HEAD COACH MIKE MUNCHAK
(on the structure of Tuesday’s practice)
It is a Thursday practice for us as far as preparation for us, which is a lot of your third-down stuff. We have meetings afterwards. We just changed the day up, where we started a little bit later. We got all of our meeting time in, shorter practice version than we normally have a little bit, just cut some reps off and some things we need to work on, go in and have some meetings afterwards. Tomorrow when they come in here, it’s like our Friday/Saturday, so we get a little bit of both tomorrow.
(on if the familiarity with the Steelers makes the short week easier)
I think so. We played them last year, and like you said, we played the scheme quite a bit this year, the 3-4 that they play. Obviously, they’re unique with it, they just do it very well. There’s a lot of familiarity that way which makes it easier, definitely. You always like more time to prepare as coaches, but we’ll go out there and play our best game with the short week.
(on how much easier the game will be with Troy Polamalu out)
Obviously, they want all their players playing. He’s a great player for them. Obviously, they’re going to miss him. I recall we went up there last year and they were missing a lot of players and they beat us. We don’t get caught up in any of that. We know they’re going to have good players showing up. We just have to play our best to beat them.
(on how tough it is to encourage players to still believe in the game plan)
It’s a challenge. It’s easy to give up on stuff if things don’t go your way. I think you can’t hit your head off, if things aren’t working, you have to adjust things. You’re talking about players or coaches or whoever it is, when you don’t win, you’re always going to reevaluate what you could do differently, what we could have done to make a difference in the game. Again, you go back and watch the film and say, ‘Why did that happen?’ I think a lot of times, that’s something that we get to see. I think that’s what helps the players so much and the coaches, when you see really what did happen. Games in the NFL are a lot closer than people think. They’re a lot closer than the final score. It’s hard to understand for people, but it is. I think when players see that one or two plays can change a game, they realize you’re not as far off as people may think you are. Now it’s just a matter of going out there and doing those things, making that play, not dropping that reception, not fumbling the football, and all of a sudden, maybe that game is a lot different. I think you have to look at it from that perspective, not just the final score and, ‘Hey, we lost by this many points or that many points.’ You look at why those things happened. If you do that, I think you hang together and you get through these things.
(on costly mistakes in the second half)
Last two games, you’re exactly right. We were 14-7 against Houston, had an opportunity to tie that thing up, and made mistakes to where we didn’t, threw the interception that got away from us. Last week we’re down 13, had the ball, got a turnover. That’s my point, we’re right there. We’re just for some reason not making those plays when we can change the outcome of the game. That upsets you that you aren’t making those plays, but it also encourages you that it’s there to be had and it’s there to be won. That’s what gets you going next week. ‘You know what? I’m going to make that play next week. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ Hopefully on Thursday night, it’s a lot different. That’s where we’re at, unfortunately, when you’re 1-4. We have to step up and make those kind of plays this Thursday night.
(on if he anticipates that the Steelers will blitz a lot)
That’s just part of the makeup of them. They’re a 3-4 team, so they’re going to bring at least four, which most teams do on a 4-3. But you can get four or five guys every snap. I think the thing they do, people perceive it as they’re blitzing all the time, a lot of times they’re bringing five, six. They’re not always bringing as much as people think, it just appears that way. Their thing is more that they try to confuse you with who is coming, try to get mismatches by how they do it. You have to block them. That’s pretty much the No. 1 thing, is blocking and giving your quarterback a chance to make plays down the field. That’s when you can beat them, especially on your passing situations. In the run game, you’re hoping to catch them, which some teams have this year, catch them blitzing on the wrong side, catch them in a blitz. I think the Raiders had a big run on them for 60, 70 yards, and they caught them in a bad look. Some other teams have. That’s what you try to do. Obviously, a lot of teams over the years have not had that success, and that’s why they’ve been so good. They’re very disciplined in how they do things. They’re coached well. They’re a smart group, very rarely do they expose a gap to where you make a big play. You have to earn what you get against them, and when you do that, you’re a good defense, unlike what we’ve been doing by giving up turnovers and that kind of thing where we helped the other team. They do a good job of not doing those things, and making you have to go the 80 yards or 70 yards every time if you’re going to beat them.
(on if teams have chipped James Harrison so far this season)
The thing they’ll do is they’ll try to bring enough guys where you get one-on-ones. They’ll have four one-on-ones or five one-on-ones. But yeah, you’re going to try to chip these guys and discourage them from rushing. You do have the tight ends, the backs, things like that. Like I said, they do a good job getting (LaMarr) Woodley, they get linebackers that do a good job rushing the quarterback. They’ll get two or three one-on-ones, and that’s where they’ll win or get pressure. Again, their sack numbers aren’t real great this year at this point, but they’re getting pressure. People get caught up in sack numbers. I don’t, I never have maybe because I’m an offensive lineman, so I don’t want to hear about sacks. It’s more about pressuring the quarterback. I’d rather see the stat for how many times you hit the quarterback in pressure and make him uncomfortable. That’s what they do. They may not have sack numbers, and other teams may not have sack numbers. People get all caught up in numbers because it’s easy to identify. Well they have 10 sacks, they must be a good team, or they got 20. But it’s more about how many times did I scare the quarterback? How many times did the quarterback throw the ball away? How many times? People don’t look at those things, and I think they need to.
(on if this feels like a division rivalry game to him or as Mike Tomlin said, has that worn off over time)
He’s right. As far as the teams are concerned, we don’t see each other twice a year like we used to. It’s different. You’re going to obviously carry a rivalry more with teams in your division for the most part. Myself, Bruce (Matthews), we’re the guys that have been part of playing Pittsburgh so much and watching. I’m from Pennsylvania, so I was watching Pittsburgh growing up. It’s different for us. But obviously, for the players, I agree. It’s a game against a team that they’ve heard a lot about, but they don’t play (as much). We played them last year. We usually play them every year, it usually works out that way, at least once a year. You play the Cowboys, you play the Raiders, you play these guys. They’re teams people talk about, people travel, they’re very popular. Even though these guys didn’t play against them, they’ve heard about them. Growing up, they watched them in high school, they watched them in college, so it makes it a little more exciting that it’s a team that you watched play on TV a lot, and what they’ve accomplished as an organization. So, I think in those ways, but obviously as far as on the field, they don’t know a lot of these players and they haven’t played against each other. I think that’s what takes some of that out of the game.
(on if a win can serve as a jumpstart to get things turned around)
Oh, it is for us. Any win right now would be. They happen to be the one that’s going to be a tough win for us. But yes, definitely. It adds to it when you beat a team that is what they are. They’re a good football team. They’re a team that is going to be competing for the playoffs every year, shooting for the division again this year. We just have to play well and win. It’s been a couple of weeks, and it’s been two long weeks. Hopefully this week will change that.
(on how to best contain Ben Roethlisberger)
He’s probably as good as anybody. That’s something he’s obviously known well for. The biggest thing is not giving up on the coverage end. The receiver has got to realize it’s not a three-second or four-second play. You have to chase these guys all over the ballpark because you can’t assume he’s going down until you hear a whistle blowing. Same with the guys pulling on him, you just can’t think they’re going to say he’s in the grass or you have him. He’s a big man to put down. We know that, we played them last year. That’s the challenge. I don’t know if there is anyone better than him at that right now.
Like I said, we didn’t even expect him to play last Sunday, so that was a huge plus for us and him to get out there, get some confidence again. He hasn’t played hardly in a year. He’ll get a little practice this week even though this is a limited week, as far as that goes. The goal would be to get him out there. He’s a guy that we know can make plays. He’s got to get comfortable again with the offense. Hopefully he’ll be a big addition to the rotation on Thursday night.
(on if there’s anything within
You know, I don’t know if there’s anything — we need to win. I mean he’s a part, but we’ve all got to play better. I don’t think there’s any one thing he has to do. We have to protect him. It’s going to be a challenge that way. We have to run the football, we have to get first downs. We just can’t rely on him to carry the offense. I think the more he plays, the more comfortable he’ll get again and he just needs to come out and play a good game like the rest of us. It’s not just him. The whole group has to play well on offense for us to win.
(on the strengths and weaknesses of having a young group of linebackers)
Well, their energy, I think, is fun to watch. The fact that they get better every week they play. Missing (Colin) McCarthy most of this season so far has been hard. That’s kind of set us back a little bit with the linebackers because you had to shuffle the other guys. Hopefully he’ll be—he sucked it up the other week, Sunday. We’ll have to see how he is (Thursday). Akeem (Ayers) is another guy that’s been used in a lot of ways, so
(on if he expects
(on how the team will use Wednesday to prepare)
We’ll (practice) tomorrow. Tomorrow is like a Friday, so we’ll be on the field, have meetings in the morning and
then we’ll probably go over to the stadium in the evening.
(on if Colin McCarthy will be about the same as last week)
Yeah, he probably is. We didn’t want him practicing today. He didn’t practice because of the ankle. We wanted him to get as much rest as he can. We anticipate he’ll be playing on Thursday unless some stuff happens between now and then.
(on if Colin McCarthy tweaked his ankle at the end of Sunday’s game)
No. We took him out to rest him. At the time, he had already played 60 snaps already and that was probably more than enough. We were hoping he didn’t have to play that much, but he did. We were behind, obviously, in the fourth quarter so we got him out of the game.
Yeah, obviously, (Jamie) Harper will suit up. I think both of them—they’ll both get an opportunity to be in, they’ll both be dressed, just depending on how the game goes. I hope that we get to run the ball 25, 30 times and they’ll both get a chance to run.
(on if it would be nice to use Jamie Harper as a change-of-pace back)
Yeah, obviously, we think Jamie (Harper) is a real good back. We like (Javon) Ringer. Again, Ringer brings experience and protection, things like that and he’s very familiar with that, so that was kind of the edge he had over (Harper) on a weekly basis. Obviously, Harper is a much bigger man and is a different type of runner so that’s why we drafted him, so you would hope he would play at some point. We’ve just got to be patient. I know it’s frustrating for a running back when you’re not getting the chance to play like you’d like to, like he did his rookie year because of (