What Taylor And Finley Said About The Steelers, A.J. Green's Ankle and The Pass Rush

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley during a news conference.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ryan Finley during a news conference.

ZAC TAYLOR

Head coach

Initial comments:

"It's a big week for us – Pittsburgh week. These are big games for us – these divisional games. I understand the rivalries that people feel here and in years past, so we're excited to play the Steelers. We have a lot of regrets from the first time we played them. We let it get away from us early in the game. Our guys are fired up and ready to get back at it in front of our home crowd. They have a good team. They've done a really good job on defense. They're really physical. They have about 10 or 11 first-round picks over there, and they're two-deep. They're creating a lot of turnovers and really affecting quarterbacks. They're doing a nice job. They're battling through some injuries on offense, and we'll see how that plays out. The quarterback (Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph) is getting more experience. You see some good things from him. You can see the growth there that I'm sure they're hoping to get. That'll be a tough challenge for us on both sides of the ball. And then special teams, our special teams continue to play well. They've been playing well really all season. Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) and Brayden (assistant special teams coach Brayden Coombs) have done a great job with those guys. I'm excited for this next test, and I know that our guys are going to be fired up and ready to go."

The first time you played Pittsburgh, what was your biggest takeaway, with regard to neutralizing its pass rush?

"You look at the miscommunication on the first sack when we ran a play-action. We had a miscommunication on who we were targeting and we just gave up a free runner, which is unacceptable. We had a sack in the red zone where we got off on the cadence. We check out of a play and got off on the cadence and put ourselves in a tough spot there. You need to learn from those things. As the game went, I think we were down 24-3, 27-3, we were throwing the ball a lot and they were just teeing off. They have a hell of a pass rush. They can get it with their front four, they can pressure you, but those guys are really doing a nice job up front. If you end up dropping back (to pass) like we did, it turned into a bit of a horror show there. We need to learn from that."

Will WR A.J. Green practice this week?

"He won't practice today. We'll take it day-to-day, but he won't practice today."

How is Green's ankle?

"He's still working through it and making sure it feels right. He's running routes and all of that stuff. He gets good work with the trainers and reports back to us, but today he won't practice with us."

Is it hard to see Green playing on Sunday?

"Not impossible, but it is difficult with any player, especially a player that hasn't played in a long time. You want to make sure they get the reps and get a feel for the game plan. We'll take it day-to-day with him."

Is this team aware that no previous Cincinnati team has gone 0-11 to begin the year?

"I couldn't tell you that. That's not something we talk about as a team. We're just focused on doing our best to beat Pittsburgh."

What is the plan with OT Cordy Glenn?

"He'll start getting work today at left tackle. He's healthy. He's gotten two weeks of work now where he's gotten integrated back into practice. We'll starting working him in there at left tackle."

Are you hopeful that he will start at LOT this week?

"Yeah, there's a chance of that."

What's it like to have Glenn in position to start on the offensive line?

"We went into training camp and he was our starting left tackle. We expected to have a productive season from him. Obviously with the concussion issue, he's now getting back to where he's full-speed and has a chance to help us. We signed John Jerry and Andre (OT Andre Smith) in the offseason expecting to give us some depth. Those guys have fought their tails off at left tackle this year. I don't think either one of them signed thinking they would start the first 10 games of the season at left tackle, but that's what happened. It's not always perfect, but I have a lot of respect for the approach they've taken as two veteran guys to try to help the young linemen and do whatever they can to help this team win. Now we'll see what Cordy can do over there."

Have you sensed any remorse or frustration from Glenn, pertaining to his recent absence?

"We've had good conversations. Everybody is on the same page. We're excited to see what he can provide for us this week."

Is QB Ryan Finley's starting status in question moving forward?

"With every player, we look at it week-to-week. I know everybody wants to know if it's one game or six games (that Finley will start), but I don't think it's fair to any player on our roster to make those kinds of predictions, because I continue to see growth from him. I know everyone wants to nitpick his last performance, but I continue to see growth from him, and everyone around him needs to step up and do a better job as well. A lot of things get pointed at the quarterback. We, kind of, said the same things about Andy (QB Andy Dalton) as the season was going. Everyone else has to do their job as well. They need to catch the balls that are thrown to them, get open, and protect up front. It makes life easier on the quarterback. I'm excited to see what he can do this week against Pittsburgh."

Is Finley playing to keep his job on Sunday?

"I think every player every week is playing to keep (his) job. I wouldn't just say one player is doing that. We want to see progress from all of our players ... We always evaluate them. That's not specific to quarterback, that's every position we have on the roster."

How much of Glenn's return is the fact that he's ready, compared to the need to have a consistent offensive line in order to evaluate Finley?

"He's ready. That's a big part of it. He's finally gotten a couple weeks where he can get his conditioning back, because he was so limited when he was out. He's gotten plenty of reps in one-on-ones over the last two weeks. He's gotten a lot of reps to where we feel comfortable with where he's at."

Where does QB Jake Dolegala fit into your quarterback plans?

"Ryan is our quarterback right now. I think it's unfair to speculate on any backup quarterback right now. I have full confidence in Ryan. I know there's a lot of questions about it, but my confidence is not wavering."

Is there a tendency to put a lot of pressure on yourself as a quarterback when the team isn't winning?

"I think you certainly put a lot of pressure on yourself with every call as a player, and as a coach. When every game is a one-score game, you're putting yourself under the pressure to make that play. You can overthink it a bit. You just need to do your best to go out there and relax and do the things that you've been training to do for the last nine months. The plays will come to you, and when they do, make the play, (then) we score points, we have fun, and we celebrate in the locker room. Those are all the things that we're just trying to instill in our guys and get them to feel in practice and in games."

Do you need to keep young players in the correct frame of mind, given that many of them have never lost this many games before?

"I think there are many things you need to manage in a difficult season. We've talked about handling adversity since April, in our first team meeting. In these seasons, you don't know what it is. You don't know what's coming your way. We've faced as much of it as anybody has this year. Don't deviate from who you are. You need to keep improving as your own person. Every player and every coach needs to keep raising their own standard to make sure they're working to the highest level they can. Player by player, we get them playing a little bit better and doing things a little bit differently. We talk about it in meetings and in practice — if every player can just get a little more improvement, wins are going to come. We're trying to build a foundation for championships to come. We were hoping we would win more games sooner, obviously. We just haven't. We're also building for success in the rest of this season, and success in the future. There's a lot of things we keep learning, and I see guys improving, (and that is) very encouraging. Eventually it's going to show up in the win column, and they're all going to snowball from there. We're going to experience the success that we all envision ourselves having."

Is Glenn excited to potentially play on Sunday?

"He's excited. He'll be able to help us on the offensive line. When you get you're starting tackle back, that's a big boost. I'm excited to see what he can do for us."

What is your assessment of KOR/S Brandon Wilson?

"Brandon is making good progress. He has provided a spark. Not to take away credit from Brandon, because Brandon has done a heck of a job, but those return units in general, those guys are detailed. Darrin (special teams coach Darrin Simmons) has been very specific and detailed with his expectations for them, and they've executed it. They've given him some great opportunities, and he's capitalized on them. Credit goes to Brandon, no question. Credit also goes to everybody on that team, and to Darrin Simmons and Brayden (assistant special teams coach). They've done an excellent job putting those guys in position and keeping a high standard with all of those players."

Is it good to see the energy boost from the team before Wilson returns a kick?

"There's no question. Alex (WR Alex Erickson) has had his good fair share of returns too, in the preseason and in the regular season. Darius Phillips as well in the preseason. We have some guys that have done a great job. Not only does it speak to the talent of those guys, but it speaks to the job that the coaches are doing and the players are doing, executing to give those guys those opportunities."

Have you discussed letting Wilson return punts as well?

"It's a little bit different. Punts are a little bit different. Alex has done a really good job for us. Right now, that's where we'll stay."

What have you seen from Wilson that brought about his increased playing time?

"He does a good job. He has great speed and he can cover guys. In some of our three-safety packages, he's in there covering receivers. He continues to make improvements there."

How would you summarize Pittsburgh's defense?

"Fast, physical, aggressive. They play with a lot of confidence. They do a good job communicating. It starts with the front. It starts with those guys up front. They do a great job of winning their one-on-ones. You look at every unit behind them. It's a bunch of first-round draft picks that really play like first-round draft picks, to be quite honest with you. You look at every single area of their defense and they do a really good job. They create turnovers and capitalize on those turnovers. You look at some of the close games that they've played ... the Rams game, for example, it's 17-12 because they get that fumble return for a touchdown at the end of the half that really breaks that game open for them. They do a really good job capitalizing on the turnovers that they've created. They get sacks to stop drives and to put you in third-and-long situations. It happened to us, and it happened to some of the other teams that they've played. They've done an excellent job over there."

What has led to the increased production from the running game in recent weeks?

"There has been some consistency up front. Those guys are starting to get a good feel for each other. The backs are getting a good grasp on what we're asking them to do as well. It was not showing up in the stat column in the first few weeks of the season, but you would watch the game and just think, 'Man, we are just an inch away from this thing breaking, getting a good gain and being a solid rushing performance.' Over the last three weeks, we've been sixth in the league in rushing because those guys have started to make progress every single week. Those are the things we just need to continue to build on. We need to keep that consistency in the run game and we need to build off of it in the pass game as well. There are a lot of areas that need to improve for us. Sometimes they don't all come at once, so we just need to take one and keep the consistency up, and now we need to improve in this other area as well. Those are the things we need to continue to do over the next six weeks."

There's an old saying that says, 'It's never as good as you think it is, and it's never as bad as you think it is.' Does that hold true with Finley performance over the past two games?

"Yes."

What is Finley doing best?

"First of all, you start with his approach and his confidence in himself. That's the starting point you need to have for any young quarterback. He puts in the work and understands what we're asking of him. When he's out there, he's playing confident. There are some plays where we need to make some plays for him, where the game goes a little bit differently. We miss some explosive plays that were there that he did a good job putting us in position to make. It's not perfect. There are plays he wants to have back, but I don't think it's quite what people want to make of it. I just watched (the tape) again an hour ago. It's a real shame. That's the nature of that position. It's the toughest in all of sports. You're going to get the credit when things go great and you're going to get the criticism when things go bad. He's played two games. He really didn't practice the first six weeks of the season. He's had two weeks of practice. We're playing him because we see some traits in him that are special, quite frankly, so he's going to continue to get opportunities. I only expect him to get better and better and to learn from this stuff. He has a really bright future."

What are Finley's special traits?

"His confidence. His leadership. His ability to prepare for the games. He can throw on-time. He could miss a rep, and then do a significantly better job on the next rep. He learns quickly from his mistakes. He has a knack for moving in the pocket and creating plays that aren't always there. You look at the scrambles, and he's had a few scrambles where he's thrown incompletions, but people need to get open. They need to adhere to our scramble rules and get themselves open. When he's moved, he's done a good job trying to buy time to give people an opportunity or run. That's an improvement we need to make across the board with all of our guys. When he does move and escape, we need to do a much better job getting in phase and giving guys opportunities to make plays."

Would you like to see Finley play faster?

"I wouldn't say that's the issue for the sacks. One of them was a (naked bootleg). That was my fault. There's no one responsible for that guy except for me. I wouldn't say that. With any young quarterback, they're going to play faster with the more games that they play in. There's only so much you can simulate in practice. You're looking for him to play faster in every single performance, let's get in a little better of a rhythm. I would imagine with all of these Hall of Famers, you look at their first three games and you'd say, 'He needs to play faster.' It's going to get there. That's why you don't give guys like that a quick hook. If you see the traits and you believe in him, you give him an opportunity and show him the reason why you think he can play for you."

How much confidence does it take to make decisive decisions as a quarterback, especially as it pertains to throwing 50-50 balls?

"Sure. You don't always get the opportunity to see a guy get open. You just have to trust the leverage that you know he has early in the play. I'm not speaking to anything specific that happened, it's just quarterbacking in general. You just need to know, 'OK, this is the coverage I anticipated. I need to trust that my guy is going to break leverage and get open, or that spot is going to be there. That's part of playing fast and anticipating. That's why there are so few guys that can do it. It's not an easy job. We just need to continue to improve with every week."

RYAN FINLEY

Quarterback

How would you evaluate your performance after watching the tape?

"There's a lot to work on. I can improve on a lot, and I intend on making that the case this week."

What was the biggest thing you struggled with against Oakland?

"I just need to get completions. We ran the ball really well, and we struggled to get some big plays downfield. We need to find a way to make plays and manufacture some shots, and get some explosive plays. That's the goal this week. Our run game is really getting going, which is awesome to see. We're going to keep giving Joe (HB Joe Mixon) and Gio (HB Giovani Bernard) the rock. We need to hit some shots."

How do you remain confident in your ability to fit passes into tight windows?

"Our guys are going to win. I need to give them a shot to make the play. If T.B. (WR Tyler Boyd) is on anybody, I've got to give him a shot to make a play, period. We have guys that are going to win. The throws are bang-bang in the NFL and I need to give those guys a shot in tight windows. That's the plan this week."

How much of your struggles can be attributed to a lack of chemistry with receivers?

"That's some of it. We have a great group of guys, and our plan is to have a great week of practice and to go out there and execute in practice. That will lead into the game. I'm excited for another opportunity to go out there and play. Each week is a new week to go out there and reinvent yourself and show what you can do. That's what we have this week."

Were you more comfortable playing against Oakland, given that it was your second game?

"Yeah. Absolutely."

Was Oakland doing something to limit Boyd's production?

"They did some good stuff on defense. We need to give him chances to make plays. He's a playmaker that we need to get the ball to. That's definitely an emphasis this week."

What did you learn about Pittsburgh when watching film from the first matchup with them this season?

"Running the ball is going to help us. Executing what we do (is important). I'm not focused on anything specific. Playing with urgency, playing with great detail, and getting after them and taking the fight to them. We have to be aggressive on these guys. That's what we're building this plan for."

When you have a playmaker at wide receiver, how much easier does that make your job as a quarterback?

"We have a lot of talent on this team. There's no shortage of that. It's about me doing my job and the other 10 guys doing their job, and we're going to get this thing rolling."

Specifically, what are the advantages of having a wide receiver that can create separation?

"It makes it a lot easier. Watch tape on T.B."

Do you feel like you're playing for a chance to keep the starting quarterback job?

"No. To me, that's noise. I need to go out and help this team get its first win. That's what I plan on doing."

Has the coaching staff indicated how long they plan to keep you in the starting quarterback role?

"No. The emphasis is this week. The emphasis next week will be that week. One game at a time – we're trying to go 1-0 this week."

Do you feel more motivation in rivalry games, such as this week's with the Steelers?

"No. It's another game. It's a divisional game. All games are important. We need to go out there and show what we can do. It's a new week to reinvent ourselves."

What makes Pittsburgh's defense so good?

"They're playing well right now. They rush the passer well. They are simplified on defense, which allows them to play fast. For us, we need to watch a lot of film and be dialed in on where we think the pressure is coming from. We need to have our answers in the run game and in the pass game. We just need to execute."

Is Pittsburgh's defense controlled chaos?

"Yes."

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