Steelers vs Bengals (Wild Card): Coordinators Comments
By Josh Fitzer
Our beloved Steelers are in the playoffs. They travel to Cincinnati to wage war against a bitter rival. Steeler Nation, are you ready for World War 3?
It doesn’t get any better than this, does it? Two teams that don’t like each other, going head to head for a third time. This is the good stuff.
Let’s hear what Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley & Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler had to say on their Wild Card matchup.
Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley
Re: Fitzgerald Toussaint’s abilities:
“Seeing a lot more of him now, he’s a very coachable guy. He is smart. He understands what we are coaching him to do. I think he’s a tough, pretty gritty guy that played big-time college football at Michigan. He stepped in last week, and it didn’t appear to be too big for him or anything like that.”
Re: Help that Toussaint has been here a while opposed to what happened last postseason:
“Yeah, there’s no doubt. This year and last year are different from that standpoint. Last year we had a guy in Dri Archer that knew what to do, but some of those physical matchups were going to be an issue. We had a guy that hadn’t been here in Ben Tate, and he didn’t understand our protections. It forced us a little bit into a corner in some of the things we were able to do on game day. I think everybody feels a lot better in that way. We have a guy in Fitz that has been around. He is smart. He knows what is expected. He understands protections. He understands the runs. He understands the language that we are using. I think it shows. I think everybody has a pretty good comfort level in that way.”
Re: Being patient against Cincinnati:
“I think we have to play however they are defending us. How they played us in the past doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to play us the same way. I think No. 1 we have to protect the football. That comes first. No. 2, we have to make plays, whether it’s running the football for some chunks, catching intermediate passes for chunks or throw short, run long plays. We are an offense that thrives on those chunk-type plays, 15-20 yards, not 80-yard plays. If they give us any shots over the top, we have to take advantage of it.”
Re: Martavis Bryant’s importance:
“I think every one of the guys is important. This isn’t a one-man show, despite the fact that A.B. sees a lot of targets. I think what everybody else is doing each and every play, with Ben playing at a high level, depending on what is given to him, we have to be ready to take it. Each and every play, you don’t know who is going to get the opportunity. Our guys have to step up and make plays.”
Re: Martavis’ response this week to his recent slump:
“I think last week was a difficult week for him. He missed a couple of days of practice. Then he got nicked up fairly early in the game. He wants to do well. He wants to be a part of this. He has come in with a renewed focus. He wants to show he can be a part of helping us win.”
Re: Markus Wheaton in the second part of the season:
“I think he has gained some confidence. He is continuing to work on his game and get better at some of the little and subtle things. I think he is hungry to continue to contribute. But the big thing is, when he had the breakout game in Seattle, I think that really gave him a little burst of confidence. He is taking it and running with it.”
Re: Jordan Todman playing a role here:
“Yeah. Absolutely. But again, he’s a guy that has been around. He has been active some games. He has been in all the meetings and practices for most of the season. Between both guys, I think the comfort level is good as far as what we need to get done.”
When you get deep into the depth chart don’t you have to do a running back by committee approach?
“Maybe you might play a little more to guys’ strengths, but I both think they are pretty well-rounded guys. At the same time, I am not believing Fitz can go in and play 70-80 snaps. He is the guy right now, but at the same time I think we have to make sure we give him both a physical and mental break here and there throughout the game.”
Did you talk to Martavis this week to let him know what is expected?
“I talk to him every week. With young guys like that, I think you can’t leave anything to chance or not know whether guys are aware or unaware. It’s a constant process with some of these young guys. But every week there are different coaching points and things that come up. This week, being a playoff week, I kind of always address the group as if I was talking to all young guys. Because some of these guys don’t know exactly what to expect. At the same time, we tell them to make sure they are getting with a veteran that has been there and done that and can help lead them that way also.”
Re: Reaction to Ben calling out Martavis and if you have a problem that he went public:
“No, not at all. That’s the leader of the team. I think it shows growth in Ben. At the same time, trust, because he knows we need all these guys. He’s just trying to get the most out of them all. He’s not trying to break them down. That’s not going to do anybody good at this stage. He trusts that these guys are there for them. He just wants the best out of them, much like we do.”
Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler
Re: On if there’s a difference between AJ McCarron’s offense and Andy Dalton’s:
Is there anything AJ does that Andy doesn’t?
“I think he tries to take care of the ball as much as he can. I think he’s probably more conscious of that right now. In the situation that they’re in and him being a young guy, he’s got his first playoff game and stuff like that. So, certainly he’s going to be conscious of trying to take care of the ball.”
Re: On if he’s devoting more time to Mohamed Sanu and the Wildcat:
“I think you have to cover everything they do. They do a lot of things. In this short week, we tried to do things that we think they’re going to do and there’s a lot. There’s a lot on the plate right there to try to get ready for. So, we tried to make sure our guys are prepared for it, whatever it is, whether it’s the Wildcat or some of the formations they’re going to show you.”
Re: On why it’s a good matchup:
“Because, we like playing them. They’re are rivals, they’re in the same division as us, they’re very competitive, they always have been very competitive. It’s been that way for a long time now. Marvin does a great job with those guys over there. And it’s always been a highly-competitive game. For me, it’s always been a kind of fun game to coach and watch our players play.”
Re: On if there are things the defense can do early on to test McCarron:
“I’m sure there are, but I’m not going to tell you what they are. You have to do what you can to win. We’re going to try to do what we can to win. AJ might not have experience with stuff like that but he does a good job. They coach him well and they’re going to try to – I’m sure they’re going to try to condense the game a little bit, make it shorter, keep us from trying to score and at the same time try to score and maintain control of the ball. If I’m them, that’s what I’m doing against us. That’s why I say, I’m sure that’s what they’re going to do.”
Re: On how much of a benefit it is to have seen McCarron already:
“It probably cancels each other out, because he’s had a chance to see us too. I’m sure he saw us before the first time he had to come in and play, but how many snaps did he take in preparing for us? I would imagine very little. If you listened to Peyton Manning the other day, he suddenly had empathy for the backup quarterback, because he doesn’t get any reps. I would say that’s probably the same thing with AJ. He probably feels better about the game plan now, then suddenly being thrusted in a game last time.”
Re: On if James Harrison having 67 snaps in Cleveland is accurate:
“I don’t know if he had 67 plays or not, so I don’t really count them, and sometimes James plays because one of our guys is down or nicked. Sometimes, he plays because we feel like that’s the best person to be in the game at the time. I’ll let the position coaches handle that. With him last week, Jarvis got nicked a little bit, but Jarvis will be okay this time. So, the number of times they play, I’m trying to call a defense, I’m not worried about the number of times they played. Their position coach does a good job, I think, of trying to keep them fresh so we can play in the fourth quarter.”
Re: On how Harrison can play that much at his age:
“He takes great care of himself. He’s got it down to a science, in terms of working out and what he does each week to prepare his body to go through the brutality of playing in the National Football League. So, I’ll give credit to him because he works at it. It doesn’t come easy. He’s a great example for our younger players.”
If (Rob) Gronkowski is the gold standard among tight ends, where does Tyler Eifert fall?
“I don’t know. Eifert is a good player. Everybody’s got great tight ends. He’s certainly a good tight end. He’s been beat up a little bit, in the concussion protocol and all that stuff. How much they use him, I’m sure they’re going to try to use him a little bit, try to get him the ball a little bit. But, like I said before, these guys got a lot of weapons and Eifert is one of them. A.J. Green is one of them and their running backs, thy have a couple of them. All of their wide receivers are good, so to concentrate on one guy like Eifert, I wish we had the luxury of doing that, but we don’t.”
Re: On having Cincinnati bringing an unbalanced line:
“Well, it’s a problem if they cover him up and the referees don’t say anything about it. That’s the problem. And sometimes, they have to tell you they’re eligible when they come in. If they’re covered up, then they should not be eligible, would not be eligible. I think at one time against Denver, I saw on film they covered him up and tried to throw a pass to him. The referees did throw a flag on that. So, as long as they play within the rules, the referees tell us that they’re eligible, we have an idea whether it’s an unbalanced line or not. That’s stuff we work on all the time, we’ve had to play them all the time. Of course, they’re in our division, so naturally we have to prepare for them.”
Re: On how difficult it is to stay away from tendencies when you’re playing a team for a third time and if there’s a new wrinkle he can give them:
“Probably not. They’ve probably seen everything we’ve done before. If you look at all the guys they have over there and the continuity they’ve got over there in the last 10 years, those assistant coaches have been coaching against us a long time, but we’ve been coaching against them a long time. They know us, we know them, what we do and stuff like that. There are a couple of little wrinkles here you always try to have and come up with, try to come up with a few in a season to try to take advantage of that. But it’s going to come down to who plays the best and not who fools each other. Who plays the best football is going to win the game.”
Re: On his approach to a playoff week:
“Well, you always want to advance. And to me, this is probably the most fun part of the season, because it’s single elimination. It’s either do or die and I think our guys want to compete. The intensity goes up a level and with each game that you win, the intensity goes up a level. So, right now there’s 12 teams still playing and after this weekend there’s going to be eight. After that, four. You all know the schedule. To me, it’s an exciting time. There’s nothing ho-hung about it. There’s going to be good competition going on with the guys, some of the guys who are the best football players in the world. So, to me it’s a lot of fun.”
Re: On if he continues to bring pressure because he had success last week, or if he thinks they will be expecting that:
“Not going to blitz at all [laughs]. We’ll see. When we get to the game, we’ll see. We’re an aggressive team. That’s probably what we do best. Whether we’re going to blitz or not, they’ll find that out when we get there. They know you well enough, we know them well enough and I’m sure they’ve probably seen every blitz we have. It’s not going to be new for them. It’s not going to be new for us. All the formations they give us and all that stuff, so it’s just going to come down to the guys who hold on to the ball the best and who gets the most turnovers. The turnover/takeaway ratio is going to be key in this game, as it is in most games. So, for us, we need to get some turnovers.”
Re: On not having a player with more than seven sacks:
“How do I explain that? It’s kind of hard to explain. I don’t really pay attention to it. I pay attention more to how we’re going to try to attack somebody, who we’re going to try to take away from them and how we’re going to try to make them beat us left handed if we can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s been pretty good to us this year, but at the same time, it’s another week. If something works one week, the next time it falls flat. We have to play well. We have to play well to win and it comes down to that.”
What do you mean beat you left handed?
“With those guys, try to beat us with some of their worst players if they can. We’re going to try to do the best we can to take out their best players. But like I said before, they have a lot of them. So, when they have a lot of them, you can’t defend one guy, you have to defend all of them. We’re going to try to make them do things, if they can, that they don’t want to do. They would rather use their big-play guys to make plays and stuff like that.”
I absolutely can’t wait for this game. It’s going to be a hard hitting, fight for every yard kind of game.
One thing that I don’t want to see happen, and I’ve said this a lot, I don’t want to see our defense play soft in any way, shape, or form. They need to put feet on the gas and not let up till the final whistle. Forced fumbles, interceptions, pressure on McCarron, and not allowing YAC (yards after catch).
I fully expect Ben to have a bounce back game, but I don’t want to see him get impatient like he did in Baltimore. Reggie Nelson has picked off Big Ben five times, so he needs to know where this Bengals safety is at all times.
I think the Steelers win this game, but it won’t come as easy as some people think.
Here we go, Steelers! Here we go!