iota.
Q. You mentioned Andrew Hawkins' emergence as a slot receiver. Does he remind you of Antonio Brown?
A. I think more like Wes Welker, in terms of how the Bengals use him. We use Antonio Brown outside some, on the weak side of formations in one-on-one matchups, as a man-buster if you will. Hawkins works primarily out of the slot, and they get advantageous athletic matchups for him because he's usually covered by safeties or linebackers. He's a guy who's capable of breaking down pressure and running hot routes vs. pressure. When I think of how they're developing Hawkins and how he's developing, I really think more of Wes Welker than anyone else.
Q. Cincinnati's run defense is ranked No. 3 in the league. How are they accomplishing that?
A. I think they use their personnel real well. They have guys like Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers who play the run extremely well at defensive end, and then they also have ends like Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson who rush the passer extremely well. They do a nice job of rotating their people vs. different situations and I think that has helped them play well against both the run and the pass.
Q. With cornerback Leon Hall out for the season, how are things different now that Adam Jones has replaced him?
A. There are some different things. Leon Hall is a very solid guy above the neck, a very solid fundamental player. Adam Jones is more of a risk-taker, as is Kelly Jennings more of a risk-taker. But we're still talking about two quality veteran guys in Kelly Jennings and Adam Jones, so I don't expect any drop-off, or at least any change in what they were doing schematically with Leon in there.
Q. It is said that good teams find ways to win close games. Does the game in Kansas City prove that?
A. I wouldn't necessarily try to characterize it in that way. I know we did enough to win the game, and that's ultimately what we're about. We fell short in some areas, and we want to improve in some areas. We addressed those this week, for the sole purpose of getting better as we continue to go out and play and not in an effort to change anything that occurred last week. We recognize that from time to time we're going to fall short, but we better make enough plays to win.
Q. What was the most pleasing aspect of the win over the Chiefs?
A. I like the way our defense responded to negative situations during the course of the game. We had a turnover early, took the field and got off with a turnover ourselves. We threw an interception there in the second half, and we got off the field defensively. We had a fake punt run on us that gave them a new set of downs, and we got off the field defensively. The defense was able to respond to negative situations positively by getting off the field, that was a good sign in terms of what happened in the game.
Q. How much has you defense missed LaMarr Woodley over the past three weeks?
A. That's a tough thing to answer. I like the work that Jason Worilds has given us, and I think he's a guy who's on the come. His production has been on the upswing the past couple of weeks. We'll see if we missed LaMarr. We'll see by what he brings to the table against the Bengals.