Initial comments …
“As we look forward to our game against Pittsburgh, it’s rare to get ready to play a team that’s had two receivers (Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster) catch 100 passes in a year. These guys have had great seasons. In the last couple of games, they’ve been throwing the ball quite a bit. The running back, (James) Connor, hasn’t played the last couple of weeks, so they kind of morphed offensively. In preparation, you see which grouping you’ll get. They do a lot of things with their personnel. On defense, the front always presents a challenge in preparation. We really have to button things down and be exact in our identifications.”
When you have a lot of players who came from winning college programs and they experience losing maybe for the first time in their lives, what is key to helping them through that? Is there one to be positive or dealing with that?
“The biggest thing is learning from your downfall and critiquing the correction and trying not to make the same habitual mistakes. First off, don’t beat yourself and have false start penalties, 12 men in the huddle, or things like that. Well, the other team was able to do 12 men in the huddle three or four times (laughs). But those kinds of things for young players is the first thing. Make sure you handle what you can handle in both that and your preparation. I think they’re gaining an understanding of what a fine line it is from winning to losing.”
Have you found that it’s helpful for players to reach out to other players who have been through that, or do you think that’s something that has to be from within?
“It has to be from within. They have to understand how to get in step with the veteran guys and how they continue to prepare week after week.”
Do you expect this game to have the feeling of just a regular game? With what Pittsburgh has on the line, do you feel like it’s going to have that playoff intensity to it?
“Division games always do — they never change. It’s a game in the National Football League. To me, I don’t think the intensity level of them changes.”
What do you expect the next week to be like for you? What does that look like chronologically?
“I don’t worry about next week. This week is what’s important, which is our preparation for the Steelers over the next four days.”
There’s no thought of anything that would happen beyond Sunday …
Do you think what happens on Sunday will affect what happens next week?
“I don’t think it has any effect — no effect for me. Sunday is what we’re pointing to, and that’s the deal.”
When you watch the Steelers on tape, are they the type of football team you’re used to seeing? They’ve lost four out of their last five …
“The last couple of ball games, James Connor hasn’t played, so they’ve been a little different, particularly on first and second down. I think I said earlier that it’s rare to prepare for a team with two receivers who have had over 100 catches already. That’s rare, so it tells you how prolific they’ve been throwing the football this year.”
They’ve thrown more than anybody — over 300 times more than they’ve run it. That’s not really traditional Steelers football, is it?
“They have a fine quarterback, and they’re doing what they feel is (best) to win the football game.”
With the shoulder injury that CB Dre Kirkpatrick suffered last week, is there any clarity on whether that’s something he can play with this week?
“We’ll have to go through the week, see how he does, and see if he gets out there.”
What about WR Tyler Boyd and his knee injury? Is there anything definitive with him?
I guess if anyone would want to play, it would be Tyler Boyd, who is sort of a local legend playing against Pittsburgh …
What do you focus on for yourself personally during the last week of the season?
“It’s the last opportunity to go out and play this year. We want to go out and play good football — go out, execute and take in the plan. We got our first walk-through in this morning, and I’m just looking forward to watching the Steelers a little bit more this afternoon. and then getting out on the practice field and getting our first practice in of the week. It’s another week, and another opportunity to go out there and play good football and get a chance to get a win against a division opponent.”
How have you evaluated yourself on film?
“You always have to look at the film critically, especially when you’re looking at yourself. I just have to go out and make more plays. I’ve made some plays, but obviously not enough, especially last week to win the game. I just have to go out make more plays, clean a few things up and get rolling, especially early in games.”
Is there more on the line this week with you guys having the chance to play the spoiler roll?
“I don’t think it has much to do with the spoiler roll. Any time we play the Steelers or any division opponent, it’s a big game for us, and we understand that. We also understand that it’s our last opportunity this year, so we want to go out on a high note.”