One player is doubtful, that's Clint Kriewaldt with a hamstring. We have three players that are questionable, Plaxico (Burress) with the hamstring, Chad Scott
with the knee, and Duce (Staley) with his hamstring. Then we have six players that are probable for the game: Jerome (Bettis) with a knee; Matt Cushing with a shoulder; Verron Haynes with a
knee; Troy (Polamalu) with a shoulder; Hines (Ward) with the hip pointer; and Chukky Okobi with his back.
That's the situation. And let me say, with two games to go, there are a lot of scenarios that exist, but I do know one thing, we have to win this game on Sunday to assure ourselves of a bye. Right
now, that's the only thing that matters at this point. All of the other things are immaterial. We're playing a football team that's fighting for that last playoff spot. They're playing very well. I
thought they were very impressive last night watching them play against Indianapolis. I thought they played them as well as anyone has in their place, which is always a tough place to play.
This is a divisional game and there are certainly a lot of playoff implications surrounding this game.
What were they able to do last night that other teams couldn't against Indy's offense?
Keep them out of the end zone. I thought they did a good job of mixing things up against Peyton (Manning). Again, they created a lot of pressure the past two weeks. It's well-documented what
they did against Eli Manning the week before in New York. And it's been an offense that's put up some pretty impressive numbers against a lot of people in the league. You saw Jamal Lewis last night looking like the Jamal Lewis of old. I know he's coming off that ankle, but he looked very strong. They got Todd Heap back and Clarence Moore has become a pretty good
player for them. B.J. Sams has turned into one of the best returners in the league. It's a very balanced football team.
You'll have to keep a good eye on Ed Reed, I guess. (?)
Yeah. He's going to be keeping a pretty good eye on us, that's for sure. He has made a lot of plays in this league. You're talking about a guy that's got a feel for the game who can impact a
game as quickly as anybody on the field, it's Ed Reed. There's no question this guy has a presence on the field.
What's different for you from the first time you played them?
I think both teams are different. A lot of teams, when you talk about a game that was played three months ago, I think everybody evolves. You find out a little about who you are,
certainly. We don't have a lot of the same faces in there, but at the same time, it's the same thing with Baltimore. I think both teams are better than they were in Week 2. I think their
quarterback, Kyle Boller, has obviously gotten better. There's no question that this guy has grown as a quarterback. In the last three or four weeks, he's playing as solidly as anybody in the
league right now. He's comfortable with the people he has around him, making good decisions, they've got their backs back. They're pretty healthy right now going into these last two
games. We feel, from where we were a few months ago, we're a much more confident team. We have a better feel for who we are.
Does that seem like more than three months ago, thinking of all of the changes?
Yeah. It seems like it was a long, long time ago. What it comes down to is that they are a good football team. Certainly, it's a battle every time we play them. Obviously, there's a lot at stake,
but even if there weren't, this is a game where these two teams are going to play at the same level regardless of what's at stake.
Does that long list mean getting the bye is very important?
Yeah, it's, to me, the next step, particularly to me. That's our next step. And that's the opportunity this weekend presents to us. We've got to take advantage of it.
Is that tough trying to decide when to play a guy or whether to get three weeks of rest for him?
There are too many implications. This is a very important game and we're going to approach it with that in mind. They all have been to this point. The way the AFC is right now, there is no
margin of error. We've been fortunate, we came through a tough game Saturday, but we found a way to win it. We need every body we can get. If guys can go, they're gonna go.
Have you seen a lot of progress with Scott and the work he was able to do last week? If he can play, will he start?
He certainly would not be in a position, having been out a couple of months, to go out there and start. I think that would be rushing a guy back into it. We'll see where he is. I'm encouraged by him and Plax and Duce. Really all three of those guys who are questionable, I'm more encouraged than discouraged. But then again, it's Monday. We'll see where they are when we start working and when we get to the end of the week, we'll make decisions accordingly.
How important is it to get some of those guys playing time before the regular season ends?
Certainly, the longer they've been out, a guy like Chad, you want to get him in there and get some action. It's hard to simulate the speed in practice that takes place in a game. Plax, the same thing. He hasn't been inactive as long as Chad has. Duce, he hasn't been as long, and getting him healthy is more important than the timing part of it. With each situation, it's a little
subjective. I think each guy is a unique situation. We've got to look at it and make decisions accordingly. You don't want to bring a guy back and hinder the rest of your football team just
trying to get a guy some playing time. We will not do that. It's been a very resilient football team with the way guys have stepped up. We've got to approach each football game with where we are, seeing what our options are and going from there. That's how we've approached it and this week will be no different.
Coach, will it be tough to match the other team's desperation?
No. We've been having to match some levels of desperation the last few weeks. I think Jacksonville was that. I think last week to an extent (was). I thought it was important last week to jump out early and we did exactly the opposite and we gave that team a little bit of life and it was a grind. We've been with that bullseye on our chest, so I think we're getting a lot of the best efforts from football teams. I don't think this week will be any different. Pittsburgh and Baltimore, yeah there's a lot at stake, but these are two teams where the records don't matter much. We're going to play this game the same way no matter what's at stake.
If you agree the pass rush has been curtailed lately, what circumstances have played into that?
Say the first part of that.
If you agree --
If I agree, OK. And if I don't agree I won't have to answer the question?
There would be another question.
Oh. Let me just say this: Again, you can measure things in sacks; you can measure things in hits. When we looked at the New York game, Chad Pennington is not a guy that's going to go down a lot. We hit him a lot, and I thought we were very efficient. Last week, we did not play our best game defensively. We gave up a couple big plays, and certainly we weren't as efficient in the red zone as we had been. We had the one stop there. I just look at it more from a defensive standpoint. I'm not worried so much about the pressure. We have guys getting around the quarterback and he's feeling their presence. I'll give Eli (credit). One time we had a guy coming free on a blitz and he threw it well before the guy broke and he caught it right in front of Willie Williams. It was a great executed play on his part. They hit a couple plays against us, a couple big plays. Those are the things we talked about having to eliminate. You know, second-and-28 and a 40-some-yard pass, a toss play on a running play. I thought we played the run pretty good outside of that one play where he gets about 35 yards. Those are the plays you've got to eliminate. But we didn't play to the level we had been playing, but certainly those are very correctable things. Once we look at it we've got a chance to get back on track. But I don't take stats into consideration as much as the overall play of our defense.
Was that the best job of picking up blitzes by a team this year?
Well, yeah. I don't know if we blitzed as much. It didn't seem like there were that many third-and-longs. There were a bunch of third-and-1s, third-and-2s and they hit a couple big plays on first and second downs. We're pretty good on third downs. We stayed back a little bit, thinking they were going to max-protect, which they did a couple times. So I don't know if the opportunities were there to do what we normally do. It was just the way the game kind of unfolded.
Did Jacksonville begin the trend of max-protecting?
We got a little bit of it last week against the Jets. I don't think the Giants did. They kind of came out and just did some different formations, but they really didn't totally max. They did on the last play with Willie. They were picking and choosing. It was a little bit of a chess match out there.
Considering the poor NFC records, would you be in favor of taking the top teams regardless of division?
No. It's all cyclical. You can't overreact. That'll just be something for people to write about and talk about. I mean, every year it's going to be something. I remember I was in Cleveland one year and we won the Central Division with an 8-8 record. It'll all balance out. It's just one of those years. I think you've got to allow things to play out. I'm not a big overreact guy. I mean, let the system go. People are always trying to tweak things too often.
Will you play James Harrison and some of those other guys on kick coverage?
No. We've just got to get better there. The tough thing that happened last week was we lost Clint at practice on a Thursday. We'd already practiced all of our kickoff coverage stuff while he was healthy. But like I said, the guys who are in there, the guys who've been in there, we just got to do a better job. We did a pretty good job after the first couple kicks, but we've got to eliminate the first couple kicks. We'll continue to look and see what our options are. Again, we have to look and see who we have. You've got to monitor what kind of depth you have as it relates to how much you play these guys in the kicking game. Like I said, if we have to go in with five linebackers it's hard to justify playing guys at the risk of having to go to a lot of options with people who aren't ready to play at certain positions. I feel good with the players we have out there. We just have to do a better job of executing and we will.
Has Jerome surprised you? And could you ever envision a scenario where Duce would be healthy but Jerome starts?
I'm not going to speculate. Jerome has been like a lot of these guys on this team. He's been an inspiration in terms of stepping in and producing at a very high level. I think he has set a great barometer for other players stepping in. He's been a great leader for this football team. I think his unselfish approach to it and doing whatever the team asks him to do is one of those things where his actions have spoken a lot louder than his words. He's been an invaluable member of this team. He's widely respected on this football team, as he is throughout the National Football League. It's nice to have the problems you're talking about with having some quality people at a position. You can never have enough of them. We're looking forward to getting Duce back and having both of those guys healthy for the playoffs.
Will you add a linebacker?
We've been thinking about it but again we'll have to look and see where we are at the end of the week. The good thing is we got out of the game and we're no worse off now than we were going into the game. We'll see again what our options are but I won't rule anything out.
Bill, what do you think of the great amount of Steeler fans on the road as you continue to win?
Probably the last thing you said has brought a lot of them back out. It's great. We're very appreciative. We recognize it. It's flattering. We certainly don't discourage people from coming out and supporting our football team whether we're at home or on the road. I think it's great. Again, hopefully our fans will come out Sunday and we can feed off their energy. It's going to be an important game and certainly playing at home is something we've done pretty well to this point but this will obviously be the biggest challenge of the year playing this football team.
What did you think about Lee Mays getting sick on the sideline?
I wasn't aware of a lot of things on the sideline. Once the opening kickoff took place, and as I watched the guy run past our bench, I was more concerned with a lot of things from that time on, and none of which was what guys were doing on the sideline. I was unaware of it until after the game. You always play well when you're a little bit sick, and I say that sincerely. A couple weeks ago Danny (Kreider) was and he played a great game. Sometimes I think it probably creates a greater focus. I know when I was playing I thought, well, now I'm a lot lighter and I can run faster. So you've got to look for the positives with those situations. But he did a good job.
Did the kick return make him sick?
I don't know but I wasn't feeling real good after.
Maybe you ought to put something in the Christmas turkey to make guys queasy!
Now, now, now. We'll enjoy Christmas on Saturday. Hopefully we'll enjoy it a lot more on Sunday.
Bill, do you give Kendrell much of a chance to make it back before playoffs?
As long as he's still on his roster than I believe so. Like I said, things are winding down. I hope we're making progress, but if I sense that there's a guy that realistically doesn't have a chance to help us in the post-season, or as we're going down the stretch here, then we've got to make some moves accordingly.
Was it important for Ben to throw for a lot of yards and complete some long passes to back defenses up a little bit?
I think he's done it when he's had to do it. Certainly the other day, the fact we were able to continue to come back, were able to throw the ball efficiently and make some of the plays we made, I think were very encouraging. And I think it's something we can certainly build off of. I think that's kind of the question people have been asking. We haven't really been in a situation where we've had to do that recently, and I thought that we stepped up on the offensive side of the ball. We have a big challenge this week with probably, if not the best, one of the top defenses in the National Football League. And we've been seeing a lot of those. It was encouraging to see that take place. Again, just with our whole offense in general, you get a little over 450 yards in offense and you continue to respond the way we are continuing to respond. It was great to see Jeff (Reed) four for four field goals. There were a lot of positives. Certainly, there are things we have to get better at, certainly on the defensive side and some of the coverage elements of it. If we continue to do the things we're doing well and improve some of those other areas, we should be where we need to be, hopefully, going into the post-season.