There was some positive news during Wednesday's practice, and that involved the return of cornerback Joe Haden to practice. Haden was limited, but hearing that he was out there is a sign that he could play this Sunday against the Steelers. Cornerbacks Dimitri Patterson and Buster Skrine did not practice; the team is still waiting for Skrine to be cleared after he suffered a concussion last week. In addition, Pat Shurmur held his Wednesday news conference, which is organized by topic below.
Johnson Bademosi as the Fourth Captain This Week
(Opening Statement)- "This is the last time I’ll see you before tomorrow, so have a happy Thanksgiving. Issues of the day, Johnson Bademosi will be the fourth captain. He’s our third rookie this year, obviously he was undrafted. He’s been an outstanding player for us on special teams. He stepped in and played some corner for us on Sunday. I think it’s pretty impressive when you have veterans like Phil Dawson, Joe Thomas and D’Qwell (Jackson), who bring to me potential captains for the week and they include rookies, which makes sense because we have so many playing. The fact that they see leadership in these guys I think is outstanding. He’ll be our fourth captain. With that being said, we’re heavy into the preparation and getting ready to play the Steelers."
Evaluating the Steelers' Defense This Year
(On how the Steelers defense has maintained a number one ranking despite injuries)- "The last five weeks, they’re number one for a reason. Their scheme is recognizable. You know where their guys are. They pressure. They are fast. They are explosive. When we write down the guys you’ve got to control, all four linebackers show up. They know their scheme extremely well. They’ve got lots of veterans. I might be off by a year or two, but I was just counting up the experience in the secondary, and I think it came to like 34 years. They’re veteran guys, they know their scheme well and they’re good players. It’s no mystery to me that they are ranked highly."
(On if James Harrison battling a knee injury this year)- "I wouldn’t know it by watching him, especially in the last month. He’s playing extremely well. He’s had an impact against the Browns and of course he’s been a good player for a long time."
(On what challenges the Steelers defense presents to Brandon Weeden)- "I think they are a fast defense. We’ve had a chance to play against multiple teams that run a 3-4. The way they pressure is a little bit different. There are times with the Steelers, you get them blocked but they are still on your edges. That’s the challenge. We have plenty of film on them, and he’ll be able to see it and how our plays fit against our scheme. The way they bring pressure, I think is a challenge."
(On Dick LeBeau coaching at the age of 75 and if he can envision coaching at that age)- "He’s doing it at a high level, he was an outstanding player and I would imagine the people in the Steelers building hope he does it for a long, long time because he’s so good. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him. I got to hear some stories, he and Dick Jauron are friendly. I’ve interacted with some guys who have coached with the Steelers. Mark Whipple was there so although I don’t know Dick LeBeau all that well, I’ve gained an appreciation for what he is as a coach and a person. To answer your question, I hope so. I hope I’m coaching at that age because this is a profession for me, but it is also my hobby and my pastime and it is something that I love to do. Yeah, I hope so."
Talking About Charlie Batch vs. Ben Roethlisberger
(On what he’s seen in Charlie Batch)- "We know Batch from years previous. I think when veteran quarterbacks come in and play, they tend to do very well. I think their style on offense won’t change. I didn’t see it change tremendously. Of course when (Byron) Leftwich was in there, they talked about how they threw the ball deeper on a couple routes, but you see Ben (Roethlisberger) do that. I don’t think their offense will change. They want to run the football, and when you run the football effectively, that makes the play action believable. They’ve got a veteran guy that I’m sure their offensive players and the rest of their team is going to play hard for."
(On if they will change the way they coach defensively against Batch because Roethlisberger is so hard to bring down)- "I think you just try to deal with the fact that when you get pressure on Ben, that’s where it becomes tougher, because he can extend plays and hurt you outside the pocket or when things get a little helter-skelter."
Planning for Burress, and if Cleveland Ever Considered Him
(On how they plan for Plaxico Burress)- "Much like Charlie Batch playing, veterans tend to come in in the first game or month that they are with a new team and have an impact. Heck, I’ve known Plaxico since he was in high school. He was at Michigan State. I watched him do damage with the Giants when I was in Philadelphia. I know Plaxico very well personally and then of course watching him as a player. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him and the impact he can have on a game. I’m sure they’ll get him up and running. I’m sure we’ll see him on Sunday."
(On if it’s an easy transition coming to a new team for a veteran like Burress)- "When you’re brand new to anything I don’t think it’s seamless. They’ve got very smart coaches and they know their team and they know where they’re going to fit him in to make an impact. They’ll get him up and running quickly. I think it would be probably impossible for us to say that he’s going to know the whole game plan and be able to function in every situation, but I would bet we’ll see him on the field."
(On if they considered brining in Burress during the offseason)- "Any of the free agents that are available we have conversations about and obviously he was a big name free agent. We talked about him. I’ll keep those personnel decisions and what we do behind the scenes private."
What a Win Would Mean, and Learning From Last Year
(On what this game means to Jimmy Haslam)- "I told the players this, all the games count one, but when you’re playing this game there’s obviously more emotion attached to it. I would imagine that could be said, I don’t want to speak for Jimmy, but I would imagine there’s more emotion involved with this one than some of the others."
(On if he learned anything about this rivalry last year)- "I feel the passion. I was told about it. I had neighbors and people in the community that tell me how important it is and what I means to beat the Steelers. Then playing the games you know you feel that, whether it be on the sideline or from the crowd, you feel what it means. I know our players know and I know our young players are being educated about it. Now I know."
(On how he can call it a rivalry when the series has been so lopsided recently)- "I’m 0-2 against them so that’s what I’m going on. It is a rivalry. We’re in the division, we’re geographically close and it just naturally is. It just is. We’re competitive and we’re in the same division, we live close together and you compete. That’s what you do and that’s why it’s a rivalry."
(On what a win over the Steelers would mean to him)- "It would be our third victory, it’s a division game and it’s a game played at home. As we move forward into our last five games, it would be something good to build on."
Trent Richardson's Struggles Against Dallas
(On Trent Richardson getting stopped a few times for no gain and what happened each time)- "We’re going to have to put it in a clinic setting here if we’re going go through each play. There are times when the running back gets stopped for no gain. You don’t want it to happen. Typically, there can be numerous reasons for it - we didn’t’ block it properly, there was a free guy in the hole or maybe we didn’t run to the proper hole. I don’t think there’s much to make of that quite frankly."
(On Richardson saying he left a lot of yards out there Sunday and if he agrees with that)- "That’s a competitive guy expressing the fact that, although he had a huge impact on the game, he wants to do more. That’s all. To me, that’s what I want from our players, is them to be able to say, ‘You know what, no matter what you say about how I played, I can play better.’ I think if we play and coach that way, then we will get better."
(On if there is an adjustment for rookies from going against college teams to NFL opponents)- "You would have to ask the rookies specifically. Yeah, I would imagine there is."
Avoiding the Penalties
(On how many penalties on Sunday were avoidable)- "Some of it, holding calls, pass interference calls and those types of things. We didn’t have an on offense, which is really good in an environment where it’s hard to communicate, against a pretty good front. We had two holding calls on special teams, where you’ve just got to be a little better with your hands, so you work on that, you emphasize it. The defense, it really was a matter of corners challenging receivers is kind of what it came down to. There’s a lot of contact in that five-yard area, then once you break through there, you’ve got to just run and cover. We’ll just work on it."
(On how difficult it is to teach putting hands on players defensively when the offensive players is initiating)- "It’s an interesting concept. I think what’s important is we all know the rules. All 32 teams play by them. We tell our corners to challenge and they’re coaching their receivers to beat bump and run. We all are aware of what constitutes pass interference. We are all aware of what constitutes holding. Unfortunately, on gameday sometimes we see it differently. That’s all."
(On if it’s gotten to a point where things are too tilted towards the offense)- "I don’t know about that. I wouldn’t say that. It’s a good game. We played an outstanding game by the way."
(On if Buster Skrine has been cleared to practice)- "He’s working through the process."
(On if that means Skrine is not cleared)- "He’s working through the process."
Rubin and Taylor on the Defensive Line
(On what having Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor on the field together do for the pass rush)- "I think generally speaking for the defensive line, run or pass, I think when you have two guys who were our starters last year back in the mix, I think you saw the impact it can have when you watch the competition up front against Dallas. We found a way with a good mix of guys in there including them to get pressure on the quarterback. The run game for the most part didn’t break out on us and when you put those guys back in there it helps not only when they’re in there, but it also helps the rotation with the other guys."
(On how many defensive linemen he likes to rotate in games)- "You would like to rotate in every defensive lineman that plays so if you have eight of them up you like to get them all in there at some point. Of course, the guys that are kind of slated as your starters play a higher percentage of the snaps."
(On if it is true that Rubin and Taylor draw a lot of double teams)- "Let’s just think about it for a second, let’s say they have five blockers and you have four guys rushing, now they will slide the protection and try to tweak it, but three of the four guys are rushing singly. What happens with the pass rush, in my opinion, when you have big physical guys, one of the most damaging things about a pass rush is a push in the quarterbacks face because when it collapses in front of him that’s what restricts a quarterback’s vision more than what they know is happening off the edges so it all fits together."