Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens: Coordinator’s Comments


The Pittsburgh Steelers regular season has come to an end.  After two consecutive 8-8 seasons, the Steelers are returning to the AFC playoffs with an 11-5 record plus the AFC North crown.  In the Wild Card Round the Steelers will play their rivals, the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.  The Ravens earned the sixth and final AFC playoff spot thanks to a victory over the Cleveland Browns and a San Diego Chargers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in week 17.  On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin gave his weekly press conference, in which he commented on the matchup against the Ravens, injuries, and he said obviously 23 times.  NPC’s Kim Myers gave an overview of the presser in Tomlin Tuesday.  On Thursday both Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley gave quick interviews about how their unit is looking and what they expect come Saturday.

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The first question for Dick LeBeau was about the play of his young secondary players.  In the Bengals game, Brice McCain had two interceptions and Antwon Blake had a huge forced fumble and recovery after an A.J. Green catch.

"“They had three significant turnovers.  Good to see them play well.  We have to get better.  We can’t afford any mistakes now.  They’ve grown, they’ve worked hard and we’re in the right direction.  We’ll keep working.” -LeBeau"

LeBeau then quickly commented on Joe Flacco’s ability to throw the deep ball.  LeBeau said he is as good as anybody when it comes to long throws and that Flacco can throw it as far as he wants to.

Troy Polamalu could play this week for the first time since the Atlanta Falcons game.  Polamalu was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and LeBeau said that he does anticipate Polamalu to be on the field on Saturday night.  LeBeau was then asked if there is any difference in what he can get out of Will Allen or Polamalu.

"“Well there’s only one Troy Polamalu.  But Will Allen is a very good football player.  He had a great game last week. It was one of his better games he’s had for us, but he always plays well.  I think with both in there we have some good safeties.” -LeBeau on Allen and Polamalu"

LeBeau was then asked about the progression of Brice McCain.  LeBeau said that you can see it on the field and that he continues to improve every week.  He continued to say that McCain has played very well for the Steelers down the stretch and he has done a great job without a doubt.

Next up was the topic of juggling which inside linebacker gets to play alongside Lawrence Timmons, now that Sean Spence, Ryan Shazier, and Vince Williams are healthy.

"“I think it’s a good situation for us to have enough people to go in there to keep everybody a little bit fresh.  Therefore more energy and you’re going to be a better football player in those circumstances.  Sometimes you don’t have the luxury to do that, but these guys are getting healthy at the right time and it’s helped us down the stretch.” -LeBeau on his inside linebackers"

Finally LeBeau was asked about a quote he made in May, saying that some of the solutions at cornerback were already in the building and if Antwon Blake was one of those players he was referring to.  LeBeau said he knew Blake had tremendous speed and quickness.  He also said that you need athleticism at that position and you never know how players are going to play but he could see that athletically, Blake could compete.

As for Todd Haley, he predictably faced numerous questions about the health and status of Le’Veon Bell’s knee.  Haley said that he is preparing as if Bell will not be ready to play.  His goal is to get the other guys ready to play and if Bell does play, he knows the offense can handle that.

Haley was then asked if the offense changes without Bell or will different parts combined to do what he does.  Haley said it’s not just one guy coming in and doing what he does.  It will be a group effort, and that includes other positions.  Haley added that it would be too much to put on any one guy what Bell has given the offense through the course of this season.  Haley also commented that you never want to deal with an injury to a key player at this time but over the course of the season and by developing other skill players, they are more equipped to handle the injury now than they would have been if this injury occurred earlier in the season.

New addition Ben Tate was the next topic of conversation.  Haley was asked if Tate has been able to pick up the offense quickly.

"“Yeah.  You can tell he has been in the league.  Teams use different words and terminology but they mean the same thing.  He is in the translation period of ‘this means that’ and ‘that means this’.” – Haley on Tate"

Haley then commented on having a healthy and cohesive offensive line this year.

"“Good offensive football starts up front.  When you are not interchanging parts on a weekly basis it does nothing but help you.  The way those guys communicate, the extra work they are putting in together as a group, and it’s hard to put a price tag on it, so to speak.  The more guys together the better.  That being said, there are a couple of times this year when we have lost a guy and guys have been ready, whether it was Mike Adams or Cody Wallace.  They have stepped in and played at a high level for us.  Depth and continuity is a great thing.” -Haley on the O-line."

Lastly Haley was asked if Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to get the ball out early has helped avoiding the pass rush.

"“I think that Ben has done as good a job as anyone in the league in getting rid of the ball fast and in a timely manner.  That’s important too.  It’s tied with the guys going out on their pass routes that they have a sense of urgency and they win in a timely manner.  That allows him to anticipate, get the ball out and make good decisions.  It is one thing getting it out fast, it’s another making a good decision and throwing it to the right spot.  He has been as good as anybody in the league in my opinion in doing that.  At the same time we’ve been able to block for him and get the ball down the field when we want to.  Again, it’s kind of the balance you are looking for.” -Haley on Big Ben"

You can listen to both LeBeau’s and Haley’s interview here.

Next: Steelers In A Tough Spot Regarding Health Of Bell