We'll start with the unfortunate bad news of the day. I think for Odell (Thurman) it's disappointing, for me it's disappointing, and for our program as well. I think for all of our fans it is as well. He just obviously doesn't understand the privilege and the right to play in the National Football League. This will probably be dealt with very severely, so I think enough is said there about that. We're prepared to move on with our guys.
Q: Will there be punishment by the club or the league?ML:
There's no question it's by the league. It doesn't matter what we do, it's about the league.
Q: Is it also disappointing there were two other players in the vehicle as well?ML:
I think again, it's probably bad timing.
Q: How do you deal with this, and what did you say to the team?ML:
It's socially and morally not right to be intoxicated behind the wheel. It's not correct. It's not right for our society and I think that's a bad message. These guys all have the ability to do the right thing and call a cab or do whatever it takes. We know that's the way society works and you shouldn't be a part of that.
Q: With the great start to the season, does this diminish it in any way?ML:
We'll just move on. It's unfortunate, but as I've told these guys from the start, whatever happens on the periphery with some of these guys, it isn't going to affect our football team.
Q: After you've gone to bat for these players, does it hurt you?ML:
Well, that's part of my job. I'm going to protect my guys, as I've said many times. It's part of my job to protect them as long as they're mine. When they're not mine they're on their own, but I'm going to protect them all of the time when they're mine. You know that.
Q: Do you feel taken advantage of?ML:
That's my business. It's part of what my job is. I roll up my sleeves and go.
Q: What does this say to the fans?ML:
It's not going to affect our football team. It has not, as I have shown from the start, when everybody thought the world was falling in. We're going to be fine and we're going to move forward.
Q: Is that disappointing that Chris Henry was there?ML:
I don't know if the perception and the reality are one and the same on that. I know what supposedly was said but, again, that's somebody with their back against the wall.
Q: Is it your expectation that Odell will be suspended for the remainder of the year?ML:
It would surprise me if he was not.
Q: Is there any anticipated timing of a decision?ML:
It doesn't matter because he's been suspended already. It doesn't affect us, as I've told you guys. We have put this football team together without Odell Thurman for a long time, since March. I tried to explain that to you back in training camp and I don't think you quite got the gist of it. But I think you do now and understand it.
Q: Did you have plans to bring Odell back into the fold before this?ML:
Again, I don't have to worry about that.
Q: Neither of the first two picks from the 2005 draft are available to you, but it seems others have stepped up:ML:
Again, the core of our football team is very strong. I've got a lot of good players and a lot of guys fighting to play more and have a role. I think that's important, and I think it was proven again yesterday. I think those are the big things. Yeah, it hurts their teammates to have to read about this and see this and I'm sure there will be questions about it on Wednesday, but they'll handle it. Maybe it keeps our mind off of who we are getting to play every week. It's something else that we can talk about and go through the week, so we can focus on the opponent and play. Maybe you'll help me out with that. I'm sure you will.
Q: Is Chris Henry's probation in jeopardy?ML:
That part I can't comment on. I don't know.
Q: Have you talked to Odell?ML:
No, I have not talked to Odell.
Q: Do you plan on it?ML:
No, I don't plan on it at this point.
Q: Did you think after his suspension he'd understand better?ML:
Again, I'm not going to comment any further. I've tried to explain to you guys from the start where my intentions were and what was going on. We were going to play football and not worry about Odell.
This week it looks as though we'll be without Rich Braham, probably Dexter Jackson, and I would say right now Tab Perry and A.J. Nicholson. Dexter is improving and A.J. is improving. Tab will probably be out until we come back from the bye and then we'll get a better determination of when he'll get back.
Antonio Chatman is really improving and I think this week he has a chance to be upgraded on the injury report come Wednesday. Chris Perry continues to improve and looks to be able to come off the PUP list when that time period is over. He continues to work hard and is back to doing some of the football reactive type work that I think he was a little bit apprehensive about doing at the start. He feels a lot better about that. I think we'll have the opportunity to move him to the 53-man roster pretty early in that process.
Jonathan Fanene also should be in that situation. We'll use that window the best we can roster-wise. Jonathan is improving. Adam Kieft is still being held at a little slower pace with the knee injury. He is not in the same situation they are. Dexter does have a chance of coming back after the bye. I think we'll have a little better idea on Tab at that point. Richie should still probably be some weeks beyond that.
Q: Thoughts on the offensive line and Eric Ghiaciuc:ML:
I anticipate it being the same on the offensive line and going forward that way. The Steelers give a lot of different looks, and I thought Eric did a good job of sifting through most of it. We obviously got some quarterback pressure yesterday, more than we like, but it's not always on those front five guys.
Q: On the team in general:ML:
We need to play better as a football team. We didn't play very well in most of our areas yesterday and we have a lot of improvement to make. We have a real important game coming up and we'll get back to work Wednesday. We've got a lot of things to shore up. We didn't play very well defensively. We had guys not get in their gaps at times. We missed a couple tackles that made for big plays. We did a lot of good things on defense. But there were some things we have to do a lot better.
Offensively it was the same way. We had some five-, seven-, and eight-yard runs. I think all in all we've got a little work to do. We've got to do a better job in the return game. The kickoff return game is not as good as it's been. In the punting game, Kyle Larson did an excellent job again. The specialists continue to play very well and continue to be big assets for us. We're playing well in the coverage teams. The guys are having fun and playing well together. Marcus Wilkins, Tony Stewart and guys like that are really making plays. Ethan Kilmer continues to be a demon. They're doing some good things there and keeping us in the football game.
Q: Talk a little about Kenny Watson:ML:
He did a good job for us yesterday. He can't return and block, too, unfortunately.
Q: Talk a little about the professional players on this roster like Marcus Wilkins, Kenny Watson, Tony Stewart, etc.: ML:
They're the nuts and bolts of what you do. They're the guys you can count on. They get that look in their eye on Sunday. Kenny made some big plays for us yesterday. He had a big run. We gained 12 yards when it was third-and-15 to help punt position before Pittsburgh's final drive. That was a big play. Then there was the big draw before the touchdown. Kenny continues to do good things for us, both on offense and special teams.
Q: In playing not your best but winning at Heinz Field, what does that say about your team?ML:
I continue to know that we're a better football team than we've been, but it doesn't matter if we don't go out and play that way on Sundays. I think yesterday again we made some plays, we gave up some plays. We went back and forth. As the game went on, we just kind of kept playing. I think our guys understand it is a 60-minute game. Obviously they brought it down to the last minute there, and give credit to them. We had chances to end that a little earlier, and the ball went through our hands a couple of times. So we just have to keep doing things and keep doing it right and just keep working. Our guys understand that. They believe it. They've got great leaders down there in the locker room that continue to push them to play hard and play with more passion and to visualize themselves doing things right.
Q: Caleb Miller finally seems healthy:ML:
Caleb had that bad ankle injury as a rookie and it basically bothered him all through the first half of last year and he never was quite right. Now he's come back and he's basically our fourth linebacker. He's playing all the spots, and he does a good job. You sometimes have to just grab him and program him: 'OK, you're going in now and you're playing this position,' so that he can kind of get the understanding of where he's going and what he's doing at this point. But he has done a very good job this year for us.
Q: Johnathan Joseph is pushing to extend his role:ML:
He's a fine player and he just keeps playing well.
Q: How close is Johnathan Joseph to taking over for Tory James?ML:
Tory played a fine game yesterday. Tory had one bad play. Unfortunately it was the first third down. But again, it comes from guys trying to do a little bit too much. He thinks he's going to jump in there on the slant, and the quarterback was able to move away from the pressure and the guy adjusted the route and Tory had to get back up. He made a great play in getting the guy on the ground. I think other than that, he plays well. That's a little bit of the product - if you keep writing about all these turnovers. They keep trying to get them. And I'd rather them just cover their men and do their jobs and let things come to us as opposed to getting in bad spots and having a big play occur. ... We've got to play things out and play it the right way, and we've got a couple good examples to teach guys from.
Q: You have given up 10 sacks in the last two games, can you put your finger on why?ML:
Well, we've got to do a better job blocking. How's that?
Q: Is it Rich Braham not being in there, or guys being nicked up?ML:
No. We've got to do a better job, and we will do better. We've got to protect the quarterback better. We've got to put ourselves in the right positions both mechanically as well as physically. And I think we need to do better at that.
Q: You did a good job holding the Steelers in the red zone and scoring yourselves in the red zone. Why was that?ML:
We gave up a score yesterday on fourth down. You hate to do that. I think that's where you've got to keep playing. We intercepted a ball on third down, which is a big play. You've got to keep fighting in that situation. Hopefully we'll develop that kind of resolve that no matter what the situation is, we can keep them from putting a touchdown on the board and if we can make a play, we've got a chance to really take points away. We're not there yet.
I think offensively, it's something that you really spend a lot of time on, and you want to be good at. I think as time goes on in the repetition of things, we'll be better. I know T.J. is an asset for us when we get into the red area, both his ability to find open spots and also to be able to catch and run. He does a nice job of that. He's tough in there. He's been physical.
Kelley Washington has given us a lot of good snaps in the red zone. And obviously Chris had the big catch over the top of them yesterday. So I think those make a big difference. Being able to run the ball effectively when they're loading up on the ball, we've got to be able to counter those things. And I thought Bob and the guys did a good job yesterday of getting the ball in there and scoring.
All in all, we've got work to do. We came out on top of it yesterday, but it's going to be important for us. That's the difference in the first game this year and the first game last year - that's the difference right there. Last year we dropped the ball and our feet weren't in. This year we scored two touchdowns, and that makes a big difference. I think anytime you can do that, you're going to have a chance to be successful.
Q: What did you say in the locker room after game about winning with class?ML:
As far as the whole 'Who Dey' thing, enough's been said about it, it's over, just play football. And that was my point. They have a great tradition, we have a great tradition and our tradition is back and it's growing. Enjoy it and take advantage of it, but don't try to belittle somebody else's and make more of it than it is. Just play football. I thought Carson said it best.
Q: Your club seems to be doing everything you want it to do on the field, what about off the field?ML:
Oh no, it's not. It's not doing everything I want. I am not pleased. It's not right, it's not what we stand for, and it's not what the National Football League should represent. We've brought the young people back to be Bengal fans, and I want it to be for the right reasons.