MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
ML: "As you look at Pittsburgh, they're so effective with the quarterback – he's such a good player. He makes so many plays on his own. They've got great skill guys. They spread the ball around very well. The tight end, Heath Miller, leads them in receptions, but you've got (Mike) Wallace, you've got (Antonio) Brown, you've got (Emmanuel) Sanders. All of those guys are making big catches. The backs are hard-running guys. So it's a great challenge. We didn't play very well against them the first game against them, particularly in the second half defensively. We've got to do a much sounder, better job in this football game.
"With their defense, we know that they haven't had the explosive kind of year that they're used to up-front rushing the quarterback. But we know these guys individually can get after the quarterback, so we have to do a great job in protection. We have to do a great job in the running game. It's going to be quite a challenge again. Both front groups have to play very, very well.
"Special teams-wise, they've got two guys that return – (Chris) Rainey and (Antonio) Brown – that are effective returners, very good returners. We have to do a very good job in coverage, with separation and tackling, then create some movement and momentum on our side in that way. So all three phases will be a challenge."
Everything you needed to happen over the weekend fell your way, and now you have a win-and-in scenario for this weekend:
ML: "We've been on this march for a while. We just have to keep taking care of our own business. That's what it is. It's the next step along the way. We've got to go play good football."
That seemed to be your message back when you were 3-5, and now things have unfolded just about how you had planned:
ML: "It usually plays that way; it's not hard to figure out. You take care of your own business. There was a lot of time left and a lot of football to be played. We would have to play good football to get back in this position, and at the end of the year we were going to play good teams that we would be competing with to get to the playoffs. And that's how it's played out."
Where do you stand injury-wise?
ML: "I think we'll be as healthy – knock on wood again, here we go (laughs), somebody could get hurt today. But I think we'll be at full strength."
You signed FB John Conner last week. Is the adjustment just a matter of him learning new language?
ML: "It's been good to have the extra time that he has had. We'll go through the week and see how things are. We've got some flexibility at the spot, with some tight ends that have been in the system, then with John being new here. But it is almost a turn-key operation. It's his second opportunity to play against Pittsburgh (this season). He's done it once, and we cut those plays out to show everyone John playing against them."
Is he more valuable because of his ability to play on special teams and kick coverage?
ML: "He's had some experience in his rookie season – none last year. His first year, I think he had five tackles (actually eight) on special teams. But again, we were in good position to acquire a player that can help us moving forward."
Ben Roethlisberger is known for having a great pump-fake. Is that something you have to watch out for?
ML: "Yeah. You really have to plaster to your guy. He'll pump-fake the guys rushing against him and they stop their feet, or he'll try to freeze the downfield coverage. If you're a deep and vertical player, you have to stay deep and vertical. If you're an underneath player and you need to plaster a guy, then you plaster a guy, and if not, then you come get the quarterback. Rushers have to be effective and stay within our lanes. We have to understand the lanes and the commitment to playing together – 11 guys on defense together."
You played against Dallas QB Tony Romo a few weeks ago. How similar/different is he to Ben Roethlisberger?
ML: "They're similar. I think Ben is probably a little stronger. With Ben, it's almost like it energizes him. He's made so many plays throughout, then he's running down the field, looking over his shoulder and seeing the guy running behind him. He's used to doing it, and he's got great experience doing it."
So he feeds off of those improvisational plays?
ML: "Yeah, they make plays. On the touchdown to Heath Miller in the last game, he scrambles around, Heath Miller is running an option (route). The linebacker is over him, then 93 (Cowboys LB Anthony Spencer) comes out of coverage. Next thing you know, he pumps this way, moves that way, and now he's moved all the way away from the leverage and running down the boundary by himself."
Is the biggest lesson just to stay on your guy?
ML: "When you've got a guy, stay on your guy. Some of our defensive players have played against him for a while – Robert Geathers. So we understand that part. It's a big part of the game."
You guys are 10-5 on the road over the last two years. Is that because of a little bit of a street fighter's mentality from your leaders, namely your Andy Dalton?
ML: "You guys keep track of all of that stuff a lot more than I do. We just play the next game. I think Andy's personality is what it is, and it's helpful no matter where he's playing."
Does it also help that a good defense and a solid running game generally travels well?
ML: "It's an important part. It's an important part, I think, of this division. We've played the NFC East this year, and it's a big part of that division. Not giving up big plays is the third part of that, then third down. Turnovers and winning on third down. Put all those things together, and you're going to feel pretty good every Sunday. If you win those areas, chances are you have a great opportunity to win the football game."
Where was 13-year-old Marvin Lewis when the Immaculate Reception happened?
ML: "I was at Carlynton High School at a wrestling tournament."
You didn't see it live?
ML: "I didn't see it live. It was Bill Cowher's high school, actually. I don't think I was wrestling; I think it was a varsity match. I think we were just there. I was junior high, JV, whatever I was at the time (laughs). But I was at a wrestling tournament."
Did you hear about it during or right after the meet?
ML: "Yeah, I think we heard that the Steelers beat the Raiders. I don't know. Back then, you probably had to go to somebody's house to see it on television – back when we were from (laughs). There wasn't a TV out in the lounge or anything (laughs). But I do remember that day, though."
ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
Pittsburgh's defense is No. 1 against the pass. What have you seen from them?
AD: "They've done a good job of rushing the passer, first of all, and getting guys around the quarterback. And then with their scheme, they've done a good job of trying to confuse guys, trying to show one thing and do different things. So they've been good for a while. That's why they're No. 1."
In the game here vs. Pittsburgh on Oct. 21, the offense started out fast, then was held in check. Was that just a matter of the Steelers adjusting?
AD: "It just comes down to us not executing. I don't think it was as much what they were doing as much as it was what we weren't doing. That's what we've got to do. Yeah, we did start fast last time and we've got to keep that going – whatever it takes to keep putting drives together. If we do that, good things will happen."
You had a good stretch in November without an INT, but now you've had a few turnovers the last couple weeks. Are defenses doing anything different lately?
AD: "No, I've just got to make more plays. I've had chances, and I haven't hit them. I expect to play better myself, and I'm going to play better. I don't think it's so much what everybody else is doing, but something that we can just be better as a whole. We know that, we've watched everything. Like I said, we're going to be better."
You want to make sure you don't turn the ball over, but you want to take some chances and make plays. How do you walk that fine line?
AD: "You've got to know when you can take your chances and when not to. And when you get your chances, you've got to hit them. And so it just comes with playing. I understand what I can do, I understand what our guys can do. We've just got to come out and play our best."
A lot of your game is anticipation. You've had a few No. 2 receivers this season. Has it been a struggle to get the timing down with them?
AD: "It hasn't been a difficult thing. I feel like our guys do a good job trying to be in the right place. Obviously we'd like to have consistent guys out there, but I think we've done a good job and our guys have done a good job of trying to do the right things. It's what we practice for, it's why we go out and work on timing and that kind of stuff. The more we play, the better it will be."
This team has talked about needing to beat Pittsburgh and Baltimore to get to their level. Do you see these next two games as the perfect chance to do that?
AD: "Yeah, we've got everything in front of us. We've put ourselves in a good position to control everything. So these last two games are two big games for us. We've got to come out and show what kind of team we are, and there's not better opponents to do it against than the Steelers and the Ravens."
Do you look at Sunday as a playoff game?
AD: "Basically it is. We feel like we've got to come out and we've got to win. There's really not much else to say except that we've got to come play our best and we've got to do whatever it takes to win the game, and that's the attitude we have going into it."
You're 10-5 on the road over your two years here. You seem not to get fazed, and it seems that it brings out the best in you. Is that the case?
AD: "I don't know what it is. You've got to take games on the road. That's the mindset. You've got to do whatever it takes, and we've done a good job of that. So we've got to do that next week, then we've got to come and take that same mindset when we play at home the next week."
You've scored TDs on opening drives in four of last five weeks. Why?
AD: "We've made an emphasis on starting fast, and we've been able to do that. We've come out and put really good drives together on those first drives. Now it's about coming out and being consistent with it and doing it not only on the first drive, but maybe the first drive of the second half too, and the second drive of the second half – just all throughout the game. That's maybe where we've lacked a little bit. But I think it's just us wanting to come out and start fast, and we've done a good job."
Is it more important to do that on the road?
AD: "I think so. It sets the tone for the game and silences the crowd a little bit, kind of takes them out of it. You've got to do whatever you can to give yourself an advantage. If you can start fast, it definitely helps."
With the Steelers being banged up in the secondary, they are playing a lot of new guys. Is it more difficult to gameplan for those guys?
AD: "They might do some different things because they've got new guys in there, but for the most part, you've got to prepare for everything they do. They do have a lot of stuff with their blitzes and moving around and things like that, and we don't expect anything like that to change. You just prepare as if the normal guys are going to play."
Since Marvin Lewis made his call for leadership, the team has played better. Do you think your teammates have rallied around you? Have you gotten more confidence in yourself?
AD: "I wouldn't say I've gotten more confidence. I think the team has responded well to everything since then because we had to respond. If we wanted to get to where we're at right now, we had to change some things. So we've played a lot better since then because we had to play a lot better. I think that's been the biggest thing."
What has changed?
AD: "I wouldn't say there's a huge change in the personalities of the guys. I wouldn't say there's a huge change in anything. It's just that we're executing better. We've played better as a team, as a whole, in all phases of the game. And it's been good to see. It's what we've needed."
Would you say this is a different team now than the first time you played them?
AD: "It's not a different team because it's all the same guys. We're playing a lot better than we did then. We've got to keep that going."
When you look at the film, Dick LeBeau doesn't really change much in his scheme:
AD: "No. You see all the stuff that he does. There's a lot of team-specific stuff. Depending on what team you watch, you get certain things. Like I was saying before, you've got to prepare for all of it.