Opening comments: ML:
The guys who didn't practice today were: Willie Anderson with his knee, Ahmad Brooks with the groin, Dexter Jackson with the hip, Rudi Johnson with his hamstring and Caleb Miller with his back. The guys who returned to practice today were Antonio Chatman and Corey Mays. I expect a couple of the other guys (who didn't practice) to be able to go tomorrow. The list is dwindling down, which is a good thing.
Q: As we look forward to the Steelers, obviously, they're leading the division:ML:
They still pretty much have the same blueprint. They're very aggressive on defense, making a lot of plays, sacks, interceptions. And on offense, their hallmark is to run the football. The receivers were without Hines (Ward) for a couple of games, but he's still very productive. Santonio Holmes is really coming into his own out there at wide receiver. And Heath Miller is a great receiver as a tight end. Both Willie Parker and (Najeh) Davenport are doing a great job running the football. Their team, offensively, still has the same plan as always. In the kicking game with Allen Rossum, they've added a guy that's been a very good returner in the NFL. They've upped their game a little bit that way. So we've got a good challenge again. Last week, this week, next week, we play a lot of these guys who are leading the league in returns."
Q: You saw Allen Rossum in Atlanta. Were you aware they were trying to deal him?ML:
No, I wasn't aware they were trying to deal Allen. He's been a proven guy as a returner since he went to Philadelphia, to Atlanta, etc. I don't know where I was coaching. He was on one of the Senior Bowl teams I coached at one point. He's had a good career.
Q: How was Chris Henry in his return to practice?ML:
Well, he dislocated his ring finger today, but he did OK. Obviously, (the clearance to return to practice) is an indication that Chris is doing things correctly as far as league guidelines go. That's my interpretation of it, and now he'll have an opportunity to kind of get his football wind and legs back under him over the next two weeks. When he comes off suspension, then we're going to have to make a decision on him.
Q: How important is it to get him back to practice before he plays?ML:
The other way they have done it was to give you a roster exemption (when the suspension ended). But the Commissioner -- since this is kind of new territory -- is trying to give these guys an opportunity to come back and be around their teammates more. Rather than them kind of being lost, there's a chance for them to be involved and immersed totally in the team. I think it's a positive step for him, and hopefully he understands he's had a long journey, and hopefully he sees the fact that it's almost over.
Q: Speaking of journeys, how about Chris Perry?ML:
I think he's on schedule and he's worked extremely hard. He continues to work on the side field again this week. Next week, we'll have to bring him back, if we're going to do it. Chances are he'll practice with us next week, and then we'll work him in as we go that way. We'll have three weeks once he begins practicing to make a determination. We've tried to continue to ramp him up, and he tries to simulate what's going on on the practice field on his field, so that we can really best judge how he's doing.
Q: How personal is this rivalry?ML:
Well, I think it's personal because they're an AFC North team. They're leading the division right now. It's a home game. So for our fans here at Paul Brown Stadium, it's an exciting day. When Sunday rolls around, let's fill this stadium up with orange and black, and go that way. It's not about me. It's about us and the Bengals and the Steelers. So let's have at it.
Q: Comments on new Steelers coach Mike Tomlin?ML:
I think he's done really well. Obviously, he had some huge shoes to fill in replacing Bill (Cowher). He's come in from the start and done things his way. They're been slightly different from how Bill had done things, and the team has taken on that. That's the thing. The guys had to let go. They just won a Super Bowl championship the year before that. They had to let go and move forward, and I think his team has embraced that.
Q: What will Ben Roethlisberger bring to the game on Sunday?ML:
I hope Ben doesn't bring a whole lot, actually (laughs). Ben is playing really well. I told our guys this morning, 'He's playing like a huge Doug Flutie, a big, big strong Doug Flutie right now.' He's making guys miss him in the pocket and he's coming out making real positive plays. As Bruce (Arians) has taken over as coordinator, they said they were going to do things a little differently. Well, I don't see a lot of that. But he is productive right now in the pass game. I read where he's on course to set a record for his touchdown passes he's had in the NFL. But he's playing really well.
Q: Your run defense looked good last Sunday. Can you keep it up?ML:
Well, this is a new week, and we've got a new challenge. Let's talk about this on Sunday afternoon and Monday morning, OK? We've got work to do. It's going to be a big week for us, and quite a challenge. This guy (Willie Parker) is a special runner, and he can make a guy miss, and he can bounce and get outside of leverage very, very quickly. This is a big challenge for us. And so we've got to get hats in the right gap and tackle, tackle, and then tackle some more. It's big.
Q: And then they bring in Najeh Davenport:ML:
If you want to get Willie out of the game, you let him have a long run. He seems to go sit down and Davenport comes in. So ... I don't know if I want to see Davenport very much. He's done well in subbing in. Guys are in the hole and he stiff-arms them and runs. They're very productive right now.
Q: Did you take anything from Denver's success in passing the ball vs. the Steelers?ML:
Well, I think Cutler did a good job of moving and avoiding the rush and making plays with his feet and keeping drives alive. He converted third downs that way and that was a big part of the game. He was able to avoid the rush and step up and step through and make things happen. He showed a lot of poise.
Q: Do you think that everyone in a locker room be treated the same way, or is it based on some individual factors?ML:
I think you treat them the same, but as individuals (smiles). It's a hard dynamic. You obviously are going to treat a Willie Anderson different than maybe you treat a first-year player. I think there's a blanket standard that has to happen, and I think each case is dealt with individually that way. That's a generic question and you want a specific answer, and it's hard for me to give you a specific answer because every instance and everything that occurs is different. We have 63 or 64 players that I'm dealing with, not counting the IR guys. And day in and day out, there's a lot of stuff that occurs ... it's an amazing dynamic every day. So it's hard to say you're going to treat everybody the same, because every case seems to be a little different, depending on what you're dealing with.
Q: Is there anything you can do differently to improve sideline communication? You had to use a timeout in the Jets game:ML:
Well, they subbed personnel. There wasn't really anything we could have done differently in that situation. We're supposed to be given the opportunity to match when they sub personnel late. There were a couple of times when they had a wide receiver who didn't even come into the numbers, which should be a flag. They finally did get called for it after we complained a little bit.
You don't want to have that happen, but if we're trying to match personnel, and they're running guys in late, it's a little harder to do. It happens all the time. As you watch NFL games, unfortunately it's an advantage the offense has when they substitute that way. We actually did it a couple of times later on, and it was helpful to us, later in the game, on our side of the ball. It's something you want to do.
You want to make sure that in a critical situation, you match up the right way. And that was a critical time there, so I think the timeout was the best thing. It put us a little bit behind the eight ball because then we have to take a timeout on offense, when we ran down the play clock. I had to instruct the guys, 'We're going to have to take a delay next time.' I wanted to make sure I kept at least one challenge in the pocket, in case I needed it.
Q: Was the penalized offensive lineman ever identified on the holding penalty against the Jets?ML:
They called Jeremi (FB Jeremi Johnson). When they said 'the interior line,' that was supposedly Jeremi. Both of the penalty calls we had on Jeremi were probably not legitimate. Those kind of things that occur in the scope of the game, we were able to overcome. I think that's a positive for this football team. Those are things we've talked about. I think with all the attention that we've brought upon ourselves, we were able to come out a much better football team on Sunday. Focusing on the guys with the different colored helmets on was important.
Q: It seemed like Jeremi and Reggie (Kelly) both played well. The offensive line gets a lot of credit, which they should, but ... :ML:
Well, it was Jeremi's best football game of the year, and the game he's played the most in. He even left a little bit of his insides out there on the field a little bit (laughs). But he played well. He was a captain, it was a big game, and we made him a captain for that reason. We knew it was a big game for him. It was an important football game for him to play well, and he answered the bell.