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Coach Munchak's Sept. 4 Practice Report

Posted Sep 4, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on Pittsburgh’s defense)

They’ve always done a great job I think of drafting and getting free agents that fit in their system. They still have four or five guys with 10 years of experience mixed in with those young guys. That seems the way they usually do it. They were still one or two in almost every category last season even though they finished 8-8 as a team. We know defensively has always been their strength for years and years, and that won’t change. We’re expecting the same type of defenses we saw last year, so this will be a great challenge.

(on whether they will be tested at Pittsburgh)

It’s a huge test. Most of them usually are on the road, in the opener. You don’t know what to expect sometimes just because you can’t really go off a lot of preseason film and what you see on there. Then there’s that way with you know what we’re going to get, we know what we’re going to see, we know what they like to do. They just go out and do it very well. That’ll be our challenge to come out there, weather the storm of being on the road, the adversity that may come up in a game like this, and let it settle down and play football.

(on Pittsburgh’s plans offensively and defensively)

They want to win it up front. They’d love more than anything to obviously shut down our run game and make us one dimensional and go after us with the blitz packages they like. On offense, they want to not have to throw deep. I think they’ll take their shots, but they want to max up and protect Ben (Roethlisberger) and make some plays and get the running game going, similar to what we want to do. We’ll see who’s more successful when we get to Sunday.

(on whether Pittsburgh’s defense has effectively stopped the run in the past)

I think we’ve had our moments. I think there’s been years that we’ve run the ball well and other times we haven’t so much. I thought last year we were very productive in the game. We ran well enough to help us win the football game last year. You just don’t want a game where they shut you down where it’s 10 carries for 15 yards or something where you become one dimensional in a big way. You know you’re going to have some one and two yard runs because of the way they play, but you’re also going to get an opportunity for some plays. They’re the ones we have to get to even things out. It’s a great challenge especially coming out of the box the number one defense in many categories, one of the toughest teams to run against year in and year out. It’s a good challenge for us.

(on whether it’s hard for a young quarterback like Jake Locker to learn zone blitz concepts)

I think the hard thing is the speed of it. If you ask Jake (Locker) or ask us, we all know it. You watch the tape and you’ll have the answers. But, when you have a split second to make a decision and then that pressure’s coming, it’s more about you don’t have much time and they get you to make mistakes with the football. You try to get it out of your hands and you throw into a zone that you think is open and it’s not. So, again, it comes down to our protection schemes and our guys to allow that not to happen. The years we had blocked it well and given the quarterback maybe a little more time than the defense expects it to have, we’ve done very well against them that way. That’s what it’s going to kind of come down to this game, and if we can run it and have Jake in third-and-three and third-and-four, it really changes the game quite a bit. If we’re third-and-eight, that feeds into crowd noise at their place. It makes for a very tough day, so we know how important first and second down are going to be this game.

(on how much better prepared Jake Locker is this year to handle third-and-long situations)

I think it’s just experience in itself even though we’re playing him 10 games last year. I think he’s just more comfortable with what we’re doing. I think he’s much more at ease in his relationship with the players, the receivers, the backs out of the backfield, the screen game There’s a lot of things he’s just a lot better at. I think we have more bullets in the gun for him that he knows that he can make certain plays. He can throw a three yard pass on third-and-eight and let the back hit the first down. It doesn’t have to be ‘hey, I got to throw a pass for 10 or 15 yards.’ Maybe it’s to CJ (Chris Johnson) for four (yards) and he goes and gets it done. I think that mentality is better understood and our scheme is better laid out for those things. That’s where we need to hurt defenses. You want them to drop off in coverage and hurt them that way so maybe the deep ball comes. We’re excited about where he’s at. We’re going to find out where we’re all at. Most teams in the league are in the same boat. You just don’t know quite what you have until you get it started. There will be a lot of excitement building as we get to the weekend.

(on the challenges of facing Ben Roethlisberger)

That’s probably every team that faces him. That’s what everyone’s goal is it seems like. Sometimes you get it done. Sometimes you don’t. It’s also the back end. You make them cover for a lot longer than you normally cover it. You have to be careful coming off your receivers. If you think he’s breaking out of the box, the D-line has to do a good job in the rush lanes. There’s just a lot of little things like that. Because, again, like you said, then all of a sudden you could play very well most of the game then he beats you on some play down the field. That’s part of the deal. They’re going to make some plays. They made a big long pass on us last year early in the game for what I think was a 75 yarder or something like that. They had another one before halftime that we overcame. So, those things are going to happen in games. We just can’t let them happen more than once.

(on whether the Steelers have a deep threat this year)

(Antonio) Brown is a pretty good one, too. They always seem to find guys that have good speed. He’s their returner and their top receiver. So, they still have guys that can hurt you with speed. Like most teams, you’re going to have weapons. They have some good weapons. They’re not sure at the running back spot and they have some guys nicked up. The O-line is making a comeback like ours is, so there’s a lot of similarities that way. Really, it’s going to be how well we go against their defense. That’s one area for them, no matter what’s going on in football, they’re usually in the top two or three in defense every year.

(on whether Troy Polamalu is an x-factor for the Steelers on defense)

That’s a good way to explain him exactly. You don’t find guys like that you can trust the way they trust him from the day he’s come in. He’s a guy that’s been in the league 10 years. It’s hard to believe he’s been in the league making plays that long. Again, you love his energy. You love watching him. The guy loves playing. He’s got a passion for it. He definitely makes them a much better football team when he’s out there because it seems like he takes risks and usually he’s right. Usually he finds a way to make a play more so than he does lose when he takes a gamble. The thing about him is he takes smart gambles. He understands their system so well that he understands when he can take his opportunities, take his shots knowing that he has someone that can cover him up if he is wrong or doesn’t make the play. He’s going to take his chances, and that’s how this defense is in general. They’re very smart. They’re going to have a good feel for what we’re doing, and they’re going to play plays. They’re going to do things like that. He’s a guy that just does a great job with that coverage. If he feels the quarterback is going to go to a spot, he’s going to play a play, play a route, and a lot of times over the years he’s made some big plays. We have to hope that we limit him from doing that and hurting our flow of the game.

(on whether the Steelers have become a rival in recent years)

I think there is. For the players, maybe not so much other than them knowing about the Pittsburgh Steelers. But, I think the more years that pass, you have to remind them a little bit. They see it from the history that this team has been through it in the division. I think it’s just one of those games they know what kind of team this is, they know how good they are, their history. It’s a great opportunity for us to go into a place that’s going to be sold out. I think they have the best winning percentage in the history of the league at home and play against a very good football team.

(on whether the cornerbacks’ roles have changed given the team’s new defensive schemes)

A little bit. I think we’re just letting them be more aggressive. I mean, we want to be more aggressive in a lot of areas. I’m hoping that plays out going into this game. We want the linebackers to be more aggressive, too, in their coverage. There will be certain things when we’ll be playing zone stuff obviously mixed in. We just want to be more aggressive in general. We want to be more physical. We want to challenge things more. If someone makes a play, then you know what, good for them. At least it was challenged. It was physical. It was a great catch. It was a great run. If we miss a tackle here or there, that stuff’s going to happen. We have to make up for it by if you miss a tackle, I got to strip a ball somewhere. If someone makes a catch on me, good for him. The next play, I have to make a pick. So, I think the mentality is that I have to even the score somewhere. They’re going to make plays. That’s how this league is. We have to keep them to a minimum, but I’m hoping what we see is a defense that’s playing physical, strong, challenging things, having fun, kind of like what you’re going to see on their side of the ball, too.

(on whether the cornerbacks have experienced change on defense)

Not necessarily. I think it’s stuff they’ve done before. I don’t think Jason McCourty feels like he’s been asked to do something he hasn’t been doing. I think it’s just you do more of something than you did in the past. Just like an offensive lineman, hey we’re going to run more powers or more this in zone. I think it’s just adapting. By now we should feel comfortable with what we’re doing. It’s going to be live and real. It’s a chance to play 60 or 70 snaps finally. So, I think that’s going to be the big difference is the endurance. I think the first two or three weeks of the season that’s a huge part of your success, what kind of shape you’re in.

(on whether everyone got through practice today)

Today, yes. (David) Stewart was limited. His leg was a little sore. Other than him, Akeem (Ayers) practiced. Again, limited, but he practiced which was good. He did a lot of team drills. Everyone else was good other than (Zaviar) Gooden.

(on whether Delanie Walker’s alleged involvement in a shooting incident would distract the team)

No, I don’t think it will distract. I think it’s something that’s happened a long time ago. It’ll be all settled I’m sure, but I don’t think these guys are much aware of it. I think he will handle himself well in the whole matter, so it’s not something we’re concerned about.

(on whether he’s talked to Delanie Walker about the alleged incident)

I’ve talked briefly with him today, but we’re fine.

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