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Transcript: Bill Belichick Press Conference 12/15
BB: I'd say kind of the more I've watched the Steelers this week, the more impressed I am. The way they play, they're really well-coached, they've had so many end-of-the-game, end-of-the-half situations that they're very productive and efficient with, and Coach [Mike] Tomlin does a great job with the clock management, with the play selection - just doing the right plays in the right situations and executing them well. They've played well on defense, on offense and in the kicking game, made a lot of critical plays. They do a really good job in that area, and that's translated into a number of wins for them. So, along with all the other things that they do well, that's pretty impressive, too. You need to play a good 60-minute, complete football game, all three phases, to be competitive with these guys. They're good at everything.
Q: What traits does Kenny Britt have that make you want to work with him?
BB: He's been a productive player in this league. We'll see how it goes.
Q: Do you see any similarities to what you did last year in signing Michael Floyd in terms of timing and expectations?
BB: We'll see. It's only been a couple days, so we'll see how it goes.
Q: Is Britt's size unique for the wide receiver position or give you something different?
BB: He's bigger than anybody we have, yeah.
Q: With the size of the Steelers receivers, rather than Antonio Brown, it seems like -
BB: And [Eli] Rogers.
Q: With JuJu Smith-Schuster, especially, it seems like he is a pretty physical player. Does that help the Steelers create bigger plays down the field with some of the blocking they get from those guys?
BB: They're all good. They all have good skillsets. They all are productive. They have Rogers and Brown - aren't the biggest guys, but they're productive. A lot of - [Martavis] Bryant, Smith [Schuster], [Darrius] Heyward-Bey in the kicking game - I mean, yeah, they're a very talented group. Tight ends - same thing, big receivers - [Vance] McDonald, [Jesse] James. [Le'Veon]Bell is another big guy. So, they can do a lot of things. They can catch, they can break tackles, they're elusive, they can all go up and get the ball.
Q: How does Joe Haden change the Steelers secondary when he's out there?
BB: Yeah, Joe's a very experienced player. We saw him in a number of games earlier this year. He's missed the last few weeks. [Cameron] Sutton and [Coty] Sensabaugh played. They're pretty good, no matter which one of those guys is in there, but Haden has a lot of experience. We've played against him in the past. He's got a lot of savvy and good ball skills.
Q: With Ben Roethlisberger, is there anything that has stuck out from film in terms of what he's doing particularly well at the moment?
BB: He does everything pretty well.
Q: He had a point in the season where he was indicating that he might be done. Does the film show otherwise?
BB: He's made - and as a team, they've made so many plays at the most critical times in the game when they've had to make them, and that's really what it's all about. He's done that as much as anybody. All their receivers - Brown, Bell, James, McDonald - it's not like he's throwing to just one guy. He throws to all of them. They've all made big plays.
BB: Those guys have both played a lot of good football for us. So, we'll see how it goes. We have confidence with both of them. We've won with both of them in there, and we'll do what we think is best for the team, but they're both good players.
Q: All of your running backs have been backups at some point in their career. Is that a coincidence or something that was appealing to you?
BB: I haven't really thought about, so I guess that answers the question.
Q: Is the fact that they've had less work and stress on their body appealing at all? Or do you like that they are more comfortable with filling any role than being the go-to guy?
BB: Yeah, the most important thing I think at that position is production. So, they've been productive, which is good. That's what you need at that position. If you don't have production, then what do you really have? That's what they're there for - to gain yards.
Q: In the running game, is there a ratio of importance between blocking and what the running back can do on his own?
BB: Yeah, sure. Yep, I think every play gets blocked for a certain, call it, number of yards, and then what the backs can add onto that on their own, in addition to what the play is blocked for - let's call it what you and I could gain on a play. It's blocked for so many yards, we gain that, then what can the guy with the ball do after that? That's a big measuring stick for the back, assuming that he reads the play properly to get the yards that it's blocked for, which isn't a given but most of the time you get that. The back runs where he's supposed to run based on the blocking pattern and the way the play unfolds. That's not 100 percent, but assuming that you get that part right, then the next question is what can the player do on his own - is it power, quickness, vision in the second cuts, balance, etc.
Q: Cameron Heyward is having a career year. Are there any differences that you've noticed that have allowed him to have the year he's having?
BB: He's a good player, but he's having a great year. That whole front's playing very well. Heyward has done a great job, [Stephon] Tuitt, [Javon] Hargrave - all three of those guys are strong, they're physical, they're hard to block, they do a good job of rushing the passer, collapsing the pocket. They're strong in the running game, keep the linebackers free. The defensive ends do a good job - or outside linebackers, whatever you want to call them - [Bud] Dupree and [T.J.] Watt and [James] Harrison. So, across the front, that's a strong, tough group. But, Heyward's having a great year, no question.
Q: What have you learned about Eric Lee since he joined the team a few weeks ago?
BB: Yeah, he's a hard-working kid, stays late, comes early. Football is important to him. He's tough, taking a lot of snaps and putting a lot into it. He's great to have, great kid to work with.
Q: Was Eric Lee a guy who you felt would go undrafted but if given the opportunity would have a chance to succeed, or did your staff notice him because of the opportunity he received in Houston?
BB: Well, like a lot of players in college that play that position, the defensive end to outside linebacker to off-the-line linebackers, sometimes it's a little hard to figure out. When you're a 3-4 team, like Houston is, those defensive end to outside linebacker conversions are, I'd say, it's generally a little bit better fit and you can, I'd say, do it with more guys because that's your defense. When you're clearly a defensive end team, which we primarily are, then it's hard to take a linebacker and put him at end. They're related. Trying to figure out whether a guy really is a linebacker, whether he's an end, whether he's a hybrid type of player, he could play off the ball even though he hasn't done it before that you kind of project in him to do that. We have a number of players that fall into that category ourselves and finding the right ones and figuring it out and, again, you only have so many spots that you can do that with. When you're a 3-4 team you go to camp with let's call it seven outside linebackers and you have two or three on your roster and then you add three or four or whatever it is so you have a little bit more opportunity with those players. Eric certainly took advantage of that. We were able to see him doing some of those things.
Q: How has Matthew Slater still been able to impact the team despite missing some extended time due to injury?
BB: Matt's great, a great captain, does an excellent job off the field, in the locker room, in preparation, whether he is or isn't playing. He's a huge asset to our team, so I think Matt is the type of player that does what he can do and if there's something that he can't do, that doesn't affect what else he can do. He continues to be active and positive in the areas that he is able to be involved in. The ones that he isn't able to be involved in then he works hard to try to get to a place where he can participate there, but it doesn't affect the other aspects, other areas that he can contribute to the team. So he's a big contributor in a lot of different ways.
Q: What have you seen from Le'Veon Bell in the passing game over the past few weeks?
BB: The same way they always use him. He comes out of the backfield. He's a screen player and they use him in empty split out. He caught a 30-yard screen pass against Green Bay. I mean, it's a lot of yards. It's not some big creative play that nobody's ever seen run before, but it's 30-yards on a screen pass and a lot of it was good running. Cincinnati - not Green Bay - Cincinnati guys had a shot at him. He made guys miss, got into space, made a lot of yards on his own, so he's capable of doing that. He's capable of splitting out, catching the slant pass that he caught against Baltimore, running through a couple of tacklers there on the goal line for a touchdown, can take check downs and make big plays out of those. Any time he has the ball in his hands he's dangerous. Sometimes they throw it down the field to him and sometimes they give it to him on shorter passes and let him run with it, but there's a lot of space there with his deep receivers so sometimes he gets the ball on check downs, screens, plays like that, where the offense doesn't have to block seven or eight guys like they do on a running play. They just get it to him in space and let him go. He's a tough guy to handle. He's got great run skills, vision, balance. He's as good as any back we've seen all year and we've seen a few good backs.
Q: How important is it to have guys like Matthew Slater who act as emotional leaders despite their role on the field? Would the team lose something if that player was removed from the equation?
BB: Yeah, every team is different. Every team has a different makeup and a different chemistry and, honestly, sometimes it changes over the course of the year based on the circumstances that a team goes through. I don't think there's any right or wrong. It has to be this or it has to be that. You put any group of people together and you're going to have a different chemistry and if you change a few people then that will change, and the circumstances that group goes through will force some changes. Just it will. It's inevitable. I think the most important thing is the execution and the consistency of the units in the overall team. Emotion is great and that can be a big part of it, but in the end we can all sit around and kumbaya all day. If you don't block anybody or you can't tackle or you can't kick then I don't really know what you have. I'm not saying it's not important. It's part of it, but you better be able to execute what you're doing at a pretty high level or I don't think the rest of it is going to carry you all that far.
Q: How much of a factor in the passing game on Sunday is Tom Brady being at practice versus not being at practice some weeks?
BB: Well, it's always good to have everybody practice to get their preparation and to get it with their teammates. So that's how you build team execution is from team practice. The more of that we can do the better. It's not always possible. We do the best we can. Every team in the league deals with the same thing. It's not a unique problem here or anywhere eels, so we just do the best that we can with it. Read