Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley
Re: QB Ben Roethlisberger had his baby:
That’s one less thing we have to worry about. [Laughs]
Re: WR Plaxico Burress:
I think with Plaxico, number-one, you’re talking about a guy that’s played a long time in the league. It’s funny because when I was a receivers coach with the Jets in 2000, when he came out, we were set on taking Plaxico and we assumed the Steelers were taking Chad Pennington. They were a couple picks ahead of us and it turned our room into a tizzy in a hurry. We’re 12 years late getting to work together, but we’re excited about having him here. He’s a veteran guy that brings us size, and we’ve got to get him up to speed. That’s the challenge.
How much is easier is the learning when a guy has been around as long as Burress?
It’s not easier from understanding the terminology and things like that. It’s easier from techniques and understanding what routes we’re looking for and those types of things. The real challenge is just trying to get him into a position mentally to compete, and also understand the guy hasn’t been on the field in a number of months. But we’re excited to have him. Brian [Hoyer] is a sharp guy. There’s some carryover with him, having been in New England where they still use a bunch of the same terminology that we use here. He’s a quick study, and he has been around and backed up on a really good team behind a really good quarterback. You can tell that he didn’t have big eyes, so to speak. He steps in the huddle and takes control. He’s a smart guy who’s working his backside off to be in a position to help us if he needs to.
Will you adjust the offense to play to QB Charlie Batch’s strengths, and if so, what are those strengths?
Absolutely. That will never change, and like I said last week, especially at the quarterback position. Charlie’s a well-rounded quarterback that has a lot of experience and he’s comfortable running the majority of our offense and the majority of things we’ve been able to practice through the offseason, training camp and the season. With him, I think you just let him go through the lists of things he likes and is comfortable with, and comfortable with what the guys are doing. He’s done a good job this week. He’ll be ready to go. He’s a veteran, savvy guy that’s an accurate thrower, short and long, and I think he’s excited to play.
Is it like having a coach on the field when Batch is playing because of all the experience he has?
We have to teach him the art of not over-coaching. [Laughs] That is an art, too. Charlie has been around a long time. I’m joking but I’m being serious. You’ve got to understand everybody you’re working with and not over-coach. We’re on that.
How much work can you give a quarterback that has only been here three days?
It will be limited. But like I said, because of some of the carryover and a lot of people run very similar concepts, and once he gets it translated, which he’s worked hard at doing, he’s got that part done. So, understanding where the football goes, the protection and protection issues, he’s good at that. Like I said, he’s experienced enough to know where the ball needs to go in those concepts. Really, it’s just narrowing down a package for him that he’d feel comfortable with, run and pass.
Can you expand Burress beyond just a few packages with limited practice time?
I don’t know. We worked hard at trying to get him as much as we could without overloading him. We’ll have to see on Sunday exactly where he’s at. There’s the physical aspect of not having practiced every day for the season, and there’s a lot of factors going into it. Like I said, we’re excited to have him and he gives us a size presence that we don’t have other than Heath [Miller] or [Leonard] Pope and those couple guys. The key now is just getting him up to speed where he can come in and compete fairly.
Are you expecting to see Browns CB Joe Haden play this week?
Yeah. He was limited yesterday. I don’t know how he was today. But I would expect that he’d be out there.
It would be big for Cleveland if he plays, right?
Yeah. He’s a heck of a player when he’s in there. He gives them another guy that has experience and makes plays, and they do some matching and things like that to the receivers they feel are the number ones. And he’s the guy. Between him and Sheldon [Brown], they’ve got two pretty solid, veteran corners that know how to play.
What allowed the Browns to get a good pass rush against Dallas?
I think Dallas threw it a bunch, number-one, and number-two, it starts with 97, [Jabaal] Sheard, the guy from [Pitt]. He is a high-motor guy that is relentless, and he’s got a couple very good moves that he uses. He’s not a one-trick pony. When you add motor to skill set, those are usually your premier rushers, which he is. They’ve got the rest of the front four, which is a quality front four that keeps some pressure off him and keeps him in some one-on-ones. I think you’ve got to be aware of where he is and make sure that you have a couple bodies on him, generally.
Re: Impressions of G David DeCastro’s first practices since a knee injury:
I’m just excited to see him, number-one. I think it was a pretty significant injury and to have the new rule in place, which is great, and it allowed him to have a little light at the end of the tunnel, whereas most of the time when something like that happens, most guys just go and wonder the halls waiting for next year as they work on their body. But that was a real positive that he had a carrot dangling there to chase, and he’s obviously a tireless worker as a football player, and I think the same holds true in rehab and things like that, at least from the things I’ve heard. He looked good. He said he felt good and obviously we weren’t in pads or anything like that, so he hasn’t hit anybody since August. I’m glad that there’s a window but I wouldn’t set a bar on it with him, because I’m surprised that he’s even out here practicing right now.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau
How much does their offense go through Trent Richardson?
He is their leading rusher and their leading receiver in terms of receptions, so that’s a lot. He’s not unlike Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens. He is carrying the weight on both sides. They have some nice young wide receivers that they are getting the ball to deep. They use Richardson a lot.
Re: It looks like the Browns have a West Coast offense but they throw the ball deep more:
I think that’s because they have such a good runner. The core of their offense revolves around him. So your passing game is going to be play action. It is formidable because the linebackers have to respect the running threat and it gives them a little more space to work. That’s where you see them throw that deep ball. We will have to be on our keys, especially in the secondary. We can’t go chasing rainbows or they will be floating something over us.
Re: Rice being similar in size to Richardson:
I think that’s probably accurate. But the differences aren’t much. Maybe Rice is a little faster and maybe Richardson is a little bigger. Between the two of them, they are pretty damn good backs.
Re: Brandon Weeden:
He is getting better every week. He has done a good job from Week 1. You look at their scores in the last four or five games, they could have, and you maybe could say they should have won all of them. They won a couple of them. It’s going to be a close, hard-fought game. They are playing good football and he is playing good football.
Is he a pure pocket passer?
He scrambles some. He is a little more athletic than you might think. He can keep a drive alive. I don’t think he looks to do it. He isn’t that type of a quarterback but he can definitely keep the play alive in the pocket. He can scramble if he has to. I have been impressed with his speed and agility.
Re: Will Allen:
I think he’s done a great job, along with Ryan Mundy. Allen has been getting the majority of the snaps between the two but they’ve both done a great job in Troy Polamalu’s absence. In recent games, Allen has made a lot of tackles all over the field. He plays hard. He has continued to be productive on special teams. He is just a really solid veteran, and professional that can go in there, get the job done and let your defense function. He has definitely done a good job.
Re: Comparing and contrasting Allen to Polamalu:
I don’t think you should compare anybody to Polamalu. In my mind, he is as different as any safety I have ever seen. He can do everything. Allen has the speed and tenacity that Polamalu has. Allen has gotten to a ton of footballs and has played very well. I think Allen has his own style of play. You’ve all seen that it’s very productive and effective.
Re: Challenges and advantages of facing a rookie quarterback:
Early on there may be some but by the time you get this far into the season, I don’t think there are any. Weeden has had the whole training camp, all the coaching sessions and now all this game experience. He is just a young veteran quarterback now. It will come down to who plays the best football.
Do you have any advice for Ben Roethlisberger on being a father?
It’s the greatest thing in the world, absolutely. He and his wife will discover that. Don’t miss a minute of it because it goes pretty fast.
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There was no rest for the weary as the Steelers’ coaches were back at it on Tuesday morning, preparing for Sunday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field.
The Ravens are 7-2, one game up on the 6-3 Steelers in the AFC North. But both teams could have 0-15 records and you would still get the same kind of battle that is expected this week.
“It’s Ravens’ week for us,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “This is going to be an awesome game. It always is. They are a talented bunch as they are perennially. They are a very good football team.”
The Ravens might be without their emotional leader on defense in Ray Lewis, who is on the injured reserve-designated for return list, but they certainly aren’t hurting for talent there.
“They still have some guys that have historically been issues for us,” said Tomlin. “Haloti Ngata is a guy that has created issues for us in the past and anyone else that suits up against him. He is tough to deal with. Terrell Suggs is back in action. He has had big games against us in the past. Ed Reed kills everyone.”
Reed continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing offenses with three interceptions so far this season, while cornerback Cary Williams leads the team with four.
“Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams are all playing really good football for them. These are guys that have grown in their program and have been playing for them for a number of years,” said Tomlin. “They are familiar names to us but might not be familiar to others. When I watch them on tape I see the emergence of this group and their ability to deliver crucial plays for them. They step up when needed.”
Another player who has stepped up this year is quarterback Joe Flacco, the AFC’s seventh leading passer. Flacco has completed 186 passes for 2,331 yards and 13 touchdowns, while spreading the ball around to prime targets Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta, and Torrey Smith, as well as Ray Rice who is a threat in the air but primarily on the ground.
“They are continuing to grow on offense and mature with their quarterback,” said Tomlin. “The offense runs through Joe Flacco. They do a lot of no-huddle. They have a lot of autonomy for him, and rightfully so. He’s a great decision maker. He spreads the ball around to a variety of guys. He does a nice job of highlighting the talents of people.”
It all boils down to a classic battle to stay in the race in the AFC North, and the bottom line this week is this game is not going to be one for the faint of heart.
“More than anything, we understand what this matchup is all about,” said Tomlin. “It’s about physicality and playing good, hard-nosed football. We expect them to do that, and we better be prepared to do it.”
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The Steelers are looking to get back into the win column this week in a key AFC North match-up against the Cincinnati Bengals.
This will be the Steelers first divisional game of the season, while the Bengals are 1-2 in the division coming off a loss to the Cleveland Browns.
“This is a big game for us and for them,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “It’s our first venture into division play. We all know the importance of division play, particularly when you’ve had the kind of start we’ve had. I would imagine they can say similar things. It’s going to be a big game for all parties involved. It should make it entertaining for our fans.”
One of the main weapons the Steelers defense will have to contend with this week is the Bengals number one draft pick from last year, wide receiver A.J. Green who has 43 receptions for 628 yards and six touchdowns through six games.
“You don’t get taken that high in the draft unless you have a unique physical skill set,” said Tomlin. “But looking at his body of work since he’s been in Cincinnati, he’s got some intangible things to go along with that that allow him to produce and produce at a high level in the manner in which he has. We respect him, we respect what he’s capable of, and obviously, in terms of slowing them down, he’s a big component of that for us as we build a plan.”
Green isn’t the only weapon, though, that Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has to work with, including running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, receiver Andrew Hawkins and tight end Jermaine Gresham just to name a few.
“By no means is he a one man gang,” said Tomlin of Green. “Jermaine Gresham, their tight end, is really doing some nice things. I really like what Coach (Jay) Gruden is doing with him schematically. They are putting him in some situations and displacing him from the core and getting him in matchups with linebackers and safety-types. He has a unique skill set. He is like an enormous wide receiver. He has good body control and runs great routes. He is a vertical threat.”
* * *
After in-game injuries against the Titans had the offensive line down to only five healthy bodies, there is a chance this week that the Steelers could dress eight instead of the normal seven linemen for the Bengals game.
“Absolutely it’s a possibility and it’s a real possibility considering the circumstances,” said Tomlin. “Obviously, with Marcus (Gilbert) being down and let’s say Maurkice Pouncey makes it, obviously you’d want to fortify yourself in that situation. I think eight linemen is a serious discussion that’s going to take place given the circumstance, not only the recent history in terms of what’s transpired with the group, but also the very present in terms of some of the men that will be playing, obviously, who will be dealing with things as we approach the game.”
Tomlin was also asked if there would be a roster move this week because of the injuries on the offensive line, and he acknowledged that there were players at the team’s facility on Tuesday that they were taking a look at, including Jacques McClendon who was signed to the practice squad. But Tomlin said it will be players already on the team they will be leaning on.
“Those that are going to help us win the football game this weekend are in our building and have been in our building,” said Tomlin.
* * *
Guard David DeCastro, who is on injured reserve/designated for return, is slowly making progress but there is no timetable right now for the rookie’s return to action.
“He ran yesterday in a straight line,” said Tomlin. “It’s part of the rehabilitation. I thought it was positive and I think how he responds to those workouts, of course, is going to be a critical component.
“But, there is a certain period of time that he has to go through before he’s even eligible to come back. So, we haven’t spent a lot of time discussing his status or his progress. I just happened to look over there and see him running.”
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It might have been a crisp, comfortable fall evening, but the soon arriving cold weather in Pittsburgh was definitely on the mind of Steelers’ players on Tuesday, as they took a group of 35 kids from the Tarentum Salvation Army from Allegheny Valley shopping for winter outwear.
The energetic group of youngsters was wide eyed as they were each paired with a player who was their personal shopper and best buddy for the night at Macy’s at Ross Park Mall as a part of the Salvation Army’s Project Bundle-Up.
“It’s great doing this,” said Brett Keisel, joined by his wife Sarah and their three kids. “I always bring the whole family so my kids can meet the kids we shop with and hang out with them.”
Keisel was helping seven-year Donovan select a winter coat, as well as gloves and a hat, and of course a Steelers t-shirt.
“You get to get them gear to keep them warm for these cold Pittsburgh winters,” said Keisel. “It’s a lot of fun. The weather is changing. The leaves are getting ready to drop and we know Pittsburgh can get frosty in the winter. To know these kids will be safe and warm in their hot new gear is great. They can go to school nice and toasty.”
While Keisel was shopping for a boy, some others had a more challenging experience, picking out girl’s clothes. Ziggy Hood, who has two sons, was happy to have his wife Sarah give some fashion advice to young Cassidy, who seemed happy with what she got.
“She loves pink and we got it for her,” said Hood. “My wife was with me so she was really able to help. She knows what girls like. I know what the boys like.
“But it’s just great to come out here and put a smile on their face. It’s a big thing for them to have these jackets. I am from Texas, but here in Pittsburgh you need to have the jacket, hat and gloves to protect yourself out there.”
The children that take part in the shopping night are selected based on their need, and being able to get a much-needed winter coat with the assistance of a Steelers’ player is icing on the cake for them.
“Number one it’s a great chance for the young people to see the Steelers, which is always great,” Major Mark Mackneer, Allegheny County Coordinator for the Salvation Army. “It’s also great to see the way the Steelers always reach out to the community and help those less fortunate in the area.
“It’s surreal for the kids to have this happen. They can’t believe it when they meet the football players, the people they see on Sunday on television are here caring and shopping with them. It’s amazing they do that and we appreciate everything the Steelers organization does.”
Among the 31 players taking part in the shopping, signing autographs and posing for pictures were many of the team’s rookies, including Chris Rainey and Sean Spence who teamed up to take two young girls shopping.
“I have done stuff like this since high school,” said Rainey about being involved in the community. “I love giving back. This is the first time we ever did this, taking kids shopping. We got a lot of colorful, warm stuff.
“I am from Florida so I don’t know how cold it’s going to be, but I wanted to make sure they were ready.”
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked with the media on Wednesday about this week’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Are you happy with the no-huddle right now?
What do you like most about the no-huddle offense?
It’s more than just the passing game. Even the runs have been very effective. We’ve got first downs when we need to get them with the run. We’ve gotten our four yards a pop. To me, the whole thing has been pretty good.
What problems does the Eagles defense present?
I hate to say problem. I like to say challenge. The challenge is for the tackles, the tight ends, and the line in general. If we can protect in the pass game, I think that’s big for us because we can take advantage of our wide receivers and our tight ends down the field. In the run game, taking advantage of those guys really being more speed guys, hopefully we can use some strength and power to move them.
Are you looking forward to getting RB Rashard Mendenhall involved and how much will you use him this week?
It would be good to have him back out there. It’s always good to have everybody healthy. I don’t know how much we’ll use him, but it will be good to have him out there.
Re: RB Chris Rainey’s role:
It feels like when he’s out there the defense is always yelling to watch the trick play and watch 22. It’s like they know something is going on when he’s out there. That’s why we have to keep utilizing him in different ways and I think we’ll keep doing that.
When you are scoring a lot of points, does it matter if they come via the run or the pass?
You want to win the game however you can win the game, truthfully. We always say we want to score points so we have to keep scoring points, score more, and bring the running game as we go.
Re: The importance of this game, even though it is not a divisional or conference game:
We definitely want to get back on track. But, in just talking to the Philly media, it’s probably just as much Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia. Ever since I’ve been here, like you said it’s not a division game, it’s AFC versus NFC, but no matter what sport it is it seems to be Pittsburgh versus Philly and a general hatred. That’s what I’ve noticed since I moved here about Philadelphia. I think it’s just as much that, too.
Re: Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia in other sports:
I’m always rooting for the Pittsburgh team. There’s no doubt about that. I like to watch the fans boo the Flyers so I boo, too.
Re: The Philadelphia secondary playing press coverage:
It can be very disruptive. If our receivers can find a way to avoid the jam, then it really opens us up down the field. It will be tricky because they are long, they’re tall and they’re bigger guys but I have faith in our guys that they’ll be able to get off the jam and get down field.
Is WR Mike Wallace or Eagles WR DeSean Jackson faster?
That’s my guy, so I have to put money on Mike.
Re: Having S Troy Polamalu and LB James Harrison back:
I think it’s great. It’s a great boost for the defense because they’re out there. The defense just kind of feeds off those guys as leaders. Offensively, it’s going to be great to see them out there, to see that hair blowing in the wind as he’s running around making tackles is a neat thing.
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger
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Doors Open at 5:30 p.m., show taping begins at 6:30 p.m.
Kids under age 12 are free, all others $5.00.
Two shows are taped per night. Parking available in lot Gold 1A.
The McDonald Steelers KidZONE Show airs Sunday mornings
at 10:30 A.M. on The Pittsburgh CW.
Show begins airing on Sunday, Sept. 16 through Sunday, Dec. 30
Once guests are known for each show we will publish them on this page.
Tuesday, September 4 - Jerricho Cotchery and Ryan Mundy
Tuesday, September 11 – Baron Batch and Cortez Allen
Tuesday, September 18 – Jonathan Dwyer and Chris Carter
Tuesday, September 25 – Ramon Foster and Willie Colon
Tuesday, October 2 - Chris Rainey and Stevenson Sylvester
Tuesday, October 16 -
Tuesday, October 23 -
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Linebacker LaMarr Woodley knows what is expected from the Steelers defense, and he knows giving up 34 points – especially when the offense puts 31 points on the board – isn’t what the standard is.
“I know when our offense goes out there and puts that many points on the board they’re giving us an opportunity to win the game,” said Woodley. “It’s our responsibility on the defense to go out there and shut teams down, and we didn’t do that.”
Defensive end Brett Keisel echoed those thoughts following the Steelers 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, which dropped the Steelers to 1-2 on the season.
“If an offense scores 31 points you should win the game,” said Keisel. “We have to do better on defense to keep people out of the end zone.”
This loss will sit with the players a little longer than normal as they have their bye this weekend, before taking on the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field on Oct. 7.
“We’ve got to chew on that,” said Keisel. “We’ve got to chew on it for two weeks. We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas on defense. I’ve got to get better. We’ll do that.”
At the same time, the bye could be an advantage, allowing the Steelers to get some players back, including safety Troy Polamalu and linebackers James Harrison and Stevenson Sylvester.
“We’ve got an opportunity to go into this bye week, have everybody rest up a bit, and come out and get ready to play some more football,” said Woodley.
Tags: Brett Keisel, LaMarr Wood
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Coach Mike Tomlin made it no secret earlier this week that the Steelers running game is not where he expects it to be, with only 54 rushes for 141 yards, a 2.6-yard average per carry, through two games this season.
“We haven’t run the ball as well as we have liked,” said Tomlin. “I’m not interested in assigning blame in that regard. I will take responsibility for it.
“The reality is we’ve got room for growth. We need to tighten up our menu and lean on the things we are doing well. We need to block better and put the ball where it needs to be on a more consistent basis.”
He isn’t the only who would like to see things get in gear this week against the Oakland Raiders, especially playing on the road in a hostile environment.
“On the road the defense is going to feed off the crowd, by running the ball you get the defense tired, you take the emotions out of the game from their standpoint,” said running back Jonathan Dwyer. “The run game opens up an aspect of the passing game, our play action, with the receivers we have and Ben (Roethlisberger). It opens everything up and establishes our tempo as a team and shows what we are about.
While it’s still early in the season, quickly establishing a balance between the running the ball and passing it is a key for the offense, as teams will soon focus in on shutting the passing game down if the run doesn’t get going.
“I think it’s important for our offense to stay two dimensional,” said tackle Max Starks. “You don’t want to become a team that can’t run the ball and has to pass it and you become predicable. Teams then line up and try to blitz you and twist and stunt you to death because they know you are in passing situations more often than not. It’s important to have a balanced run attack so it frees up options for not only drop back passes, but for your play action game, screen plays, and draws.
“It’s very important. It’s something we have to work on and get better at.”
Dwyer thinks the issues with the running game are things that are an easy fix, most of it coming from within.
“It’s nothing huge, just minor details, everybody being on the same page, making no mistakes, no penalties to hurt us,” said Dwyer. “We have a great offensive line. There is no drop off on the depth chart. The only thing that can beat us is ourselves. I think we can play against any team and what they throw at us. It’s about being consistent and not beating up on ourselves.
“We have to do the little things, not jumping offside, eliminate the holds, and be on the same page. We are doing that every day and getting better. By us feeding off each other we can be a very dangerous team in the run game.”
Another thing that could aid the ground game is doing what Tomlin said about sticking with what is working.
“That is what they said we are going to do,” said running back Isaac Redman. “Instead of having a whole bunch of runs we are making the playbook smaller with the runs and run what we are good at.”
The team has been without Rashard Mendenhall the first two weeks of the season, but he began taking contact in practice on Wednesday. His return to the field, whenever it might be, will be valuable and he looks forward to adjusting to his role in Todd Haley’s offense.
“It’s still early and we’re still developing our identity on offense,” said Mendenhall. “We’re just preparing, and whenever I get back, whatever my role is, I’m preparing for that.
“I feel like my style varies as well. I’m just preparing myself for whenever I step out there, whatever I’m called to do and being able to do it.”
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Among the weapons the Steelers defense has to prepare for this week is a familiar face to the black and gold, Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer.
The Steelers faced Palmer for eight years while he was with the Cincinnati Bengals, and they know what he brings to the table.
“He stays poised in the pocket, he doesn’t let too much stuff rattle him,” said cornerback Keenan Lewis. “He has experience so he knows the throws he wants to make. He can find mismatches real quick so we have to be alert for that.
“We have been watching him a lot. We know what he likes to attack, what they don’t like. We have a feel for him.”
It’s not just Palmer the defense has to be alert for. Running back Darren McFadden brings multiple wrinkles to the Raiders offense, with the ability to hurt a team on the ground or in the air.
“He is a great running back, one of the best in the league,” said Lewis. “He is a fast guy. He can make people miss in space and in closed space as well. You have to have an alert out on that guy. He has soft hands like a wide receiver and runs good routes as well. That can be a problem if we aren’t ready for him.”
McFadden hasn’t had his normal production so far this season, with only 54 yards on 26 carries. He has caught 15 receptions for 105 yards, including 86 yards in the opener against San Diego.
“We know he is an explosive back,” said nose tackle Casey Hampton. “He can go off any time. We are very aware of that. We are not taking it for granted.”
Safety Troy Polamalu, whose status for Sunday’s game has yet to be determined after he didn’t practice for the second straight day, knows the defense has to be on point with the way the Raiders use their running backs.
“You just have to be on your keys,” said Polamalu. “As a safety as good as their play action is they set up screens nicely. We just have to be disciplined in our techniques, our gaps and ready our keys.”
Tags: Casey Hampton, Keenan Lewis, Troy Polamalu
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Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke could be heading back to Oakland this week with revenge on his mind. He could be bitter and angry after being let go from the Raiders on Sept. 3, after they gave their former third-round draft pick just one season to prove himself.
But he doesn’t feel that way, he isn’t upset, and it’s because he feels like he is in a better situation after being signed by the Steelers.
“I kind of had a feeling it was coming,” said Van Dyke. “I have no hard feelings. It’s a business. I understand that part of it. It happens like that.
“I didn’t show any emotion. I wasn’t upset, which is crazy. My mom asked if I was upset and I said no because I am going closer to home (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) and it’s a great opportunity for me.”
He also found himself now playing for the team he was hoping would have drafted him when he came out of the University of Miami.
“It’s crazy because when I was coming out in the draft I told my mom I wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steeler,” said Van Dyke. “I met Coach (Mike) Tomlin at my pro day. My mom had a good feel for him. I also met Mr. (Kevin) Colbert. Everything was going right and I said if they draft me, I will be happy.
“Oakland drafted me and things happen for a reason. They let me go and now I am where I wanted to be in the first place.”
Tomlin has been pleased with Van Dyke’s contributions so far on special teams, which includes downing a punt against the Denver Broncos on the one-yard line, and preventing a punt by the New York Jets to be downed at the Steelers one-yard line.
For now Van Dyke understands his role is on special teams, but would welcome work in the Steelers’ defense, even though he is still learning it.
“Hopefully I get a chance to play corner, but right now I am doing what Coach Tomlin tells me to do,” said Van Dyke. “I am focusing on special teams, making tackles on the punt returner or guarding my guy there at gunner.”
Tags: DeMarcus Van Dyke
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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked to the media before practice on Wednesday about this week’s game against the Oakland Raiders.
Re: The Raiders’ defense:
They’re a good defense, especially up front. They have a good front seven. Their defensive line gets after it. We just have to be prepared for anything in the secondary, from man coverage to zone.
Re: The trip out west to Oakland:
Bring a lot of movies. It’s so quick. It’s a long flight but you’re there Saturday night, you go to the game, then you fly back. It’s not like you’re there for a week.
How much do you remember from your last game in Oakland when you were battling concussion symptoms?
I remember throwing like six or seven picks and it being a crazy, hostile place. That’s about it. And losing the game.
If the injury you were suffering from the same injury today as the last time you played in Oakland, would you be allowed to play?
Do you recall being fuzzy during that game?
I don’t remember. It was so long ago and I even forgot that I had a concussion the week before until you all just brought it up. Honestly, I think the interceptions kind of overshadowed everything.
Re: Defenses rushing the quarterback on a kneel-down play:
It’s tough. I kind of see both sides of it. If I was at quarterback I wouldn’t be happy with it. If it was my defense, I’d say, “Way to go until the end of the game.” It’s hard. You never want to hurt anybody, especially this early in the season. It’s not like it’s a playoff game and something is going on. There are times when we take a knee at the end of halves and we’ll tell the defense that we’re taking a knee and everyone backs off. I think at this level that’s probably proper etiquette.
Do you think defenses rushing the quarterback when he takes a knee is going to catch on in the league?
Let’s hope not. If someone doesn’t get hurt, it’s going to start a fight. Who knows what could happen?
Is it an unwritten rule to not rush the quarterback taking a knee or is it communicated?
Both. If you’re going down there’s no need to do it. I’ve had that before where guys have jumped over and tried to hit us. It’s not fun. You tell your guys to fight to the end but I could see fighting to the end if it is a run play and not necessarily a kneel-down.
Re: Talk of banning the kneel-down:
I’d do the same thing they do now except put the quarterback about 10 yards deep, put two protectors back there and just snap to him and let him take a knee back there. If you lose 10 yards who cares?
Re: Being able to make so many plays on third down and struggling on first and second down:
We’re making something happen it seems like. I just got done talking to Oakland and they asked how we can possess the ball for so long without being able to run the ball. It seems like it’s first and second down and nothing’s really happening and then it’s, “Hey, go make something happen on third down you guys.” We’ve been able to do that on third downs and make things happen, whether it’s the tight ends, running backs, receivers, or the line giving me time. I don’t know. I know we don’t want to do it all year, I’ll tell you that much.
What can you do to help the running game get started?
I don’t know. Carry out my fake? I feel like a do a good job of that. I don’t know if it’s schematic. I don’t know what it is.
Re: Becoming predictable on offense:
That’s the key is not being predictable. That’s on coaches to know what our tendencies on different downs and things like that. We put our faith and trust in them that they’ll figure out what we need to do.
Re: Having to take timeouts when switching personnel groups:
We also need to figure out to why it feels like the play clock is getting started a lot faster than it ever has in the past. I don’t feel like all the time that the plays are late getting in. There are times that we’re trying to communicate and that’s just a natural occurrence. I don’t care how you’re doing it, there are times that you have to take a timeout because the play clock is running down. We just have to make sure we keep working on communication and getting plays and personnel in because we are changing guys in and out a lot. That’s kind of on everybody to keep working at.
Re: Not using more three wide receiver sets and no-huddle against the Jets when they were shorthanded in the secondary:
That’s Coach Haley’s call. He’s the one that calls all of the plays. There was no no-huddle. Our no-huddle is usually when we have three wide receivers on the field. They saw something and wanted to run the ball with multiple tight ends and keep you guys and the fans happy I guess.
Did you consider using the no-huddle at any point during the game?
It got brought up one time. Right before halftime, Coach Tomlin came to me and asked what I thought about it. I was all for it but we never really got to it. We got the win. That’s all that matters.
What do you see from the Raiders defense?
In the past, they’ve done a lot of man coverage in the secondary and really gotten after you up front. They’re still going to get after you up front but from what I saw last game, we don’t know if it was just against the team they played, but it looked like they did a lot more zone stuff. That could also be because of a depleted secondary. They’ve got a lot of corners with injuries. We’re kind of going in anticipating two things. We’ll see how it goes.
Re: Playing a different style this season by getting rid of the ball and sliding rather than taking hits:
The crazy thing is that I’m not really trying to do anything different. It’s just the way I’m playing the game. There was no real intention ever to slide and get down or dump the ball off. It’s the way I feel like I’ve always played and if guys are open on the check-downs I get it to them. I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything different.
Re: Facing Raiders DT Richard Seymour for the first time since he was ejected against the Steelers in 2010:
It was more of a surprise, and I had said this afterwards, because he’s not a bad person. He and I know each other and we’ve talked. It’s more of a shocking thing. I’ve seen him since and we’ve had laughs about it.
Re: Struggles to protect the quarterback on the road:
When you’re at home, you control the cadence and you control the get-off. When you’re on the road, it’s a lot harder to do that. It’s tough to go to a place that’s going to be loud and a little hostile because the advantage always goes to the home team on offense and defense. It’s tricky. The key is to get out early and get a good jump on them.
How much will it affect the game plan if the Raiders’ starting corners are not able to play?
Everyone is in this league for a reason. It doesn’t matter where you are on the depth chart. To me, we approach it like it’s anybody else. We protect and attack and do what we have to do.
Re: TE Heath Miller’s start:
We’re trying to get him to the Pro Bowl. He’s deserved it for a long time. Heath is a weapon and we have to continue to use him out in the field and in the red zone. Like I’ve always said, he blocks like a lineman and catches like a receiver. If we keep utilizing him it will be big.
Does it matter if first downs come from the run or the pass?
It doesn’t. Like I’ve said, we’ve been controlling the ball because we’ve been pretty good on third downs. That’s the key. We always want to be good, whether we’re running the ball or not. We’ve had to keep controlling it and converting our third owns, regardless if it’s long or short, run or pass.
Re: Deciding what receiver to throw the ball to on Heath Miller’s back shoulder catch against the Jets:
There were about four options on that play and one was a run. I had two receivers but I saw the matchup with Heath and then it was just a matter of getting him the right route because he didn’t really have a route. We call it off of what coverage he gets. It was a safety that was on him. I like that matchup. I’ll take Heath Miller because he’s a big target and if you put it up for him, he’ll make the play.
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger
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The Steelers will continue to take the same approach they did last week with safety Troy Polamalu (calf) and linebacker James Harrison (knee), who both missed the New York Jets game.
“We are going to work day to day and look how their body responds to work,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “We’ll start with informal workouts and work up to practice at some point and see where it all leads us. They are potential assets to us, but as you know we focus on the guys that are healthy and preparing. We intend to do that this week with the guys that are going to play, potentially in their place in Chris Carter and Ryan Mundy who have done a solid job for us to this point.”
Also added to the injury list were running back Jonathan Dwyer (turf toe), tackle Marcus Gilbert (right groin strain) and tight end Heath Miller (rib cartilage separation) who all could be limited in practice in the early part of the week.
There is good news in that linebacker Stevenson Sylvester will return to practice this week.
“He is moving back closer to game readiness,” said Tomlin. “We’re going to practice him this week and put him in the Troy and James category and let him work, and see how his body responds to that work and see where the day to day growth from a health standpoint takes us.”
In addition running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is expected to get more work in practice this week, but his playing status has not been finalized.
“Maybe we will bump him around a little more in practice this week,” said Tomlin. “He’s done a nice job of running and cutting at full speed. Now let’s see if he can play a little football.”
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When the 2012 schedule came out in April, safety Ryan Mundy had a pretty good idea he would be the Steelers starting free safety on opening day against the Broncos, knowing Ryan Clark can’t play in the high altitude in Denver.
But he didn’t know he would be back in a starting role this past week against the New York Jets, this time starting for Troy Polamalu, who was sidelined with a calf injury.
“I got a pretty decent workload,” said Mundy. “My plate is pretty full right now. I still have my special team’s responsibilities and also played every snap on defense. I have to make sure I am ready, take care of my body, and get good rest. I have a full plate right now.”
Polamalu played against the Broncos in the opener, but missed practice all last week and was inactive on Sunday, giving way to Mundy.
At this point Mundy doesn’t know what Polamalu’s status will be this week against the Oakland Raiders, so unlike when he knew he would be filling in for Clark, this week he once again has to prepare not knowing whether he will be called upon to start or not.
“It’s something I have grown used to and learned how to work through,” said Mundy. “Those guys play hard each and every play. You never know when they are going to go down. I never know when I will have an opportunity or my name will be called. It’s no different with my preparation. I do my film study, my conditioning, lifting weights and making sure that I am mentally and physically ready for the game.
“It’s an unfortunate situation with Troy. He is an amazing player. I have to make sure I am ready in the event he is not. I have to continue to stay in shape, get my cardio going each and every day, make sure I am fresh, get good rest and whenever my number is called I do my best to perform.”
Whether he is starting for Clark or Polamalu, Mundy pretty much lets whichever one is in the starting lineup set the tone for how they are going to approach the game.
“When I play with Troy he is playing in the box most of the time, sometimes we will switch it up just to give a quarterback a different look,” said Mundy. “When I am playing with Ryan I can be playing in the box one play, he will be playing in the box the next play. I just like to be flexible and whatever those guys feel comfortable doing and whatever position they want to play on a particular play I will just play off of them.”
Tags: Ryan Mundy
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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked during open locker room on Wednesday about the Jets defense, Darrelle Revis, the no-huddle and more.
How much do you have to pay attention to Jets CB Darrelle Revis when he’s on the field?
He’s a good player so you have to know where he’s at and what he’s doing.
Do you enjoy playing against elite cornerbacks like Revis?
You like a challenge. He’s one of the best to play the game at that position. We faced one last week in Champ Bailey and this is the same way.
Would you rather Revis sit out of this week’s game with a concussion?
No. It’s fun to challenge yourself and have the best out there. To be the best, you have to go against the best.
Does Revis change what you do as an offense?
No. It just makes you aware of where he is.
How would you evaluate the offense’s performance against Denver?
I thought we did pretty well on offense. We obviously had some negative plays but I thought we had a chance to win the game. We played well enough if I didn’t make a mistake at the end of the game.
Re: Having more freedom calling plays in the no-huddle:
A lot of those runs, even though we were in the no-huddle at the end of the first half and most of the second half, I was calling a lot of those runs. I think people need to realize that just because we’re in the no-huddle and we’re calling the plays doesn’t mean I’m calling all passes. We broke it down between runs and passes and it was pretty balanced. As a quarterback, you just want to call the best play, run or pass.
Re: Why the team ran three receiver sets so many times against Denver:
Our no-huddle is three wide receivers. So, any time you saw three wide receivers, we were probably in no-huddle mentality or formation. That’s probably why that was like that.
Re: The plays you have to choose from in the no-huddle:
Our no-huddle playbook is wide open. Any no-huddle play is available.
Would you like to run the no-huddle most of the time?
I think you have to have a good balance. There’s times that there are plays that are not in the no-huddle that have to run. Whether it’s certain play-action plays, short yardage plays, or trick plays, things like that. I think we’re good when we do it so I think we could have a good balance of doing it.
Does it interfere with you calling the plays when the coaches talk to you during the no-huddle?
Sometimes it’s difficult. Any of you guys that are in the media that have the producer in your ear while you’re trying to talk know that it makes it a little difficult at times. It’s just something that you have to get used to. As long as it doesn’t happen all the time, it’s not too tricky.
Re: Getting the ball snapped with more time left on the play clock:
No one is [letting the play clock run down] on purpose. It’s just the way things work. Sometimes you have to wait to the last minute to get a play called. But there’s not really any particular time on when you have to snap the ball.
Re: Being sacked five times against Denver:
Yes, but on the last three they were pinning their ears and dropping everybody. It’s really two sacks that they got. That’s what I count. Sometimes they hurt. Sometimes they don’t.
Is there a sense of urgency to avoid a 0-2 start?
The Super Bowl was not won or lost last week and probably isn’t won or lost this week. It makes it a little bit harder with every loss but we’re just going to come out, play good football, and keep trying to get better.
Re: Running a “dink and dunk” offense:
We know that we need to possess the ball and keep certain offenses off the field as much as we can. I thought we did a great job of doing that the other night. We had a couple high-teen play drives. I think we had a 19-play drive and ones like that. They did a good job of taking away big plays. This offense and the players we’ve got have big play potential. We need to keep utilizing that and trying to do the best we can to get those opportunities and connect when we do call them.
Do you think other teams feel that they need to keep the Steelers offense off the field?
I don’t know. You’d better ask them.
How tough would it be to play in a two-quarterback system like the Jets sometimes use?
It’s got to be tough. I feel bad for [Sanchez]. Obviously, they blew out Buffalo so it wasn’t as big of a deal but I know it wasn’t easy. During the game last week, Tebow came in and lost two yards and then Sanchez came back in and the commentator said, “Hey Tim, thanks for losing me two yards.” It’s got to be hard because as a quarterback you want to stay in a groove but the Jets always do some unconventional things.
Re: TE Heath Miller’s role against Denver:
Heath is a weapon and we have to use him. It was mostly just that he was open. They were taking away the outside and over the top and leaving the underneath and middle stuff open.
Could RB Jonathan Dwyer handle a high number of carries each game?
If he can stay healthy. I think we have a lot of backs that could be that guy. We have to make sure we keep utilizing them and staying healthy.
Re: The Jets’ defensive backfield:
I think Revis gets a lot of the talk and deservedly so. He’s one of the best. But, I think it’s unfair to the rest of that secondary, especially Antonio Cromartie. He’s a great, long DB and ball hawker that makes plays. I don’t know if he gets the credit that he is due. A lot of it is because of “Revis Island” and all of the stuff they say and it deserved. Their whole secondary is very good.
Tags: Ben Roethlisberger
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The Steelers Huddle Show will air on KDKA-TV on Saturday’s at 11:35 p.m.
Show tapes at Heinz Field and is hosted by KDKA’s Bob Pompeani with a special Steelers gues each week.
There is a $5 admission charge. Parking is available in the Stage AE Parking Lot for $5.
6:30 PM – Doors Open
7:30 PM -Show Taping Begins
The first four weeks taping is in the FedEx Great Hall and then moves to the East Club Lounge the last four weeks.
Wed., Sept. 26 - (FedEx Great Hall)
Wed., Oct. 9 - (FedEx Great Hall)
Thurs., Oct. 24 - (FedEx Great Hall)
Wed., Nov. 7 – (East Club Lounge)
Wed., Nov. 21 – (East Club Lounge)
Tues., Dec. 5 – (East Club Lounge)
Wed., Dec. 19 – (East Club Lounge)
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