DEC. 7, 2014
PITTSBURGH AT CINCINNATI
BENGALS POSTGAME QUOTES
Initial comments ...
"I just finished telling those guys that we'll need to have the same focus the next three weeks, regardless. I was going to have the same message, I just wish I was able to tell them with a smile on my face. We had the game at hand at halftime and we had the game at hand in the fourth quarter, and we let it get away from us. We didn't do a very good job on either side of the ball, on third down. They converted about 50 percent and we didn't do a very good job on offense. It ended up being the difference in the football game. We also didn't stop the run down the stretch."
Do you feel like the mistakes began to snowball in the fourth quarter?
"Well, I don't know. We'll see when we look at it. I can't put it all on a timeline right now. I think the fumble was in the fourth quarter, and we also had opportunities to stop them and we weren't able to. We have to stop them and take care of the ball. We have to stop their running game as well. We did a good job in the first half, except one play, and we have to continue with that."
Is it easy to shrug off a game like this and just say, 'That's how it works in the league sometimes'?
"I don't know about that in perspective of the NFL. I know that we have to move on from it. We have to move beyond it."
A.J. Green had a big day today ...
"We're just trying to run our offense. If the ball goes to AJ, then it goes to AJ. He made some big plays, but we have to make more as a team."
Is it concerning when you see the defense struggling to stop the run game?
"What's concerning is seeing the other team's running back going into the end zone. I didn't like that."
Was it more what they were able to do than what you couldn't do to stop the run?
"We had a collective thing. We have to fit it right. We have to get to the right spots and tackle them when we get there."
Are you OK?
Things looked good at the end of the third quarter. What changed in the fourth?
"The turnover hurt us, and they started rolling. You can't have that at that point in the game. We were still leading in the fourth quarter, and so we just needed to put a drive together. We were close, we didn't, and then they scored pretty quick."
On the handoff fumble, was it a miscommunication?
"It's one of those things where you read somebody, and either he can get it or I take it. I tried to take it and he thought I was giving it, so that's the reason why it came out."
Obviously it worked pretty well in the first half on your touchdown run, but is that a tough dynamic with that play between the communication of giving it or keeping it?
"You just have to be good with the ball-handling of it, I think. It's one of those things where you just have to work on the ball-handling. But there's a chance that obviously something like that can happen because he thinks he's getting it, and I tried to take it. But we've just got to be sharp on the looks and everything, and the feel of everything so that won't happen again."
You obviously had a good connection with A.J. Green today. Did you feel the matchup was something you were going to be able to really exploit?
"When you've got a guy like A.J., you want to get him the ball. We had a lot of really good looks today, and we hit big plays. Down this stretch we've got to rely on him. He's such a big play waiting to happen, and it showed today."
As a quarterback, are you aware of the matchup? No. 24 was on him most of the game, or is it just a matter of he's open?
"Yeah, we knew that Ike (Taylor) was following him, but he moves around quite a bit, so wherever we get good matchups."
Do you feel the fumble sucked the life out of you guys, or was it more a matter of them getting on a roll?
"At that point they get points off the turnover, scored a touchdown, and then they scored pretty quick after that. You can't have a play like that at that point in the game."
You still come out of the game controlling your own destiny in the division ...
"It's one of the things that we knew going in. Regardless we would still be in control. We still have three big games coming up. Obviously, you want to win every game that you play, but we're still in a position where we control everything."
Did you take a helmet to the stomach?
"Yeah, he hit me pretty square right in the chest. I was just trying to catch my breath."
You had a career game today. How does it feel?
"I just tried to make plays when my number was called. Nothing special. I was just making plays when I was due to receive the ball."
It appeared that Jeremy Hill and Andy Dalton struggled on a connection on a handoff this afternoon, resulting in a turnover. Turnovers are hard to overcome against the Steelers. Any thoughts?
"We still have to be able to make plays and overcome those situations. Things like that are going to happen."
Are you disappointed in the team's play during the fourth quarter?
"Yes. It's tough. It seemed like we played well until the fourth quarter. We didn't execute the entire game, and it cost us. We needed to take advantage of every opportunity they gave us."
Your thought on today's game ...
"We struggled in every phase of the game today — offense, defense, and special teams. It is going to be tough for us to win, but we really need to play better, especially on defense. We must stop the run better.
"We had a nice stretch where we played well on the road the last three games. I thought we held our own in the first half today, but they came out the second half and made some adjustments.
"They ran the ball well today. There were a number of times when we had guys in the gaps, and we didn't take advantage. We were missing tackles. We must wrap up and grab cloth. I give credit to Le'Veon Bell. He is one of the top runners in the game. We'll see the Steelers again a couple of weeks, and we are still in control of the AFC North race."
The defense struggled to stop the run today. How do you stop the power play?
"We've just got to play better. This one hurts, especially at home. It seemed like the power was hitting for them all day today. The ball was creasing outside, and the running back was making things happen. He was getting to the second level and winning the one-on-ones in the open-field against the smaller guys. Bell was making people miss.
"We must fit our gaps, and destroy blocks. Then we must wrap up the ball carrier. Our tackling was horrible. I cannot wait to watch the film. I think you'll see that we have multiple missed tackles. Those are things we must clean up going into the stretch closing the season.
"Basically we need to get back on the right track. This game is a tough one to lose, especially when it's at home against our rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. We have to get back to work because we travel to Cleveland this week to take on the Browns. It is a one-game season from here on out. Our division is tough, and just like this one, the next one counts."
Your thoughts on where this team currently sits within the division?
"Last week we were a game up. This week it feels like everyone won accept for us. We need to go out this week and get after Cleveland. We'll sweep this one under the rug, look at the tape, make our corrections and move on. There is no time to dwell on this loss."
It has to be frustrating losing today after having success the previous three weeks ...
"Obviously when you're playing someone in the division, it's a big game. We were doing everything we could to put ourselves in position to win the game. However, they were creating turnovers and turning them into points. We needed to control the tempo of the game, and in the second half, we didn't. They dictated how this game played out. They ran the ball successfully."
It seemed like coming out in the second half this team was in position to win the game and it didn't execute. Can you elaborate?
"We'll look at the film and learn from it Monday. I thought we played good until the fourth quarter. We need to take care of the football better, and we cannot give up the deep ball like we did today."
The Steelers have some very talented skill players. Can you speak about defending them?
"I felt like we contained them until the fourth quarter. We didn't stop the run. We didn't stop the pass either, if you think about it. And if we take away the deep ball, it's a normal game. As I said before, we'll look at the film and try to fix it."
This team has three big games left. This has to be exciting, even after today's loss ...
"Oh yeah. This is like playoff football now. That is December in the NFL. Everyone is upset about this game. This team has a number of leaders. We will get this figured out."
When things start to snowball, how hard is it to snap yourself out of that?
"Sometimes in a game, you can feel like you have a good grasp on the game and you're in control. The next thing you know, it's NFL football. Every play matters, and they got a couple huge plays that really put them in a good position. And then there was the turnover. We said all along that turnovers were going to matter, and then we had it at a crucial time."
How disappointing was the fourth quarter, considering how well you played in the first three?
"It's disappointing, but like I said, the turnover hurt. In this division, that's always been true. Fourth-quarter turnovers have probably told the story more than once. That one hurt, and then they caught fire. The best thing you can do is understand that you played good football for three quarters, and then try and bounce back and play well next week."
How big of a setback is it for this team after winning three straight on the road?
"It's a loss. But the truth of the matter is, we still have everything in our hands if we can win out. It's a loss, and that's all it is. Just like we see with the historic and great teams in this league, they bounce back and go on another streak and we have been able to do that this season. This is going to be another critical time to do that as well."
The last two division games at home, you've been beat by 21. I bet you wouldn't have imagined that?
"At that point, they had a big lead in the fourth quarter and made some big plays. The game wasn't like that. For three quarters of the game, it was a tight football game, and we had the lead. One quarter of football doesn't define our season, and we don't worry about the end score of the game. We worry about we won, and that's the only thing they keep track of. Winning the next three football games by a half a point or 30, I don't care. We have to win and put ourselves in a position where we want to be."
You guys were in this spot after the Cleveland game and you were able to bounce back. How much can you draw on the fact that you were here four weeks ago?
"It's a familiar territory. Its win, or I don't know. It's a must win and we need to correct this. I need to figure out what I need to do to get better. We all need to get better and do anything it takes to win the next game. It doesn't matter what it takes — we need to do it."
You guys did a good job until the fourth quarter, and then they made some big plays ...
"They did a good job of converting on third down. They did a good job of breaking tackles. The fourth quarter, we didn't finish and football is all about finishing. That's what we have to do."
You guys are still in first place. Does it feel like it?
"No, it definitely doesn't feel like it. I'm kind of at a loss for words right now. I need to listen to coaches and see what we have to do."
You guys do a good job of coming up stout after turnovers. Is it tougher in the fourth quarter?
"We got to do a better job. Give credit to their backs for hitting the right holes and making plays."
You guys made a couple of big stands. Did you think you would be alright after making those two stands?
"Whenever it's third down, we know we have to get off the field, whether it's third-and-one, or third-and-21. When those times come, those big plays, everything heightens up, and there is a heightened sense of awareness. You break on the ball, do your job and stay in your rush lanes."
You had to think after that 94-yard bomb, that it was the crushing blow?
"The game wasn't over. It was only a two-score game, so it wasn't over. We tried to get the ball back to our offense, but credit to them."
Thoughts on the defensive performance ...
"We have to do a better job of finishing. You have to fight the whole game, especially against a team like this. They don't give up. They are playing for a lot. If they would've lost, they probably would've been out of it. We should've known they were going to fight all four quarters, and we didn't do a good job of playing the whole game."
How much of a handful were Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown today?
"He was one of the better backs that I've played. With that being said, if we stay in our gaps, then he can't capitalize. We did a bad job of stopping the run and stopping the pass. I think that's the first time we gave up a deep ball, and that's not like us. We usually keep plays in front of us. We'll work on that as a secondary. And as a whole, we will fix the run gaps. That's not how we play championship defense. The offense put up 21 points, and we should be able to hold teams to under that."
The last two division games, the Browns and Steelers, both at home, you've lost by 21 points in both games. Should this team be concerned about the way you're playing against some of the AFC's best teams?
"No. It's one week at a time. The way we lost is pretty bad. It might be disappointing for our supporters and our fans, but we just have to take every game as a one-game series and a one-game playoff. We have to know that we are playing for all the marbles, and we don't want to think that we'll just get the next one."
It does make the next three games very important ...
"Yes, very important."
Were you giving help on that 94-yard touchdown, or were you playing more of a center field?
"Yeah, center field. I was hauling ass and he was too. I was trying to make up 20 yards in a limited space."
STEELERS POSTGAME QUOTES
Initial comments ...
"That was a tough AFC North December battle. It was what we anticipated. Giving credit to those guys (Bengals) — it seemed like every time we got control of the game, they made a big play and regained control. Also give credit to our guys, because they did not fold in the face of that adversity. In a hostile environment today, the guys made necessary plays.
"We still are not perfect. We're still giving up big plays which created problems for us today. I like the resolve of the group and the fact we played as a team, and there is a lot to be excited about. Hopefully we learn from today and move forward preparing for our next challenge.
"No major injuries. Ike Taylor got beat up a little today with a knee contusion, but the rest seem to be pretty clean."
What about decision to go to Martavis Bryant?
"We just were not going to live in our fears today. We needed to be aggressive and create some splash. It worked out for us."
What was the weight of the risk and reward of that particular play call?
"Every moment of every day, but that's life, particularly in this league."
Was there any indication earlier in the week leading up to this game that made you think that play might be available?
"They're aggressive when you're backed up and they want to keep you backed up. That's football 101 — that's any defense. Those opportunities are usually there. It's more about whether you are willing to take the risk."
How hard is it for a defense to keep its confidence when it's giving up plays?
"It's less about the defense and more about the people. One of the things that is positive about our group is we have some guys back there who have played some football. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor, Mike Mitchell, and Will Gay are not young people, and they are able to flush it out, move forward and understand the next snap is the most important."
What are your thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger's play today after the past couple weeks?
"It was very necessary. It always seems like he plays pretty good in Ohio. We knew what we needed from everyone today and he's central to that."
How does Justin Brown and Le'Veon Bell continue doing what they do when teams try to take them out?
"They get the headlines and do a lot for us, but the other guys also step up and answer the bell when their number is called upon. That creates a level playing field for Brown and Bell both to continue doing what they need to do."
After the long run by A.J. Green, did you decide Ike couldn't stay out there with his knee injury?
How much of the swing momentum allowed you to capitalize and come out victorious?
"It was a huge play in the game and something we needed. It was a short field. But many times a short field alone is not what does it — it's playing together in concert. We did not do a good enough job of it last week, but today we did and gained the victory."
How pleasing was it to come out with the win in style?
"I don't care about the style points. We're just trying to do what is necessary to get out of these stadiums with wins."
If Le'Veon had not had such success today, would we have seen more of Josh Harris earlier?
"No (laughing). We're going to give it to Le'Veon."
Was Dri Archer hurt at all, or was it just the way the numbers were?
"No, it was just the best mix for us today. We have some defenders coming back and some special teams contributors — we didn't want to lessen that. They had a dangerous kicking game and return-men in Adam Jones and Brandon Tate, so we allocated the bodies in the areas where they were needed."
Your wrist looked like it held up well, for as much angst as everybody had over it ...
"Yeah. I tried to tell everyone after the game (last week) and again this week that there was no issue. It was a good team win for us."
How big was Le'Veon Bell in terms of giving you the balance that you had?
"It's huge. He's doing so much in the run game, pass game, blocking game, and I don't know how many check-downs he had today. His game right now is at a very high level, and it's very fun to watch."
How confident are you that you can keep riding him these next few games, down the stretch of the season?
"We have to. He's one of our best players and one of the better players in the league. As long as he stays healthy, we'll keep feeding him and riding it to him. Today I was happy to see some of the break-out runs, because we've seen what he can do, but then to actually get on the outside and get some big runs was awesome."
What did you say to the team after the game?
"Just that that was a good win for us. It doesn't matter how you start, it's how you finish. From now on, that's how we have to play."
Take us through the deep touchdown pass to Martavis Bryant ...
"It was a pass-run check. They showed a coverage and I didn't believe them. We did a little play-action and just let it fly. I've underthrown him in practice because when he gets running, he's fast. I just put it out there, let him run under it, and he did the rest."
It's starting to look like Bell is a special talent ...
"It's not starting to look like it, he is a special talent. I've said for many, many weeks now that he's one of the best all-around backs in the game. I think every week he continues to prove that."
Is this team a bit schizophrenic, with the tough loss last week and this week, especially in the second half, coming out and really get it going?
"It's just AFC North football. It felt like an awesome day back in Oxford, Ohio. It was a lot of fun out there today. It was a hard fought game — it was far from easy. We expect that from those guys. We'll see them in a couple of weeks."
Did you guys emphasize patience offensively going into the game today?
"Not really. We knew that coming out that we were going to start in a certain personnel group and then go into the no-huddle (offense) and mix and match some things. But I don't think patience was there (as an emphasis). We always want to be aware that sometimes you've got to take what the defense gives you. Today, they gave us a lot of good runs and some check-downs, and then we took our shots when we had it."
Was part of that a 'protect the ball at all costs' mentality?
"Yeah. We don't want to turn the ball over. That's been our issue when we've lost games — it's usually because we turn the ball over. Today we didn't, and that's key to winning."
Can you talk about your offensive linemen today?
"Those guys are awesome. They do so much. We're going against a great defense that the Bengals have, and they have a great pass rush and blitzing and things that they do. We were communicating in a loud environment, and there were some late checks that I had to make and that they had to make. I just thought that those guys played really well."
You have tough tests ahead these next few weeks. How do you keep that focus?
"We just know that it's one game at a time. Every week is kind of a playoff week for us. We're going to give it everything we have every week. And it doesn't get any easier moving forward. We're going to enjoy this one for today, but we're getting ready to move on."
On playing back in his home state of Ohio ...
"Ohio is home. I love coming back. Like I said, I just felt with the weather and everything like it was a day in Oxford. It's just a lot of fun to play in AFC North environments. It's rowdy, it's loud, it's crazy, and it's always fun when you win."
What's the difference between Le'Veon Bell at the beginning of the year and now?
"He's been doing everything at a high level all year. It's not like I'll sit here and say, 'He's gotten better at this and better at that,' From Day 1, he's been playing at a very high level. That's why he's, like I said — no disrespect to anyone else — one of the best all-around backs in the game, because he can do it all. You don't see a guy that takes pride in catching the ball and pass-blocking and picking up blitzes like he does. I'm just so proud of the way he's continued to grow every week."
Have you ever seen highlights of Walter Payton, and what are your thoughts on him?
"Yeah, I've seen plenty of highlights on him and everything he's done for the game, things like that. Growing up, there were a lot of highlights on him. I've heard a lot about him. Obviously I haven't seen a full game of him of how he runs, things like that, but I've seen a lot of highlights."
You and Walter Payton are the only people to rush for three straight 200-yard games in NFL history. What does that mean to you?
"It's an honor to be mentioned with a guy like Walter Payton. It's just a good start to what this team has been able to do. On offense, they're doing a lot of good things. The offensive line has done a great job of opening holes for me. On check downs, Ben (Roethlisberger) is doing a good job of getting me the ball and allowing me to run with some space. So you've got to give a lot of credit to the offense and the offensive coaching staff."
Are you starting to think of yourself as an elite player in the NFL as a running back?
"No, I'm not going to say that. I'm just trying to do whatever the team needs me to do. I'm a competitor. I just want to do whatever it takes for us to win the game. We can get to where we want to be at the end of the day; that's all that matters to me."
Why were you able to run to the left side so effectively today?
"We saw that they couldn't stop it. The offensive line — that's the play they wanted to go with. We ran a lot of counter, a lot of 'Georgia.' The offensive line was like, 'Man, we feel good about it.' As a runner, I'm running whatever the offensive linemen want to run. So those guys felt good about it. We ran the same play two, three, four times in a row, consecutively. Those guys just couldn't stop it. So we continued to run with it. I tried to stay patient, made sure I held onto the ball and got what I could."
You guys gave up some big plays, but when it counted the defense made the plays it had to ...
"And we talk about it all the time; it's not how you start, it's how you finish. Of course we want to have the perfect game from start to finish, pitch a shutout and stuff like that. But it's the NFL; those guys get paid, too. So ultimately for us to continue to rally together, especially after giving up a couple big plays, it definitely showed a lot for us."
With what the offense was able to do, scoring 25 in the fourth quarter, how much did that help the defense?
"Any time you get the offense running the way they were running today, with Le'Veon toting the B, you've got Martavis (Bryant) with the big catch, and once it was in the fourth quarter as well, it makes Cincinnati's offense not be able to just run the ball and eat up the time. They have to go ahead and play aggressively. Ultimately that's what you want on defense."
On the importance of this game ...
"I feel like every win is a must win. I'm not saying that just because we won today, but I feel like we should have won last week and every game that we lost. But we're only going to focus on one game at a time. We're going to Atlanta and have single focus on them, go in there and handle our business."
How did you feel today? You guys defended the run well ...
"I'm feeling really good. I think I was just extremely excited just to be back. That was the biggest thing for me — just excited to be back on the field."
What was your overall impression of the defense's performance today?
"We were successful. I thought early on we stopped the run and then we were giving the plays over top. But those are part of the game, those are going to happen; they've got players over there. Throughout the game, momentum started switching back and forth, but we were able to finally keep momentum. The offense was putting up points. When we're able to do that, and our punting game was pretty good, we put them deep in their own territory. So when we have everything clicking together and everybody working together, we're a tough team to stop."
Steelers at Bengals Postgame Quotes
DEC. 7, 2014