Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Cleveland Browns:
Q. Are the Browns a team more dangerous than their 4-11 record?**
A. I think that's always the case when we play these guys. You can throw the records out the window. We know what we're going to get from them. They know what they're going to get from us. It's usually knock-down drag-out football.
Q. Cleveland's defense is having a nice season against the run. How has it managed that kind of success?
A. They commit a lot of people to the line of scrimmage. Safety T.J. Ward is a very physical player against the run. Inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is a sideline to sideline guy. They have some run-stopping guys up front, such as Ahtyba Rubin, who has been one of the top interior defensive linemen in the NFL with regards to run tackles over the last few years.
Q. Cleveland's top pass rushers are Jabaal Shard and Paul Kruger. How do you block those guys?
A. Our tackles did a great job against them the last time, and we're going to call on them again this time. Obviously we're going to help them schematically when given an opportunity. But largely, when the rubber meets the road, those guys will have to stand up. I thought Kelvin Beachum and Marcus Gilbert did an outstanding job against these guys the last time. You also have to throw Barkevious Mingo into that group, because he's a talented first-round pick from LSU who is playing increasingly in their rotations. We've got our hands full there, but I look forward to watching these guys stand up to it.
Q. Will Ike Taylor see a lot of Josh Gordon today?
A. He will, but we're not going to travel him. We've gotten comfortable with the rotation of Ike playing right cornerback and Cortez Allen playing left cornerback, and letting the party come to us. It has helped in terms of our pre-snap communications. It has been beneficial to us the past several weeks, and so I look forward to both of those guys pitting their skills vs. Gordon's.
Q. Troy Polamalu has forced five fumbles so far this season, and he had seven total in his previous 10 seasons. What has turned him into a fumble forcing machine?**
A. I just think it's focus. Troy is the type of player who if he gets geared toward a certain element of his game and works to improve in that area, it works for him on the field. He's that type of talent. He's that type of competitor. He's focused on it this year, and it has paid dividends for him and for us.
Q. Despite its setbacks, this team has managed to keep its focus on winning. How has that occurred?
A. We joke that we're the roaches of the AFC. They can't exterminate us. We just have a resilient bunch, a bunch capable of staying singularly focused on the challenge at hand. For this week, it's the Cleveland Browns. In the midst of all that has gone on with us, our players have done a nice job of doing just that – staying focused on the things we can control and the challenge that was right in front of us.
Q. Was going to Green Bay and winning a December game in Lambeau Field special to the players and coaches?
A. For someone who has been up there quite a bit as I have, I realize how scarce those opportunities are. For us, largely it wasn't about opponent or game location. It was about something that had to be done in order to stay on course for what we're trying to get done here today.
Q. You have called Antonio Brown "ridiculously consistent." Beyond his unique on-field skills, can you talk about his heart and desire?
A. He's got some OCD qualities that lend themselves to excellence in his chosen field of work. This guy is tireless. His work habits on and off the field, his commitment to being great, he's very conscious about what he puts into his body, how he trains. He's in great shape over the course of 12 months on the calendar, and I think it shows in how he plays.
Q. What makes Le'Veon Bell tick?**
A. That he has similar qualities. He's a competitor. He's a guy who has gotten better with each and every carry, with each and every game. He's legitimately humble. He's a smart guy. Very rarely does he make the same mistake twice, and those are all good ingredients for a young guy on the rise.
Q. What is Ike Taylor's chief attribute in your eyes?
A. Ike is as honest as the day is long. He doesn't seek comfort. He's a "tell it like it is guy," and I think all of us can appreciate that.
Q. Cortez Allen recorded his first pick-six in the win over the Packers. Is his development on target in your opinion?**
A. It is, and I'm sure to hear him tell it or to hear me tell it, it hasn't come soon enough. He's a talented young guy who has had some setbacks due to injury. He's starting to get to the level of play we anticipated him reaching here in 2013.
Q. Has the fake punt that you used in Green Bay been in the playbook all year?
A. We worked at it since Mat (McBriar) got here. We had to wait until we had a level of comfort with it, and until we had an appropriate opportunity. It all came together for us early in the third quarter at Lambeau Field.
Q. That play, plus a 15-yard penalty, gave Ben Roethlisberger the opportunity to record his 15th career rushing touchdown. Does Ben tuck it and run enough in your mind?**
A. He pulls it down quite enough. (Laughs). We joked that the 15th rushing touchdown will probably be the last one for him. Ben's a competitor, and he'll do whatever is required for us to win. More importantly he'll take what the defense gives us, and in that instance the defense gave us some grass and he took it.
Q. Roethlisberger has been sacked only 10 times in the past seven games. What has been happening with that?
A. Continuity, not only in terms of what we're doing but also with whom we're doing it. We settled down in terms of our division of labor. People have settled into key roles that are geared toward the protection of the quarterback. Kelvin Beachum at left tackle, Le'Veon Bell at running back, and the security blanket of the tight end position, whether it's Heath Miller or Matt Spaeth. Those key ingredients, and the stability within those ingredients have allowed those things to transpire.