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Coach Munchak's Aug. 30 Press Conference

Posted Aug 30, 2013


HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on the first of the final cuts)

It is hard, it is difficult. That is what we are doing now, most of this day after a long night of travel. We were able to speak with 10 of the players that we decided to release and got that part done earlier today. Now it is just concentrating on the rest of the roster. We have until tomorrow afternoon to do all that, so we are just getting everyone’s input and trying to put a plan together and do what we have to do tomorrow.

(on the toughest positions for cuts)

It is trying to decide how many guys to keep at a couple of the spots and a lot of times that is usually on the defensive side of the ball because of special teams whether it be the defensive back area or linebackers. There have been some injury issues there at linebacker so you are trying to decide if we need to keep a couple of extra people there. That is probably the main area.  The offense is pretty much, other than receiver, a lot of time that is the one every year you are looking at and quarterback, do you keep two or do you keep three? If I had to pick one I would maybe say the linebackers just because of the health with where we are at. Last year, I think we carried seven linebackers and one less DB. Those are the combinations now that we are looking at and what our options are. Then you look at those 53 and you are going to play Pittsburgh, who is going to suit up? Who are the 46? You start working on that with Nate Kaczor, the special teams coach, and start figuring out with our plan to beat Pittsburgh, how many of these guys will be up? So you do a lot of that and you don’t know who is going to come available from other teams. That may change your thinking here in the next 24 hours, so there are a lot of things in play. You are taking it one day at a time and we are going to take our time with it. We have to do certain things by tomorrow at 5 (p.m.) and we will do that.  So there is not one thing, but you are just finishing up the puzzle that we started back in January.

(on if Akeem Ayers and Zach Brown will be ready for the opener)

Yeah, we are; the way the workouts have been going the last couple of days everything looks real positive, but again that becomes part of that uncertainty and nothing is guaranteed obviously.  We feel real good about it.

(on how much debate there is during the cut process)

I think debate is probably the best word used. Everyone has an opinion, especially if you are a position coach. You have a close relationship with certain players and why that person may be important to be a part of the team and why we should carry an extra person at that position.  They understand everyone is going to make their pitch for what they think is best and why. The coordinators are both going to have the biggest say for the offense and defense and what helps them call their game or run their defense on Sunday. The hard part is for an offensive guy to hear why you need an extra DB instead of my guy on offense, so you have some of that but then guys hear the whole story together and it make more sense. It works its way out. Guys understand you end up doing the right thing and what is best for your team. Sometimes you have to do certain things because of the health or because what is available or what kind of team you have.

(on if anyone is unlikely to play against Pittsburgh)

Besides him (Marc Mariani) and (Zaviar) Gooden are probably the two that would have a hard time playing. The rest we would assume be available.

(on whether he anticipates Marc Mariani being on the roster)

We don’t know yet. We are all anxious to get this thing going and a lot of decisions will be made here, but those are tough ones because again you are projecting when he will be ready and those are things we are trying to get a good handle on before we decide the best way to move forward with someone like Marc or some of the other positions we have some questions about still.

(on the starting cornerback spot opposite Jason McCourty)

The players aren’t in today, so some of our decisions whether it be at the offensive line or at the secondary, we will talk to the players about tomorrow before we make any final decisions. They should always be the first ones to hear what our thinking is. A game like that was more to see Daimion Stafford play for the first time for him to go out there and play quite a bit or to see Blidi Wreh-Wilson play. You would like to see guys go out there when they play and have success and make big plays and get a pick-six, but we didn’t have any of those. We saw what we probably thought we would see.

(on both Tommie Campbell and Alterraun Verner having some difficult plays)

Yeah, I think they had some plays they could have done a better job on in that game. It was a very vanilla game as far as what we did and what they did obviously on both sides of the ball.  You wish that you saw more action with turnovers and interceptions … (Daimion) Stafford got the one interception and had the fumble recovery, so it was good to see him in the middle of things and find a way to make some plays. That was good, but it would have been nice to see some more of that. 

(on whether there were any injury-related setbacks last night)

I thought it went well. We got through the game pretty good for a physical game. We ran the ball quite a bit. They did the same. So, we had a lot of pounding going on out there. Delanie Walker got a chance to play, and he was really excited that he played and got a dozen plays. That first drive he was in quite a bit, so that was good for him to play. A lot of guys didn’t play at all. We had a chance to get a nice drive. Both groups had some nice drives. Health-wise though, we got through it pretty well. I don’t think there was anyone that would be affected by that game yesterday as far as going into game week this week.

(on Colin McCarthy’s performance last night)

I think it was moving fast for him at first like we thought it would. I think he thought the same thing when we talked to him at the half. He got in that second quarter, and that’s the first time he played out there in a while. I thought the second half he felt much more comfortable. We just got to keep playing. The good news is he felt healthy that way. He didn’t feel limited at all because of the injury he had or the injuries he’s had. So, I think that was good for him going forward. Now he needs to get back in the grind, and we have to find ways for him to contribute and help us to win this weekend.

(on concerns over giving up points early)

I think like we talked about last week, the third week, Atlanta was a lot better than we hoped. We still had the ball moved on us, but we held them to field goals. We’d rather that happen yesterday with the younger guys playing. We gave up some touchdowns early. But, it’s something that going into the season we know we’re going to have a hard time winning and getting off to a hot start if we’re going to let teams move the ball on us early. There’s no doubt we’ll be trying to do more like we did in Atlanta. Three-and-outs would be even nicer. We need to work on that.

(on concerns over the offense settling for field goals)

If it continues into the season, yes it will be. No doubt. We like the part of the first phrase about moving the ball well. We feel again in certain games we finished a lot of drives very well and others not. The good news is we’ve had a lot of opportunities to finish drives the way we’ve moved the ball with both teams, first and second team. Now it’s just a matter of the Pittsburgh game getting started. They’re game planning us, and we’re game planning them. It’s back to the real stuff that we’ll finish those drives. I just hope we have as many opportunities to finish drives as we’ve had during the four preseason games.

(on whether there are still uncertainties regarding cuts)

I’d say there’s a few guys that we haven’t made decisions on. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re unsure of exactly the best way to go about filling a couple spots yet and where the need may be. Again, a lot of that gets down to the health of certain positions, the health of some of our guys. Really, the next step is who becomes available. Even with players, it’s a hard business that even when you finish up your rosters tomorrow night at 5 o’clock or whatever it is now you’re going to see if there’s guys out there that can still help your team get better that got released. So, that’s the next step that pops in. Sometimes you make changes. Sometimes you don’t. That’s going to happen here until you get into next week. You start getting a better feel for if you’re done with what you need to do. That’s really all our options open and look into everything and like you said, having to debate on a lot of these topics here throughout the day today because we have an extra day. We have until tomorrow. Last year we had to have this done by Friday at 5 o’clock. We have the extra day this year, so we’re taking advantage of it.

(on whether coaches are already game planning for the Steelers)

They’ve probably been thinking about Pittsburgh since April I think in some way or another. I don’t think you get the players involved in any of that. The players don’t need to be thinking that far ahead, obviously. But, as far as coaches, I think all teams do, especially the first couple. Even when you play teams like we’re playing the (AFC) West that you don’t play very often, you start taking a peek at a lot of them in the months of April, May, and June. But, as far as Pittsburgh, we’ll start next week. Monday will be the first time we’ll actually do some things on the field for the extra day as far as getting reps. Then, we’ll start our normal work week on Wednesday. The coaches have been taking a look at them. We played them last year here, so we understand what it’s like to play Pittsburgh. It’s an exciting way to start the season.

(on whether this Tuesday will be a conventional planning day)

Yes. We’ll still start Wednesday like you’re saying like a normal Wednesday. Wednesday and Thursday will be exactly for the players. They’ll get their playbooks on a Wednesday so they get in their routine Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as we go through the first actual game plan week. On Monday when we have the extra day, we won’t give them anything heavy. We’ll have them watch tape introducing some ideas. During some practice sessions, we start carding stuff versus Pittsburgh. Monday is kind of an extra look day, maybe a look at different ideas day to kind of see how things look that you’re thinking about. Sometimes having too much time for coaches is a bad thing. But, it seems like sometimes some of your best game plans are when you play on Thursday night with a short week. I think we’ll let the players get into a routine. We don’t want to get too far ahead because then they get stale by the end of the week. We’ll start Wednesday. Monday will be an extra day, and then we’ll get rolling.

(on Kamerion Wimbley’s role this year on defense)

I think his role has changed because the defense has changed somewhat. We’re not playing the base 4-3. We’re playing more of that under front with the bigger defensive ends. So, yes, his numbers have changed. Again, we looked at that last year thinking we wanted to reduce them anyway. We felt that Kam (Kamerion Wimbley) played way too much last year. We thought it took away some of his effectiveness with him and (Derrick) Morgan. So, now they can come in and certain packages they’ll kind of be rotating. Morgan will be the starter, and Kam would work in as far as getting some relief during the game at the open side end position. Once we get into nickel and other packages we haven’t been doing, he’ll show up in other areas where I think we’ll get his play count to where it should be.

(on whether there is a chance Kamerion Wimbley is cut)

No. I would think Kam (Kamerion Wimbley) would be with us for sure.

(on letting Jalen Parmele go and naming Jackie Battle the third running back)

(Jackie Battle) has done a nice job. I think that was a great competition we felt. We had some concern with the running back position in general when the season ended besides CJ (Chris Johnson). That’s why we went out and got Shonn (Greene). That’s why we were looking hard for a third. I mentioned we were thinking about drafting a running back this year. We didn’t, so then our scouting department did an great job of signing Battle and signing (Jalen) Parmele. We felt we’d see if that answered our need, and it did. We thought Battle did a great job. He fit nice, and is exactly what we were looking for. He got the protection well, ran the ball very well and could play on special teams. He’s a big back. He’s not a normal size back. He’s long. He’s got the long arms. He’s tall. He could do a lot more on special teams than most backs on special teams. He stood out. He definitely came here, and when we saw him in OTAs and he started running in training camp at the end there at the camp when he came in, he did a nice job

(on trimming the offensive line)

Nine would be the most we carry plus practice squad guys. We’d fill it that way. A lot of years it’s been eight plus two or nine plus one because you always want to have guys developing at that position. We found that out last year because of all the injuries we had. That’s another thing you’re looking at is thinking we’d keep nine, but that’s another spot that’s been stolen from before. If there’s a need somewhere else, and you feel you can survive with eight, you can go that way.  Most teams and usually us in the last three years go with nine.

(on not looking back at last year when making roster decisions)

I think it’s more of you just make sure you don’t go too lean in a spot. If you have to, you have to, but not right now. Like we have in the past, we could find players that get released. There’s usually some good football players like what we’re doing here. We let 10 guys go, but there’s some players on that group right there that could be on other rosters I feel. Same thing when we have the last list, our next 12 guys by 5 o’clock tomorrow. Some of those guys will be playing somewhere else. If we happen to be lean in certain spots, we’ll be active and be looking to see what guys we feel we could pick up that could come in and help finish out roster. You’re definitely aware of that especially getting ready for Pittsburgh. We don’t want to go into it where we have issues at one spot or another.

(on keeping a third quarterback this year)

That’s where from the beginning we thought it would. Like I’m sure everybody does, you always look at that spot as somewhere you can steal someone from because you only suit two up. You want to have three here or another whether it be three active or one on the practice squad. That position is always in play. Like you said, I think it is on the table all the time especially maybe more so this year. In certain spots we have a lot of good football players that we’d hate to let go of for one reason or another. So, that’s on the table.

(on being influenced by other teams’ decisions when making cuts)

Well, it’s probably one of those last thoughts. The first one is what’s best for our team and all that. But, yeah, I think it measures in of where a person could end up even if you’re going to trade someone or let them go. There’s always the competitive thought there of do we really want to see this guy on that team. I imagine this time of year when you’re doing trades and other times of the year it happens for that reason. I think teams go out of their way that maybe certain guys go to the NFC or somewhere where you don’t have to face that player. In this time of year, it does. There’s a lot of things that factor. That’s not the big factor, but it definitely could raise a little thinking. If you’re having some of those discussions, it’s definitely something that gets brought up.

(on whether he has fielded calls from other teams interested certain players)

I haven’t. I think a lot of that goes on. I think it’s been going on over the past few weeks. I think guys start reaching out when they’re watching tape and scouting in the front office areas to see the what-ifs. But, there’s nothing that’s pending or anything.

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