Todd Haley – August 15, 2012
Do you have any special plays ready for Mike Wallace when he returns, since it sounds like he will be back soon?
I haven’t heard anything factual or sounds solid, so we’ll continue to coach the guys who are here. But I am looking forward to seeing him, hopefully sooner rather than later.
How long will it take Wallace to catch up on the playbook?
Everyone is a little different. A lot of other guys know him better but I am a little familiar with his skill set, and it is pretty impressive. I would think we will just tailor to his skills early on and ease him into it. You want a guy like that involved as much as you can because he is a difference maker.
Re: A “ground and pound” offensive philosophy:
If we can win every game running it 35-40 times that would be great. Statistically, if you hand the ball off 30-plus times in a game, you’ve got a 90-plus% chance of winning. I think that it’s yet to be determined. We’ll play the way we need to play to win each and every week.
How much does Rashard Mendenhall’s injury affect the running back position?
None, really, as far as I’m concerned. When a difference-maker like Mendenhall is back, just like Wallace, we want him back sooner rather than later. You’re not going to hurry him back, especially a running back coming off of an injury like he had as late as he did. When he does come back, that’s another difference-maker you have on the offensive side of the ball and we’ll play to his strengths. I’m excited about the group we have right now, even without Mendenhall. We’re just trying to figure out who can do what and play to their strengths.
Re: Isaac Redman getting an MRI tomorrow:
I don’t know anything about that. I heard he was practicing today. He’s been a little nicked-up but we’re a little short at that position, so we’re trying to be smart. I think Head Coach Mike Tomlin overall is trying be real smart, especially at the spots where we’re a little short.
Re: Redman’s running style:
He’s a big, downhill back that’s excellent in protection. As a runner, you can’t pigeon-hole him and say he’s strictly a between-the-tackles runner, because I do think he has a little sneaky burst to the edge. He’s got real good vision. I would say what he does best is that he can pound it up in there. I like the direction we’re going with the offensive line. We look to be making some progress up front, especially as we get healthier. I’m excited to see him get as many carries as we can get him this week.
Have any wide receivers separated themselves from the rest of the group?
It’s still real early, and you’re talking about a bunch of young guys that haven’t had a lot of playing time, except for maybe Derrick Williams. I think it is a little too early at that position to get too excited one way or another. They’re all competing. This week will be a big week. Hopefully David Gilreath will be back and get a chance to play some, and we’ll get some of the guys who maybe didn’t get a ton of reps last week in the first game some chances to play. Games are where you’re really going to see guys start to jockey around, and I think it’ll start to play itself out the more games we play in this preseason.
What is going to be the identity of this offense?
It’s too early to tell. I am excited. We’re definitely going to have some versatility. I think the more versatility you have, whether it’s from a running and passing standpoint, or from a schematic standpoint because of the ability you have at different positions, I think that we’ll be a versatile offense. We’ve got a real good quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and I would think that one of our strengths is versatility. You don’t want to do a lot of things just okay. You’d like to do some things real good. I think with some of the ability we have and if our line continues to gel together and gets better every week, we have a chance to be a pretty versatile group that can hurt you in a number of ways.
Re: Chris Rainey looking comfortable within the offense:
I think that’s a testament to him. He’s still got a long way to go. We’re not going to start carving the bust yet for Rainey. He has done some things that get you excited. As an offensive staff, we’re all kind of encouraged to see a young guy not be afraid to step up and make plays. It’s a testament to him and the way that he prepares. He’s obviously studying hard because we’ve asked him to do a lot of different things. He’s got a high level of pride and is conscientious about the job he’s doing. He’s been coached real well by Kirby Wilson, who is on him pretty much all of the time and doesn’t make life easy. He’s responded well to this point, but like I’ve said, we’ve got a long way to go.
Is there any concern that Redman is going to miss an extended amount of time?
You guys have more information than I do right now. We’re practicing and we’re not trying to put too much on him because he is a little nicked-up. The way I understood it is that we’re going to stay on course with that but the plan is to get him some carries in this game.
What is the plan for Max Starks?
Under the new CBA rules, he has to be eased back into it and go through that period that everybody went through early on in camp. He’ll be in just a helmet for a couple more days. Once he’s in pads, he’ll be out participating with his teammates in drills other than individual. I think we just have to be smart and ease him back into it and get him some legitimate snaps in the run and pass. We’ll let him get his feet wet and get back into it.
How would you assess your wide receiving core if and when Wallace comes back?
I like the group, especially the top three guys. Wallace being in that mix adds another difference maker. The more the merrier as far as I’m concerned. We’ve got some guys that have NFL experience, that have shown they can make plays both in years past and so far this year. I think we’ve got a chance to be solid at that position. We still need some of these young guys in the second half of the group, one or two of them to step up whether it’s as a special teamer or receiver, so we can have somebody at the game who’s doing more than sitting and watching.
Will you throw the ball more against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday to see what you have?
I think what we’ll do is we’ll play the first line guys a little more. But our plan won’t change a whole bunch as far as what we’re working on. We’ll have an area of emphasis again which might be a lot the same but there will definitely be some other things that we’re working on potentially in this game, without giving anything away. But I think the big thing is we’ll get some more snaps out of those front line guys and continue to acclimate them into playing football games.
Do you have any packages for four wide receivers?
Yes. We definitely have them. We have five wide. Again, one of the things that I stand by and preach is try to get the best 11 on the field. I don’t want to just go four wides just to go four wides. If that fourth receiver isn’t clearly better than a tight end or a back then it’s hard to pull the trigger on that one. The philosophy is get the best 11 on the field. That goes for goal line, short yardage, red area, third down, all the different situational areas. That’s really the way we try to operate.
Do you have a set plan for how long the starters will be in Sunday?
We haven’t talked about that yet as a staff but I’m imagining it will be a series or two more than what we saw last week.
Is there any chance that Max Starks will play Sunday?
I wouldn’t rule him out. We have to see how he does. I think maybe tomorrow he’ll be able to go into pads. I’m not sure exactly of the rule but it’s either tomorrow or the next day. If he gets a couple good practice days and he’s feeling good, I wouldn’t say he or anybody is ruled out right now.
Does Emmanuel Sanders have a chance to make a name for himself this year?
There is a great opportunity for any of those guys playing the wideout position. He’s a hungry, young player that definitely has ability and the skill set to go out there and make plays for us. He’s a tough guy that isn’t afraid to block in the run game and isn’t afraid to make plays in the pass game. I think he’s looking at this as a great opportunity to go out and really be a weapon for us.
With the injuries on the offensive line, how much of a challenge is it to gain some chemistry?
Injuries are part of it. You can’t change it. You have to make due with what you have. Injuries can happen anywhere along the line. Any combination of players that are out there could be a combination that you might be playing with later on down the road when the games are real. We’re all about building chemistry and generalizing offenses as a unit, who’s going to be here and who’s not. What I can say for sure is they all won’t be here one way or another. With the guys that are here, we’re working on offensive team chemistry and having an offense that is a smart situational football team, that plays physical and makes plays when we need plays whether it’s run or pass.
Re: Leonard Popes’ and Weslye Saunders’ progress:
Pope had some experience in Arizona. He came to Kansas City and then came out here to Pittsburgh, which it looks like he’s enjoying it, and becoming a true Pittsburgher, even though he may not talk like one. He’s still got a lot of Americus, Georgia, in him. He’s a great kid and he’s a veteran who has a lot of snaps under his belt and some big games. I know him very well. It’s really more about our staff and team getting a feel for what he’s capable of. I think he went out in the first game and did a reasonably positive job the snaps he was in there. He’s going to get some more this week just by virtue of the situation at tight end. He’s doing a good job. Saunders is in that second year, and I think you have to put an asterisk by all these second-year guys because they’re not truly a second-year guy because they missed the entire offseason last year. They’re kind of at one-and-half right now as far as where they are in their development. He’s made progress through the offseason and through the training camp so far. We’re trying not to think a whole bunch about the first four games aspect of him and really just try to give a true evaluation, a fair evaluation of where he is, so that we can make the decisions that we have to make as a staff.
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