Whisenhunt: 'It's a Great Atmosphere' Playing at Heinz Stadium

Chargers OC Ken Whisenhunt talks to the media about playing in the loud Heinz Stadium atmosphere.

On facing Pittsburgh:

“Yeah, good football team. Been a good football team consistently seems like for a number of years. They're playing the same defensive scheme that they've played for a number of years, and they play it well. They do a nice job. They've got some good edge rushers. Their inside backs are very good. They're very good up front. They work well together as a unit. It's a tough task. We got our jobs cut out for us.”

On visiting teams playing in Pittsburgh:

“Well, it's not an easy place to play. Their fans are tremendous. They support the team. Sunday night game especially will be a big deal. For us, we have had a couple of those this year. I think as a players, even as a coaches, this is what you want. You relish this kind of opportunity to be in these kinds of situations and play against a good football team in a loud environment. We've had a couple this year of those loud environments and we have done okay. I'm sure there will be some tough spots, but at least it's not the first time we're going in. it's a great atmosphere.”

On RB Justin Jackson:

“[Head Coach] Anthony [Lynn] has done a great job of really staying on — you know, when we picked him late in the draft, one of the things that stood out was his production from college. We didn't see as much of that maybe in the OTAs and training camp. He was nicked up a bit, but he did enough to make the roster and he's really been doing a good job on the scout team. That's a credit to him. If you ever wanted to have a model for this is why you work on those teams to prepare you, it showed up last week. When he had to go in there, you know, we haven't seen that in a game. We haven't seen him run like that. We haven't seen him make these moves. You see it in practice, but just don't know that's really what it's going to be like in a game. Credit to him. Like I said, he has worked hard. [Running Backs Coach] Alfredo [Roberts] and Coach [Lynn] have been on him constantly, and I think that they saw some talent in him, so hopefully he can replicate that again this week.”

On the running back duties between RB Austin Ekeler and Jackson:

“I think there will be a mix between both of those guys. I don't think with the way it is now in the league — you have a number of different guys that you play through. I should say a couple that you do. We went on last week after [RB] Melvin [Gordon III] got hurt and just kept going. Still had a rotation, so hopefully there will be some, there will be a rotation.”

On what Jackson does well in the backfield:

“Well, that's what we're still finding out a little bit about. It was our first real chance to see him be a runner, and he did a nice job with that. He's shown up on the practice field in space doing some of those things, and we liked what we've seen. Listen, it's different when you go from just practicing to being in a game. He handled it well. This will be a different environment for him. That was at home; this will be on the road with the noise, against a good football team. It'll be a challenge, but we're excited to see how he performs. 

On how the offense changes with RB Melvin Gordon III’s injury:

“I don't necessarily that it changes. Austin has been playing in it and doing a nice job. When Melvin goes out, it doesn't change the offense. Some of the things we did with both of those guys probably would change a little bit just because you don't have Melvin and Austin at the same time. I think we feel a little bit more comfortable about where we are now after getting [Justin] JJ [Jackson] some practice last week. So we go forward with what we've been doing, and hopefully it'll pay off for us.”

On RB Detrez Newsome:

“Yeah, I think he had a really good preseason and we liked him. He made our team and has done some nice things. We're definitely comfortable with Detrez. He got in the game a little bit last week and got some reps in had practice. The way that situation is with running backs, you have to have three of them. He certainly is — there is a comfort level with him as well.”

On the play when Gordon was injured:

“Well that's something we've had in for a couple weeks. We practiced, and it's something that Melvin liked, we wanted to do. It is something that ties in -- one of the things we've done really well this year is we've tied plays in together. We've built off different plays. That was built off another play, you know, which moving him in space and getting him in space. He's shown to be pretty good, and it was just unfortunate that the player for the Cardinals just happened to blow it up and we made him stick up front and he came through and it was a freak thing. In that kind of situation, we were trying to establish the fact that we were going to keep our foot on the gas, we were going to make sure we were staying with it. That was one of the plays, like I said, we carried it for a couple weeks. We felt like it was a good play. It was a chance to get Melvin, we thought, in space, which he's been very good at. We're certainly disappointed that that happened, but could very easily have turned into a big play like the one against Oakland where he went for 30 or 40 yards. We would all be really happy. That's the way this game works sometimes.”

On practicing the tough receptions along the sidelines:

“I know you guys don't really see it, but if you've ever watched our pregame workout routine, we focus on getting that done on game day. We do it out in there in practice, but that's one of the things that's part of warming up and doing our pregame drills. If fact, it was of funny last week — really kind of ironic — that one of the officials was out there warming up, and [Wide Receivers Coach] Phil [McGeoghan] said, ‘You want to watch this? You can get your eyes working to see if we get our feet down.’ So we did some of the those drills before the game and it paid off. Those are things that you do in camp. You do it OTAs. People say, ‘Okay, why do you do those drills?’ Well, there was a good example of why.”

On if he wants to display the potential of the offense:

“I think we just want to play well and have a chance to win. If it's three to two, because it could actually be two to one. There is a special rule that if the ball comes out of the end zone by the defense and then goes back in it's a one-point safety. I don't care what it is as long as we get a chance to win.”

On his name being circulated as a candidate for the head coaching opening at Georgia Tech:

“To be honest with you, I heard about that when I walked off the field yesterday. I had no idea. No idea that I was really a candidate for that. I'm certainly flattered that people think that, but the focus right now is really on the Steelers. In this business, if you've been in it, those kind of things happen, but right now it's really more about this game. I've been so busy from when that happened yesterday I haven't had a chance to think about it. I'm honored that my name would be mentioned, but right now it's really more about the Steelers.”

On if he’s worried about that being a distraction:

“Absolutely. I don't have any interest in it being a distraction whatsoever.”