Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley
Re: Heath Miller and Maurkice Pouncey being named to the Pro Bowl:
Obviously, I think, and they both said this to me, they would trade it for more wins and a chance to play some more games. Really, I just think it’s a great honor. Both of those guys are very deserving of the award.
When you were hired you gave high praise to Miller. After seeing him play, were you even more impressed this year?
Yeah, he really did [impress me]. I know I said that. I was very excited about getting a chance to work with him. He is just the epitome of the same guy, every day. He is very dependable and reliable. What he does in the run game is what people aren’t going to notice nearly as much as the statistics. That’s what you don’t want people to miss out on, how much he does for us in protections, runs and in the pass game. He is a very unselfish player. You can count on him almost all the time to do what he is supposed to do, and he makes plays when you need him.
Is it difficult to prepare for a game that really doesn’t mean anything in the standings?
No. It’s difficult the situation we are in. It’s hard to accept that we aren’t going to get to play more games. This game is our biggest of the week. I think it’s very important. It’s not a game you want to be in. But like I said to the guys, unless you win the Super Bowl, you never get many chances in the playoffs to end the season on a winning note. We have to take advantage of that. I’ve been places where I really believed it carries over. It changes your mindset and overall mood going into the next few months, and you come back. I think a win in the last game or the last two games, whatever opportunity you have has a springboard effect for you. That’s what we need to do, get this going in a positive direction to finish the season.
Re: Pouncey’s career thus far and how he’s the only center in NFL history to be selected to three straight Pro Bowls to start his career:
He’s a football player. I mean that in a way – when he came out of college, if you just relied on his timing, speed and his combine numbers, he’d be just another guy. But when the pads are on, he’s special. His football playing ability at his position doesn’t add up to the measurables, so to speak. It comes down to, when you are evaluating these guys, they better be good football players. He is just that. I didn’t know that about him. That’s even more impressive. We see it every day. You just don’t want to take it for granted, because he is special. He is a really smart player. He helps a bunch of other guys. He is very athletic. When his pads are on, he allows you to do things you wouldn’t be able to with other players at his position.
What did you learn this year about the Steelers and about this offense?
I think there is no substitute for experience. Having a year under my belt in a new place is a big item, because you have a lot to go by now, whether it’s going to the Senior Bowl or Combine, the role we have as coaches, and our opinion counts as we move through the draft. Those things, you get a much clearer picture of your needs, at least on offense. You have a much clearer picture of the players. I personally have a much better feel for all of the coaches, who I didn’t know very well when I came here. There is no substitute for experience, and then it’s about what you do with it. I believe we will just do nothing but get better, which is what we have to do.
Re: Ben Roethlisberger saying one full offseason would be beneficial to the offense:
I think change is difficult. It’s not always the easiest thing, because it’s not always comfortable and you have to adjust. That goes for all parties involved. This case, for me, the players and coaches, it’s not easy but that doesn’t mean it’s not right. Coach Tomlin made a change. I was fortunate enough to be the guy that was chosen. You want to make your boss right, and I believe we will. A year of experience working together, all of us, I think is priceless.
Before this season, you hadn’t called the plays in three years. Is it hard to get back into the groove after having such a long layoff?
No, I think somebody asked me that earlier this season. I think that it’s something that I am very comfortable doing. There was an adjustment early. Some of that was just the operation of who is in the box, how you are communicating and who is giving you the necessary information that you have to have quickly. We worked through that in the preseason. In the regular season, I think operationally we were really good for the most part. There are always calls that you’d like to have back. You just don’t want that number to be off the charts. I felt very comfortable in that role. We just need to do a better job as a group, and we will.
Re: Possibly exploring a head coaching position if one opened:
Really, it’s not anything that I am thinking about. I have said a bunch of times, even when I came in and sat down with Coach Tomlin early on, this is where I want to be. I have almost three years of experience doing that. And I will occasionally say to Coach Tomlin, “This is a lot more fun than what you have to deal with.” In some ways, it is, because you get to coach and work with the players on a daily basis and interact all the time. It’s the closest thing to being out there, being able to be in this position. I am happy being here, and I just want to finish this year in the right manner to push us into the offseason, and get ready to be better next year.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau
Re: Having no Pro Bowl selections from the defense:
I think it’s an injustice but that’s all. I’m not wasting any sleep over it. It is what it is. Our guys numbers testify what they’ve done. I’m proud of them and certainly some of them deserve to be in the Pro Bowl, but they’re not. You’ve got to win more games.
Will you be back next season?
That would be up to Coach [Mike] Tomlin. Let’s just say I really like Pittsburgh and I really like working for the Steelers. Coach Tomlin will tell you if he wants me back or not. It will be up to Mike.
Do you want to come back if you’re chosen to come back?
I love Pittsburgh.
Have you ever seen a team go through so many injuries?
I think it’s been an unusual year for that. Injuries are part of the game. You have to persevere through those. I think our guys fought through them. We needed to win a few more of those close games. It has been a very unusual year in that respect.
Were the ACL injuries as prevalent when you played, or even early in your coaching career?
I think there had been joint injuries. They’re very vulnerable in the game of football and the more they can do to protect them, the better off it is. I think they have always been probably the most common injury in the game.
Guys played through those injuries years ago.
They’d just tape an aspirin to our leg and tell us it was okay. [Laughs]
Despite the injuries, you have a chance to finish as the top defense against the run, against the pass and overall. How have you been able to do that?
The players have made the plays and created the numbers that give us an opportunity to do that. We’ve certainly made them aware of that. That is one of our goals in this game. The first goal, of course, is to win the game. But you don’t get a chance to do that very often and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to do it.
Re: The defense being able to get off the field now, as compared to when it struggled to do so earlier this season:
Well, the truth of the matter is we didn’t get off to a really good start on defense. I don’t think it was ever quite as bad as it was perceived to be but we weren’t playing the way we wanted to play. For, I’d say over a month and a half now, our third down numbers have been good. We got a little behind early in all phases, but these guys stayed together and played pretty doggone good defense and got us back to where we like to be, up near the top of the bunch.
So, the coach got smarter as the year went on?
Yeah, the better the players play, the smarter the coach is. There’s no question about that.
Re: NT Casey Hampton’s performance after rebounding from an injury:
Well not only Casey, but James Harrison missed all the coaching sessions. He missed all of training camp. [Jason] Worilds missed all of training camp. We had three pretty productive players for us that really couldn’t get football exercise until we started into the regular season. I think all of those men made steady improvement and I think the results are obvious in the performance of our team. But Casey, for two months now we’ve seen him make an awful lot of plays. Probably the one statistic we‘ve come the furthest in was the run advantage in yards allowed per rush. We know Casey is always going to be a big part of that. I think all those guys getting stronger and some of the young guys that had to transition into new roles, they got stronger as we went along and I’m very proud of this group for staying with it and fighting through a slower start than we wanted. We would like to have played better, but they played hard and played fairly well here from the midpoint of the season on.
Re: Thoughts on losing veteran players who have accomplished so much here:
They’re family and you’re always going to miss your family. Fortunately, they come back. [James] Farrior was back a few times. Aaron [Smith] drops back over every now and then. Chris Hoke we get to see from time to time. This is the nature of this business also. There’s a 16-game season and that group of athletes, in all probability, is going to be the only time that all the men in that room are going to be together. That’s why it’s always a special situation with each year and each game. I don’t think it’s ever happened where the same people from top to bottom in that room have returned. It’s a vision of life in the NFL. But we miss them. We miss those guys. They know we think of them all the time.