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Steelers at Bengals Postgame Quotes


DEC. 13, 2015



Head coach

Initial comments ...

        "We weren't able in the second half to dig out of the doggone hole, with the interception. It's a game where we had to overcome some adversity, with losing our quarterback (Andy Dalton, to a thumb injury). AJ (McCarron) did a good job handling it, you just obviously want to get the one play back. But that's where we are right now. We've just got to circle the wagons and get going. They outplayed us, and we didn't stop them on third down in the first half defensively, and that ended up being the difference in the football game throughout — their ability to keep moving the ball downfield and get the field goals. And then, obviously, the turnovers hurt us. We got points on the first drive, and then we got the interception, and obviously Andy (Dalton) gets hurt on that play. We've just got to move forward with AJ."

Do you say "moving forward with AJ" because Andy Dalton is done for the season?

        "No. Andy will be out for a bit."

Can you tell us anything more about his injury?


Can you tell us what "a bit" is?

        "We'll see. I can't heal bones."

So there's a chance he'll be out next week?

        "Yes, Andy will be out next week."

AJ McCarron came in and had some good throws, but then had the interceptions. How much of that is just the ups and downs of being a young quarterback?

        "Obviously you've got to get used to the looks and everything. We've been giving AJ some time in practice trying to create opportunity for him, but it's nothing like coming out and playing real football against a good defense."

The Steelers came out trying to physically impose their will in this game. How much of this became mental for your team, and how do you regroup from this?

        "I think both teams were playing physical football. I don't think anybody tried to do anything different, one way or another. We just have to always play and be composed. They take the first drive down the field because we don't get off the field on third down, and we've got the same opportunity and unfortunately turn it over. But we'll be fine. We did a lot of really good things today. The players fought their tails off, and we came up short. We've just got to get back to work and figure it out."

How frustrating is it for you to be so close to clinching the division and coming up short?

        "It's part of it. Not 'frustrated.' This happens. You don't come out and just throw your hat out there. You've got to earn it."

Was Andy hurt trying to tackle Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt after the interception?

        "I think so. I don't know if it was when he made the play or when he was on the ground or whatever."

Do you think it was good that Andy was trying to make a play, or do you want him to avoid that because he's the quarterback?

        "We don't want the quarterback to get hurt. I'm not going to say anything after the fact."

Can you explain what happened on the play where he was hurt?

        "We got the ball intercepted, and he made the tackle."

What's the hardest part of having to adjust on the fly with a quarterback who, like you said, has played three quarters?

        "The hard part would be, if he didn't have the personality that he has ... This kid (McCarron) has a great personality. It's why he's here. He's got the guys in the building's confidence. We've been so impressed with him. And now he's got to lead us for however long. I'm glad that we've got him. This is why we have him. This is why we drafted him. And this is why we've had him here — for times like today. We've been so fortunate with Andy, because this is the first time he's missed time since he was a rookie, since his first game. I just knock on wood every time someone says that, and now we're going to play a game without Andy."

How would you feel about seeing the Steelers back here again for a playoff game?

        "I can't worry about the playoffs. "

The Colts and Steelers have both won at times this year with backup quarterbacks. Is that something you say to your team as you prepare to move on without your starter?

        "Our guys know what we're capable of doing. Everybody else rises up, and we've got to go play. As I said, people are very confident on AJ's ability, and we'll do a good job putting together the plan for him and the rest of the offense. We'll need to play better on defense and special teams, and go win the last three football games."

With what happened before the game, when the teams had a skirmish on the field, do you think that affected your guys or their focus?

        "I don't know."

Outside of Andy Dalton, you had several other players leave with injuries today. Are you concerned about the total number of injuries?

        "We've obviously had some injuries. But we've been fortunate all year. We'll see how it goes during the week. I don't think we had anybody else that would necessarily miss (the next game), but we'll see."

How important was it for McCarron to get those extra snaps in the fourth quarter and lead that last touchdown drive?

        "It was important. It was a good opportunity. Playing all the time, and getting the opportunity out there today is important. Obviously it was pretty futile there at the end with the onside kick with a 1:03 left that would've given AJ another possession. To me, it was worth it."

What's the impact of not having Adam Jones out there today?

        "We've got a lot of speculative questions. I'm not very good at answering those. We'll let you answer that."

Did the chippiness help or hurt today, or did it make a difference?

        "It doesn't help the situation. We've got to play NFL football. We had a good (officiating) crew today to handle that. I think they did a good job right from the start, and getting involved. But we've got to focus and play. You don't play football with your doggone mouth, you've got to play with your pads."

With the third down conversions in the first half, they didn't get any touchdowns, but they managed to stay on the field. How did that hurt you?

        "They managed to stay on the field. Obviously we scored on a two-play drive, but the possession in the first half was eight (minutes) to 22, or something. I think they were seven of 10 on third downs. That makes a huge difference. You've got to get off the field. We had some third downs, where had to manage and find a way to get off the field. That's key. Their quarterback did a good job today of finding the open guy and moving away from pressure, and then getting the ball to the open guy to convert the third downs."

Going into next week, what sorts of things will you be looking at with quarterback? Will you bring anyone in to work out?

        "(Laughs) You're speculating on the future."

Is this team as well-equipped as you could've hoped to handle losing Andy Dalton?

        "It is. We're equipped to handle this. I think the offense demonstrated that today, with the running backs and receivers and the plays they made. So that's big going forward."

Are they emotionally equipped for it?

        "Yeah. It's part of where we are."




Any update for us?

        "You mean my thumb? There's a fracture in there. I'll see a hand specialist tomorrow."

So a hand surgeon will need to be consulted?

        "Yes. I'll go tomorrow and find out the process."

Can you take us through how it occurred?

        "It happened on the interception. The guy made an unbelievable play and I made the tackle and hurt my thumb."

It just got jammed up in there?

        "Yes. I'm not really sure what happened."

This game seemed like it would be a track meet ...

        "We felt like we had a good plan coming in, we were moving the ball and it's unfortunate the way that drive ended."

On the play that you were injured, did the defender just make a good play?

        "Yeah, he just made a great play. For a guy that big to go down that low is a great play on his part."

To have this occur during your best season as a Bengal kind of makes you scratch your head ...

        "Yeah. It's disappointing. Especially the way this season has gone. We still have a lot of football to be played and I'll try to get back as quickly as I can."

Do you know what the return timeframe is at this juncture?

        "I have no idea."


Can you describe what happened on the play and what you've been told?

        "I hurt my thumb making the tackle. They said there is a fracture in there and I'm going to see a hand specialist tomorrow, and I'll find out more details then."

Have they talked about surgery or timetables?

        "I'll know more tomorrow."

What did you say to A.J. McCarron when he was going into the game?

        "Trust what you see and go play. Don't over think too much. It's obviously his first real action in there. He did some good things today. The way he came out getting that big touchdown to A.J. (Green) and he was able to break a few tackles and get in. He had some really good throws and really good reads. The offense moved when he was in there so that's good to see. He'll have some time to practice and get ready to do everything we need him to do. He's going to be fine."

Was it reactionary on the play where you hurt your thumb to try and make the tackle?

        "You don't go into any play thinking you're going to get hurt. That's the last thing you have to think. It's unfortunate that it happened."

Did you know instantly that you hurt yourself?

        "I didn't know right away. I tried to grip a ball once I got to the sideline and that's when I knew."

Is it tough to take considering your durability?

        "Yeah, I tried to grip a ball and thought it was maybe just a bruise I could get through, but I went in and got the x-ray."

Where are you mentally right now?

        "Mentally, I'm fine. It's unfortunate that it happened at this point in the season, but I'm going to do everything I can to get to get back as quickly as I can to help this team. We'll see, but I'm doing all right. There are people who are way worse off than I am."

First time you have had a hand injury?

        "Yeah, on my throwing hand. I had something on my left hand but nothing on my right."




How do you feel like everything unfolded for you today?

        "It's unfortunate. Once I watch the tape, I'll want some throws back, but that's the way it goes. I feel like we had a good rhythm and were moving the ball. The one I was really upset about was the first pick — I should have handed the ball off and they fooled me. On the second one, it was a bad decision by me. I'll learn from my mistakes and be better next week. Promise."

On the first interception, James Harrison seemed to put a hard hit on you ...

        "It doesn't matter. I shouldn't have made that mistake. I'll get better this week. Being able to have all the reps and playing with the first team will be good for us. I'm excited about the upcoming games."

How many snaps do you typically take with the first team during a normal week?

        "Zero. I don't get one snap at all. I do the opposing team's offense. That's the way it is. You have to be ready and I have to play better. It's my fault. I told the guys, 'I promise I'll make it up next week.' "

You had two nice touchdowns on the day ...

        "You try to look at the positives, but the negatives always seem to outweigh the positives. With more reps this week, I feel like I'll be ready to go and have better chemistry. I'm excited for the future."

How tough was Pittsburgh's defense?

        "I felt like we did a good job picking up their blitzes. They got me was showing one coverage and flipping to another, but as the game went on, I felt better about it. The second interception was forced, I wasn't fooled. I felt good as a group and felt like we were moving the ball."

Did you get a chance to talk to Andy Dalton?

        "No. I haven't been able to sit down and talk to him. I'm sure I will talk to him today or tomorrow, but it's unfortunate. Andy's like a big brother to me and you always hate to see the starter go down. We need to come together as an offense and I need to do a good job leading this team."


They say you're always a play away. Do you realize that, as much as the words are kicked around, or were you a little stunned?

        "I don't feel stunned. But no matter how many times you say something, until it happens it's never really reality. It was an unfortunate thing for a friend of mine and our quarterback when Andy (Dalton) got hurt. I stepped in and have to play better. I'm not trying to find any excuses. I'm going to play better, I promise you that."

What's the most challenging thing you will face before next Sunday?

        "I guess starting my first NFL game. I felt comfortable as I went along today. On the first pick, they swapped coverage on me late. I didn't see it and then didn't have enough on it to get it out. I was really trying to get it over (Mohamed) Sanu's head by throwing it away, but I didn't have enough. On the second one, I felt like I could get it in there, and it was just a mistake by me. Like I told the guys, I will work my tail off this week by finally being able to get the reps and being able to run the offense all week. I will do whatever I need to do to not let them down."

What were some of your teammates telling you on the sidelines?

        "It was normal. It felt like anything they would say to Dalton. Stuff like 'keep it up' and 'let's go.' Just basic stuff trying to get me pumped up. I felt good about it."

How do you think your experiences at Alabama will help you?

        "We played in a lot of big games when I was in college, but this is a totally new game. College isn't the NFL. Like I said, I felt good. No matter how many reps you get in practice, it's all about how many reps you get in the game. When you actually see the opposing defenses bring this blitz or switch this coverage. You need reps and it's going to come. I'm excited to finally get the opportunity to run the offense all week long and be prepared and ready when it comes to San Francisco."

What did Andy say to you during the game?

        "He was proud of me. We moved the ball. We hurt ourselves sometimes, but we moved the ball a good bit. I had the first pick when they swapped coverage on me late. I rolled my eyes down and didn't see it. On the second one, we had just hit Tyler Kroft up the seam but had the holding call. I just have to make sure I keep in my mind that I don't need to get everything back on the very next play. Take what they give me and I should be fine. I promise to God I will do whatever I need to do all week and I won't let them down. I will get my job done."

Why do you believe you can lead this team?

        "If you don't you're doomed. I've always believed in myself when I step inside those white lines. I believe you need to carry that confidence as a quarterback because when you step inside those white lines it's a nasty and dirty game. If you lose confidence, it can go bad for you real quick. I've always believed when I step inside those white lines that I'm the best one out there. I believe that's the confidence you take into every game."

What did you tell the organization when they were looking at you during the draft to convince them you can get the job done?

        "I never met with them at the combine. Coach Zamp (QBs coach Ken Zampese) is the one who came to Tuscaloosa, and we went out to dinner, and the next day we did a little workout. We went into the film room and watched a bunch of film. I broke down everything I knew about our offense at Alabama and everything I did. It just comes down to whether they like you. Really, you can't say anything or persuade them in any way. I'm just extremely blessed and honored to be the quarterback here now and I want to lead this team and get the job done."

What's the best thing you have going for you right now?

        "Maybe being so young that you don't really realize how big the games are. You realize what's up for it, but I always felt like when you are young you're going to make some mistakes, especially in that situation. You just go out and play and have fun. That's what I do. Like I said, we made some mistakes today and I'll learn from them. I'll be up here early in the morning learning from them and I will do whatever I have to do to lead this team and get the job done."

Did it build some confidence to close out that last drive toward the end?

        "Yeah, it did. Other than that first interception I had, we moved the ball. We stalled ourselves out a couple times, but we were moving the ball up and down the field and it felt like we were in a rhythm. The Steelers are an unbelievable organization and unbelievable team and a great defense, and they've always been that. We had positives and negatives. We have got to learn from the negatives and keep improving on the positives. We've just got to come ready to work this week."

Does it feel good knowing the type of talent you have around you on offense?

        "Yeah, of course you definitely don't worry when you have those guys out there. Hopefully, we can get Tyler Eifert back. But the guys I have out wide I know I can take some chances because they're going to go up and get the ball. They did an excellent job today and I was real proud. It was a real proud moment for me, although I had some mistakes. Just being out there playing with them and getting some big completions was an emotional moment."

What happened on that first interception?

        "They just swapped coverage on me. They showed one coverage and I took my eyes down for the snap and came up. It was just a bad read by me. Something like that won't happen again. I've got to learn from these mistakes and play better."

What happened on that deep ball to Marvin Jones?

        "I felt like I could put it in that window. I saw Timmons running down the field. That comes from not having many reps with those guys. I don't know how many times that ball gets thrown. Like I said, we're going to put in a lot of work this week and be ready to put on a show and do our job."

Is it a tough scenario knowing if you win your first game, you're going to the playoffs?

        "You have to embrace it. I love it. You have to love pressured moments. That's where the great ones really shine. I guess Tom Brady was in the same situation when he had the opportunity. I've got to make the most of it and do my job each week. I know we have an unbelievable defense and if we don't turn the ball over we have a great chance. Like I said, I promise to God I will work my tail off and be ready to go."


Wide receiver

How do you think AJ McCarron handled the situation and did overall?

        "He did good. It was spur of the moment coming in there. He wasn't game planning and he didn't know what was going on sometimes, but he handled it pretty good. Next week he's going to be ready."

How physical was that game?

        "It was just another football game. I don't buy into all that trash talking — just go out there and play."

What was your reaction when Andy Dalton left the game?

        "It's just the way of the game. It's just the way the NFL works. It's a physical game. It hurts to see a guy like that go out with the season he's having. It hurts us too, because he's our commander back there. I think AJ's going to do well — you get a week under his belt, you get to practice with him — I think we'll be fine."

Did you talk to Andy at all on the sidelines?

        "Yeah, we talked to him. He was talking to AJ a lot and telling him stuff he needed to know."

Marvin Lewis said he's going to be out and certainly miss next week. What does that mean for this team going forward?

        "Next man up with AJ. He's a winner. He went to Alabama, so he's used to the big stage. I think he'll be ready."

When he got in the huddle the first time it didn't seem too big for him ...

        "No. That's one thing about him — he stays in the moment. He's ready for his number to be called at any moment. He prepares so well. When you prepare like him, you're just out there having fun."

He took no reps with the No. 1's, I'm assuming ...


Now you'll get a week with him ...

        "Right, right. That's going to help. It doesn't matter what it takes. If we have to stay late to work with him to get the right looks, that's what it's going to take."


Offensive tackle

What's the hardest thing for an offense to lose a No. 1 quarterback at this point of the season and bring in a new guy that hasn't played much?

        "I think timing, understanding where each other is, understanding where he's going to be in the pocket, understanding that we do a lot of different things, where the ball is going ... That takes a lot of timing. For our plan and all those things, it makes it tough. This game is a game of inches. You're off a fraction here or there, you're not going to have success, especially in a big game like this — it's a must win for them."

What kind of blow is this emotionally for this to happen when you guys are having such a great year?

        "It's a big blow. We've got the right kind of men to take it. We've got a very talented football team. The only thing we can do is put our heads down, and have AJ come in there and play good ball and play great around him."

What makes you feel good about AJ? What was positive today?

        "He shows that he has nothing timid about him. He goes in there and he makes the throws and competes his butt off. Whether he was really thinking he would play today or not — most backups probably don't think that, even though they prepare that way every week — he has a great attitude and a great charisma about him in the huddle. That's one of those things people said about him when he came out, and I think he continues to show that."

Do you have to simplify the offense or change the offense with him?

        "I don't know about simplify, but there's probably going to be some things as much as we do, because we are the kind of team that puts people all over the place. Andy did a great job of just getting people in position and lined up, and knowing exactly how every formation was. There's some of those things that maybe will be hard for him to handle at this point, but who knows? We'll see. We'll go with him as the guy, prepare that way, and we'll see how it goes."

It was very physical. Was it clean physical out there or was it crossing the line?

        "It was chippy earlier, but that didn't have anything to do with the game. The bottom line is we lost our starting quarterback on the first drive of the game, and you try and fight any way possible to win the game from there. It put a big pressure on our defense, and we were still about to rack up some yards there at the end. It's a learning experience, but I think AJ continued to grow throughout the day. We're excited about him as well."

How would you feel about seeing the Steelers again if you got them in the playoffs?

        "We'd still be just as confident as before. I don't think we'd feel any different. We'd probably have a different plan, maybe, with AJ. Some things would be different, but the bottom line is you have to go out there and execute and win. AJ can make the throws, he can direct the offense, and we still have all the talent around him, so I think we're still good."

How do you make sure the air doesn't get sucked out of this team right now?

        "It's not like we had to go undefeated to make the playoffs. For us, it's guys realizing we've got something to fight for, and that's proving that we're a great football team, and it kind of almost gives us more energy and passion this time of year, because instead of thinking about the pressure of having to win and people expecting you to win, right now people are going to doubt us, and that's good. This team needs that. We need to fight uphill."

How do you not just bide your time until Andy is back?

        "Because we know there's no way you can do that. In the NFL, nobody's good enough to just bide time at the quarterback position. Just like we said before with Andy, he was a young football player. AJ's that way, and our success is going to be dictated by how good we play around him. It's not going to be that just he has to play great. If we don't play well around him we won't have success. Today wasn't good enough for anybody, not just AJ McCarron."


Defensive end

How emotional big is it to lose Andy Dalton at this point of the season?

        "We're built for ups and downs. We wish him a speedy recovery — he is our quarterback. AJ's (McCarron) going to come in, and he's going to do a great job. We have full faith in him. That's why he's here. Everybody's here for a reason, and has a job to do. Today they got the best of us, but we will be back."

How would you feel about facing the Steelers in the playoffs?

        "That would be great. They got us today, but that happens. It's the NFL, and anybody can beat anybody. Today they were the better team. We've got to come back, check out the film and make our corrections."

How does losing your starting quarterback ripple throughout the whole team, particularly early in the game?

        "We've just got to continue to play our game and stay poised. We didn't do a good job of that today. We let them bate us into getting into stuff after the whistle. Stuff after the whistle has never won anybody a ballgame. You've got to do the talking with your shoulder pads. We've got to do a better job of staying poised. That was the most disappointing thing from today."

That was about as chippy of a game as I've seen in this stadium. It seemed like after every play there was something. Did you feel like that was the way it was?

        "That's a waste of energy that you could be using during the play."

Did that kind of start with the thing at midfield before the game?

        "No, we knew they were going to come in and try and beat us with extra stuff, but that should not have taken away from our focus. We needed to stay poised and focused on what we needed to do, but we didn't do that which made them the better team, and they got the win. They did a good job, but I still believe we're a great team. We're going to do great things this year. We're going to go back to the drawing board and stay together as a family. We've got two road games and then we'll come back here and wrap it up with the Ravens. It's pretty simple."


Wide receiver

Everything was going smoothly for you guys this season, and with three weeks to go, you lose your quarterback. How do you keep things in perspective?

        "We have to address the situation — AJ's (McCarron) in there. We know he has tremendous ability. It's a blow, but we have to continue to execute. There can't be a drop off. We trust that he's going to come in, and work hard, and lead us. That's pretty much it. We understand what's going on. Everybody has to pick up their level of play and their level of intensity. We'll be all right."

How deflating was it on the sideline when you found out what was wrong with Andy?

        "I felt bad. He's our quarterback and we love him. He's having such a tremendous season. It definitely hurt, but at the same time we have games to win. We're still a great team and we trust that AJ's going to come in and lead us."

What makes you guys believe in AJ?

        "Because he's been here. We've seen him in practice. He makes all the throws. We've seen him in the game, and he was in a similar situation in the preseason. That's not as big of a scale as this, but against the Chicago Bears, he came in and almost was flawless. That's why they drafted him. You don't win National Championships for no reason. We know that he has the capability to lead us and we're going to stand by him."

You've lost other pieces to this team. Does this feel different?

        "Yeah, we're an intense team. We know that we all have to play big. Obviously we lost one of our key guys and it's a big blow, but at the same time, all of us have to rise to the occasion and rally behind AJ. Everybody has to increase the level of play — offense, defense and special teams — and play all-out football."

You guys still have a lot to play for. The division's still on the line and the playoffs are still on the line ...

        "Yeah, we can't control what happens. All we can control is our effort, and what we do when we get out there. We can't dwell and hang our hats when we have so much to play for. We lost some pieces but that's the game of football. We just have to continue to go on our foundation, and see what we have to correct to make this thing great."



How big of an emotional blow is it to lose your quarterback at this point in the season?

        "It's frustrating. Andy has been our leader all year and made great calls and changed things as needed. It is what it is. AJ (McCarron) has had a lot of work in the preseason and made some great plays today. There's potential because of the number of playmakers we have here."

The natural reaction of the fans will be to feel that the season is over...

        "It's not. We still have three games left. We have to keep playing. It's not over because one guy is down. We have to step up and keep it going until he gets back."

Was this game just physical or did it cross the line?

        "It's Bengals and Steelers. I don't think there's anything that could cross the line. It's what we expected and good for them to come out on top today."

Would you like to see them again in the playoffs?

        "It's never fun to see a division team in the playoffs, but we'll play whoever we get."


Defensive end

Was this game just physical or did it cross the line?

        "It was a normal Bengals and Steelers football game. They got the best of us. They won on third down."

Is it disappointing to not clinch at home?

        "Absolutely. It's very disappointing not being able to clinch at home for our fans because they deserve it. We didn't take care of business today, but we'll respond and handle this."

How big of a blow is it to lose your quarterback?

        "It's a blow. That's our quarterback and he's having a heck of a year — but I'm not going to take this as a loss because we feel like he'll bounce back. He'll do what it takes to get back on the field and we have faith in our backups."

How important it is for the veterans to step up?

        "Anytime you have injuries, the great players have to play better and the young players have to step up. We have a lot of injuries right now, but we won't let it get the best of us. We have a lot of depth on this football team and we'll handle it."


DEC. 13, 2015



Head coach

Initial comments ...

        "Well, that's AFC North football right there. It's good to be in the significant ones, and it's good to come out on top. To do that we had to have quality contributions in all three phases. We got turnovers on defense, maintained possession of the ball on offense, won possession downs, (Chris) Boswell kicked some quality kicks for us, and just generally solid on special teams. I take my hat off to the guys and what they were willing to do to get out of the stadium today. From an injury standpoint, just bumps and bruises. I think Mike Mitchell has a shoulder. We'll see his level of availability as we get into next week. Bud Dupree had a lower back, or something. Both guys should be OK. They'll just probably need management things in the early portions of next week. It's good to get a win. We'll enjoy it today. We'll get singularly focused and start preparation for our next challenge."

What did you see with the pregame confrontation?

        "You know, I'm not worried about that. We're on our side of the 50-yard line warming up and the confrontation happened. You come into our area, there's going to be a confrontation. We were in our proper place."

Is this as nasty of a game spirit wise as you can remember?

        "It's always us and somebody. You know, we seem to attract that type of atmosphere. Maybe it's us."

In the last game against Cincinnati, you scored a touchdown on your first drive and didn't score another one. Today you kept chipping away. What was the difference in this game and the last one?

        "The last game's the last game, this one was this one."

How do you keep the guys from getting caught up in some of the chippy play that was going on?

        "We don't. We're going to defend ourselves aggressively. Those confrontations occurred on our side of the ball after plays, outside of the ball, or outside of the 50 in pregame. Hey, that's our side of the 50. Our guys are going to be where they're supposed to be, but they will defend themselves aggressively."

How good is this offense?

        "I think they're still writing that story. The big thing is (that) situations are going to be less than ideal, and they've been for us. That's why I don't subscribe to numbers and some of the things that are talked about. The bottom line is we've got to score one more point than our opponent each and every Sunday, or whenever we play. That's our mentality."

You were on the field talking to Wallace Gilberry and a couple other guys at one point. Can you shed any light on what maybe was discussed there?

        "No, I cannot."

On the Stephon Tuitt interception, was that a good read by him?

        "We anticipated something like that — not specifically that — but don't take anything away from him. He made a heck of a play. I didn't get direct eyes on it, but he made a heck of a of a play."



Was this as nasty a game as you can remember between these two teams?

        "Pretty chippy, wasn't it? But you expect that from rivalry teams, and it's always fun when you win 'em."

How important was it to get the lead on that opening drive of the game and make them play from behind, especially after how the first meeting between these teams went this season?

        "That was big for us. We went down and converted some big third downs on that drive to go down and get points — and not just three 3, (but) seven. That just set the tempo and the tone."

Can you talk about your team's reaction to this game afterwards ... Was something going on in terms of a celebration today?

        "Not that I know of ... A lot was made this week of them being able to clinch/win the division and get in the playoffs, and we didn't want us to be the reason that they got in. We wanted to come out and play a good game and you add in some of the chippiness, you add all that — the terrible weather — and it all just added up to a little bit more of what you heard (from us)."

Was the weather that bad?

        "No, it was awesome. In Southwest Ohio this time of year, I know it's not supposed to be like this."

You guys are 14-3 in this stadium during your time with the team ... Does this just feel like home for you guys?

        "(It's like) Yager Stadium (at Miami-Ohio, where he played in college). You're playing a divisional opponent and you're coming here — it was probably as loud today as it's been that I can remember in a long time. The fans were into it and they're a great football team, and it just kind of gives you a little bit of extra fuel."

How much of what you and tight end Heath Miller do is by design, or just being able to adjust to one another from knowing each other so well?

        "It depends. We have a chemistry. We've played together for so long. I always say he's the best teammate that I've ever been around and one of the best all-around tight ends in the game. He's making tough catches, he's catching screens. Down on the last drive, he cuts off a guy that — not a lot of tight ends would stick their nose in there — and springs off a big run. He's just so selfless about it and when things break down — whether they break down or they don't break down — you're just looking for Heath."

Do you know what started the pre-game skirmish?

        "I don't. I was looking for (Bengals quarterback Andy) Dalton to see if he wanted to go or not (laughs)."

Did you find him?

        "No. We said it would have been really funny if — because Andy and I get along — it would have been really funny if we had had something planned like were rolling around like we were fighting something planned."

Did you get to talk to Dalton after the game?

        "No. I saw him go right in ..."

The word is his thumb is fractured ...

        "That's too bad. You hate to see a fellow quarterback get hurt. I've had some thumb issues as well, so hopefully it's not too bad."

Markus Wheaton said your number one option was covered today and you had to do some more checking down. How do you resist the temptation to force something?

        "Well, they're a very good defense. They did a very good job disguising and mixing up coverage (with) safeties starting high and coming down and starting low and going back, so your first read is not always going to be there. That's when the middle and some late check-down stuff opens up, and that's where every guy needs to be ready to make a play, and I think guys did it today."

You've won eight games in a row in December now. Is that something that is pushed by your coaches or ...

        "No, that's just us. He (head coach Mike Tomlin) doesn't just sit there and say 'Hey, we gotta win now because it's December football.' We just know it's that time of year. It's crunch time and you gotta get hot at the right time."

How is the team playing as opposed to where you think your peak is?

        "I think we're doing some good stuff. This was a great team win. Offensively, we thought we could have been better. We got down there and kicked some field goals. We got some penalties and got behind the chains, but we converted third downs a lot early. We want to score touchdowns. We understand they're a top-five scoring defense, so we understand they're not going to make scoring easy. But we get disappointed when we don't put points on the board. Our defense stepped up, and I thought special teams did some good things. (It was) a good team win."

How did you guys keep your composure with some of the chippy things going on?

        "Just being smart, knowing that you don't hurt the team. We always say 'Don't hurt ourselves.' There was a lot of extracurricular stuff going on under the piles. Like I said, chippiness. That's AFC North football, I guess."



Was that as nasty of a meaningful game that you've played in while?

        "Yeah that was probably one of them. That game — it was grimy out there. That's how we like to play. Once they started yacking and all of that, we knew that's the game we like to play. We fight during practice. Once we knew the game was going to come out like that, we were just ready to go."

Take me through Stephon Tuitt's interception and how much of a game changer that was ...

        "That was a game changer because it was 7-0 and they started driving on us. When Tuitt got that interception, it was real big. That was a 10-point turnaround. They could have at least gotten three points, and we held them to zero."


Tight end

Is that as satisfying of a win as you've had this season?

        "Yeah, it feels good to win on the road against a division opponent. Hopefully there'll be more and this will be down on the list when we're done at the end of the year."



How big was this win today?

        "It was a great team win — an AFC win and an AFC North win."

Was this as nasty of a game that you've been a part of in quite some time?

        "We just want to come out and do our assignment. We wanted our game plan to be better than their game plan."



Did you send a message today with the win now that you've beaten division leaders in each of the past two weeks?

        "Yeah this team's playing really well. If we can stay healthy, and barring any more crazy injuries, I'm glad the direction we're going is up."



Do you relish playing in a game like this?

        "I love it. It was a good feeling today. Today was a good football game. Their crowd was electric. We had a plan and we just executed. It wasn't pretty. Sometimes we got threes when we could have got sixes, but that's part of the sport."

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