DECEMBER 15, 2013
I think to summarize today, we didn’t make anything happen. We didn’t make any plays, create any opportunities or make plays early in the football game. The miscues we had with dropping the snap on the punt put ourselves behind right away. We didn’t make any plays and make anything happen and create opportunity and create field position. We played behind the field position deal almost the whole first half. We really made it hard on ourselves. We have to play better. We have to prepare better. We have to play better. We have to execute better on offense, defense, special teams, in all three phases.
How might you use this as a learning tool?
Well, that if you don’t play good, you’re going to get beat. If you don’t make things happen, you’re going to lose the football game. And that’s what happened. We fight back in, and we have opportunity there in the second half. We create more opportunity, but early in the football game we didn’t do that. We dropped balls. You can’t do that.
Did you take too long to score when you were down 30-7?
It obviously took too long because we didn’t win. It took too long.
On taking too long to score after being down three scores:
We get it down to where it’s manageable. We have to put it in.
Do you feel like this was a squandered opportunity?
Any time we lose, it’s a squandered opportunity. All we can control is us, and that’s all I keep telling our guys. Just worry about us. And tonight we didn’t take care of us.
How surprising is it that you came out and played that way?
Well it surprised me that we did.
We’ll see the tape. We’ll see what happened. It’s hard for me to comment on what happened.
On the decision to not go for an onside kick:
When you think about if you’re going to onside kick, you onside kick when you need to or there is a weakness in what they’re doing. But not at that point with three timeouts left or two timeouts I guess at that point, or I guess I had all three.
On thinking a game like this could happen:
Well I didn’t come into the game thinking this could happen.
Is there ever a reason for a game like this?
We got outplayed tonight. As I stated, I tried to do as good as I could coming in here to give you something. We didn’t make anything happen early in the football game and it led to us getting outplayed.
How disappointing is it to have it play out the way it did? You guys were playing from behind so long:
We got down quick. It changes the way you do things a little bit. Things happened so quickly. They made some plays. They got up on us, so we were trying to play catch up the whole time.
Were you surprised by the way things played out especially in the first quarter?
You are obviously surprised. You don’t think you’re going to come in and have it happen like that. For us, even towards the end of the game we were still fighting, trying to find our way back into the game. We got close to coming back into it, but we didn’t do enough.
Are you surprised you didn’t do no-huddle more when you were in the third quarter?
I think there were different times in the game where we were doing it. There are just different things that happened and different situations. When we were doing it, we were successful with it. I am not surprised we didn’t do more of it. There was still a lot of game left.
Do games like tonight change the team’s outlook on looking forward to the rest of the season?
No. We are still in control of everything. That’s where we want to be right now. There is no panic. There’s no extra little bit where we are trying to get frantic. We still have two games at home. If we take care of our business a lot of good things can happen. We have to play well these next two weeks.
How did the conditions, the wind and the cold, play into the long throws?
I think with some of the throws you could see what the wind was doing with it. There were different times where the ball felt like it changed with the wind. It is just part of it. There is going to be elements when playing in these games. You have to fight through it.
Was more of it the Steelers taking away the looks downfield?
We had some good looks for the underneath throws, so we kept going after them. I think it was one of the things that the defense wasn’t letting us get down the field. That’s just how it was.
Were you surprised that you guys came out so flat?
I am. I wouldn’t have thought that we would come out and get down so quick that early. You never expect that going into a game.
When you were down 14-0, I imagine everything goes out the window:
No. There’s so much game left. Even going in to start the second half there is still a lot of game. There’s a lot that can go on. There wasn’t any sense of panic. We had to get drives going, had to keep the chains moving, keep getting first downs and changing field position. They won the field position battle. That’s what you have to do when you are in situations like that.
Did the wind bother your throwing?
There were some throws that the wind changed, but you have to throw through it.
What do you think is the mindset of this team?
There are two games left. There are two games at home. We still control everything. We’re going to be fine. There is no panic like what I mentioned earlier.
On everything to play for today:
We didn’t win. That’s what happened. We didn’t come out ready to play. First quarter, they really ran on all sides of the ball. I think we were playing catch up from that point on.
Were you guys flat today or is there another explanation?
I think we were just flat. I don’t think its other teams doing this or that. I think it’s just us not coming out ready to play. That has kind of been the story this season. If we come out fast, everything else will take care of itself. We will be fine. This is nothing to hang on heads over. We still have an opportunity to win this division.
What did Coach Marvin Lewis say to you when you came in here?
It’s not about pointing fingers. It’s a team loss, not an individual loss. Nobody did anything wrong. The team did something wrong together. We need to come back and get ready for the Vikings, and take care of business.
Number two seed in sight. What happened?
We started slower than we should. That’s what happened. This is the NFL. You got to bring it start to finish. We didn’t do that tonight.
Is this just another tough division game?
Every game is tough in the NFL. It’s hard to win, especially on the road. We’re going to look at the tape and go over it. We are going to win these next two at home, and make some noise in the playoffs.
Are you worried about this loss at all?
No, not at all. We are built for this. We’ll be back.
You had some slow starts this year. What made this game different from those?
When you get down by that much, it’s hard to fight back in the NFL.
Do think the Steelers were playing angry for being an underdog at home?
I don’t know what was going on in their minds. We are both trying to win. They started faster than us. It’s bizarre.
What happened today?
It’s just a loss. They outplayed us today, nothing more, nothing less.
Right away you got behind. What is your explanation for that?
We just came out flat. We didn’t play good tonight.
Where do you go from here?
We need to put it behind us and keep working. Everything is still ahead of us. We have the last two games at home and need to take it from there.
Anything that surprised you today out there?
This is the same Pittsburgh defense. I didn’t play good today. Sometimes it happens like that. We just need to go out there and regroup.
On playing for everything vs. playing for nothing:
It happens like that sometimes. This is the NFL. Some days you are going to feel like it’s going. Some days you’re not.
On despite being down still being in the game late:
We’ve been down a lot. We didn’t flinch. We had a chance to come back but we didn’t make it happen.
Good AFC North win for us at home. Really, kind of a team victory. I thought we rode the wave that the special teams provided there early on in the first half of the game with a short field on the botched punt and then obviously the punt return. But just largely a really good effort by a lot of people in all three phases, and really what was required tonight, obviously, versus a very good team. We appreciate the opportunity, and it’s good to get a win.
Everything seemed to work in all three phases. Special teams really seemed to be there. Any idea where that team has been?
I wouldn’t necessarily say everything worked. That was far from perfect. We have yet to play a perfect game, obviously. Tonight will be included in that. But obviously we did do enough to win, and had some splash plays.
LaMarr Woodley had a calf. Ike Taylor had a rib injury. The rest are bumps and bruises along the way. Both guys obviously will be evaluated. I’ll have more for you on Tuesday.
Did he reaggravate the previous injury?
It’s the other leg. It’s the other calf. You’re talking about Woodley? It’s the other leg.
When you see Antonio Brown make a return like that, are you tempted to use him more in punting situations?
He’s our punt returner.
No thoughts about using him as a kickoff returner?
He hasn’t returned a kick in years.
Thoughts on the play of the offensive line:
I thought they did a nice job. I thought we got hats on hats. I thought they waged the battle at the line of scrimmage. Obviously, I wouldn’t call it complete domination, but it was efficient. I appreciate their efforts, particularly in terms of how we had to prepare this week with the number of guys missing work and so forth. They did a nice job.
On the defensive line’s ability to stop the run this week after having a tough time doing it last week:
We were ahead, so they were throwing the ball a lot. I wouldn’t necessarily say we solved any run issues if we have them. It’s just the nature of the game. They had to throw the ball a lot in the second half. They were down by multiple scores.
Do you think you left some scoring opportunities on the field?
Certainly we did. We kicked three field goals. I’m glad we’ve got Shaun Suisham. We don’t want to utilize him that much unless it’s extra points.
Without looking at the tape, did Al Woods’s performance stand out to you?
I’d have to look at the tape. Obviously, I appreciate his effort. Obviously, he’s stepping outside his normal role in terms of the number of snaps that he’s playing and that’s appreciated. But we know that he’s capable. I’m sure he’s excited about the opportunity that he’s being given.
The hit on the punter, does that fall under the “Hines Ward” rule?
I did not see it. Obviously, it did not because I’m sure the guy that hit him was facing the end zone to which we working. That other rule does not apply to those circumstances.
There were questions about how your guys would come out with the playoffs seemingly out of reach. Do they hear that? Is that something that motivated them at all?
You’d have to ask them. I’m sure they’re better equipped to answer that than I am.
On you saying the team would not quit after last week:
We came out and fought hard in all three phases, and got a win.
Would you say this was a statement kind of game?
I guess. We just wanted to come out and play as hard as we could and show that we are going to give it everything that we have until the end.
Even before the game you looked extra excited. Was it important for you as a leader to come out and beat this team?
Yeah. I have said for a bunch of weeks now that there is going to be no quit from me or from anybody. I thought that tonight was a good night and a good example of that. Everyone fought hard from start to finish, and I was really proud of the way that everyone played.
What was different this time against Cincinnati?
Last time we played them we had a bunch of different pieces in there on offense. Tonight we did a lot of no huddle with two tight ends, called our Detroit package. I thought Matt Spaeth did a good job of that. The line protected well, and it was a good all-around game.
Was it the idea to run first?
We were going to see what personnel they had on the field on defense, and they were in a small package, so that is why there were a lot of run calls in the first and second half.
Does this kind of game show what might have been this year?
I guess. It is a game of inches and things have to go your way, and tonight they did. We got turnovers. Obviously, I threw one, but special teams got turnovers and made plays, and that is the complete game.
On starting out fast:
It was pretty good. That is the key to get out and get points on the board. I’m disappointed because I thought that we could have been better in the red zone. We could have put seven points on the board a couple of times. We just didn’t execute well enough and hurt ourselves a lot once we got in the red zone.
Was the ball that you carried into the locker room a game ball?
No, that was just the Sunday Night football.
On breaking the single season completions record:
I didn’t even know what it was. I heard them say something but didn’t know what it was. I’m just glad we won. You can throw personal records out the window. I just want to win football games. To me that win means more than any personal record.
When all three phases are working in the game does it make you think back to what could have been?
Yeah, from start to finish it was a good game. Like I said, offensively, we wish we could have finished better, but the ultimate goal is to win, and we got the win.
The Bengals being at the top of the division, did you want to make a statement saying hey we are still “the guys” in the division?
You are right, they are at the top and we wanted to come out and put the complete game together. They are a very good team and a very good defense, and I’m really proud of the way the guys up front played.
On the effort by the Steelers tonight:
A great team effort from all three phases, special teams, offense and defense. Big plays on specials teams, a turnover on defense, possession of the ball on offense. A great team effort.
What it was like for the team to play with a lead?
It was a great feeling. It’s always great when you dictate the game and play ahead and not play catch up. It’s a great victory for us today.
On whether it was nice to see plays made by the defense:
Absolutely. There were plays made in all three phases. In the special teams, the defense, and offense. We’re a great team when all three phases are cooking and feeding off each other.
Can you talk about the impact of special teams on the game tonight?
Special teams was key. We got a turnover early in the game by a dropped snap by their punter. We had a big punt return and were able to get their punter out of the game, allowing their kicker to start punting. He was punting about 33 yards per punt and helping us in field position. All the guys on the special teams unit did a great job.
Can you talk about the importance of getting to 95 catches?
It’s a blessing. I had an opportunity to see Hines (Ward) today. He was really encouraging. As this thing continues to unfold, I just want to continue to excel with the team and play as a team and help us win games.
Is this game meaningful because they beat you before and they are a division opponent?
I think it’s meaningful just because it’s a win. When you get the question a lot during the week, ‘what do you have to play for?’, I think people are looking for you to maybe have the opportunity to come out flat. We didn’t do that. I’m excited about that for this team (and) excited about that for the leaders; and also for the young guys. To see people come out and compete the way they did when, seemingly, to the outside world, they had nothing to play for, it was good for us.
You mentioned last week that maybe some people were playing their last few games in a Steelers uniform. Was this a statement along those lines in any way?
Not really. I’ve said a lot of times, when you’re you there, you can’t really think about those things. When you’re playing and you’re trying to figure out your coverage, or you’re trying to figure out where to go with the ball offensively, you’re not thinking about how many games you have left. During the week, you think about those things and you kind of try to take in the moments with the guys. Right now, we’re just trying to win games and show people that they guys on this team and the coaches, they still want to play [and] they have a lot of fight left in them.
Does it mean anything to you that you had some runs with style, including the stiff arm and the leap?
Not really. I was just doing what I could. I was definitely amped for the game. I felt good.
For your stiff arm on (Michael) Johnson, do you feel like you got him in the perfect spot?
Yeah, he was kind of fighting off a block. He’s a long guy, so I’m surprised I actually got him. I just made a play in that situation and got vertical when I could.
You had to feel good with that though, right? It’s a dream play for a running back, isn’t it?
Most definitely. To inspire your team, you always look to do that. I was glad I got to that.
How about the leap? I guess that’s become a signature play, too:
Yeah. My mom, when I talk to her, she’s going to be talking me out of it again. But, it’s just something that really happens naturally.
How many leaps did you have at Michigan State, and is it just instinctive for you now?
It’s just really kind of instinctive. I don’t know how many I had. It’s just kind of instinctive. He tried to take my legs out, so at the last minute, I just kind of jump.
Have any coaches told you not to do that anymore?
No, surprisingly. They just said be smart with it, (and) be safe because once you leave your feet, you don’t have any control of your body any more. It’s a risk, but I feel like I do it at the perfect time or at the right time. I haven’t gotten messed up on it yet, and hopefully I don’t.
You are from that area (Cincinnati). Did that mean anything to you?
Yeah. I was looking forward to playing these guys. It was my first time playing them. (They are) an AFC divisional opponent, so I definitely to make good impression.
When you get a quick 21 from your offense, you shouldn’t lose that game. We pride ourselves in stopping the run, [and] playing good defense. When our offense scores at 21, that’s a guaranteed win for us, if we do our job.
When you have a game like this with all three phases clicking, does it make you think about what could have been earlier in the year?
No regrets. You can’t live in the past. All we can do is go out there and play.
You beat a division opponent that ended your playoff chances a season ago, and beat you earlier this season. How nice was it to get this victory?
It was a great win. We knew we had to have it. It’s in the division. We knew it would be a battle. But all we have to is continue to do our job (and) continue to control what we can control, win and then see what God for us.
Coach Tomlin said during his press conference that they were doing some interesting things with James Harrison on defense. When Harrison went out of the game early, did that impact them on defense?
I think it took them out of some of their sub-package stuff – some of the exotic things that they do with James in there. They do a lot of different things when he’s in there, whether it’s him at linebacker or him lining up as a three-technique. I think it kind of put a strain on their rotation a little bit. It happens in football. You have to be able to counteract it. We took advantage of it.