Cardinals at Steelers: Thursday with the Coordinators


Welcome to another edition of Thursday with the Coordinators!

This week Todd Haley and Keith Butler had a lot to say about the Cardinals, Chargers, and everything in between.

Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler

On Bruce Arians and the Cardinals offense:

"He changes it up a little bit. He looks like he’s going to run the ball sometimes and takes shots down the field sometimes too. He’s always done that, ever since I’ve known him, and I’ve known him a long time. He’s a really good offensive coordinator, a really good head coach. He’s been the Head Coach of the Year the last couple years. He should be. He’s done a great job."

On if Arians is coming into this with any bitterness:

"I can’t tell you his mind, but I got a pretty good guess. Yeah. Sure he is. You might say it’s just another game, but it’s not. He’s a good coach and he’s a good friend of mine. It’s like playing your brother. You don’t want to lose to your brother."

On if it will affect the play calling:

"No. He’ll go after us and we’ll probably go after him. We’re both trying to win a football game. They have a heck of a football team. They’re leading the league in scoring and that’s honorable."

On Ryan Shazier:

"Well, Mike Tomlin will discuss that with you. I’m not going to step out on that one, because he knows more about it than I do. I’m not going to speak from ignorance."

On players becoming more comfortable with the defense:

"We do something every week that’s maybe a little but different, but we try to keep it simple for the most part. They get better, in my opinion. I think they’re getting better. It’s a matter of trying to do it each and every week. You’re always feeling like they’re getting better, especially after you win a football game. If you lose one, you feel like you’re regressing. So, I think they’re getting better. They get more cohesive, because they play together. The first game we played against the Patriots, we hadn’t been on the same field with each other for a while, since training camp. That was one of the first times. They’ve been together for a few weeks. They know everybody’s idiosyncrasies. So, they’re getting used to each other."

On young players saying they can play without thinking too much:

"Like I said, it would be crazy of me to give them a bunch of steps they don’t know how to do. As a coach, you have to figure out what they can do, what they can’t do and what’s easy for them. For us, it’s always let’s let them play and use their abilities. I don’t want to be a guy who interjects himself into the game when they can handle it themselves."

On Stephon Tuitt:

"He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s getting better every week. He’s a bear when you’re trying to keep him from pass rushing, but there are some thing he can do better in the running game. He can be a better player. We like where he’s at right now. We want to see him continue to get better. We feel like he can. I don’t think we are nitpicking with him. I think we just want to see him on the rise, like we think he can."

On Jarvis Jones:

"He played a good football game. Turning a corner for me is playing three in a row. Then, we can see something. I think he did well last week. I think he’s starting to feel comfortable in the system. I said this the last two years, I know he’s the No. 1 draft choice. But, anytime you try to do something and it’s fast and physical, it takes a while to learn that sometimes. When you feel comfortable enough to the point it’s second nature to you, it becomes easier. The game slows down a little bit. Hopefully, that’s starting to happen for him."

On Robert Golden’s readiness to start:

"If I trusted anybody to be ready on this defense, it would be Robert. He studies the game. He works at his craft. He’s a very smart football player, very good at playing above the neck. He doesn’t get out of position a lot. I’m very comfortable with him."

On Bud Dupree:

"He’s really fast off the ball. He has a good head on his shoulders. He’s still learning though. I think he can get better. I like him as a rookie right now, where he’s at as a rookie. He’s playing with veterans right now, James Harrison, Arthur Moats, and Jarvis Jones. Those guys know the game a little bit, so they can help him along a little bit. He can watch what they do and learn from their victories and mistakes. I think he’ll get better, because he’s a sharp young man."

Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley

On Larry Fitzgerald:

"He is one of the best, if not the best. To watch how he’s grown as a blocker – he’s at the point of attack a bunch. When I had him, we also had Anquan Boldin. Larry got to play a little more wide receiver. He’s doing it all in the run game and pass game. He’s a consummate pro. If you watch the tape, here’s a guy that has had as big of numbers as anybody, and he makes a block and the running back scores. He’s the first one there cheering him on. He’s just a try pro. I love him."

On Fitzgerald playing at the age of 32 after a few down seasons and what that says about him:

"What drives Larry now is that he wants to get back to that Super Bowl. We were awfully close against us [Laughs]. But he got a little taste of it, and I think he just knows what the most important thing about this game is and what you are remembered for. He wants to get back there. I talk to him all the time. He’s a great guy and a great pro."

On Le’Veon Bell’s touchdown that won the game against the Chargers:

"He’s unique. I think we’ve said that. He’s a unique runner, build-wise, style-wise. It’s hard to compare him to a lot of different people, because he is a little unique in how he does things. He is real patient. I think I might have said it, but in Coach Munchak’s first couple of games with him over the headset you would hear, “Hit it! Hit it! Hit it!” [Laughs]. It’s just different. It takes some getting used to. But he has great vision and patience. He makes it work."

On being around the game so long and that decision to go for the win last game:

"I don’t think I’ve seen it. I know back in the early history, we see the old film of it all the time, a similar situation happened. The Ice Bowl. I thought one of those expansion teams maybe went for it. I can’t remember who I thought went for the win. It’s a testament to Coach Tomlin. Beforethat game, he came up to me saying, “Let it all hang out. Let’s play to win.” And he backs it up. A lot of people say all that stuff before the game starts but don’t back it up. But he backs it up. As I was calling plays, I wasn’t thinking anything. As long as he was giving me plays to call, we were trying to score."

On really going for it and trying to get in opposed to pulling up and kicking a field goal:

"We were playing to win. And we hadn’t gotten down in the red area, I don’t think at all. That was an opportunity to get down in there and get the ball in the endzone. As long as Coach was giving us an opportunity, we were playing to win on offense."

Do you think about the backlash if you don’t score?

"If you do, you are never going to be your best, I don’t think. As a play caller, you can’t be thinking about anything but making the best play call possible for the situation you are in."

Is Antonio Brown right? Should he be getting the ball more?

"Is Antonio right? Why? Is he asking for the ball more? Last week, did he get the ball enough? Yeah. We won. So, that’s all that is important right now, how we can get a win on the board. We kind of gave one away a couple of weeks ago. We got a huge win last week. This week it will be no different. It will be about trying to get a win with a quarterback that hasn’t been here a whole lot of time and has to continue to do the things he is doing, which is protecting the football, first and foremost. This team we are playing, they do a great job on offense. But they have 13 takeaways on defense that is putting their offense in a lot of really good spots. We can’t be a team giving them those opportunities."

On developing a trust and building a trust between A.B. and Vick like A.B. has with Ben:

"It takes a long time. Mike needs to continue progressing in his comfort level of things we are trying to get done. I think that if at an early stage you start worrying about things other than making reads you are supposed to make, mistakes will occur. I think Mike has done a tremendous job to this point in putting us in position to win two games. We got one of them. We would have liked to have two. But he has to just continue growing within what we are trying to get done. But at the same time, all these practices are positive, because it’s another opportunity to work with these guys. It’s not just A.B. It’s Heath Miller, and throwing the ball to Le’Veon and Martavis Bryant, who he hasn’t thrown any balls to until this week. It’s a group growth."

On taking the same approach with Mike in not losing games:

"I wouldn’t say not lose the game. He has to continue growing within what we are trying to get done, and using the tools we have. Obviously we have a bunch of guys that are very capable of making plays. For him, it’s just staying on course on where the ball is supposed to go within each defense that is shown to him. And if you get outside of that box, I think that would spell trouble. That’s in no way being conservative or playing not lose. We are throwing the football. He just has to throw it to where it’s supposed to go, and we do our best from a game planning standpoint to put one of our best players, A.B., in spots to have a chance. The coverage could still say no."

Is that audible related?

"No. Just reads. He is allowed to audible. He has a number of plays where he has to check and make adjustments at the line. It’s not to the degree of what we were doing with Ben, but you wouldn’t expect that. When you design a play, you try to put your guys in the number-one read. Like I said, the defense can do something different that doesn’t allow you to do that, unless you are forcing the ball into that spot. That’s how we are judging Mike right now."

On lots of players were running deep last week and Mike being inclined to throw deep to Bryant:

"I don’t know that. I think the coverage dictates a lot of what you see. As I’ve said in the past, when we were getting accused of being a dink and dunk outfit, we had a deep option on almost every play that we designed. The defense is going to tell a lot about where the football goes."

Have you seen how Ben has been doing in his limited practice time?

"Yeah, but I am not going to comment on that."

On running the ball well a product of Le’Veon or his blockers:

"I think it’s everything. I think the guys up front are doing a tremendous job and have been from the beginning of the year, especially considering No. 53 is not in there [Maurkice Pouncey]. I think it’s them. I think the tight ends have done a terrific job. We have Roosevelt Nix in the mix some. He goes in there and tries to knock the crap out of people as much as he can. And it takes a runner, whether it’s Le’Veon or DeAngelo Williams. They’ve both been productive runners. That’s something that gets all of us excited. I know it gets the guys up front the most excited. One of our best players happens to be Le’Veon. Again, you have to ride your horses."

On Le’Veon possibly throwing the ball:

"I won’t comment on that for different reasons."

On not commenting on Ben:

"I was a head coach once. The head coach comments on guys on the injured list, so I am not commenting. [Laughs]."

On Cody Wallace:

"I think he’s done a terrific job. But I am not surprised by it. Like I said when Pouncey went down, and you all asked how were we going to function, Cody had been with us two years ago and played a big part in us being one of the better offenses the second half of 2013. He’s here for a reason. I love the way he goes about his business. You just have to look for the last guy hitting after the whistle, and it’s usually him. He is smart. He has done a great job, whether it’s been Ben in there or Mike, as he handles a lot of issues. That’s what you are looking for."

On David DeCastro:

"David happens to be one of our best players, too. He isn’t one you get to talk about a lot because he is doing the dirty work. But a lot of runs that end up becoming big runs, he’s usually somewhere at the point of attack. The way he gets to the point of attack in a goal line situation is getting him out in space. I thought he did a terrific job. Roosevelt kind of got blown up at the edge, and he didn’t get his job done as quite as well as he would have liked to, but David kind of saved the day, along with our runner."

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about Vick?

"Not knowing him before, only watching him on the sideline and holding my breath when he played Atlanta a couple of times, I saw the Mike Vick persona, whether it was Madden or his commercials. He is a humble and very coachable guy that really is here for one reason, and that’s to be a part of a winning team that has the chance to play in that last game. Unless you are around him and get to see him, he’s just a humble guy that is open and coachable. For a guy that has been in the league 15 years, I think that’s pretty impressive."

My two-cents:

-I’m excited to see how Bud Dupree progresses as the season goes on. Since he is a rookie, I didn’t have too many expectations for him. I think he’s been playing fierce and hungry.

-I’m not sure how much time and energy needs to be put into building chemistry between Vick and A.B. Obviously, for the sake of winning games, I think they need to understand each other more.

I just think right now the Steelers are in “survival mode” until Ben gets back. I’m not sure if we need to worry about A.B. (probably not) being unhappy or him getting used to Vick. A.B is a team first guy kind of guy, I don’t see him throwing T.O. kind of temper tantrum.

-The Steelers offense needs to get off to a fast start against that Cardinals defense. They can’t play like they did against the Chargers and expect to win. Cardinals QB Carson Palmer picked up where he left off before he got injured last year.

So far this season Palmer has 96 of his 148 pass attempts, has thrown for 1,316 yards, 13 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Six of Palmer’s touchdowns have to WR Larry Fitzgerald. Connecting the dots? The Steelers offense needs to be scoring in this game consistently to win. They can’t be in “catch-up mode” at any point in this game. Which leads me to my next point….

-I’m very interested to see how the Steelers defense contain the likes of Larry Fitzgerald. There’s no question that he’s looking like his old self. The Steelers are thin at the safety position; SS Robert Golden will be starting in place of the injured Will Allen.

I’m expecting Palmer to exploit that quite a bit. The Steelers defense can’t be soft in handling Fitzgerald. If they do, it’s over. I don’t care if they jam him on every play, I don’t care if they put two or three guys on him, whatever. They need to handle him like a zookeeper handles a lion.

As much as I hate to say this, I think the Steelers lose this game. I just don’t see Vick making the right throws to win. I really hope I’m wrong.

Please understand, I’ll be cheering my guts out for my favorite team.

Here we go, Steelers! Here we go!

Next: Bell's time to shine

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