Q. The Titans re-tooled their offensive line during this past offseason by signing unrestricted free agent Andy Levitre and drafting Chance Warmack on the first round. Does that make Chris Johnson a more dangerous back?
A. That’s what the Titans’ intentions are, but that’s why we play the game. I’m sure they’re excited about looking at that element, in looking at the growth and development in that unit, just as we are. They’ve done some things to re-tool that unit, and I’m sure they’re looking forward to seeing how that unit performs today.
A. He’s legitimate. I hadn’t looked at it globally like that, though. Not only does he break you down in terms of scrambling and creating and running in the mis-direction passing game, but the Titans have some prescribed runs where they design some things – a quarterback-lead-draw, some quarterback sweep stuff – that make them legitimate, particularly in situational football.
Q. How do you handle that defensively?
A. We still have to rush hard. We cannot allow that to minimize our rush in terms of what we do to get after him, but we also have to rush smart. We have to be conscious of our rush lanes, we have to collapse the pocket, we cannot allow him to have loose escape lanes.
Q. Nate Washington had his number of catches drop from 74 in 2011 to 46 in 2012. Is he on the decline?
A. It’s just a function of how they’re using him. In 2011, Nate played primarily in the slot in three-wide-receiver sets. That created a situation where he became the chain-mover on third downs, doing a lot of the possession things because he has a well-rounded game. When they drafted Kendall Wright from Baylor, they gave him that job because he played in the slot in college when Robert Griffin III was the quarterback down there. They asked Nate to do more down-the-field things for the vertical passing game. He’s just doing what they ask him to do. We have a great deal of respect for Nate Washington.
Q. What does safety Bernard Pollard bring to their defense?
A. Besides the obvious physical play and the experience that comes with the veteran player he is, he’s an energy-bringer instead of an energy-drainer. He plays with a great football demeanor, and I’m sure that’s something the other guys feed off.
Q. When you look at Isaac Redman, who will start today at running back, does he look quicker than the Isaac Redman of 2012?
A. I don’t know that he’s quicker, but he’s continually growing from a maturity standpoint and in his understanding of the game. That is continually allowing him to play faster. Isaac is a guy who works at it extremely hard, not only in terms of getting his body in great physical condition but also in terms of growing in the game mentally, and I think that helps him play faster.
Q. Has Redman adapted to the outside zone scheme to your satisfaction?
A. He really has. He’s made a conscious effort to do so, and it’s really outside his comfort zone. He’s a guy who is more used to attacking the line of scrimmage, more downhill things. He takes a great deal of pride in working to improve in the things that are outside his wheel-house.
Q. Outside of the sub-packages, will you spell Redman in the game against the Titans today.
A. Yes we will. We have packages based on personnel groups to include all people. You’ll see Felix Jones today, and you’ll also see LaRod Stephens-Howling.
Q. How would you evaluate the play of the offensive line during the preseason?
A. There were a lot of things to be encouraged about. I think largely we did a nice job of winning the line of scrimmage in the run game, really with no big explosion plays. We had no 60-yard runs or things of that nature, and our average was still solid. That was encouraging. The evolution of the tackles, with Mike Adams playing on the left side and Marcus Gilbert on the right, was a pivotal point of the preseason. I’m looking forward to those guys putting it together for four quarters.
Q. Is Maurkice Pouncey the unquestioned leader of that group now?
A. Maurkice, along with Ramon Foster. Ramon came here under different circumstances than Maurkice, being he was an undrafted rookie, and he has proven to be very reliable and durable during his time here. He is one who is respected by his teammates.
Q. Might we see some of Kelvin Beachum at tight end today?
A. You might see Beachum playing everything but quarterback today. He’s a smart young man who has proven to be versatile, and we’re going to utilize his talents both physically and mentally. He’ll play some tight end, and maybe some other things today.
Q. What does Steve McLendon give you at the nose tackle position?
A. Steve has range sideline-to-sideline. Not only is he able to stand up in the A-gap and do the things associated with being a two-gap nose tackle, but Steve also has been able to maintain his ability to move, especially laterally. That helps us defend gaps, particularly today as those gaps move with the zone-scheme oriented offenses.
Q. In 2012, Ziggy Hood had three sacks and 17 pressures. Are you looking for bigger numbers from him this season?
A. I would like to see a better ratio. He always has done a nice job of pressuring the quarterback, but doing the things associated with finishing those rushes – turning some of those pressures into sacks – is what we’re looking for.
Q. What are the keys for the Steelers in today’s game against the Titans?
A. To do the things you need to do to be solid in September football: to minimize our penalties, to not have negative plays on offense, to minimize big plays on defense; and to understand the gravity of situational football. This game is going to be decided on those special plays – third downs, red zone, goal line.
The Editor & Chief, the brains so to say, behind Pittsburgh Blitz. Jim is a rabid sports fan who just loves his Stillers, Pens and Buccos. Feel free to contact us at info[@]pittsburgh-blitz.com if you have any questions or comments or would like to join our staff and write for Pittsburgh Blitz.