Jarvis Landry – January 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wide Receiver Jarvis Landry

(There is more disrespect from the national media. A lot of the national guys don’t think you guys are going to win. Have you seen any of that?) – “That’s fine. That’s fine. It’s perfect. We don’t need (any) more motivation. We’ll take it, but we already know where we want to be and we know where the end goal is, so the only people that care about and know what it takes to get there are in this building and that’s all we care about.”

(What are some things that happened in the first Pittsburgh meeting that you would like to see replicate itself on Sunday?) – “Just continue to manage the game, play hard, make plays and score touchdowns. Points are going to matter the most.”

Darren Rizzi – January 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi

(At what point does the football become a rock when it’s 9 degrees outside, and does that really have an effect on the kicker?) – “We talked about the ‘K’ balls before. They’re hard to begin with, so those balls, they definitely become hard in the colder weather. There’s only so much you can do in this kind of weather to practice. We actually put balls in the freezer, believe it or not, and try to do some of those things. But you bring them out here and five minutes later they’ve thawed out. So, there’s really not much you can do in this weather. We actually had our K ball bag in the freezer yesterday, and we’ll do that today, and try to simulate as much as we can. But I think the pregames are really important for specialists in these cold weather games. They have to get out there real early and get as much operation time as possible. Even if you’re not kicking the ball, just handling the ball – obviously John Denney and the holder, Matt (Darr). All that is going to be really, really important any time you go into the cold weather and to the northeast this time of year.”

(Does that field have a reputation for being tough on kickers even in good weather? I’ve read things in the past that there’s something about Heinz Field that makes it more challenging.) – “That open end has been … If you look at percentages – this kind of stuff we do in the offseason. The special teams coach … we look at all this stuff – but that open end of that stadium has been traditionally one that has been tough to kick at regardless of the time of year, to be honest with you. You look at August, September, October even. That’s an open end. Obviously, the river is back there, and there’s a wind that always comes back through there. So, that particular end has been difficult. We had a wacky play the last time we played there, if you remember. We kicked a field goal before the half in the snow game and (Caleb) Sturgis kicked one up short, and they actually started running one back, if you remember that crazy play they had. We’ve had some experience at that end ourselves. Yes, that has been a tricky end. I know they’ve redone the field there in the last couple of weeks, so again, that pregame we’ll get out there and see what it’s like.”

(Will you be that much more cognizant of which direction – whenever you have the option – which direction?) – “It’s really going to depend on what’s going on the day of the game. You could end up getting a … Usually in that stadium there’s a particular direction of wind, but you have to get out there and see it, see whether it’s blowing through the open end or it’s blowing towards the open end; and that’s really every week. Even in our stadium, the wind can get a little tricky, believe it or not. I think a lot of people come down to our stadium and are surprised that in a warm weather climate that sometimes the wind can be tricky in ours. We’ll get out there early on and see where it’s going. Definitely that’ll factor into a lot of things – direction, defer. We’ll have to make all the decisions later in the week – what we do with the coin toss and what we do in terms of direction, which quarter we take the wind and all those things that come up every week.”

(With WR Leonte Caroo being scratched the last two weeks, I asked him about it and he said he needs to be better on special teams. What are some things that Carroo can do as his career progresses to be better, and how has WR Rashawn Scott done?) – “I think the one thing that has come out of this thing is we’ve created a culture here with some of the younger players that has created a really competitive environment. So, I’ll go back and talk about (Lafayette) Pitts for a second, because I think a lot of the younger players saw Pitts really – and I’ve mentioned this before – but his practice work ethic and the way he performed on a weekly basis got him moved up to the 53 and now the 46, and he’s active on game day, and he’s played well. I think guys like Rashawn Scott, guys like Carroo, these guys have created an environment – A.J. Hendy – some of these young guys are starting to see that this is a way I can get myself onto the field and become a factor for the team. Carroo got the chance out of the gate. He was active for a lot of weeks. He was mixed in with special teams. I’m not going to say he performed poorly, but we needed him to be a little bit better. And again, self-admittedly, I guess he said the same. Rashawn Scott had been really practicing well along the same lines as Pitts. We just felt like we’d give him an opportunity a couple of weeks ago. The last couple of weeks, we’ve given him some plays, some opportunities and he has actually done pretty well. We all got to get better, obviously every player, but he has actually performed pretty well. In terms of some of the things, there’s a bunch of … I can sit here and talk for 20 minutes about the individual little things he has to get better at. In every phase there’s going to be certain techniques and things like that; but Rashawn has given us a little bit of a lift at that spot. He has played the last two weeks, he has played well. We’ll see what we decide here again there. But what it has done is create a competitive environment in practice for those spots. It’s not given anymore (that), ‘You’re going to be active this week.’ It’s kind of, ‘Let’s see how the week goes. Let’s see how hard you guys practice. Let’s see who does the best.’ A lot of those guys play the same position, so at the end of the week, (Head Coach) Adam (Gase), myself we’ll of sit down and say, ‘Listen, these guys are going to give us the best chance to win this week.’ That might not be the same next week or the week before, whatever. I like it like that. I love the fact that you have a bunch of guys fighting for the 45th and 46th spot on game day, because it creates a competitive environment in practice. We practice harder, and it creates a better situation for the game so. I’m pleased with where we are right now. I know Carroo is disappointed that he has been inactive the last couple of weeks, but hopefully he continues to get better and practice harder and keep fighting for that spot.”

(I had a question for you in your role as assistant head coach. You guys are outscored 110-41 I believe it is in the first quarter. I’m wondering about the coin toss [and] if you guys discuss that, ‘Every time we win, we will take the ball,’ as opposed to deferring in an effort to score first? Do those discussions happen? Do you know stats on it?) – “We definitely talk about it every week. We’re not one of those that’s going to be, ‘We’re doing the same thing every week.’ I know there are other coaches that do that (and say), ‘No matter what, whatever game, we’re going to defer,’ for example. Some teams do that. We talk about it all week. We look at a lot of the percentages. We look at the first drive of the opponent. We look at our stats, how they relate to that; the wind factor, obviously. Sometimes the wind plays a big factor in whether you want to defer and have the choice in the second half. It’s really a week-to-week thing. It’s not one thing (where) we’re steadfast, feet in the ground, we’re doing this. It is a week-to-week type of thing. I think there are some ways we look at it and say, ‘If we win the toss, we’re going to take the ball.’ And there are some weeks we say, ‘We’re going to win the toss, we’re going to defer.’ I think there have been some weeks where we’ve lost the toss, and we’re going to take the ball, so it may come out on the statistics that the last few times we’ve won, we’ve done this; but it’s a little bit skewed, because we didn’t win the toss (and) we lost maybe that particular week. It’s an ongoing conversation. We’re always looking at stats on that. I think a lot of it has to do with how you feel about one side of the ball going in versus another, giving the other team another possession. I think one thing that gets lost is one of the things – and there are a few teams in the league that do it really well – is the end of the half, the last possession of the half, first possession of the second half. If you look at last week’s Patriots game, we were down, scored under a minute to go (in the first half). Unfortunately, we had a kickoff from 20. Obviously we weren’t trying to squib kick it there. Andrew Franks fell down. We weren’t trying to give them the field position. But we end up getting the ball back, second half, go down (and) score, make it a one-score game. That sometimes gets overlooked. I know we haven’t really played in the first quarter probably, collectively, as a football team, the way that we’ve wanted to, but a lot of times we’re trying … We’ve been pretty good at the end of the half on 2-minute drives and then getting the ball back for the second half. So, that plays into it sometimes as well. Some people call it the double whammy – there are all kinds of different names for it – but that kind of last possession of the first, first possession of the second, you can swing the game a lot of times that way.”

(You’ve known obviously QB Matt Moore for years. He’s going to be the starter on Sunday. What’s one thing about him that we don’t know?) – “There are a few things about him you don’t know. (laughter) First of all, he has got a great sense of humor. I don’t know if that comes across. Matt and I came here … We’ve been a couple of guys who’ve been around here for a while. The thing about Matt is he’s a really – and this comes across probably to the people that watch the games – but he’s really just a competitor in everything. If you walked into the players’ lounge and played ping pong, he’s going to treat it like it’s the ping pong championship of the world. He’s just one of those guys. I think what has shown really for Matt is that for a guy that has been around here for a while – and he had a large window of time where he didn’t play – to come in and play after all this time where he was inactive, if you will, and not playing in games and to watch what he has done and step up like (that), he has picked up right where he left off. It seems to me (from) when he was the quarterback – whenever it was 2011 or 2012; I’m losing my years here, but you know what I mean. The other thing I love about him is off the field we talk about family a lot. He has got a lot of kids like I do, so we’re always talking about children and things like that. He’s, again, just a competitive guy. If we were out here picking whiffle ball teams, I’d probably pick him first. If we were playing anything, playing kickball. He’s one of those guys where he’s kind of a gym rat. He loves the competition. He’s one of those guys you want on your side.”

(Have you played pickup basketball or anything against QB Matt Moore or competed against him?) – “I’m too old. (laughter) I can’t be playing pickup (basketball). I play, I don’t play against him, though. No, I’ve done other little things. We’ll play around in the bubble. Him and I are usually two of the first guys out for practice every day. What’s he doing? He’s over here throwing the ball at the net. He’s over throwing the ball at the goal post. Like I said, they call him a gym rat kind of guy. He just loves to be around the game. I think one day when his career is over, he’s a guy that could be a fabulous coach, because of his personality and the way he loves the game. He’s passionate about it.”

(Is QB Matt Moore a trash talker?)  – “Is he a trash talker? Again, I think he’s one of those guys you want on your team, not the other team. I’ll leave it at that.” (laughter)

(How puzzled have you been by WR Jakeem Grant’s fumbles being an issue? They weren’t in September and October, obviously more so November, again last week. And how are his hands as a returner?)   – “You look you at him as a receiver, he has got good hands. I think I’ve said this a number of times, that punt return thing is probably one of the hardest things to do in football. I think it’s one of the things that gets overlooked the most, and it’s one of the most challenging things. Again, for a young guy, I’m not puzzled because he didn’t have … This is a guy that doesn’t have a boatload of experience doing it. This is his first time going through it. (There is) a lot of learning curve like anybody else that has done it for the first time. Again, I’ve thrown you guys out stats before about great players that have done it in the past and have had trouble – peaks and valleys – with the ball and the security and all that. Again, I know the head man has talked about this as well, but he’s a guy that gives us a chance to make a big play when he has the ball in his hands. It’s my job to make sure he secures it. He’s going to continue to get opportunities back there and continue to grow. I think I see you guys walk through there a lot of times. You guys, you see him out there. It’s not like he’s not working at it. He’s a guy that’s out there every day – pre-practice, post-practice – all the time getting the work in. Again, there’s nothing like game experience, so that’s why you’re going to continue to get it, because we feel like especially this time of year, those plays are going to be huge.”

(How much of it at this point is just confidence and WR Jakeem Grant not thinking about it, just catching the ball?)  – “That’s with everything though – the confidence level with every position – and that’s no different. No doubt. Again, you see what he did at the end of the game. At the end of the game last week, he got a plain one, he got a good play action. We were about one block away from making that a really big play if you go back and watch it. That’s what he brings to the table. I think it has been great to have Jarvis (Landry) with him as his sounding board all year, because Jarvis has had the same experience. I think we’ve been fortunate to have both guys to be able to do it, and we’ll continue to do that.”

Clyde Christensen – January 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Offensive Coordinator Clyde Christensen

(With RB Jay Ajayi gashing these guys last time you played, what do you think the Steelers reaction will be both tactically and otherwise?) – “I think every week everyone goes in to try … Offenses want to run the ball and defenses want to stop the run. So it will be the same. There are only so many guys you can put up there. If we block well and run well, then we’ll have a chance; and if we don’t, then we won’t. This week we didn’t do as well. We didn’t run the ball well against New England and we’ve got to get that back going. Everything builds off of that. I don’t think they’ll do a whole bunch different. They are who they are and they do what they do. That’s kind of … At this point in the season, people aren’t going change a whole bunch. They’re going to get their extra guy in the box. I’m sure (Steelers Head) Coach (Mike) Tomlin’s stressing shedding blocks and tackle and we’re stressing finish blocks and break tackles. I do think it’s just more that than it is surprises or new fronts or, for us, new runs. There’s not going to be a whole bunch of that.”

(What is the challenge about going up against a guy like Steelers LB Ryan Shazier who has tremendous speed and versatility?) – “He’s really a good player and he’s kind of fun to watch. One of the challenges with him is that he’ll freelance and he’ll take some chances and you don’t know what they are or when they’re going to be. He’ll run through a gap and he’s hard to get to with your center. He’s hard to get to with linemen, because he runs so darn well. So you’ve just got to try and keep him off balance a little bit with your misdirection and your play action and some of those natural things. But he’s really a good player. He hits like a ton of bricks and he runs extremely well. So he’ll be a big challenge for us. He’ll be a big challenge to control. But he’s a little bit of a freelancer in the sense that he’s hard to predict. It’s hard to say, ‘He’s going to play this gap.’ That’s always a little bit of a challenge, and then you hope it’s also a two-edged sword that you hope you can get him out of position a little bit and do some things that way. (He’s a) fine football player and a big challenge for us.”

(We got the news today that QB Matt Moore will start on Sunday.) – “Yes.”

(What was the conversation you had with him when you let him know it would definitely be him. What was that like?) – “It was more really that he’s our starter and the other’s been going on kind of on the side, and I think it would have been more of a discussion if we felt like Ryan (Tannehill) was ready to go then we would have had to … He knows. He knows he’s our relief pitcher and we try to make the decision extremely early in the week because you get in a situation where it’s hard to get two guys prepared. But I think that more than the conversation for telling him that, it was more he assumed he was doing that and then if Ryan (Tannehill) all of a sudden had a miraculous recovery at the beginning of this week – which we all hoped for and hope is coming – then it would have been more talking to him about the reverse of that, that ‘It looks like Ryan’s (Tannehill) going to be ready. We’re going to try to get him ready in practice.’ But that wasn’t case. So I think he’s just continued to prepare as a starter as he has for this last three or four weeks, and there wasn’t a discussion like that.”

(Have you seen your receivers grow as a unit this season and do you consider them a game-changing unit?) – “Yes I do. I consider them a game-changing unit. I consider them growing. I think I’ve said to you several times, we need them all hitting on all cylinders every week. It’s a hard position to play because you don’t know when your reward is coming, and I think I talked to you about that last week. The great ones can do that. The great ones can just keep going and run through stretches – un through stretches of games, run through stretches of plays and still keep humming and keep winning, and then all of a sudden the ball starts coming their way and there comes their little streak of several catches in a row and big plays in a row. So yes, I do think … I think all of the above; but I still think we’ve got to get a little more consistency, a little more attention to detail. It showed in the game last weekend. We got outplayed at home by a team that was more detailed and on their stuff more than us and protected the ball better than we did, which is, as of right now, they’re the standard in the league. They’re playing at a high level and we have at times; but it has to be every single week, and it will be the same thing this week, that if we don’t, you’re not going to go into Heinz Field and play the Pittsburgh Steelers and all their Terrible Towels and all the traditions and all the ghosts that roam around there. If you don’t play good football, you’re not going to come out of there with a win. So we know that. We have to go in there with great effort but great attention to detail also. Effort won’t carry you once you hit the playoffs. Too many teams are playing too good of football. It has to be the details to go along with the effort. I think we’re learning that slowly but surely as a team; but we’re not there yet. We have a lot of guys who haven’t been in playoff games and a lot of guys who probably don’t understand fully yet what it’s like to go to Pittsburgh and play a playoff game. That’s as good as the AFC has to offer for an environment for a playoff game and tradition and tradition of great playoff games and playoff teams up there. So it will be a great challenge for us and it will be a really, really good test for us – more than a test – to see where we are and see if we can rise to that level and play that kind of detailed football and be on all the details and cross our T’s and dot our I’s and give ourselves a chance to win that thing in the fourth quarter.”

(You’ve coached in a lot of playoff games. What words of wisdom can you impart on the younger players who haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced?) – “Yes. It’s hard. It’s kind of like raising your kids. Some things you try to tell them, but they have to learn on their own. I think the biggest thing is that you have this misperception that you have to do something different in the playoffs. You really don’t have to do something different. You just have to – as I said – you just have to do what you do to win a football game. Don’t turn the ball over. All the clichés, they still apply. It’s not all of a sudden you start running faster and jumping higher; but the margins get extremely tiny. You’re playing the teams that have played extremely good football so every time you don’t take care of business it’s more likely to cost you and it’s less likely to give you a chance to win the game, the more mistakes you make. That’s the only thing. We’ve been trying to sell that the whole year that it’s about us. It’s not about the opponent, and that part of it doesn’t change for a coach. But I do think you do hit it with … your off that skill. Let’s just keep improving every week and we’ve got to win this football game. Now it is a do or die situation. I think our emphasis has been ‘Study, rehab, practice, catch, throw, run, like it is do or die.’ Because that’s what it is. But you still win them the same way. You still win them the same way and we’ve had some where we’ve gone into games with great momentum and laid an egg in the playoffs and we’ve gone in where, the year we won the Super Bowl, I think we went 1-3 in December and weren’t playing very good football and then all of sudden started playing good football. So it’s just kind of new season and you wash it clean and you’ve got to go; but the way you win it, the formula stays the same. The keys for winning, we like to say around here, stay the same. Makes sense?”

(If you’re not grading on a rookie curve, how do you assess G/T Laremy Tunsil’s first season? Do you think his pass blocking is ahead of his blocking?) – “Yes. And you’re just saying just compared to the other 32 left guards in the league? Yes. I think he’s kept improving and I think he’s playing at a good, solid starter level. I really do. I think there wouldn’t be anyone that doesn’t say – and again keeping in mind that he’s probably out of position, play the position he hasn’t played – but I think he’s held his own in there. He’s had his moments, but he keeps improving and I think we kind of say the same thing every single week that he really played well and then there might be three plays that jump out at you where there was a surprise or something. But I think he’s playing really good, solid starting guard football right now for us and probably better than that pass protection-wise. If you just isolated it into pass protection, he’s obviously a very gifted pass protector. But he’s been good. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to. He keeps improving. We haven’t been talking about him. That’s probably a good thing that he hasn’t done things where it’s a story, and that’s good. Sometimes a non-story with offensive linemen is the best story and I think that would be case with him, that his story is that he hasn’t been a story and it hasn’t shown up in … So we’ve been really, really pleased with him.”

(When you see a guy like Tyreek Hill and what he’s doing in Kansas City, do you see that as more of something that a guy like WR Jakeem Grant can do or a guy like Kenyan Drake?) – “Both. I think both. They have a little different skill set, but I think both of them. Darrius Heyward-Bey last time when they came in here, all of a sudden he runs the reverse and hits a 60-yard touchdown on us. I see those kind of guys – those specialists – that you look for little roles for them and then you say, ‘Give us a big play every third week.’ That’s kind of Darrius. All of a sudden you’re rolling, you say, ‘He’s not a huge part of the offense,’ and then all of a sudden there’s two gigantic plays. I think that’s what those two guys are in their relief role, in their limited role. Hopefully that increases, increases, increases as time goes, because they’re both … It’s hard to get big plays in this league. It’s really hard, and those are two guys who have a natural ability to do that. They make big plays. You look for little situations where you can get them in and give them a chance. We ran a reverse to Jakeem. They played it well last week. The more times you can do that and then if all of a sudden, bang, here comes a 50 yarder. They’ve been on special teams more than offense probably so far this season, but I see that continuing to increase. I see it as really important for us and even in the playoffs. It’s hard to make big plays, and those two guys have an electricity to them that you hope pops out and shows up, so you try to give them as many opportunities as you can within the framework. You’re still going to give Jay (Ajayi) his carries, so it’s not easy, but those guys, they’re a big part of this thing. You see it every week on the highlights. There’s a play that jumps out at you and it’s a part-time player or a role player, and all of a sudden he gives you a big lift with a shot – gets shot out of a cannon – and makes a big play.”

(How would you evaluate C/G Kraig Urbik’s work at center?) – “He has been solid. I think he has stabilized us a little bit in there. He has been good. He has been solid. I characterize it as good, solid play. (We) would absolutely love to have (Mike) Pouncey like we played them the first time (and) played extremely well against these guys. There’s a uniqueness to how fast Pouncey can run. Urbik can try hard, but he’s probably never going to run quite as fast as Pouncey, nor am I. (laughter) We can want to all we want to, but it’s not going to happen. You miss his speed on some of those things, but ‘Urb’ (Kraig Urbik) has done a great job filling in. (It is) not easy. It’s a hard position. It’s a quarterback-ish position. You have to communicate. He’ll be big here going up to Pittsburgh in that kind of atmosphere. The communication, the veteran presence is really big I think – especially with how many new, young guys we have playing – and helping Matt Moore, frankly. That helps him also.”

(Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi said they’re putting the K balls in the freezer this week. Are you guys doing anything on offense?) – “We mess with the wet balls periodically all the way through the thing. No, we’re not doing anything out of the ordinary. We’ll get our wet ball work in every couple weeks and make sure we’re ready for whatever comes that way. You’ve kind of seen it all at this point. It’s a little bit hard to simulate Pittsburgh weather down here. Same thing – these guys … I used to think more so you had to simulate … But it’s amazing, these guys just play. They’re pros. That’s why they are pros; they just can play. They jump out there and play. It’s amazing to me. I remember when I first got in you always felt like you had to go to the (home) team’s stadium so you can get on their field and get the feel of this and that. I think it has probably gone the other way that these cats are special. They just go play. We do try to give them all the scenarios, obviously, that you covered everything. But once you do, they take it and go.”

(I’ve seen the reverses and things of that nature, but is it also possible to see WR Jakeem Grant in the backfield on your normal stretch plays and things of that nature?) – “Down the road I think as we go. Learning curve-wise, there are only so many things you can rep him at, and there are so few reps at this time of year that you have to be a little bit careful. But he would be a guy, I think, that down the road, when you have an offseason … Keep in mind those guys are rookies. They’ve got their hands full. He has had his hands full with the responsibilities we’ve given him. I don’t see anything really out of the ordinary showing up for him apart from what he has been doing. But I do future-wise think that you look at a guy who’s really, really fast and anything that we can find for him that gets him into the open field would be fair game, sure. That’s a fun offseason project: how are people using guys like Jakeem? How can we fit in into some of those things? Those are the fun offseason projects that you’re always looking for (like), ‘Let’s find some way to get him in a little 10×10 of space and that thing can turn into an explosive play.’ Sure.”

(When you think back on the three times this year the team rushed for 200 or more yards, what are some of the common denominators?) – “Getting started early. Sometimes your bigger plays come with the eight-man fronts. I think, same thing, sometimes you think the eight-man front, but eight-man front is probably harder to run against, but once you pop through the front, you get bigger plays, whereas Cover 2 might be easier – double safety stuff may be easier to pop the line of scrimmage – but it’s harder to get a big play, because you have two safety valves back there to get you on the ground. I think probably some of the common denominators are we’ve popped through eight-man fronts and gotten some big plays. Jay (Ajayi) breaking tackles has been a common denominator. It’s like everything … It ends up being your day. It ends up being a day where you get hot doing it. A lot of them were scores. All of a sudden the game again this weekend, we’re down 14-0 after three plays – after three offensive plays – and it’s harder to call your runs. Sometimes the score and being able to call your number of runs is really, really important. Having the lead in the fourth quarter and all of a sudden you’ve worn them down. Now you’ve got a quantity of runs called, so you’ve delivered some body blows, and then all of a sudden you’re ahead in the game, so you can keep calling them in the fourth quarter and that combination can lead to some big yards in the fourth quarter. All of them have a little different personality, but those will be some things that when you see that happen it’s usually because you got a lead you can keep or you’re right in the game – you’ve got the lead or you’re within a score of the lead – and you can keep calling those runs. You’ve got enough runs called in the first half where you’ve delivered enough body blows that you’ve got a chance for one of those things popping through. Those would be a couple things. The bottom line is those are freaky and the outlier. Jay messed us all up with a couple of them in a row there where the expectations got a little … The 200-yard games, they’re rare. They’re outliers. They are outliers.”

(For those that haven’t been watching as closely over the course of the season, where has the most progress been in the offense?) – “I’m thinking in just protecting the ball. If you said, ‘What turned this thing around?’ At 1-4, we were not playing very good football. We weren’t a very good team. I think probably Jay Ajayi and his physicalness – his physicality – and then the protection of the football and being careful with it. Those first games we were 32nd in the league in giveaways. Those get you out of a game real fast. It happened this weekend again. It popped its head up there, and we put ourselves in a bad situation early. I think those two things. I think getting the (offensive) line together at that stretch in the middle was a big thing that got us jumpstarted. And then all of a sudden you have a little bit of confidence. You learn how to win. You believe you’re going to win those games, and then it carries from there. But I think those would be things that jump started us and gave us a feel for learning how to win a football game, having the belief that, ‘We’ll win this football game.’ That will carry a long way. That’s really important.”

(Was there a key offensive line decision along the way looking back?) – “I don’t think so. We had that stretch where they all stayed together, which I think started at the Pittsburgh game, having ‘Pounce’ (Mike Pouncey) in there and having all the guys in their spots where we had planned for them to play. There really hasn’t been that for long stretches. That more than anything I think, sure. I think it has been a progression coaching staff-wise. We learned (a little bit) what guys do well and some of those things also. Getting on a little stretch was really important for us to learn, ‘We’re going to win these close games.’ I think I heard a stat that (we) set an NFL record for winning a game in the last drive five different ways – a return, an interception. Those kind of things are big, because you start believing, ‘We’re going to win these close games.’ Sometimes that’s hard to develop, and we got and accelerated course in it this year, and that was big. That was big. Sometimes it was defense, sometimes it was Kenyan (Drake) on that kick return. It has been all kinds of different things on that. It has been a run that popped. It has been all those different things. That has been really good for us.”

Vance Joseph – January 5, 2017 Download PDF version

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph

(Two things on cornerback. One: Do you expect to have CB Byron Maxwell this week? And also on CB Xavien Howard, obviously you are very high on his skill set. But that aside … Obviously he was very good in the N.Y. Jets game, but how do you think overall he’s played in the seven or eight games he has played this year and where he needs to improve?) – “First with Maxwell, he’s day-to-day. He’s rehabbing hard. He wants to be out there. He’s trying. We’re not sure; but he is trying to play this week. Xavien, he’s a young corner. He missed training camp. He’s missed most of the season. As a young corner, every week is different for him. He’s kind of figuring it out as he goes. He’s made some errors but from a skill-set perspective, he’s what you want. He’s going to make some errors but physically he’s what you want. I’m okay with ‘X’ (Xavien Howard). The more he plays, the better he will play.”

(CB Xavien Howard seemed to struggle a bit with Bills WR Sammy Watkins and the speed. Is that a consideration with Steelers WR Antonio Brown?) – “It wasn’t speed with Watkins. It was more leverage, it was more eye placement, it was more assignments. It was not speed. The one he beat him on vertically, he was in a bad spot with his eyes and kind of got back in the play with his speed versus Sammy’s speed; so that wasn’t an issue. His issue is experience. His issue is ‘know-how.’ Once he gets that, he’s going to be a fine player.”

(So if CB Byron Maxwell can’t go – we saw him a lot on Steelers WR Antonio Brown last time – would it be CB Xavien Howard who would get the bulk of the looks?) – “Well, no. We didn’t match corners last time versus the Steelers. We played left and right. Whoever plays, it’s going to be left and right, whether it’s ‘Max’ (Byron Maxwell) or ‘X’ (Xavien Howard).”

(Your name has been mentioned in association with a couple of jobs. Do you find that flattering? Do you find that distracting? How do you handle that and what do you think?) – “It’s flattering. It’s flattering when teams have interest in you; but for me, I’ve got one focus this week and that’s the Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s my sole focus. My thought process has not gone there. It won’t go there. My job now is to beat Pittsburgh, so that’s my focus.”

(Would you like to be a head coach some day in the NFL?) – “Would I like to be? Absolutely. But right now, again, I’m focused on Pittsburgh. That’s my mindset; that’s my time right now. I haven’t spent one moment on the future. The future for me is Sunday at 1(p.m.)”

(You have not scheduled any interviews with any teams?) – “I have not. I have not. I can’t.”

(Do any of the three – Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB Le’Veon Bell – scare you the most, concern you the most? Or is it equal opportunity) – “It’s kind of like this: all three guys together, it’s a task. But it starts with Bell, because if you can’t contain Bell, you can’t contain ‘AB’ (Antonio Brown). Obviously Ben is the trigger-puller, and that’s important also, but Bell is getting the average of like 27 opportunities a game – in the run and pass game alike – so that’s where it starts. If you can’t contain Bell, you can’t contain ‘AB,’ so it’s a matter of having a game plan where you can kind of bend, don’t break, in some areas; but also having enough scheme to keep ‘84’ (Antonio Brown) in front of you. It’s a tough task, but I’ve played these guys seven times in three years, so I’ve seen their good and bad.”

(How did you do against RB Le’Veon Bell last game? I think he had 108 total from scrimmage – 53 rushing and 55 receiving.) – “You can live with that. When you’re defending great players, sometimes you have to just bend, don’t break a little bit; but keep the big plays to a minimum. We have to make them earn (it) and not give up big plays. That’s the key with playing Pittsburgh. They want the big play, obviously. That’s ‘Big Ben’s’ (Ben Roethlisberger) mindset. So we’ve got to make them earn (it). Obviously Bell is a halfback, so they can give them the ball anytime they want. We can’t deter that, but we have to adjust as we go.”

(How is S Bacarri Rambo? Do you anticipate having him this week?) – “He’s sore, but he should go (practice) today and he should be fine to play in the game. He’s definitely sore.”

(From a standpoint of linebacker play, you looked at LB Mike Hull for eight snaps with LB Kiko Alonso. Was that something you liked? Might you do it again? And snap distribution at linebacker, obviously you’ll only have two linebackers on the field some of the time, but who has been the best of that group beyond Alonso?) – “Beyond Kiko, it’s probably two-fold. It’s base and sub. In base, Neville Hewitt has been really good at the Will ‘backer spot. He’s been consistent. He’s been productive, so he’s been really good at that spot. Donald Butler has been our Sam (linebacker) for the last two months and he’s been solid. In sub downs, it’s been a work in progress, obviously, with (Jelani) Jenkins being hurt most of the time. (Spencer) Paysinger has played at a high level some and not some. Mike Hull is a guy that hadn’t repped a bunch of sub downs until last week’s game. He’ll be in the mix also, but it’s a work in progress. It’s a committee job right now and we’re working through it.”

(You mentioned LB Jelani Jenkins. Are you anticipating having him on Sunday? And what difference does he make?) – “Hopefully, yes. He practiced yesterday and he practiced well. In the last ball game against (Le’Veon) Bell, he was the guy that covered Bell. He did a fine job. Obviously that’s a big role this week, getting Bell covered in the pass game, because he is also potent in the pass game as a check-down guy and as a called option-route guy out of the back field, split out as an ‘X’ or a ‘Z’ (wide out). He’s a chore to cover in the pass game, so you have to have a ‘backer who can do it.”

(Are you optimistic about the chances of getting to QB Ben Roethlisberger this week as opposed to Patriots QB Tom Brady who gets rid of it quickly. Are you optimistic on the pass rush?) – “Yes, we are. We are because Ben does hold the ball longer than Tom. It’s a different offense. Obviously we have to make him hold it with coverage. It’s always about coverage first. If the coverage is not there, he won’t hold it. But if we can cover up early and make him hold the ball, that allows (Ndamukong) Suh and Cam (Wake) to rush and hopefully get home. But it starts with the coverage being effective first.”

(I have to ask one more question on the coaching search, if that’s all right. There have been reports that you are linked to Denver closely. Are those reports at all true? Is that something that you’ve heard as well? I just want to get to the bottom of that.) – “Well, I interviewed there two years ago. That’s all I can say about that. I can’t talk to Denver. I haven’t talked to Denver. Again, my focus is on Pittsburgh. I can’t say if it’s true or not. I haven’t read anything about that; but I interviewed there two years ago and that may be where it’s coming from. But right now, I’m solely on Pittsburgh. I’m sorry.”

(I want to say something nice about DT Jordan Phillips. I noticed him for nine snaps at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth quarter. I’m wondering what you noticed there.) – “Jordan played really well last week, first of all. Jordan is a player that, if you can take his explosive or flash plays, you can make a tape and it’s special. But you can take his bad plays also and make a lowlight tape. So he’s a young player that’s inconsistent. He’s obviously a big man with talent. If he’s on and doing it right, he can be a special help to us this weekend; but he’s got to put the bad plays to rest. That’s Jordan’s call of duty this week.”

(Earlier in the season, we talked about CB Xavien Howard and t-stepping, and how it’s not necessarily a negative, but is there any concern with Steelers WR Antonio Brown and how quickly he gets in and out of breaks and DBs t-stepping?) – “Absolutely. Absolutely, you’re concerned about that; but that’s versus every NFL corner. ‘AB’ (Antonio Brown) is a special player. It won’t be one man’s job to stop ‘AB.’ It’s going to be the team’s job, it’s going to be the coverage package’s job to contain ‘AB,’ so that won’t be one man’s job. Now obviously it’s going to be (Tony) Lippett and ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) or ‘Max’ (Byron Maxwell) – if he plays – one-on-one from time to time. But overall, it’s going to be a team concept to get ‘AB’ stopped.”

(I think last game you guys had a goal line defense with no cornerbacks. Was that the one TE Martellus Bennett might have scored the touchdown? I might have asked you this before, refresh my memory if I have, what is the thinking on not having cornerbacks out there?) – “It’s goal line with no receivers. You want a safety to fit the run game. Obviously we put a safety out there. He’s called the ‘Z’ corner. Obviously he’s a safety by position, but a ‘Z’ corner. His job is pass game and if it’s a certain blocking scheme, he has to fit in the C-gap. Nobody really plays with corners unless it’s a big, physical corner, on goal line, because (there are) big people out there and it’s mostly run. That’s a personal preference of mine. I’ve played with corners before on goal line, but here it was safeties.”

(What kind of sense have you gotten from DE Cameron Wake this week since this is the first time he’s going to have a chance to do this [play in a playoff game]?) – “He’s excited, obviously. It’s his first playoff game. Cam is a natural underdog, in his mind. Being the underdog as a team, that kind of motivates Cam; and Cam could be a difference in this game because he can rush. Defensively, if we rush the passer, we can force takeaways, and that’s the key to our game. So Cam is going to be a big part of that. But he is awfully excited. This is his first time out, so I’m expecting some big things from Cam.”

(As you look back at these 16 games and try to determine why you are 30th against the run, have you just not set the edge well enough with the ends? Has it been defensive tackle play aside from DT Ndamukong Suh, obviously? Has it been linebacker play? What has been the biggest culprit?) – “I think a combination of a lot of things. I think playing a lot of snaps early on in the season. I think the defensive end play. It was inconsistent early on. I think part of it is me. I’ve got to go into spring and kind of reboot some things that we’re doing. There were a couple of things that I didn’t think were going to happen, as far as the scheme up front. So that’s partly my issue that I’ve got to fix in the spring. Again, numbers are sometimes misleading. Our yards per game wasn’t very good but yards per play was okay. It was good enough to win 10 games so far. Numbers are misleading and again, we track four or five major stats. Rushing yards per game wasn’t one of them. That’s a stat that it can come from a lot of different places – plays per game, matchups or whatever. Again, that being said, in the spring I’ve got to fix some things that will make us better in the run game. No excuses.”

(For those who haven’t watched as closely this season, where has been the most progress?) – “The most progress is probably (Tony) Lippett. That kid was a receiver two years ago and he’s playing NFL corner, he has four interceptions and he’s been really solid. He has had some up and down moments, but for the most part, he’s growing as an NFL corner. I would say Kiko Alonso, being a guy who hadn’t played well or consistent for two years, had a hell of a year for us. (Byron) Maxwell came back and had a hell of a year. He was playing at a high level before he got hurt. There are a lot of bright spots I think, in the past season. I think (Ndamukong) Suh getting back to the Pro Bowl, Cam (Wake) coming back to being Cam. There are a lot of spots that we are proud of with this defense. Just being resilient. Having Reshad (Jones) out, having Koa (Misi) out, losing ‘X’ (Xavien Howard) for most of the season, it’s been a group that has stepped up when it has been tough moments. So that has been a treat.”

(DE Mario Williams has never played a playoff game. How seriously do you think you all would consider playing him and if he were to play, what might he be able to offer?) – “It’s in consideration. We want all healthy bodies up. You’re in Week 18. Lots of guys are beat up. The healthier bodies that have been ready to go, they have to go and help us win. Obviously Mario has never been in a playoff game. I was in Houston with Mario and he was hurt for that game, but obviously he’s like Cam. You get one shot at this thing. It may not happen again. So Mario has to, if he’s up, play well and play hard for us; and he wants to.”

(As you guys have patched a bunch of things in the linebacker corps and secondary, your defensive line has been mostly healthy all year and effective, and that’s where you guys have made a big financial commitment. Has that group kind of covered for and made it easier for all of the different pieces you’re moving around behind him?) – “Absolutely. When those guys played well, we won games. When the offense did a great job of kind of – not putting them out of the game plan but just throwing the ball quickly and certain running schemes – those guys … If they can’t affect the game, we don’t play well on defense, so you’re absolutely right. That front four, that guides our success on defense. If they’re playing well, we’re playing well. If they don’t play well, it’s a bad day for our defense. But absolutely, that’s where the money is and that’s where our veteran, great players were all year; and they were healthy for most of the year, so you’re right about that. When they played well, we played well. When they didn’t play well or the offense did a great job of game planning versus those guys, we didn’t play well. That’s the bottom line.”

Matt Moore – January 4, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Quarterback Matt Moore

(How much are you looking forward to Sunday’s competition going up against the Steelers?) – “I think everyone is looking forward to it. Obviously, we played them once earlier this year and have the opportunity to play them again in the playoffs. It’s a great opportunity. You couldn’t ask for much more.”

(Forgive the premise of this question, but you’ve been more mobile than I expected you to be. How would you characterize what you can do in that area?) – “I think it’s something that when it has to be done, I do it. There are certain cases (where) you’re trying to extend plays or make plays. There are sometimes where you have to. I don’t know. It comes from instinct and just playing. Good things can come out of it. If you can move around and create some time and create some plays, that’s probably a good thing.”

(Head Coach Adam Gase just told the other half of the media down there that you’re the starter unless something drastically happens. I assume he has told you the same thing?) – “I’m working as I have the past couple of weeks. That’s just kind of how we move forward.”

(How do you feel physically?) – “I feel good. I haven’t been hit in a while. So, playing three games and getting hit, there are a couple of things here and there; but it’s nothing crazy and part of the game. I feel really good.”

(What does it mean to you to play a playoff game?) – “It’s an unbelievable opportunity. There are a lot of guys … Some guys go a lot and some don’t get those chances. This is my second time ever being a part of a team that has gone to the playoffs, so I’m excited. I know the guys are excited. It’s an unbelievable opportunity and a great football town, so we’re ready to go.”

(How do you guys as a team not try to do too much knowing what the stakes are?) – “I think I’ve said it in the past, just execute the offense. Whatever the game plan is, if you do your job – no matter how big, how small it is – that’s really all you can do. Just play start to finish and that’s it. You don’t need to do too much. Rely on the guys around you and stuff like that.”

(Is it hard to instill that into some of these guys that maybe haven’t experienced anything like this?) – “Guys are going to be excited, I’m sure. But I think for the most part, there is a really good understanding that this is a team game, you don’t need to be Superman and just play within the scheme and the system and you’ll be all right.”

(Is your cohesion with the receivers noticeably better than it was when you first took over?) – “Yes, I think so.”

(How have you seen that manifest itself?) – “Sunday was a perfect example – last Sunday. The Patriots were pretty stingy. I think on Jarvis (Landry)’s touchdown, he started on the right side of the field and worked all the way left and I kind of found him. Things like that. I think they understand how I see things now and use it to their advantage to get open and catch balls underneath. Just little things like that.”

(There was a play I think in the third quarter of the last game where RB Jay Ajayi was coming across and maybe it was a fake handoff and the ball got knocked out and you just picked it up and threw it to WR DeVante Parker. I was wondering what was going through your mind while that was going on.) – “I was like, ‘This would be a terrible place to turn the ball over,’ first of all. (laughter) We were backed up. I snagged it and still had time to hit the underneath route to DeVante, so it was good. But yes, you’re right, it was just a little play-action and I just hit his elbow or his hip or something and knocked the ball out.”

(In general, to what do you attribute your calm mentality and approach to life to?) – “I don’t know. It’s kind of just how I go through it. It’s hard enough as it is, so I think if you’re tight and you think about it and dwell on all that, it just makes it worse. I think I have high standards and high expectations, but I like to be as comfortable as possible.”

(The confidence level of the way you guys were able to run the ball the first time against the Steelers, what does that do for an offense and for you specifically?) – “It’s huge. You can control the game if you run it. Obviously for a quarterback, they’re going to try to stop the run which means down the field there should be openings. I think guys understand that. The o-line really takes that to heart. They understand that they can take over the game if we do it right. Obviously, everybody wants to run the ball. That goes without saying. I’m sure that will be a deal for us. If we can get it the way we want it, then the shots downfield will be there.”

(Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was saying that as far as preparing for the possibility that it could be you or it could be QB Ryan Tannehill that it didn’t really make much of a difference, because it looked the same. The offense looked the same to him. Is that the way that you view it as well?) – “Yes, I think so. Nothing has really changed. I would agree with him.”

(As far as your performance filling in, making sure that there is not a drop off at that position, how do you evaluate yourself in about three games, four games, whatever it has been?) – “There is some good and some bad. I’ve turned the ball over in every single game, which that has to be eliminated. As far as other things – execution, moving the ball, relationships with guys – I think that’s all good right now. We just need to keep building on it and keep moving forward.”

(How tough has it been to keep QB Ryan Tannehill from throwing something out there?) – “He’s going crazy. He’s doing his best to get better. That’s just who he is. He wants to compete.”

(With the uncertainty around QB Ryan Tannehill, does that affect you at all as far as your preparation or your mindset for the game?) – “No. I’m preparing like I have the past couple of weeks. That’s all I can do. There is enough to worry about with Pittsburgh, so that’s where my focus is.”

Ndamukong Suh – January 4, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh

(As you guys get closer and closer to Sunday, just the excitement level for yourself and the rest of your teammates) – “I’m looking forward to it. This will be my third time in the playoffs. (It’s) a very exciting time, (and an) opportunity to obviously showcase your best talent – best football – as you should be reaching at this time of year. (We’re) going against a very competitive group, a group that’s going to be a very tough one to beat.”

(Being one of the defensive leaders of this team what are some of the tactics you guys are going to do to slow down the Steelers Killer Bs? Obviously RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown and QB Ben Roethlisberger) – “At the end of the day, they’re all very talented, and they’re going to obviously take shots with ‘84’ (Antonio Brown) and ‘26’ (Le’Veon Bell), they’re going to make a lot of runs both in the pass and the run game. So we’ve got to tackle. We’ve got to make plays and counteract that, and that’s our job as defensive players to really corrupt what they’re trying to do on the offensive side of the ball.”

(You guys had a knack of slowing them down the last time you guys played them. What do you guys do to duplicate that feat?) – “I think we learned from that film, but also that was very early in the season. I think it was Week 6 or something like that. They’ve grown quite a bit, as well as expanded their offense, and we’ve got to adjust and adapt to those particular things. Looking at the game plan, especially in the run game today, and the last couple of days, as I was in here with the coaches, we’ve got some things in here for us. We’ve just got to go out there and execute.”

(Why were you guys effective at limiting RB Le’Veon Bell the first time you met?) – “I think we understood what type of runner he was – being a patient guy that wants to find the right hole and then obviously he uses his athletic ability to make plays. We figured that out and had the opportunity to stop them. Obviously we had a great job from our offense and they moved the ball, ran the ball. We had a great time of possession and (our offense) got them behind the 8-ball, so they had to start to pass the ball and move down the field and make points. Depending on how the game goes … But from the very beginning in watching their film, particularly yesterday, we played into his hand and he played into our hands and understand that he wanted to be a patient runner and we attacked that.”

(Stopping Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. You guys sacked him twice last game and had two interceptions. Does that start with pass rush or more steam? What does that start with?) – “It starts with a combination of the two. Obviously coverage is very key – understanding where they want to go, who they want to go to. They’ve got a great tight end. They’ve got obviously a great wide receiver that I know personally and have seen him, training with him in different things. So it’s exciting to see that; but, at the end of the day, I think we’ve got to, like I said, cover, but at the same time get after the quarterback in Ben. He likes to hold the ball and make plays – extend the play and get out of trouble and make plays. For us, it’s going to be a combination of the two and I think it is hand and hand.”

(You’re already an intense guy. Does your intensity heighten for the playoffs?) – “Oh, yes, without question. I think everybody’s emotions and focus and detail is very key. We watched a great film today that I saw. I think it had to have been my rookie year in Detroit or second year in Detroit – excuse me – going into the playoffs. Just seeing all those older guys talk about what they encountered going through their games and getting prepared for the playoffs is something key. So without question, there is going to be a lot more excitement and a lot more energy from the fans and the players.”

(Do defensive tackles get butterflies?) – “Butterflies? (laughter) I wouldn’t say so.”

(So it’s a different kind of energy from nervousness?) – “Yes. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I would get butterflies, but it’s exciting to be on that football field. You’re going to be the only game on television and everybody is going to be watching, understanding that it’s a big game. So I’m excited about it. I’ll give you a little butterfly. I had butterflies the first time I was on Heinz Field my rookie year when I played my first preseason game; but, I definitely won’t have them this time around. (laughter)”

(How’d you do that day at Heinz Field in your first preseason game?) – “How’d I do that day? Not too bad. There were some big vets that I had to go against, but I think I held my own and did pretty well.”

(What’s your opinion of WR Jarvis Landry as a player?) – “(He’s a) very intense and aggressive player. He makes a lot of great plays for us. (He’s a) very exciting guy; very dangerous, especially for a defense to have to go against. I’m glad he’s on our team and I don’t have to go against him.”

(Do you find yourself as a defensive player respecting a guy who kind of has a little bit more of a defensive mindset?) – “I think you respect a guy no matter what. At the end of the day, he’s a playmaker; so respecting any type of playmaker, understanding their craft and how they can be successful is what I look for.”

(Do you care at all what Patriots RB LeGarrette Blount was saying?) – “No.”

(What was your reaction when you heard what RB LeGarrette Blount had to say?) – “I heard it from a lot of different people, so it doesn’t really matter to me what he thinks. I’m looking forward to the Steelers.”

Jay Ajayi – January 4, 2017 (Conference Call) Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Running Back Jay Ajayi Conference Call with Pittsburgh Media

(A question regarding your quarterback: what are your thoughts on QB Matt Moore?) – “He has been doing a great job since he stepped up for (Ryan) Tannehill. We have no problems with him running the show.”

(QB Matt Moore is a veteran who has been around for quite a while. Does he instill that veteran leadership? Do you see that in him?) – “Yes, definitely. You can tell that Matt, he has been in the league for a long time. He’s composed back there. He has had his times in the league where he has been the starter as well. He knows what to do, and we have full trust in him.”

(You’ve always spoken very confidently about your abilities and I was wondering how confident you were about running against the Steelers in the manner that you did the first time?) – “I was confident that I would have a good day.”

(What about this time? That’s what I’m asking.) – “The confidence level hasn’t changed. It’s exciting. Playoff game. Win or go home. The stakes are higher. It’s a great time to showcase your abilities on the big stage.”

(Before you lived in Texas as a boy, did you live in Maryland for a time after London?) – “Yes, I lived in Maryland for a year.”

(And then you moved to Plano, Texas, is that right?) – “Yes.”

(You spoke about playing the Steelers that first time. Do you see any similarities or differences between their rush defense in Week 6 and what you’re going to see on Sunday?) – “There is a little bit of a difference now. They’ve got a couple guys that were banged up earlier that are playing now. They’ve been a good running game, so I know they’re confident that they’re doing things right. It’s exciting; but at the same time, all that stuff that happened in the regular season is out the window. It’s a one-game season. They have to strap up; we have to strap up. At the end of the day, only one team is going to walk off the winner.”

(What are your thoughts about coming north? The temperature on Sunday, I think, might be around 20 degrees they’re saying at game time.) – “That’s not an issue. It’s the playoffs, so the weather is the least of our worries. We’re trying to make it to the next round (inaudible).”

(What have defenses done to adjust to your success after the first 200-yard game?) – “Defenses definitely respect our running game now. They’ve been doing a lot more things to try and make us a little bit more one-dimensional. That comes with stacking the box, giving us different looks in the schemes. But whatever the defenses throw at us, if we execute – our o-line comes off the ball physical, downhill, I’m running hard and receivers are doing what they do on the perimeter – we’ll be fine.”

(Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin spoke very highly of you yesterday, and he said that your success this season wasn’t out of the ordinary. How do you evaluate your second year in the league?) – “I think I was able to have a productive year. I’ve had my adversity and challenges early, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and taking advantage of it and being able to showcase to the world what I can do. For me, it’s all good; but I believe I’m only getting started in the NFL. I’m grateful to my o-line and my team for helping me have a productive year.”

Adam Gase – January 4, 2017 Download PDF version

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Head Coach Adam Gase

(We saw, obviously, QB Ryan Tannehill out there not practicing. What did the doctors tell you about what he can do and what he can’t do?) – “A little bit of what we’re going through right now is we have to … He has to tell us how it feels. It’s really a big gray area right now for us, because they can’t necessarily say, ‘Okay, we’re good to go, and see how he goes along through the week.’ He has to tell us, ‘How does it feel? How do you feel moving around?’ It’s a big gray area, because for him to articulate a lot of these things of how he feels and what our doctors think he should be feeling, it’s a very complex process we’re going through here, because he’s trying to figure out, ‘What am I supposed to be feeling like?’ That’s where we’re at a crossroads there of trying to figure out what’s the best thing for him. He’s trying to tell us how he feels, and we’re trying to look at him, how he’s moving around and how it’s supposed to look compared to something doesn’t look right. We’re trying to figure that out. It’s not as easy as probably we all want it to be. That’s really where we’re at right now.”

(QB Ryan Tannehill is a competitive guy. He’s probably going to tell you he can do more.) – “Absolutely. He’s frustrated, because he wants to try to help. He wants to do anything he can to be a part of this. But at the same time, I have to be smart with what we’re doing moving forward. I don’t want any setbacks. I don’t want to jeopardize – whether it be – his career, next season, put him in a position to where he can’t defend himself on the field against a defense that’s playing really well right now. We have to be smart as an organization.”

(Structurally though there’s no concern, it’s just a matter of pain management? Is that what it is?) – “It’s more about the way he moves, can he fire off the way he wants, can he move laterally the way he wants. It’s tough, because you don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like. He can only tell us that, and the doctors can only say, ‘It’s at this strength right now.’ Some of these things, you keep going back and forth asking those questions (like), ‘What does this mean? How many days is it? How many weeks is it?’ We have a big gray area right now.”

(How late are you willing to take this decision?) – “Right now, it’s day-to-day. I don’t even know. We’ll see how the week progresses, see what he keeps telling me and how he feels. I’m going off a little bit of the eye test for myself of how he looks when he moves around. We’ve done some things to where I can see him dropping and moving and doing things like that. He’s making progress in that area. I have to go off of what I see.”

(Do you have updates on CB Byron Maxwell and S Bacarri Rambo?) – “Byron didn’t practice today neither did Bacarri. Right now, we’re day-to-day again.”

(That was the next question, how does QB Ryan Tannehill know how he feels if he doesn’t practice, if he doesn’t work?) – “We’re taking steps to where we’re doing certain things when we both have time to go out there and move around. That’s really our first step. The next step is getting him into individual (drills) and seeing how he feels there and then actually getting him in practice to where he has bodies around him. How’s he going to move when somebody flashes? If we miss a block, can he escape from the pocket? We’re trying to take these steps. We may run out of time this week.”

(Does any of this affect QB Matt Moore, or does it not affect Matt until QB Ryan Tannehill starts taking first-team reps?) – “Matt is preparing (for) the game. He’s the starter. Unless something changes drastically here in the next two days or three days, he’s going into this thing. He’s the starter. We’ve got a little ways to go. I don’t want to rule him out yet, because I want to see him try to get out there and do something; but if he’s not ready to go, we’re not just going to put him out there and put him in harm’s way.”

(From a competitive standpoint, QB Ryan Tannehill hasn’t taken a snap in a month. Are you comfortable with two practices throwing him into a playoff game?) – “When you’re a quarterback and you know our system probably better than anybody, at some point the natural instincts take over. He knows our game plan in and out. I have a lot of confidence in him being able to tell me, ‘I can’t do it this week.’ When he hits that point, he’ll tell me that. We’ll see how tomorrow … I want to see what happens tomorrow if we end up getting him out there. If we don’t, then we move on to the next day. Matt has done a good job. He keeps preparing and getting ready for this game.”

(Have you ever been in this situation going into the playoffs where a quarterback’s health is a concern?) – “No, I haven’t been in this situation.”

(Your team is a big underdog. Little respect from the national media. Little confidence from the national media. Is that a topic of conversation at all amongst the players?) – “It’s like every other week. I don’t know how many games we’ve really been favored to actually win. I don’t know if our guys really pay attention to that. They’re focused on what they have to do.”

(It has been a while since you went full pads in practice. Just curious what your thought process was?) – “After watching what we put out there last week, we needed to do something different. We’re not going to stay the same.”

(CB Byron Maxwell was a big part of holding WR Antonio Brown to four receptions last time around. What would it mean to get him back for this particular game?) – “Anytime you get one of your better players … We feel good about our secondary. Adding him to the mix, we’d feel better. But he only can do what he’s able to do right now. That’s why he’s day-to-day. Some days he feels good, and we feel like we’re looking good for him to go and then some days he doesn’t feel so good. We have to see, really, how the rest of this week goes. It has been a couple weeks now. I’m not really sure how that one is going to turn out.”

(Where does playoff experience show the most? Is it in preparation, actual games, tight situations in games?) – “I think once you get in the game, you’re really not thinking that way. I think it’s really the preparation (and) how much more are you going to do, how are you going to practice, are you going to bring it every day and get ready for this game even though it’s late in the year? You’ve already played 16 games. You’ve played a whole preseason. Do you have the ability to go out in a full-padded practice on a Wednesday and compete the way you need to compete, or are you going to be frustrated that it’s hot out and you have full pads on? That’s really what it comes down to. That’s where experience always comes in handy right there, because the guys that know how to do it, they go out, they prepare the right way, and they’re ready to go on Sunday or Saturday.”

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