Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week’s opponent – the Oakland Raiders:
Q. Does Terrelle Pryor pose problems to your defense that the unit hasn’t seen to this point in the season?
A. He does. Like Geno Smith, Pryor is mobile, but he seems to be more willing to run than Geno. Geno ran it as a last resort, but running it is a weapon for this man, not only in terms of his mentality but also in the mentality of the play-caller. Their play selection indicates that, and that creates difficulty for all defenses.
Q. The Raiders are last in the league in passing yardage per game. What have you seen on the video?
A. That they’re playing to their strengths. They have a top-quality running back in Darren McFadden, and their quarterback is capable of breaking you down with his legs. They have done a lot of that, and have been successful in doing so.
Q. How does McFadden impact a football game?
A. He’s capable of going the distance any time he touches the ball. He proved that against us last year. He went 64 yards on us in the early moments of that game last September. You have to have good gap integrity, but the secondary also has to do a good job of coning to the ball and restricting the running lanes. McFadden is just that dangerous.
Q. Wide receiver Denarius Moore is the Raiders’ deep threat. Will he see a lot of Ike Taylor today?
A. He’s probably going to exclusively see Ike Taylor. That’s one of the challenges Ike relishes.
Q. What do you see when you watch Charles Woodson on video?
A. Charles Woodson is a legendary football player. He has done it at a high level at every position in an NFL secondary, and he’s doing it for these guys at free safety. He’ll also double-down and play some dime linebacker. The Raiders have done a nice job of putting together a veteran-laden secondary, with Woodson, Mike Jenkins, and Tracy Porter, who is a ball-hawking coverage guy who also plays inside in their nickel.
Q. What do you like about your team since the bye?
A. That they’re singularly focused on the variables that matter, the things that are within our control. I think they bring a certain amount of urgency every day to preparation, and that helps us in play. But obviously we have to prove that in stadiums.
Q. In the game against the Ravens, the average distance for the Steelers to convert on third downs was a third-and-5. How did the offense manage to get itself in such an advantageous position?
A. We won on first down, and we won it definitively. When you do that, and you don’t hurt your own cause – and there were a couple of instances where we hurt our own cause with pre-snap penalties and things such as that – but largely when you’re winning on first down you have an opportunity to be in manageable third downs.
Q. Might we see some more wildcat today?
A. Yes, we’re going to continue to develop it, and for a lot of reasons. First of all because it’s not a tough add, in that most of the guys are doing things they’ve always done. Le’Veon Bell has a skill set that’s geared toward it, he has done it in both high school and college so it’s not unfamiliar to him.
Q. Might we see Le’Veon throw the football out of the wildcat?
A. Probably not. (Laughs) Someone would have to be pretty open before I give Le’Veon Bell the green light to throw the football.
Q. Is Le’Veon the team’s most patient running back?
A. He is, but it’s not something you coach. It’s something he just is as a player. It’s one of the things that attracted us to him in draft preparation. He’s patient and powerful and has a burst, and he can be all of those things in the midst of one football play.
Q. How did Kelvin Beachum do as a starter at left tackle?
A. He continues to evolve and do well. He was above the line in his performance, and I think he’s getting better. I’m looking forward to watching him play today and prove that.
Q. How about Abdullah, nee Guy Whimper?
A. (Laughs) I guess the nickname has gotten out. He has done some good things for us. Probably as important as his play is his demeanor. He’s a veteran acquisition for us, he has been a part of a Super Bowl champions, he has been on several teams in the league. I just think he brings a calm, stabilizing presence to the room.
Q. Even though Beachum and Whimper got the bulk of the playing time at tackle, you got Mike Adams some snaps. Why?
A. He continues to march his way back. He has some things he needs to continue to work on from a skill development standpoint, but to ante up and kick in the midst of that to provide value to the football team is a big thing, and he has been doing that at tight end.
Q. Shaun Suisham was voted AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. What do you like about him?
A. More than his performance, it’s his demeanor and approach to work. He’s very consistent. He’s extremely mentally tough. Those things are assets that not only allow him to do his job, but to help us.
Q. Cam Heyward is leading the team in quarterback pressures. What has he shown you this season that he hadn’t shown you in his first two seasons?
A. He’s got a larger body of work. He’s getting more snaps, and he has earned that. He’s highly conditioned, and he’s a tireless, consistent football player.
Q. What are the keys to this game for the Steelers?
A. We have to do a great job of dealing with the atmosphere from a crowd noise standpoint, which can affect you offensively. We have to do a great job communicating under those circumstances. Obviously, we have to perform and take care of the football. Defensively, we have to do a good job of not only containing, but also constricting this quarterback. Often when you play somebody as dangerous as Pryor, you can spend a lot of time worrying about containing him and not be aggressive enough to apply pressure. We need to do both.
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