In his weekly conversation with Bengals.com senior writer Geoff Hobson, head coach Zac Taylor talks about the support he's received, matching the Steelers' offensive flexibility and what's next on the offensive line.
GH: What has been different about the defense since the last Pittsburgh game?
ZT: We added so many people the first couple of weeks of the season. You're talking about defensive tackles and guys who were injured and in and out. There's finally been some consistency the last five weeks. Really, since the bye. Chemistry matters. They've started to get a groove in the system, playing off each other. They're putting us in position to win. They have to create more turnovers. Some games we need to hold them to seven points to win the game. That's kind of what has happened to us the last few weeks. But there have been a lot of good things on that side of the ball.
GH: Have the linebackers improved the last three weeks or so?
ZT: I think the linebackers have improved the whole season. It starts with Josh Bynes. His play some times can't be seen on the tape. It's getting guys lined up, communicating what play is coming at them and getting guys in position to make a play. Sometimes that stuff doesn't show up on tape. He's making tackles just by communication and his leadership. You look at Germaine (Pratt) has made some plays and the young guys keep getting reps.
GH: Is Pittsburgh as much a mind game playing them on a Monday night?
ZT: I don't want to think of it that way. We just have to play better football. We have to win the turnover battle. We haven't won the turnover battle in a long time. They beat us in that the last time we played them. That's a big point of emphasis for us this week.
GH: They've changed it up on offense. Ben gets it out and goes quick to the receivers and they don't rely on the run.
ZT: I feel like I've seen that from them the last couple of years. Ben's always been in pretty good rhythm when they're in empty. They've always had a good quick game with Randy Fichtner as the coordinator. They're flexible to what they need to be in order to be successful on offense. That's what they do a good job of.
GH: It's all about responding to their flexibility?
ZT: Absolutely. It's a Hall of Fame quarterback who is in full command of the system, so you really have to be on top of your game from a communication standpoint.
GH: Is there anybody you look to talk to at this point after what has happened this year?
ZT: I rely on the people that gotten me here. My dad. He's tremendous. Sherm. And certainly there are good friends in the profession. The amount of support I get each week from people that I've counted on in my life is unthinkable. The amount of people. I'd say number one is my wife. She's the best motivator there is. It's obviously not fun to have tough Sundays. She's always there for me when I get home and she picks me up if I need it.
GH: Sherm is your father-in-law Mike Sherman, former Packers head coach Mike Sherman?
ZT: Sherm's great. I always get texts from him and we've had good phone calls over the last few weeks. He's certainly had all sorts of experiences. Great years. Tough years. Injury-riddled years. He's seen it all and having worked with him as long as I did, we speak the same language schematically and terminology wise. He watches our games.
GH: Is there a current head coach in the league you talk to?
ZT: I talk to Sean (McVay). I talked to him the other day. I talk to (Matt) LeFleur occasionally. Those are the guys I've coached with, worked with.
GH: Anybody say anything that has stuck with you in the last couple of weeks?
ZT: You get lots of texts. When the quarterback (Joe Burrow) is playing the way he was playing and a lot of people around the league who are watching our tape were saying some real positive things. But that's the way this league works, man. We have to find a way to win now. That's what is important and that's what we're looking to do.
GH: It looked like you're going to go to some younger players, seeing what a guy like running back Trayveon Williams can do.
ZT: We're not necessarily looking at younger players. It's just giving guys an opportunity to see if they can give us a spark. He got a little bit of a look. I hate the perception that Gio (Giovani Bernard) fumbled and it was because of that. It was already a pre-planned rotation and Gio's as dependable as they come. It was nothing in that regard.
GH: It seemed like the rotation was a reaction to, hey we haven't run the ball well the last two weeks.
ZT: Yeah. It's all 11 guys. We're not trying to put it all on the running backs. Everyone has to do a better job.
GH: After his fumble, both Trayveon and rookie left tackle Hakeem Adeniji went to the bench. I'm guessing both had a hand in the fumble.
ZT: Not necessarily because of that. Those were different circumstances.
GH: You've made some moves with Hakeem and Michael Jordan at left guard. Is there a line between playing young guys and then pulling them and hurting their confidence?
ZT: We take everything into consideration to put our team in the best position. This is the NFL. We're trying to put the best five out there that can help us win the game. At the same time sometimes you need to sit a guy down for a game or two just to give them a little bit of a breather. We'll keep assessing the offensive line and figure out which group we'll put out there on Monday.
GH: There's a chance that could be the eighth straight different offensive line combo. A lot of it has been because of injury and a lot of it has been because you're looking for guys, right?
ZT: Both. We've certainly had a lot of injuries that have forced us to move people around and at the same time we just need more consistent play from certain guys.
GH: The continuity of the offensive line has to be an off-season priority.
ZT: Those are questions for the offseason. Right now we're trying to be more consistent for the Steelers.
GH: I guess the question is can you be more consistent with different lines? But I guess injuries have dictated that.
ZT: It feels like we've had an injury a game in some ways.
GH: I know you really like what Quinton Spain has done for you, starting at three different offensive line spots for you. What did you think about the holding call on him that wiped out a touchdown run?
ZT: It's a tough one. The ball is past the block at that point. That's just a tough one. A big momentum change for us. It's 20-14 and you get no points on the drive and they go down and make it 23-7. That was a big play in the game.
GH: I thought Adeniji played well against the Steelers last time out against a really good rusher in Bud Dupree.
ZT: He did a great job in that first game. We just need the consistency game in and game out. It's not good enough to play well in one game and then not the next. We're spending that little extra time watching the tape, working on the technique, working on the fundamentals. Hakeem has a bright future here. He's a rookie who has been asked to do a lot for us. I'm real excited about his potential and his future. We're going to keep growing with him, but he certainly has a bright future with us.