“As I said yesterday, we have to aggressively make the corrections and changes and visions, and move forward. We did that today.”
The Steelers had some of the most success of any team this year running the ball against your defense:
ML: “They had some runs and did a good job. Their plan was good, but still it was our inability to get to contain. There was once when the ball bounced outside, and their two long runs of the day were ones that we didn’t play too well. We’ve just got to play better.”
Houston is known for its ability to run the ball:
ML: “They’re a good running team.”
Is it a matter of technique against the run? Are your guys too aggressive?
ML: “We’ve got to play better.”
The second-quarter struggles continued yesterday, when the Steelers scored 28 points. The differential in the second quarter for the season has been huge:
ML: “It is.”
Why has the team struggled so much in the second quarter? Is it coincidental?
ML: “It’s pretty coincidental, but the only thing we can do about it is go out and try and change it this Sunday. I don’t think you and I here debating it is going to change it at all.”
Have you given thought to making adjustments or changes and kick returner and/or punt returner?
ML: “No. Brandon (Tate) has just got to secure the football. He had a lane, and he thought he was about to go score a touchdown. The guy that’s blocked just reaches in and gets a hand on him and the ball comes loose. It’s an unfortunate play. He’s got to keep the ball a little higher and tighter. We had the thing blocked perfectly. I think he just got so doggone excited. The guy just reaches off the block like that (extends arm), gets a hand in on him, hits the ball and it comes loose. There’s no reason to re-invent the wheel from where we are with him. He’s made good cuts and good runs, and I think that’s important. But you do have to secure the football back there.”
There was a punt return late in the second quarter where Tate fielded the ball around his own 10-yard line. Should he have fair caught that?
ML: “We’ve got to do a better job of giving him an opportunity. The ball traveled 57 yards from the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to do a better job of giving him an opportunity to return the football. But yes, we would hope that we would return that football from there and not fair catch it. I think he made a really good decision there, if that’s the question. I think the other guys out there have to do a little better.”
On the Steelers punt return for the TD, it looked like
ML: “It really doesn’t matter. It won’t change a thing. I’m not going to go saying, ‘Oh, it was a block in the back.’ I’m not going to worry about it. It’s not going to change.”
Even if the returner had made Andrew Hawkins miss on that punt return, you don’t think the coverage was good enough to prevent him from getting to the edge?
ML: “We’ve got to get to the right spots. We’ve got to put the ball where it belongs and we’ve got to get to the right spots in coverage.”
On the field goal that was taken away due to a delay of game,
ML: “I can’t really recall. Again, I’m not going to sit here and make excuses. We shouldn’t keep talking about the mechanics of the game, because those aren’t going to change. There’s no do-overs. We didn’t go good enough. They came back, we had a delay on that play. We still had an easy field goal. We’ve got to do a better job of kicking the ball, spotting the ball, blocking in front of the kicker. It’s all part of it.”
All year, this team has done a very good job of not letting one bad play turn into two, or one bad quarter turn into two. That wasn’t the case yesterday, though. Was that your biggest disappointment yesterday?
ML: “We have to go back and be resilient and be mentally tougher. If you’re the guy that didn’t make a very good play, you have to forget it and move forward and make the next one. You can’t sit around and dwell on it. It’s happening too fast.”
On the drive before the Steelers’ punt return TD, with 1:48 remaining in the first half, you guys had an opportunity to move the ball down the field before the half and get some points. Instead, you went three-and-out and had to make that punt. You knew you were getting the ball to start the second half. Was your mentality to be aggressive and get points?
ML: “I had faith in what he can get done in that situation. Obviously it didn’t work out to our advantage yesterday.”
That same situation has happened two weeks in a row now – it happened against Cleveland last week as well. Does that diminish your faith at all?
ML: “(Laughs) I’ll revisit my faith.”
Do the injury problems in the secondary make it more difficult to put
ML: “Again, I’m not going to sit here and debate with you guys who we’re doing what with. I’ll make choices and decisions when we get to points. I’m not throwing anybody under the bus today.”
But because of the injuries, is it a concern that if you put him back to return punts he might be susceptible to getting hurt again?
ML: “That could be part of it. That could happen, right? Anytime anybody walks on that field they’ve got a chance to get hurt.”
Where do you stand right now with injuries?
ML: “We’ve got some bumps and bruises, but we feel pretty fortunate about where we are. We’ve got some guys who are about ready to turn some corners and have got to get ready to go. We’ve got to get out and practice this week. We’ve got to have a great week of preparation. We’ve got some guys on the mend, and only time will tell how quickly they can come back and if they can have an opportunity, so they can get out on the practice field and show me that they’re ready.”
So you’re going to dance with who brought you?
ML: “That’s right. Nate’s not that far off that we need another guy. Frankly, I don’t think there is anybody on the street who is going to be better than the guys that we practice and prepare with every day here. I think we’re in pretty good shape here in that way.”
ML: “The quarterback has to work the ball based on coverage. I thought the good thing for those two guys, and I made note of that this morning (in team meetings), was that I thought they played hard. They didn’t get frustrated, they kept running, and on a lot of those balls that A.J. caught, they did a nice job of doing what they needed to do. Jermaine (Gresham) had a couple of nice catches, too. They did a nice job of being where they needed to be to allow those things to happen. That’s part of playing football.
“Particularly at that position, you have to keep doing it until you get your chance and your opportunity. I thought that was a step in the right direction yesterday, particularly for Jerome. I thought he played very hard. Mentally, he did a much better job than some weeks he’s had. He really kept some things alive for us, which was good. We got flushed out of (the pocket) a couple of times late in the second quarter, and in the third quarter it would have prevented some of those things, too. But the main thing is those guys kept playing hard.
You’ve said that this team is too young to know any better and it just plays. At this point of the year, does the mentality change now that playoffs are on the line with each game?
ML: “We’ve been in this situation for a while. I don’t think anything has changed over the last seven or eight weeks. The approach has been that all of these games are important. With the way everyone else is around us, that’s the way it was. There is no distance (between us and the other teams vying for a playoff spot), so we have to, and we have been approaching it that way. We have to approach it that way as we put things together. We have to approach it and go out and play that way. We have to make play calls that way. That puts you where you want to be. That way there is no change, and you don’t need to have any change.”