Initial comments …
“After going through everything again last night and this morning, we had opportunities in the game. The biggest thing is that we need to be more consistent, whether on offense to keep drives going or doing the right things on defense. (We need to) keep managing the football game as best as we can. Defensively, third downs were once again critical. The offense had a good day on third down and should’ve had two more conversions, which makes a difference in the game. Those are areas that we still have to do a better job of by understanding the situation, execution and making sure everyone gets their job done.”
When you say you could’ve had two more third down conversions by better execution …
“We dropped the ball on third down, failed to make a third-and-one and had other miscommunications. Things like that must be seen through the same eyes all the time, as I said after the game. We need everyone to be on the same page and to be correct.”
LB Nick Vigil’s and CB Darqueze Dennard’s injuries looked serious. Are you guys expecting to be without them for a while, and if you are, who steps up for Dennard?
“You’ll see on Sunday.”
Is it something where you have to figure it out during the week at practice?
“No, we’ll be alright.”
It seems everyone in the country has an opinion on whether that was offensive pass interference on the last play when Steelers WR Antonio Brown scored the game-winning touchdown. What is your opinion on that?
“The receiver was more than a yard from the line of scrimmage, Tony (McRae) was trying to slide inside and was contacted. That defines offensive pass interference. But unless it’s called, it doesn’t matter.”
NFL VP of Officiating Al Riveron said that the defender initiated the contact …
“In my opinion, that’s not true. But again, that doesn’t matter.”
How do you try and teach that going forward?
“We’re not going to explain strategy in here.”
If the contact is more than one yard from the line of scrimmage, then it doesn’t matter who initiated it, right?
“From what I understand, Al’s explanation was that our guy was there at the line of scrimmage and put his hands on their guy. But our guy was back off of the line of scrimmage to begin with and backed up. It’s over, nothing is going to change, so we have to move on. Those are plays they have run in the past and the officiating crew has seen those plays before. We have to do a great job defending those plays as they come up every year. We have to do a good job of understanding it and defending it better next time.”
You obviously hated the result of the play, but did you like aggression defensively in that situation?
“Again, it does no good to analyze strategy. That’s second-guessing, and a lot of second-guessing can happen in every game if you do it that way. It doesn’t happen that way.”
Are you aware of what happened on the sideline after the game, when the two teams had a scuffle. Are you expecting any repercussions from it?
“I saw what happened. Mike (Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin) and I went over and broke it up. I don’t know what caused it, but again I’m not going to comment on nebulous things.”
You mentioned the third-and-one you guys failed to pick up in the third quarter. On that fourth-and-one, how long did you consider going for it or punting?
“We didn’t pick it up on third-and-one, then it was fourth-and-two, which was a little longer. We had third-and-a half-yard, then we were back to fourth-and-two because we didn’t pick it up. We had a lot of time left in the game, and we wanted to pin them back and go from there. We have two sides to the football team, and I didn’t want to give the Steelers the football at midfield if we didn’t make it. Again, you’re debating or second guessing it.”
I was just wondering if that was something you debated in your head …
“I make the decision on third down generally, sometimes on second-down. Bill (Lazor) and the offensive coaches are generally aware of what my thinking is, depending on where the field position is. He calls plays and has an idea of what latitude he has.”
How challenging was going through yesterday’s game with all of the injuries? Was that a situation where you were weighing a bunch of different factors?
“It’s challenging when 46 guys are dressed on Sunday — that’s part of what the NFL is. It happens week in and week out, and guys have to step up and play well. We’ve come back into this room before and felt good about the way things happened at times, where guys have stepped in and made plays. Yesterday we failed to get that done. All of the guys have to be in tune, and the play-callers have to be in tune to who is on the field.”
How have you felt about CBs Tony McRae and Darius Phillips not only in the little action they played yesterday, but in practice throughout the season?
“We feel good about their ability to adapt, be the next guy up and go in and have productive snaps. It just didn’t work out that way yesterday for us.”
With the injuries yesterday, was it a lack of reps in practice or lack in communication for those guys?
“We’re down our veteran player in the back (Shawn Williams); we’re now relying on Jessie Bates. We were out a few guys (on defense). We lost our signal-caller on defense in Nick Vigil. It was a little bit of a scramble going on.”
The offense had success and converted TDs before the half and at the end of the game, but it seemed to struggle in the third quarter. Why?
“Two three-and-outs. We had chances to make plays. We have to keep making plays. We had an unfortunate penalty. We ended up overcoming it and stalled later in the drive. Then the third-and-one stalled us. But that’s part of it. Every game has ups and downs. We have to play through it. Right now, we have to get going and get to scoring points throughout the game on every drive.”
LB Vontaze Burfict made a hit on Steelers WR Antonio Brown yesterday that has caused some controversy. What are your thoughts on that play?
“Everybody makes comments on everything No. 55 does. They don’t comment on anything anybody else does. Let’s just leave it at that.”
What did you think about the performance of the run game yesterday?
“(We had) a lot of productive runs yesterday. We’ve got to eliminate the three negative runs we had — two minuses and a (run of) zero. We just have to keep grinding at it. We didn’t get to hand it off as much as we wanted throughout the game because of the situations in the game. We had the one-minute drive at the end of the first half and the drive at the end of the game. Even though we scored points, it takes away from run opportunities. I thought Joe Mixon came back in and had a productive day, getting back out there and playing for the (second) time. It was good to see him be productive again. We just need to keep moving forward with him. Time and time again, we need to get Mark Walton on track a little bit. He’s going through the ‘young guy’ stuff. We just need to clean some things up there. We created some looks, and the quarterback handled things well again.”
As an offense, you threw a lot on first down. Was that dictated by what Pittsburgh was doing defensively?
“You can’t go in and say you’re going to hand it off every first down. Bill (Lazor) tries to have a rhythm with what we’re doing. You’re also getting a chance to get a look at what they’re doing and respond that way. We got a lot of cover-one looks (from their defense) and five-man stuff early in the game, and we took advantage of it and made plays. Although, we had two drops in there too.”
It seems Pittsburgh’s defense does a good job of not preventing big pass plays…
“Yeah. We didn’t get any big balls over the top. We had a couple down the middle of the field. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Is the inconsistency of the run game a factor?
“I thought we were pretty consistent yesterday. You take back three of those snaps, and I thought we did some pretty good things. I didn’t say it was inconsistent at all. We’ve got to get our (running) back going in the right spot a couple times and make the offensive line feel better about things. We just have to keep working. It was a game with a lot of movement up there (on the Steelers’ defensive front), and we did a nice job staying on the guys.”
Why did HB Mark Walton stay in on some third downs over Mixon? Was it because Mixon was banged up?
“No. We were just trying to give Joe (Mixon) a blow. You don’t want to get to the end of the game, and he’s at 60-70 plays and Mark (Walton) is at five. We want to make sure both guys stay fresh. That says a lot about the confidence we have in Mark, to be in there on third down some. That’s good. He’s ahead of the curve that way, and that’s a positive for him. We have to keep him going throughout.”
Was the Steelers’ use of multiple tight end formations a way for them to max-protect against your pass-rushers?
“They had some two tight end formations. That’s a part of what they do. They have some formations with the big guy in there. It’s just a part of what they do.”
Is there a fear TE Tyler Kroft’s injury could be season ending?
"He should be ok.”
“He should be ok this season.”