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Coach Munchak's Sept. 9 Press Conference

Posted Sep 9, 2013

HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK

(on relying heavily on the run game)

We thought that in some part of each game we’d do something like that. That wasn’t the plan going in. We thought we’d stay balanced like we started. I think we started passing more than we did running early in the game, but I think it was just to stay balanced. I think when we got the ball back at that time after the turnover we know that we had to finish this drive and we needed to get to the run. Once we started, we started to get some momentum. We saw that, so we stuck with it. We converted the fourth and one and we converted the third and three running the football. So, I think that was what kept us in that mode thinking we had them on their heels a little bit. Those were hard-earned yards. There wasn’t any big runs. I think the biggest run may have been eight or seven or six. We felt that was our time. We spent about seven minutes of the clock and finished it with a nice touchdown run by Jackie (Battle), and I think that’s where the game turned for us for the whole sideline. I think our defense getting the ball back after that crazy start for us with the turnover then the offense going the last 45 yards or whatever it was, 50 yards, taking seven minutes off the clock. That’s the type of team we think we can be when we need to be. Next week it may be needing to pass 40 times rather than run 40 times. We feel we have the people to do it either way, but to do it in Pittsburgh against a tough defense was a good feeling, for them thinking at halftime ‘hey, it’s only 7-2.’ There’s a long way to go, but we like the way it’s heading.

(on going against the grain by running the ball a lot)

I hope it is. We went and got the type of players we wanted to be the type of team we needed to be. I think the defense only played 53 plays yesterday. That’s probably the fewest plays they’ve played in a long time. I think that’s why you saw how fresh (Jurrell) Casey and (Derrick) Morgan and our linebackers were as that game went on especially the second half. They were able to rush, and they rushed well. The time of possession, the 34 minutes, was the most we’ve had in a couple years. Running the football adds to that. Moving the chains adds to that. It’s another way of winning football games, but obviously we know we know we’re not going to be able to win week in and week out running the ball 40 times. We’d love to, and if that’s what it takes, we’ll do that. We feel we’re not one dimensional. We feel that we have a quarterback and receivers that can do the same thing throwing the ball if that’s the direction we needed to go depending on how the game falls out. With our defense playing the way they’re playing, the biggest thing on the road is you don’t want to turn the ball over. You don’t want to give them any short field, and we didn’t give them any short field all day. They were pinned back inside their 20 I think about five or six times. I think they started inside their own 20 most of the day. I think that was their average field position, and ours was about the 40. I think you saw the field position battle made a difference in a game like this.

(on Jake Locker taking on more responsibilities)

Yeah. Of course. I think we’re very confident in that. I think he came out again with the first pass throwing to Nate (Washington) and play action to Kenny (Britt) which was a nice catch. There were times we had plays called, double called, a lot of times for run-check-pass, pass-check-run, and the run was there and not the pass, so we took the run. That happens in games, too. A game becomes a certain way and takes a turn the way that game did in the second quarter and all of a sudden you run the ball 12 times in a row. So, we didn’t anticipate it happening that way. It wasn’t because we didn’t want to do something else. It was because that was working, and we were setting the tone and taking over the game and doing that versus trying to force something else just to balance things out. We’re very confident in his ability with how he converted a third and 13, third and 15 a few drives down in the third quarter. He got in the pocket and made some plays and he ran a couple times when he needed to. Those are the things where the more he plays, the more he’ll continue to make those decisions. Like I said, next week could be the total opposite, and we’re fine with that.

(on whether the Steelers’ injuries were a byproduct of the Titans’ physical play)

I think it’s all part of it. I know the center got hurt because I know the guard cut him instead of our guy, and he cut his leg by accident. On the defense a couple of their guys got hurt. Things like that happen in games. It’s hard. You don’t want to see anyone get hurt in that regard, but I think the more you’re on the field, you get tired and there’s more opportunities to get hurt. That happens when you’re going against teams like that. Heck, our offense was out there for a 12-play drive, eight-play drive, a couple 10-play drives. We had 52 plays in five drives. We kept them on the field. There’s no doubt that people were getting tired. It’s the first game of the year. We haven’t worked that hard either. We haven’t had our guys out there playing to that degree, and neither have they. It’s a testament to two groups getting after it pretty good against a good defense that’s going to be good all year no matter what their record is.

(on whether teams will start accounting for Zach Brown and Jurrell Casey on defense)

When you hear things, very rarely is it the teams that say that. If you play against guys in this league it’s usually other people that watch games because they’ve never heard the names. But when you turn the film on week in and week out even last year, there’s guys that offensive linemen see, you see, and you realize these guys are good football players. I think Jurrell Casey has been good for the last three years. Last year he was injured, so he didn’t have as many big plays, but yesterday, like you said, he played really well. So did Zach (Brown). Zach played good last year. Akeem (Ayers), (Derrick) Morgan had another sack and hit the quarterback a few times. Yesterday I thought up front we played up well. We went out and got Ropati (Pitoitua), and they couldn’t run the football at him. I mean, he was pushing the pile back, pushing guys into the quarterback. Sammie (Hill) closed two gaps. The linebackers made the tackles like we hoped they would. What we envisioned is what we saw. We were more physical than we had been on defense. The corners were attacking throws. Vern (Alterraun Verner) had some great plays. (Jason) McCourty did a great job covering when they went deep on him. I thought the defense really came together as that game went on. That’s the first time they’ve played together for four quarters. I think you saw them start to get better and better as the game went on. It was fun to watch.

(on the development of Zach Brown)

He just continues to get better. I think he’s understanding the game. He understands how he can affect the game. When you’re a guy his size who can run like he does…I mean that play down by the goal line towards the end of the game, that was a five yard loss on a play they probably thought they were going to score on. He rushed the quarterback, and I mean, he’s a tough matchup for a running back. You saw that yesterday. Like you mentioned, they’re going to have to worry about how to account for him. How do you account for Akeem (Ayers)? What do you do up front? We have some people we feel that are working hard to get better. We think we’ve got schemes to get good matchups like we did yesterday. We had a lot of one-on-ones yesterday. When you bring an extra guy, that’s what happens. That’s why teams do so you get five guys one-on-one a lot. We feel like we’re going to win a lot of these battles, and we did. When you can stop the  run like that like we did against them, at third-and-two, third-and-three…they were passing the ball because they lost confidence in the run game whereas on the other side of the ball, we were running. When it was third-and-three, third-and-two, third-and-one, we ran. That’s the difference in us last year and us this year.

(on his understanding of the safety ruling)

Just touch the white line. It doesn’t matter where his feet were. It just mattered where the ball was. In their opinion from their view, it looked like it was in front of the line. When he got the ball, he stepped backwards with it, took it in the end zone, and kneeled. He just made a bad decision with the ball. He knows when he comes forward for a grounder and a lot is going on in your mind obviously with the first play of the season. That probably never happened. That’ll probably never happen again. He obviously should have fielded it and ran. He knows that. The good thing is for him is he made a play like that and came to the sideline the rest of the game he caught every punt we had. He returned one for 27 yards on that one punt that hit the ground. I think he averaged 10 yards as a return. After that, he obviously did a really nice job. So, the good thing is he came back from making a mistake and helped us win that football game.

(on the likelihood of using a cornerback rotation after Alterraun Verner’s performance yesterday)

I think…when you have talented guys in the building you feel there’s ways you can use them. You’re always going to be open to ‘hey, this week maybe we’ll do this.’ But, I think no. He had a great week in practice last week. You know, this whole competition thing even Verner (Alterraun Verner) said helped him become a better player. We always brag on how competition brings out the best in everybody. No doubt he responded well to it and he handled himself well. He had a great week in practice last week. He picked off quite a few balls in practice, and that interception wasn’t an everyday interception. That was a heck of a football play. I think the last 2-3 weeks he’s played very well.

(on how the team responded to the early safety)

It helps us. Every coach talks about ways to beat adversity, and that was adversity in this game. We’re going to have to overcome it. You’re going to have it as an individual as a player, and you’re also going to get it as part of a team. So, we have to refocus and find something to trigger you back into the moment. There he was the first snap, not only for (Darius) Reynaud, but for the whole team it was 2-0. I think it’s probably the fastest anyone’s scored in the history of the league. I guess that’s probably a record with just three seconds off the clock. I think the defense, again, had to go out there. I think once that ball, that fumble, happened was the final deal. Once it was 2-0, we came out and realized, ‘you know what, it’s a game again.’ I think that reloaded us, that point right there. From then on, I think the defense really took over the game, and the offense did what they had to do to help us win it. It’s important for them looking back saying ‘you know, some crazy things can happen like that.’ Next week it could be something a little different. Until you go through those experiences, you don’t know how you’ll respond. I think that’s an experience we saw early, and we handled it well. Next week it’ll probably be a different type of one that will happen, and we’ll do it there. It’s good. You’d rather obviously not go through that, but it’s nice that we handled that well.

(on first down production)

That makes a huge difference because that’s what made us stick to running the football. We could have done other things. We could have thrown some more play action, done some other things, but we felt that was the way to go. We were moving the pile, tiring them out, staying on the field, and the clock was running, the defense was playing as well as they were. It was a field position game. We didn’t think they were going to score a lot of points, so we thought that was the way to go. We ran the ball because we thought that was the game to do it in. It was good to see really no negative runs other than the one where we left the guy unblocked. It wasn’t a first down, and we lost yards on that. We were solid. We could be a lot better when we watch the tape. The offense had the ball in so many good spots because the defense. We made some silly mistakes, penalties we can’t have, we got to clean up throughout the game. It hurt some plays we had. Heck, the first series we drove down the field and had pass interference on Delanie (Walker) that cost us a field goal. That took three points off the board. You can’t do things like that. We had three or four penalties that hurt us, and those are the things we have to learn from and not have happen again.

(on whether Shonn Greene’s injury is short term)

We think so. He’s a little sore today, but he’s walking pretty good. It’s just a matter of seeing how the next 48 hours are for him as far as how quickly he’ll be able to, at that position, run and feel good. We feel good about it though. It’s good that he’s up and going and there’s nothing bad going on there. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how he rehabs the next couple days.

(on other injuries)

Just Dave (David Stewart) will probably be the same as last week. He probably won’t do anything until Friday. He played the whole game. He’s sore today. We see him playing Sunday, but it’ll probably be something where he won’t practice until the end of the week.

(on whether Brett Kern needed treatment after the game)

He did. We thought at first he may have pulled something, but in reality it was a cramp, so he’s fine. He ended up punting really well. Heck, he had a great hold on that one high snap. But, he’s fine.

(on monitoring David Stewart throughout the year)

He was solid. He needs to practice, he knows that. I don’t think anyone plays as well as they can if they don’t practice. I know when I was in that situation, I didn’t play as well especially early in the game when you don’t get reps all week. He needs to get reps. It definitely hurts the chemistry. You want him working with Chance (Warmack) during the week on the Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practices. Our goal is to get him out there. He wants to be out there. He does the walkthrough part which is still good. With this injury, it may be another week because the soreness kind of eases up as the week goes on. It’s not something that he needs to make worse where he can’t play. It’s just a matter of him getting through it. Hopefully by Friday, worst case is he’s practicing. That’s better than last week. Next week it’s ‘hey, he’s out there by Thursday’ and he’s kind of over the hump

(on David Stewart’s penalty)

I think that’s in heat of the moment. That’s stuff you talk to players about. I’m not sure which one of the linebackers, maybe it was the rookie. He engaged him, and he just tried to get him off him. He did the usual reaction thing where you throw that to get him off you because he was about to knock you on your back and the play over. It’s just body language. We talk to the players all the time about what the officials see. They see the body language of what he did, and so they throw the flag thinking he threw the opponent to the ground. He just can’t put himself in that situation. You just got to let happen what happens there knowing that that may have cost us a touchdown. It definitely made us settle for a field goal, and you can’t do those things. I told him that as soon as he walked off. He knew he was wrong. Sometimes you don’t get time to think about it, and that’s your reaction. As a team, we can’t have those things because that could cost us a game.

(on reevaluating the fullback position)

I think Collin (Mooney) did a nice job. He played I think 15 plays, maybe a little more than that. I thought he blocked his guy pretty well. He knows what we’re doing. He’s good at it. He could also be a running back if you need him. He’s on special teams, so he brings all that to the table. We hadn’t really decided long term what we’re going to do. We obviously looked at some people last week. We’ll continue to do that and see what options we have before we decide this week.

(on Kenny Britt’s inactivity during the game)

I think the way we were calling the game the opportunities got limited for him. We only threw the ball 20 times I guess, and so there wasn’t a lot of opportunity anyway there. But, some of the calls with the way they were playing coverage, they took some of that away, they took the read that would get the ball to him away. It was more a combination of where this game went running the ball as much as we did and the defense they were playing.

(on Chance Warmack’s performance in his first NFL game)

Well, I thought he played pretty solid. I think he missed some things with the crowd noise with a couple calls you know when we’re adjusting calls at the line of scrimmage, protections. A couple times those things went on. He’s talking over here to (David) Stewart and they’re making a change inside. They didn’t have time to do all the talking. Luckily, the two or three times it happened didn’t affect the play. The player didn’t come. He’s physical. That’s his kind of game. He pass blocked well one-on-one when he was in one-on-one situations. He pushed the pile well. He’s going to be a special football player we feel. It was a good start for him. It’s a good start for him to feel a big win. He’s used to them in college. This is his first chance to experience one in the NFL. I think it was a nice start for him. He’ll get a lot better, and he’ll see things faster. The game is still moving pretty quickly when you’re playing the Steelers. That’s a tough game to start with, but I thought he handled himself pretty well.

(on whether Kendall Wright’s limited snaps were injury or game plan related)

I think it was what you just said. We weren’t doing a lot of three wide receivers. We were doing a lot of one receiver. We suited four of them up, and we were going to have a lot more of one receiver, two receiver than we were three. So, that limited his reps. That was probably the biggest part of it. Like I said, we feel very confident in those guys. We’ve been bragging on them ever since we got started in April. There’s going to be many, many games where those guys have a chance to do a lot more than they did yesterday. The good thing about this team is they just want to win football games, and the stats of who get the ball and how many times we run it, is it CJ (Chris Johnson), is it Kenny (Britt), is it Nate (Washington), whoever it is, they just want to win. We have the right mindset on this team now. Not one person said a word about us running the ball 42 times. There wasn’t one receiver concerned about us only throwing 20. I think that’s when you find your team growing up and they just want to win. They were happy for each other throughout the game, guys on offense, defense, special teams, the guys that were in the game, on the sideline, from start to finish. That’s what you see developing. A win will do that for you. Now we obviously know we got another big game this weekend.

(on Zaviar Gooden’s timeline for returning)

He’ll start practicing. He’ll be out for the first time this Wednesday. It’s good to have him back, and we’ll see how he progresses. He’ll probably run scout team, do individual drills, and we’ll see how his ankle handles all the competition and go from there.

(on Delanie Walker’s potential for growth as he practices more)

He’s getting a lot better. He was making the mistakes that the tight ends made back in August with a lot of the gap stuff we were doing. When you don’t do things, there’s no way to simulate that kind of action especially against Pittsburgh with all the counters, the powers we were running, the weak side counters. There was a lot of different types of runs we used yesterday, and he was a big part of that on the backside, the front side, motioning, shifting. That was great work for him. Sometimes he was a little too far this way, not far enough this way, just kind of working his way back into the game. He has that big catch and did a hell of a job getting back up and getting it after he fumbled it. He made a great play there. He made a catch earlier. He’s going to be a good weapon for us, and I think for him to play about 40 snaps yesterday is probably what he needed. His knee felt great. Physically he’s fine that way. He just needs to play. I think that was a great chance for him to get…running the ball as much as we did. He’s a good fit for what we’re doing.

(on whether the call on Delanie Walker’s ruled catch and subsequent fumble recovery was the right one)

I thought it was good. If we hadn’t recovered it, I’d have thought otherwise. I saw him take a couple steps after and I thought for sure it was, unless he was bobbling it which it didn’t seem like he was. It’s a catch, then the fumble, and he recovered it.

(on whether he thought Troy Polamalu’s big defensive play was clean)

On the sidelines I did not. I thought he was off sides, but he was not off sides which kind of surprised me. I thought for sure he was over. They got him earlier for leaning over, and we had a tape of all the plays of him doing those type of things throughout his career. A couple of times he was off sides, but that time he was not. Great play by him.

(on whether they tried to snap the ball quickly after the ruling on Delanie Walker’s catch)

Well, I think upstairs they started saying you may want to hurry. It was a big gainer anyway, so we thought the play we were going to run, we’re going to run it anyway if you let us. It was a play we thought was good anyway. We thought ‘yeah, let’s just go.’ We were going to hurry, and we thought throughout the game our plan was to do some of that anyway. It seemed like it made sense just in case it wasn’t what we thought it was. On top of that, we thought we had a good play against their defense. We thought we had them on their heels anyway with a lot of the stuff we were doing. We went for it for both of those reasons and ended up losing two yards. It didn’t work out so well.

(on whether he thought Troy Polamalu’s on Jake Locker was clean)

I’d like to say no and all that, but it was such a bam-bam play. I mean, he didn’t go for his head or anything, so I think great play by him.

(on whether settling for three field goals is troubling)

We’re not happy with that, no. Is that where we want to be? Definitely not. Did it help us in this kind of game, was it enough to win? Yes. We don’t want to be one for four in the green zone. We need to finish. We had a couple penalties that hurt us. The (David) Stewart penalty hurt us. We had a couple other ones that hurt us. We know that’s going to hurt us if it’s going to happen every weekend. We talked this whole offseason about that. We have to execute and finish at the end. We finished that one drive and the other three we didn’t. We weren’t trying on the last one. We didn’t try, so throw that one out because we were just going to take the three runs and get the field goal and be up by two scores. So, we weren’t really going to take a risk there. They were wasting their timeouts, so we played the game there. That goes on the record books, but we didn’t see it that way. The other one was (David) Stewart’s penalty which, again, we’re being conservative. Yeah, it’s one for four but I hope if we’re more aggressive there, we would have had more luck.

(on Gregg Williams influence on defense and how he and Jerry Gray are getting along)

I think anytime the more good coaches you have, the better your staff is. That was one of the big things I said and why I originally thought it was a good idea. Not only do they know each other and have similar thought processes, but they work well together and complement each other well. So, I just think it brought more confidence to the staff and to the players with some of the different things we’re doing as they’re sitting through meetings and watching how one guy gets up and speaks about how we’re going to do this and someone else runs the tape and they kind of see that these guys are on the same page and they have great ideas. So, I think it’s comfort. I know as a line coach if you have someone else you can talk to that understands it like you do when you have someone you can throw ideas off, you become a better coach. You have someone to challenge some of the thoughts you had and maybe you correct some of the things before you get to game day. I think a lot of that you’re on the board trying to figure things out on offense and defense, and the more great minds you have in the room, football minds, that can go through the what-ifs, maybe you avoid some problems on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday that are going to come up on Sunday instead of us waiting until Sunday to find out it wasn’t a good idea. I think we’re finding out things during the week that are best for our team. The players are obviously benefitting from that on the sideline on Sunday, and it’s a combination of all of them on Sunday. I just mean that Jerry (Gray)’s going to call the way we do. He’s the coordinator, but all of the coaches are a big part of what we decide to do, how we’re going to decide to attack Houston. The more great minds I think you have and guys that have experience of having success say ‘hey, have you tried this? Hey, will you try this? This is something they’re going to have trouble with. Wow, that’s a great idea. I need to incorporate that into our plan.’ That’s what we have with Gregg and Jerry working together.

(on making adjustments for Houston)

Well, for us it’s a team we know well. They don’t play until this evening, so we don’t have any current film on them. We don’t have anything until tomorrow on their new look. But, they’re not going to change much. They won the division the last couple years. We know what a great challenge it is. We didn’t play well against them either game last year on offense after we turned the ball over six or seven times between the two games. The defense actually played pretty well against them in both games. I think we stopped the run and did some good things against them last year. We just gave the game away I thought on offense in both games, so we got to fix that. But, it’s a great challenge. It’s a division game. It’s on the road again, but it’s a team we’re very familiar with and a team we know if we’re going to make a move in the AFC, we have to be able to beat them. So, it’s going to be a great challenge to us.

(on whether Houston playing on Monday is disruptive to this week’s game planning)

Luckily we know them. Like I said, it’s not someone that we don’t understand their scheme or what they’re trying to do. So, what you see on the field when you watch them you’re just going to confirm: ‘oh yeah they’re doing this, they’re doing that.’ The film will be in tonight, late tonight or tomorrow morning, and then you look at it to see if anything’s different. That’s the good news. That’s how they are I’m sure with us. We have a good feel for them. They’re one of the best defenses in the league just like Pittsburgh. They’re not going to make many changes. If they’re good at what they do, that’s what they’re going to do. I think that’s what we’ll see on defense, and offense will be the same way. They’re going to run the ball, they’re going to play action. That game’s more of a confirmation that they didn’t make any drastic changes once we get a chance to see it. But, it is. It’s frustrating. You’d rather have it. You’d rather have the film right now so the coaches could already watch it and go through it because there are new players. There are going to be changes that way, so it just holds up some of your thinking as far as who you want to attack when you see who is playing certain ways. Preseason tape is kind of hard to judge and make game time decisions about. You want to see how they’re really going to play. That’s probably the hard part for the new players they have that we’re not going to get a chance really to see those guys until tomorrow.

(on Fernando Velasco being picked up by the Steelers)

I think it’s great for Fernando (Velasco). I think he’ll do a great job for them. I hadn’t heard that, so I’m happy for him. I knew he’d be playing somewhere just like we talked about. It was just a matter of if it’d be this week or next week he’d be playing. This gives him a chance to hopefully come in and start. So, I’m happy for him.

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