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Wednesday transcripts


Opening comments:"I want to say thank you to the fans who came out last weekend and participated in the Toys for Tots campaign. Almost 2000 toys and almost $22,000 in cash donations were collected, which will benefit over 40,000 young people in the tri-state area and the counties involved. The Marine Corps and the Bengals thank everybody for coming out.

"On to Pittsburgh. Our keys are to be able to create some movement and run the football. They lead the National Football League in run defense and they're still very sound, so the key is to get yourself in some manageable situations so you're not facing third-and-uphill all the time and have a productive day on third down. Defensively, we need to be gap-sound, tackle the football and stay in proper leverages. We can't have explosive plays as we've been talking about, so that's key."

On WR Terrell Owens still being productive at his age:"He's been fortunate. He's taken good care of his body. He's played through injury. When he's had an injury and missed time, he's been able to come back very quickly from it. He wants to play, and I think that's a testament to what he's done stat-wise as well."

On the changes the Steelers have made since the last meeting:"Offensively, they've become a little bit more comfortable in the things they're doing, throwing the football and so forth. They've had some change on the offensive front, and that's continued to change. The young receivers have grown, and that's helped them in the passing game. They're getting great production out of the running game no matter who's in there. Those are the things that have been most helpful to them."

On the importance of special teams Sunday:"It's going to be a huge factor based on the conditions. Obviously we had a punt blocked, we fumbled a kickoff and we missed two field goals (last meeting). We have to continue to do positives, create field position in the kicking game and keep getting better in every area that way."

On the significance of Heath Miller likely not playing Sunday:"He's an experienced player in the offense. He has a knack for moving away from leverage when the quarterback is on the move and getting the big first-down catch. When it looks like you've got him (Ben Roethlisberger) trapped, he moves away and the next thing you know, he's getting the ball out to Heath Miller or Hines (Ward), so those guys do a great job of moving with the quarterback when he's on the move and extending the series."

On Roethlisberger playing through injuries:"He was hurt last week with the ankle, and he got better as the game went on. The ankle loosened up as he got more movement and so forth. It seemed to be not as much a factor. He seemed to have a slight limp early on, but you saw it (him leading a game-winning drive) later on. Obviously, he had a broken nose and had the surgery to have it corrected, but that's part of football."

On the Bengals dealing with injuries:"Carson (QB Michael Johnson) has been dealing with some injuries this year and has had to play through them. But we have to do a good job. This is a good opportunity for us. Obviously their fans will be juiced up. They've got on a little bit of a run lately. We've been over there before, and we have to play good football. Our team has to understand that we're not very far off, but we're just not making the plays to win the game, and that's what I have to get them to do."

On battling the elements at Heinz Field:"From what I understand, we may be the first game on the new field, since they re-sodded it, so it shouldn't be what it's been other times. Both teams are playing on it, and we have to go play."

On the weather for Sunday:"It's gotten worse as we get closer. The forecast has gotten worse as the days have passed on."


On if he still has strong rivalry feelings about the Steelers:"Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a great rivalry within our division. I'm sure they looked more forward to the Ravens game this year because of the way things played out. But to us, it's a Steelers-Bengals game. They've got a good record, we've got a bad record. We're going to go in there and try to spoil what they've got going right now.

On playing at Heinz Field:"It's a very difficult place to play. It's one of the few places that tries to make the playing surface difficult. It's loud, it's hard to focus and concentrate, it's always windy. Late in the year when you play there, it's always cold. You get the game reports on Wednesdays and it's always, 'Well, it could be really, really cold. It could snow. It could rain and there's probably going to be wind.' So it's just kind of like the worst of all. It's just one of those games, it's one of those environments that's difficult, especially for teams that don't go there very often or go there every four years, eight years, whatever it is. We get to go there every year and play in that environment. We're a little bit used to it. We know what to expect. We don't really get caught off guard as much as other teams do."

On if he anticipates more playing time for younger players the last four games:"I don't think much is going to change with us, really. From what I can tell, it's not like they're pulling some of the veterans out of the lineup and putting in young guys. I'm not sure exactly what's going on with the other side of the ball, but I know offensively, it's going to be the same guys that have been playing."

On the Steelers defense:"It's just a good defense with whoever they've got in there. They do such a good job drafting defensive players. It's funny that they've got LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons, who are early round picks, and they don't get in right away, and people think that maybe they're busts, and there are rumors going around about why they aren't on the field. But when they finally do get on the field, you see why they're drafted that high, and that they probably should have been drafted higher. Woodley's as good a pass rusher as we'll face, and Lawrence Timmons can run like a safety. I mean, he's all over the place making plays.

"So they just infuse new players as some players start getting older, and they seem to always hit on their draft picks defensively. Just good players all over the place. Doesn't matter who's up, who's down. There's been a while where Troy (Polamalu) hasn't been in the games, and it's still a great defense without Troy. When he's in there, they're even better. So it really doesn't matter who they have. Their scheme is so good, and they're so deep all over the place that they pose a lot of threats."

On how much he has to pay attention to James Harrison:"Every play. I know the offensive line is always tracking him, knows where he is, sees where he starts, but is worried about where he's going to finish because he's such a threat. I mean really, they just have good players at every position. There are not many defenses in the league that you can say that about."

On the key to moving the ball against the Steelers:"If you can run the ball it's great, obviously. They're a top defense, but they're No. 1 against the run. So it's very difficult to be able to run the ball. But you've got to somewhat understand them, and that's difficult to do. You've got to understand where they're getting to in fire zones, what certain guys' responsibilities are, and then understand that when you get to the game plan, you know that Coach (Dick) LeBeau is going to have a wrinkle or two, maybe do something that you haven't seen in a couple of years, maybe do something that you go into the second time playing them, and you never know what you're going to get. They may bring a pressure that they really liked against you and got home in the first game, or they may not bring it at all. They do such a good job, and Coach LeBeau does such a good job, at changing things up, giving you new looks, giving you different looks that you haven't seen, and every player on that defense understands their role in each of the different pressures that they bring."

On the play of the special teams against the Saints:"That was great. We had some games, especially last time we played against them, where we didn't do a good enough job in that area. Field position against the New Orleans Saints is huge. If you can win that battle, it gives you a chance to be in the game. But it was just great to have our kicker come in and was money on some big field goals that gave us a chance at the end of the game. Bernard Scott on the kickoff returns, and the kickoff return team giving him nice holes and good seams to hit. Just good to see those guys, and we're going to really lean on them this week."

On Terrell Owens still having something left in the tank:"I think so. I'd have never thought that there was a question if he could still play. It's obvious. Even watching his film in Buffalo, it's obvious he can still play and could still play coming into this year."

On who he would pick first on the Steelers to start a defense:"I would take Troy with my first defensive pick across the league."

After Polamalu:"That's a good question. They each bring something. (Ryan) Clark is an absolute monster when he comes up to hit people. You remember the play against (Willis) McGahee in the playoff game (2008 AFC Championship). Each guy has such a different role. But it's probably (James) Harrison. He's a former defensive MVP and extremely difficult to block in the run game, in the pass game. He can get out and cover. I think he's probably maybe one of the top three or four defensive players in the league, and they have two of the top on their team."

On when Polamalu made his most progress:"Probably going into his second year, just because he didn't play much his first year. Just trying to learn that scheme, and (they) found out where to play him. He's such a unique athlete, it's not like you just stick him at safety, because he can do so many things well. I always thought he should return punts because when he returned punted in college, people didn't tackle him. He's so unique and so gifted that I think that first year it wasn't trying to decide if he could play or not, it was trying to decide where to play him and how to play him and how to use him. So going into his second year, when he was on the field all the time, was probably when he improved the most.

On how well Polamalu has played since the Bengals faced him the last time:"The two plays he made last week in the game are game-winning plays. But he's capable of doing that any week against any opponent and all season long, every week. But he's really made some very significant plays in games at very significant points."

On Polamalu returning an INT for a TD against Palmer and the Bengals in 2004:"He's played so well against us in so many other areas of the game -- getting the defense aligned in certain calls, and in the run game he's been all over the place against us. And he's gotten some good moves on some pass rushing. So his impact isn't solely interceptions. He's made some obviously great interceptions and great plays on the ball, but he can impact a game in a lot of other ways too."

Regarding Palmer's Heisman Trophy vote for Cam Newton and on whether Palmer has any reservations about that due to off-field issues regarding Newton:"No. It was right about the time he was cleared by the NCAA, and being a USC guy and seeing how thorough they can be and how meticulous they can be with the whole Reggie Bush situation, as strict as they were in that case, I'm sure they handled it and attacked it the same way they did Reggie Bush. As long as they cleared him, he's not guilty. That's the way I looked at it."


On how he feels now that he's 37:
"I guess a day older. It doesn't feel any different to me. That's inevitable; you are going to get older at some point in time. I had a good time yesterday. I didn't really do much -- didn't leave the house, really. So, I had a good time at the bowling event, a lot of my teammates came out and supported me. I had friends and family in town, so it was a good time."

On many teammates showing up at his charity event:
"That's part of what we do as a team. I think we kind of support each other throughout the course of the season. A lot of guys have foundations and functions during the course of the year, and we all try to get out and support one another."

On if there were any good bowlers:
"Morgan (Trent) did pretty well, and Roy (Williams)." 

On how he did:
"I did all right. I am starting to get back into it."

On if he has his own ball and shoes:
"I haven't bowled in a while. I had to go to a pro shop early in the week to get my ball refitted because I tore a tendon in this finger three years ago. It doesn't really fit the same, so I had to go in and get it redone. After that, it felt pretty good."

On if he would consider bowling as a second career:"No. I was fortunate when I was in San Francisco to meet Norm Duke. He was the first professional bowler that I met, and he introduced me to bowling and gave me some tips. Ever since then, I have kind of been interested. After that, I was close to bowling a few perfect games. I bowled a 288 a few times. That's as close as I've gotten."

On how much longer he'd like to play football:
"Probably like two, at least two or three more years. It just depends on if the body holds up and if I feel up to it every week and every year. The thing that is getting me through now is I still love the competition. It's not about proving everybody wrong. Earlier in the year, it was being mentioned that I was trying to prove critics wrong. It's just that they were inaccurate in their assessment of my abilities and my play, considering the situation that I was in last year."

On if what he's done this year has changed the perception of his abilities:"You guys are smart enough to assess that as well. I know what I can do. It's not a surprise to me what I am doing on the football field. From the outside looking in, you guys can assess that for yourselves. I am always going to be confident in my ability, no matter what. Again, what I have done this year is not surprising. Honestly, whatever my stats are now, they could have been better." 

On preparing for the Steelers:
"You go back and see some of the things you did well the last time you played them, and you obviously assess the games they've played since we played them. They have made some adjustments defensively since we played them. With each team, they are going to game-plan, and we are going to game plan accordingly. We just have to go out there and try to play penalty-free and eliminate a lot of the turnovers and things that have been hindering us throughout the course of the season. It's not like we can't play. It's not like we are not a good team. We have been in every ballgame we played. Again, it's the penalties and turnovers that have obviously killed us."

On whether the adjustments from last meeting are about personnel or scheme:
"Little bit of both. More or less scheme. Those guys defensively, they are good against the run. I think they are in the latter part of the stats when it comes to their defense against the pass. That's their style and their nature of defense. They are going to be stingy against the run and that is what has been keeping them in ballgames – their defense."

On what allowed him to have success (10 catches, 141 yards and two touchdowns) last time against the Steelers:
"For myself, just the way I prepare. I know anytime that I have played against the Steelers, whether here or elsewhere, I know how good they can be defensively. They are going to be stingy, and you have to be on point and have attention to detail. That's how I prepare. Sometimes people don't really get me. Sometimes they probably don't understand. Sometimes I probably don't look like I'm interested, but I am always paying attention no matter what. I will even go home and flip through my game plan, the game book and with the many times I have with the receiver coach when we are watching film. I pay attention to the schemes. I look to where they try to bring pressure from. Certain things I pay attention to, some I don't. It's different for each person. It's one of those games where I always try to rise to the occasion, because against a good opponent is when you have to try to play your best."

On why the Steelers are more susceptible to the pass:"I think their ranking is where they fare against the run, and the pass kind of speaks for itself, without me even saying anything."

On if any particular record he's approaching catches his eye:
"Not really. It's funny for me, because it seems like every week we play I am reaching some kind of milestone and I am not really even aware of it until after the game. I will get some tweets or a text message or e-mail congratulating me and I am like, 'For what?' They will be quick to point out what I have done. For myself, I think I have accomplished a lot with my career except for winning a Super Bowl. I was fortunate to play in one, just came up three points short or four points shy of winning it.  "The touchdowns that I have seem a little bit out of reach -- Jerry (Rice) has 197. For myself, I know that the stats I have now could be better under other circumstances, so I could be closer to Jerry in that sense. But I just go out there and play, and whatever happens, happens. I don't really go out there to try to reach a milestone. It's just the things I've been able to do, the way I have been able to take care of my body. Throughout my career these things are accumulating."

STEELERS HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN (with the Cincinnati media)

On the progress of Heath Miller:"We'll see as the week progresses. Of course, he has to pass a series of post-concussion tests and so forth and let that process run its course."

On the progress of Flozell Adams:"He's going to be limited in the early part of the week, and we'll see where that takes us. We haven't practiced yet today, so I don't have a bunch of information for you guys as far as participation. We're going to practice as soon as I'm done with you guys."

On Ben Roethlisberger's health for this week:"It shouldn't be an issue."

On Roethlisberger's performance Sunday with a broken nose and hobbled foot:"We've come to expect that from him, and more so, he expects it from himself. We don't make a big deal out of it. It doesn't go unappreciated, but it is what it is. It's December football, and that kind of contribution is going to be required for us to push forward."

On his impression of Terrell Owens' season at age 37:"I'm impressed at what he's been able to do, age not being a factor. He's having an enormous year. He's a big-time player. He doesn't need an endorsement from me. His career bears that out, but we have a lot of special, veteran wideouts in this division. You can look at our guy in Hines (Ward), the guy in Baltimore, (Derrick) Mason. We have a unique wide receiver position group in this division."

On how the Steelers are going to game plan for Owens:"I'm not going to give you guys our plan. We're going to try to minimize what he does like we do everyone else. It's not our business to beat T.O. It's our business to do what's required to win the game."

On the Steelers' resiliency:"I think these guys legitimately embrace the concept that everybody in the helmet is a potential playmaker. Everybody is being capable for why we win. More importantly, they have to be. We don't discount the contributions that come from anywhere – young or old, seasoned or naïve, it doesn't matter. The guys that are distributed helmets on game day have a job to do, and that's to deliver plays in a timely manner. It's encouraging to see it, but it's not something that I believe these guys think, it's something they believe."

On the decision to sign Jeremy Kapinos after the season-ending injury to P Daniel Sepulveda:"He met the criteria we were looking for. He's an NFL veteran; he knows what it's like to kick in the NFL. He's kicked this year in the NFL. He was employed by Indy a couple weeks ago. He knows the elements, from Penn State and Green Bay. No question, the elements are going to be a factor pushing forward. We feel fortunate that a guy like him was available."

On the rollercoaster ride of a special teams coach:"It comes with the job, it really does. It's what makes the special teams element unique. They are moving parts, they are interchangeable, but our issues are no different than anyone else issues in that regard, so it makes it a level playing field."

On James Harrison:"In regards to our reaction of our penalties imposed by the league, I would rather keep that in-house. We've been very good as far as our communication with the league and getting feedback. In order to find resolution and clarity in this, I think it's best to keep the discussions in-house. As far as what we're doing defensively, we're trying to do the best job that we can as far as playing our brand of football as hard as we can and as fairly as we can within the rules as prescribed by the National Football League."

On no penalty flags being thrown on the plays where Roethlisberger and Miller were injured:"Nothing surprises me."

LB JAMES HARRISON (with the Cincinnati media)

On how all the penalties and fines against him this year have affected his play:"It really hasn't affected my play too much. Like I've said, the fines are just fines. I don't feel that most of them are just cause, so it's not going to change too much of what I do. The fact that they say they fined me for my helmet touching the quarterback, I don't see how you tackle someone and your helmet not touch them."

On the advice coaches and players have given him about the situation:"Not much really. My coaches have said to just keep playing. Things happen during a game and so be it. I'm not out there trying to hit out of the rules or trying to get fined. It's just circumstances that happen, and I'm getting fined."

On playing for (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau:"It's a great honor to play for Coach LeBeau. He treats all of us the same, whether you're a first-year guy or you're a 12, 13-year guy. I think that's why everyone respects him so much, because he respects every player no matter what role you play in the defense or no matter how important you are to the defense. You want to go out there and perform as best as you can for him. In the position that I am in, the defense is built for linebackers to make plays and be the guys that are out there making plays. I give all the credit to him. I'm just an average guy that is in a position to make plays. It's the LeBeau defense. It's made for the linebackers to have a lot of success and that's what is happening right now."

On how he approaches this game:"This game is just as important to us as the game last week. Without the win last week, we're not in the position that we are right now, and if we don't go out and play this game to the top of our abilities and play it the way we've been playing the past two weeks and play gap-sound and stick to our responsibility, then the win that we had is for naught if we lose this game."

On what he remembers most about the last game against the Bengals:"I just remember at the end they were driving and driving in the fourth quarter and we couldn't do anything right. Guys were really pressing and I think it just got to the point where on the last drive, we said, 'Everybody just calm down, play the defense that is called, nobody cowboy the defense and do whatever you want to do or do whatever you feel you might have a hunch on. Just play the defense that is called, and everything will work out,' and it did."

On the final Bengals play of last meeting (an incompletion intended for Jordan Shipley across the middle):"What that play came down to was roaming the middle, and I had a choice to either blitz or drop, and I decided to drop on that one. I was just basically roaming the middle looking for anything that's coming into my zone."

On what being at the top of fan voting for AFC linebackers means to him:"It's a tremendous honor, because obviously the fans feel that I've been playing to a level that is worthy of being voted No. 1. I'm greatly appreciative of that."

On if there's a specific part of his game that he takes pride in:"I think the thing that we take pride in as a defense as whole is our run game. We don't want anyone running on us. I sleep better at night if someone scores a passing touchdown against us or they pass for so many yards, versus a guy who comes in and runs the ball all over you and gains 100 yards or whatever it might be, because then they're just manhandling you and pushing you around. They're pushing around your d-line, they're pushing around your linebackers and they're manhandling you. They're running the ball. You can have a so-so line and throw the ball every down and things will look good, but that's nothing but a basketball game to me. The passing game is going to come and go depending on what defenses you call and if the quarterback is good enough and if he can read the defense well enough. There is always a weak spot in any defense no matter what the defense is, so if he can throw it there then you can put that on the defense, but when it comes to the run game it's man to man. It's about me beating him and him beating me for them to be able to run the ball."

On Bengals T Andrew Whitworth:"I think he'll be all right. He did a good job last year and he did a good job in the last game."

On Carson Palmer:"He's making good decisions, but he's not playing as well as he did last year. I think for that team to run as efficient as it needs to, he has to be at the top of his game. I think right now he's having a year where he's struggling a little, and it's showing in the record."

On if there's anything he sees on film where Palmer might be indecisive:"No, not necessarily that. You just look at the numbers. When it comes down to it, especially for quarterbacks, it's about numbers and his numbers this year aren't what they were last year."

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