Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Dallas Cowboys:
Q. After the San Diego performance, have you sensed any kind of resolve from the team leading up to the game today against Dallas?
A. I have, but that's not going to get us very far. It's about how we perform today. We've got a mature group in a lot of ways, guys understand the urgency of this moment, and that was reflected in how we prepared this week. But ultimately it's not about the preparation. You can trick yourself into finding comfort in that. We need to make plays, we need to make the necessary plays to win the football game today.
Q. After analyzing the video of that Chargers game, was one element of the team's performance more responsible for the outcome than the other elements?
A. It was a collective effort of unsatisfactory work. We didn't get off the field quickly enough on defense on possession downs, we didn't convert enough possession downs offensively, we turned the ball over, we allowed those guys to convert those turnovers into touchdowns. We all had a hand in making sure that was a disappointing performance.
Q. Does the absence of Ike Taylor force you to make adjustments in your coverage?
A. It does, because we're playing with young people. It's not what (defenses) we call, but it's about their ability to execute. So you'll see that reflected in our play today. We're going to run with what these guys can execute and execute at a high level. We need these guys to play fast and free, and the only way they can do that is have a keen understanding of what you're doing.
Q. If you look at the statistics, the Cowboys offense is weighted heavily toward the pass. Is that their philosophy, or is that an example of a coach taking advantage of his team's talent?
A. Coach Jason Garrett is playing to the strength of the talent, but you also have to acknowledge they have had some injuries at the running back position. Their feature runner – DeMarco Murray – has missed some time with injury, but Tony Romo and the guys he throws the ball to, whether it be Jason Witten or Miles Austin or Dez Bryant, they've got a great rapport. They've worked together for a number of years, and that's the strength of their offense.
Q. Only four quarterbacks in the NFL have attempted more passes than Romo. Would you call the Dallas scheme a West Coast offense?
A. I guess you could put them in that category, but more than anything, Romo is a strength and the weapons he works with at the receiver position are strengths of what they do offensively. And so they utilize them.
Q. Can your secondary do anything to limit the effectiveness of Witten and Bryant?
A. Yes, but it's going to be about more than just the secondary. It's going to be about the guys who rush the passer as well. We need to destroy the timing of what it is that they do, and that's going to be aided by tight coverage and re-routes. But also by pressure on the quarterback.
Q. Romo has thrown 16 interceptions. Does he get himself into trouble by trying to force the ball into coverage?
A. Pockets breaks down and he has the talent to create, and with that talent sometimes comes negative outcomes. But more than anything, it might just reflect some of the situations they have been in and some of the circumstances that he has been in, in terms of trying to put the team back into some football games.
Q. Will LaMarr Woodley being on the field at the same time as James Harrison be able to help the pass rush?
A. We expect him to. He better, because he's capable. It's good to have him back.
Q. Coaches always say that the next game is the most important one. But does this one have any added significance because of where it falls on the schedule and the fact it's against another 7-6 team fighting for a spot in the playoffs?
A. Regardless of their record or the team we're facing, obviously this is an important performance for us. We need to win football games and establish the rhythm that's necessary, not only to get into the tournament but to perform in it. So it's a big game regardless of the circumstances or the records or the names on the backs of the jerseys.
Q. The Cowboys will be without two of their nose tackles today – Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent. Can your offense take advantage of that to produce an effective running attack?
A. I would like to think that we can, but they have some other guys who are playing some excellent football. Jason Hatcher, a defensive tackle, has been playing some of the best football of his career. Marcus Spears has been a rock solid player for them for a number of years. And the outside linebacker tandem of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer is special.
Q. Is there anything that can be done at this point in the season to spark your return game?
A. Absolutely. We're going to continue to work on the fundamentals that are essential to being good in that area. It's good to have Antonio Brown back in action, and once he settles in to what has transpired during the time he was out, I think we'll have an opportunity to provide a splash for our team in that area.
Q. What are the keys for the Steelers today against the Cowboys?
A. For us, we failed in situational football last week, but specifically on third downs both offensively and defensively. We have to be better in that area. We're going to be playing with some young men in the secondary, but the onus is not only on them. We have to do a good job of rushing the passer, and the offense has to help them by doing a great job of possessing the football. We can't turn the ball over. We have to win the possession downs – to maintain possession and to minimize the secondary's exposure to the Dallas passing attack.