Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week's opponent – the Oakland Raiders:
Q. It is said that teams show a lot of improvement between the first and second games of a season. Did that hold true with the Steelers based on the performance against the New York Jets?
A. There was improvement. Hopefully, we still have greater days ahead. It was a good start, in terms of being on the upswing and the type of team we need to develop into over the course of the season. We got a lot of contributions from a lot of guys, and that needs to continue.
Q. What was the biggest improvement on offense?
A. Seizing the moments at the waning portions of a football game. Obviously we fell short in that regard in the game against Denver, and often in the National Football League that's the difference between winning and losing. I thought the last drive against the Jets was indicative of a team on the rise at the end of a game where guys made significant plays. We had a third-and-1 conversion by Isaac Redman, we had a tough catch by Antonio Brown to convert a third-and-4, we had a nice catch from Heath Miller on a third-and-3. Those are the kinds of plays that are indicative of a team, or a unit, that needs to be on the rise at the end of a football game.
Q. Then, what was the biggest improvement on defense?
A. I thought we just settled down and played the kind of game we're capable of playing. We didn't make any adjustments. We didn't start as quickly as we would have liked, but quite frankly there are going to be those types of Sundays. It was good for them to show the type of Steelers resolve they're going to need to be a good defense.
Q. Does the presence of Ryan Clark make that much of a difference?
A. I don't want to relate how we played defensively to his presence, but his presence is valued. Ryan is a good football player. He makes a lot of plays, but aside from what you see on tape in terms of the plays he makes, he's a great communicator and leader.
Q. Once Nick Folk kicked the field goal to give the Jets a 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter, New York only crossed midfield one more time. Was the Steelers defense that dominant?
A. Situational dominance, absolutely. We got off the field on third down, we were successful on 6-of-7 of those opportunities in the second half, and when you play like that and when the offense is possessing the ball and converting third downs, you have an opportunity to get control of the situation.
Q. The running game averaged only 2.6 yards per carry. How much of the responsibility for that belongs to the running backs themselves?
A. A certain percentage of it, but the reality is that it's on all of us. As coaches and myself being on the top of that list, we have to put them in situations that are more successful. We have too many negative runs to this point in the season, runs of minus-yardage. At times we have guys unblocked due to schematic things, and then of course we need to put the ball where it needs to be. Everybody has a hand in where it is and hopefully everybody will have a hand in its solution.
Q. Heath Miller doesn't get much attention nationally, but he is off to a great start to his season. Does that lack of recognition bother you?
A. Not at all, and I'm sure it doesn't bother Heath. He's not the type of guy who seeks attention. He's a low-maintenance guy, a low-key guy, but he doesn't play football in that manner. He's a passionate competitor, and he delivers for us time and time again when called upon.
Q. Last week, Ben Roethlisberger targeted 10 difference receivers. The only two he didn't target were David Paulson and Baron Batch. Is that a sign that Roethlisberger is seeing the whole field?
A. Yes, and it's probably a sign that Paulson and Batch need to get open. Ben is including everybody, and so they better get in gear here this week and become a part of the show.
Q. Has Carson Palmer changed his style of play since he went from the Cincinnati Bengals to the Oakland Raiders?
A. He's still Carson. He's very accurate, he's got a deep-ball arm, he's very adept at throwing play-action passes, he's a guy who can turn his back to the defense and make a quick decision and come out throwing. He's underrated from a mobility standpoint. He seems to have all of the skills we remember.
Q. Running back Darren McFadden set a record earlier this season with 13 receptions in a game. Was a lot of that check-down stuff?
A. That's a function of the west coast offense. They emphasize the utilization of all of their eligibles, particularly the running backs, under the leadership of coordinator Greg Knapp. Some of it is screens, some of it is check-downs, some of it is diagonals and angle routes. They desire to include the running back position in their passing game, and not only with McFadden but some others. They hit a screen pass to Mike Goodson last week for a 64-yard touchdown.
Q. How would you assess the Raiders front four on defense?
A. I've been talking to our guys all week about Richard Seymour being an enforcer, and his comrade inside – Tommy Kelly – is the same. They out-hustle you on the perimeter with Matt Shaughnessy and Lamarr Houston. Our tackles have their work cut out for them in terms of not being out-tempoed outside, and our interior people cannot be bullied.
Q. Both San Diego and Miami had success running the ball against the Raiders. Is that a key for the Steelers today?
A. It depends. Every game unfolds differently. This venue being the Black Hole, I'm sure the Raiders are going to get big-time inspiration from the fans. They're an 0-2 football team, and there's always a hint of desperation in those teams, and that makes them dangerous. Our goal is to be belanced and win the football game, and that's what we intend.