Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Q. Hines Ward had a multi-touchdown game last Sunday for the first time since a game in Denver in 2009. What were you thinking when he jumped over the Titans defender to get into the end zone for his first touchdown?
A. That he was somehow going to equate that to his dancing background.
Q. Is Ward the best red zone receiver you ever have coached?
A. Without a doubt. Not only does he have a knack, but he also has a thirst for the goal line. He's a very competitive guy, and I think it comes out of his pores when you get into those situations.
Q. Jacksonville has had some struggles this season, but could they still be a dangerous opponent?A. They've got quality players. More than anything, their quarterback position has been unsettled. Blaine Gabbert has been their third quarterback since the start of training camp, and when you're going through those things, there's going to be a period of adjustment for the football team.Q. Gabbert had his best passing day last weekend against the New Orleans Saints. Do you see him turning a corner of any kind in his rookie season?A. Guys like him who have that kind of pedigree and intelligence are going to do nothing but get better each time they play. Each game you watch where he has played has been better than the ones that have come before it. We've got a great deal of respect for him from that standpoint, and we don't want that trend to continue against us.Q. Would you call Maurice Jones-Drew a freak as a running back?A. He is. He's not small, he's short. He's a very talented guy who has great pick and vision. He's got great leg drive on contact and is a ridiculous competitor. We have and always will have respect for how he plays.Q. And he seems to be running behind some offensive linemen with pedigree?A. Eugene Monroe is a first-rounder from the University of Virginia, Eben Britton is a second-rounder from Arizona. When those guys are in the lineup, they handle the left side for that group. And of course with Brad Meester at center, they have a veteran, savvy center. The Jaguars have a nice combination of young and old up front, and generally they do a nice job of opening holes for Maurice Jones-Drew.Q. During the week, Jacksonville cut punter Matt Turk and signed veteran Nick Harris. The issue supposedly was that Harris was a better directional kicker. Is that the way of the NFL now – directional punters?A. I think it probably had more to do with some poor performances by Turk, to be honest with you, and that's the nature of this game. Both guys are veteran guys and sometimes guys are getting toward the end. Obviously we have respect for Nick and what he's capable of doing, and I don't think it'll have any bearing on the outcome of the game. They swapped one veteran punter out for another.Q. Who is the leader of that Jaguars defense?A. I think it's Paul Posluszny. Even though he's a free agent acquisition and new to that situation, he's an every-down player. He's a sideline-to-sideline tackler. He does an extremely good job in underneath pass defense and plays the mike-linebacker position in the 4-3 scheme. He fits the bill.Q. Last week against Tennessee, LaMarr Woodley seemed to play with a fire lit under him. Do you think that was the case?A. I thought he played a good football game. This guy is a competitor always. It doesn't always show itself in terms of the plays, but he was wired in and delivered timely plays for us. It was much needed with James Harrison out.
Q. Have we witnessed a changing of the guard at the cornerback spot opposite Ike Taylor?A. For the time being, yes. Those guys have done a nice job. That's the story of the National Football League – injuries are a part of the game and guys are given opportunities as the result of someone else's misfortune – we're talking about William Gay and Keenan Lewis as the nickel back – and they've done a nice job. We're No. 1 in the league in pass defense, and we've been very good situationally. So we're not going to disrupt it if it's not broken. We're going to let those guys continue to play.Q. Has a light gone on for Keenan Lewis?A. It has. It's just the understanding of situational football and how people might attack him. He's got skills, no question. As an example, we had a fourth-and-5 situation a week ago, and he was in man-to-man. They ran a stop-pattern, just past the chains. He anticipated it, he was ready for it, he broke the play up. He's got skills, but those types of plays are intelligence-oriented, or experience-oriented. He's been in that situation before, he had an understanding of how they might attack him, and he made the necessary adjustments and made the play because of it.