Lewis, Dalton News Conference Transcripts 12/14

Marvin Lewis news conference

Opening comments ...

            "Over the last four weeks, the Steelers have gotten on a roll. They're playing well offensively and rushing the football — no question last week, for the yardage they did — and still are able to throw it when they want to. Even though they lost the game a few weeks ago to Dallas, they really did a good job in the game offensively. So all in all, they're playing well. And they've added Ladarius Green into the mix as another tight end, another weapon.

            "Defensively, they've really upped the pressures. The two young corners are doing a great job for them in the secondary, and the guys are doing a good job of putting pressure up front on the opposing offense. So this will be a football game where we've got to play really well in all three phases, and protecting the quarterback and effectively run the football and handling our responsibilities and jobs throughout."

You stuck by Mike Nugent through a lot of his struggles this year. What made you change your mind this week and go with another kicker (Randy Bullock)?

            "We just made a decision to move forward."

If Randy Bullock hadn't been available, would you have still made the move this week?

            "We didn't have to worry about that."

Was it hard to make that decision?

            "It's a hard decision to make, as we said, obviously, because Mike had been pretty consistent in practice. But for whatever reason, in the game it just hasn't worked that way — like missing the field goal before halftime last week. It was one that, obviously, we know he should make."

Pittsburgh likes to do unique things with their linebackers, and Ryan Shazier also brings a unique skill set to the position. What makes him so difficult to account for?

            "Ryan had great physical tools and speed up the road at Ohio State. He's been able to really transfer it into the NFL game. He's not the thickest guy, but with his anticipation and how he's quick off the mark, he does a great job."

It seems like they try to keep him free and don't want him running into linemen ...

            "Well, he plays inside linebacker in their base defense, so he has some times where he has to run into linemen."

You guys were really high on Shazier when he was coming out of college, weren't you?

            "Yes."

Can you speak to the work Vontaze Burfict and the staff have put in this year to not only getting Vontaze back to playing at that high level, but also doing so without the penalties?

            "It's just to continue to do it the way you're coached to do it, all the time. That's the best thing I can tell you. Understand what's allowable in this NFL of today. Derrick Brooks had great words of wisdom for Vontaze last year. He told him, 'Vontaze, you play in a different league than I played in. Things are different now. You have to just understand that.' The scrutiny we know is different. Back in 1992 or '93, I think I coached the first guys that were ever fined. Their defense was, 'You're selling the NFL's Greatest Hits with us in it.' But it's a changed game from what it was then."

Is Sunday as big a test as Vontaze is going to see, as far as his ability to play within the rules?

            "No. When you play linebacker, you're at the tip of the sword all the time. You're going to be put in positions that way with the way you play the game. Linebackers, safeties — it's an unfair thing. You look at Mike Mitchell on the other side. Those guys are put in positions all the time where it's bang-bang. That doesn't happen for an offensive guard. If it's a 60-play game, it could be 35 times where they're in a position that way that could be looked on as a foul or penalty."

Do you think the Steelers will try to goad Vontaze?

            "I don't know that. I don't want to speak to what's not in my responsibilities."

Do you think Burfict would be viewed differently had he played in the 1990s?

            "Again, he's not in the '90s. We're going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the game this week."

You've been around playmaking linebackers for a while. Is Vontaze the best you've seen as far as his instincts and recognition?

            "He is. He is incredible in his ability to diagnose. It's been recognizable that way since the very first day he was here. He's smart; he understands plays and puts himself in position. Like Shazier, he's quick off the mark. Both of them are moving full speed and downhill."

Andy Dalton News Conference

After looking at the film, does Pittsburgh use mostly the same packages as the first time you faced them?

                "Yeah. Pittsburgh has their usual personnel. They do all their zone blitzes and all of the different things that they do. They also have done a couple of things different. We have to be ready for all of it."

What challenges does someone like Ryan Shazier pose?

                "He's a great player. He blitzes and also drops in coverage. They'll man him up sometimes, too. He's a guy that can do it all for them. He's a good athlete."

The NFL is a business, but what are your thoughts on Mike Nugent?

                "Mike has become one of my really good friends. It's sad to see that he's not here anymore. He did so much for this team, and made some really big kicks since I've been here. He helped us win a lot of games. It's unfortunate that it had to come to an end, but it's part of the business, like it or not."

How have you see the young receivers step up in A.J. Green's absence?

                "Even with the unfortunate situation with A.J. being out, the last several games guys have improved. Guys are getting into the right spots, and the timing of me putting the ball in the right spot is better. They're getting there. Those guys have gotten a lot better, and we have as a group gotten better in the time that A.J. has been out."

So that must help even when A.J. does come back ...

                "For sure. Of course we'll be happy to have A.J. back whenever that time comes. But the work that we've been able to put in, we have a good relationship and knowing where guys are going to be. It's a confidence thing."

How has Tyler Boyd improved since the last time he played vs. Pittsburgh?

                "I think he's playing faster because he has a better feel for the game and of what we're asking him to do. It comes back to the whole confidence thing; knowing he's going to be in the right spot. It's knowing that when he gets there, the ball will be on time. That's the biggest thing. He's gotten a lot more comfortable with what we're doing."

Did he say anything about his fumble after the game? What does that tell you about him?

                "He was saying it was his fault. But there was a lot of stuff that happened in that game. His play just happened to be at the end of the game. I thought he handled that well, but it wasn't just him in that first game."

What has clicked with the offense lately and its fast starts?

                "We've improved. We ran the ball well last week. We were converting on third downs. In the last couple of weeks, our third down percentage has gone up from where it was. Anytime you can keep drives alive, it helps you get down there and score points. It just comes down to our mentality; we want to get a lead early and try and carry that momentum."

Will you wear the glove again this week if the weather is bad?

                "We'll see. I was comfortable with it last week."

Is that a matter of conditions, or the cold, or something else?

                "If I feel like I have a good enough grip, I will. With the cold weather, your hand gets dry. You put a glove on it, and that eliminates some of it. It will be a feel thing."

What has Pittsburgh been doing in the red zone to make them so tough?

                "They get teams to have negative plays. You get third-and-longs down there, and it's tough. They execute, prevent guys from making tough catches, and are able to stop the run."

What makes Le'Veon Bell is special?

            "He has incredible vision and patience, and then the physical ability to jump or skip through the hole. He has the ability to accelerate on a dime. It's incredible."

To be able to jump-cut for a guy his size ...

            "He's a really good athlete. He reminds me of Barry Sanders and coaching against Barry, watching him cut and move through the line of scrimmage and perimeter."

Is there a common theme on offense with all of the fast starts lately? Third-down conversions, or no penalties?

            "I think those are both parts of it. They all play to that; not having to convert third downs, don't have a penalty that sets you back. We converted the first third down against Baltimore and we were called for a gray-area holding penalty. But it was called, so we have to clean it up and make sure we don't put ourselves in that situation to set us back. That's important, because you can't move the ball without making first downs and making the plays that get you there. Whether it's first down on first down, or first down on second or third down, you have to convert it."

* *

Could you pick one thing that stands out?

            "I think defensively, when you hold the opponent to three-and-out, and now you force a backed up punt, that's big, too. The offense gets a short field to begin with. We received the kickoff last week and drove the length, but those are key elements to the game. The defense needs to makes stops and set the offense up in favorable field position."

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