BB: Back at it here. We have the players coming back in tomorrow. Today's a good day for us to go back over all the things we worked on last week, pull it back together, get ready for the players coming in tomorrow and practicing, have a good week for the Steelers. They look good as usual - the AFC champion last year - a lot of the same players, same schemes. [It's a] big challenge, a lot to get ready for. They do a lot of things to make it tough on you. They're well coached, [they have] a lot of talent in all three phases of the game. Both teams know each other well, so I don't think there will be a ton of surprises here. It will come down to preparation, execution and decision making on game day. Hopefully we can do a good job of that.
Q: How much did you guys start on preparing for Pittsburgh last week? Were you able to install anything and use the days to get ahead or was it mostly fundamentals based?
BB: We started working on them as soon as we got finished with Dallas. There were definitely things that we needed to just do for us too, but we started working on them right away.
Q: What is your take on how your specialists have performed to this point in the season, particularly Zoltan Mesko and Stephen Gostkowski?
BB: I think overall they've both done a pretty solid job. Zoltan, I thought he showed a lot of toughness, both mentally and physically, after he got banged up there coming back. He's done a good job for us with the holding part of the operation as well as the punting. Like I said, just being there and working through some not ideal situations but being there so we could depend on him and count on him. I'm not sure that would have happened last year but he's definitely developing into a good solid player. He works hard and he has a lot better understanding of our game and what we do than he did last year certainly. Stephen, we paced him through training camp with the kickoffs and things like that but I think he's had a good solid start too. There's a lot of room for improvement there with both of those guys, but at the same time, I think they've done a good job for us. Overall have performed well, both kicking the ball and in, Zoltan's case holding it, and being dependable for us.
Q: It seems like Zoltan has dealt with more bad snaps than in recent years. Has that been frustrating, a little bit of a struggle for you, just getting the ball to the holder?
BB: I mean, the whole timing of the play is always critical - it all happens so fast. If the ball is not there where the kicker needs for it to be, it's hard for him to adjust, because he's already committed his stride into the kick. All those guys: Danny [Aiken], the snapper and Zoltan and Steve [Gostkowski] and the protection and all that it has to be done at a pretty good level, pretty high level. There's certainly room for improvement all the way around. We've been pretty consistent with it. A couple of times where the operation hasn't been perfect, we've been able to still, for the most part, get it done. Those guys are all doing a good job.
Q: You've had a couple of days of looking at Jerod Mayo since he came back from his injury. Has that been a good situation, him coming back? What did you see from him during practice?
BB: Jerod is definitely getting better. He works hard, as he always does. We had a few days away from here, so he's gotten an opportunity to get some more healing and treatment. We'll see where he is when we get out on the field this week. He's certainly making progress and it will be great to have him back out there whenever that happens.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mike Wallace? Who would you put him in a category with around the league in terms of the style of receiver that he is?
BB: He's a big play receiver. He's really fast. Nobody is going to catch him, so you have to be careful about how much space he gets when he catches the ball. I think he's improved a lot from when we played them last year, just as a football player, his patience and route technique. He has great speed but he also is getting better at route technique, setting up routes, using his speed, changing his pace. He's good after the catch with the ball in his hands. He breaks tackles and eludes people, does a nice job of going up and getting the ball in the deep part of the field, he's taken it away from some defensive backs. I'd say overall [he] improved his route running in the red area where there's less space. He still is a key guy down there. He did a lot of things well last year, doing them well this year and even better. [He's made] plays in just about every game. He stretches the field but he can also take a short pass and turn it into a long run, so you have to defend him from the line of scrimmage to the back of the end zone and from sideline to sideline. He's a tough guy to match up on. He's done a good job. Obviously he's worked hard and he's being well coached and he's got a good quarterback and other good receivers to complement him. He's part of their very productive offense.
Q: I know you talked to the rookies before they left for the bye week, but when your players scatter around the country and do whatever they do, are you curious about what they do, where they go and who they hang out with? Do you care? Or does it just matter that come back ready to do what they need to do?
BB: Well, I mean there's a certain extent of that every day they leave here. Everybody walks out of this building and they don't all go to the same place. But hopefully they all come back at the next appointed time to resume their preparations and contributions that they make to the team. There's a certain element of that all the time.
Q: The last couple of years Troy Polamalu was hampered by injury and he's talked about how it affected him on the field and things like that. In preparing for Pittsburgh, does it look like he's about as healthy as he can be right now in terms of his movement and how he's covering the field and making plays?
BB: Right. Wasn't he the defensive player of the year last year?
Q: He's been hurt before. It restricts his movement and things like that.
BB: You're making it sound like he doesn't do anything. He's one of the top defensive players in the league. He's a dynamic player that can affect any player that you run - run or pass, inside, outside, short, deep. He's a tremendous football player, great competitor. He's made a ton of plays this year, made them last year; he makes a lot of them. I thought he played well last year, I thought he was really productive last year. If I'm not mistaken, I think he was the player of the year, which he deserved. He looked pretty good to me. I'm not really sure what you're referring to there.
Q: Do you expect to get Sebastian Vollmer back this week? Will you go back to the same situation you had where Nate Solder came in as the third tight end, if Vollmer does come back this week?
BB: I'll give you the same answer I give you every week on the same question, just change the name. We'll put them out there, we'll see what they can do. If they're ready to practice, we'll evaluate them. If they're not, then we'll do some more rehab and try it again at the next opportunity we get and see where they are at that point. That's the way it is with any player who is not able to fully participate. You keep ramping them until they are and then when they are, you evaluate what they can do and how well and for how long they can do it. Until then, you rehabilitate their injury and work to get them back out there as soon as possible. We haven't practiced in a few days; we'll see what happens when we go back out on the field tomorrow. I really don't know what that's going to be.
Q: What are you seeing the majority of the time from the Steelers offense? Are they more two tight ends? Three receivers? I'm sure they do it all, but what do you see the majority of the time from this offense?
BB: I'd say they're pretty well balanced between those three groups that you mentioned - three tight ends, two tight ends, and one tight end, three receivers. That fluctuates from game-to-game but if you look at it over a broader view, they utilize all those personnel groups as well as multiple backs and different receivers. It's not always the same receivers in the game all the time. Even though it might be the same three receivers and one tight end personnel group on paper, it's not always the same exact players or backs. They utilize a lot of different personnel groups and different people within those groups so they give you a lot of different looks and they have a lot of good players. They have different skills but they're all good. Some guys do some things a little more or better than others but then other guys come in with different matchup problems. They get a lot of mileage out of everybody. It looks like they use all three of those groupings - they split it up between those three, however they do it, a half, a quarter, a quarter or a third, a third, a third. Some of that depends on the game, they way it's going, some of it probably depends on their game plan - how they feel they match up against that opponent.
Q: When did the Steelers get away from that identity of 'We're big, we're going to run it on you and you have to stop us?' If you look at what they did yesterday against the Cardinals, it was a pretty good air attack getting it down the field.
BB: I think defensively, not too much has changed there in 20 years. I think their defensive system is today similar to what it was in 1992 when in Bill [Cowher] came in - it's pretty similar to that. I don't know how much has changed there. Offensively, they still run the ball. They have a good power running game. They have a good play-action game which comes off the running game. They can throw it with not very many receivers on the field or they can put a lot of receivers on the field. They put four or five out there which they do plenty of times especially on third down or passing situations and make you defend that. Their offense has definitely changed with [Ben] Roethlisberger, as it should relative to what they did with let's say when Kordell Stewart was the quarterback - two totally different type players. The running game can be the same but the passing game is a little bit different. Some of the schemes are different. I would think that's what you're seeing. I don't see there's a big change. I think Roethlisberger and the offense have evolved over the last five, six years - however long it has been. The running game is still…there's a lot of carryover from year to year and regardless of what the numbers are, they can definitely run it and they will run it and they can throw it and they will throw it. I think you have to be ready for all of it. They're just not going to do one thing. If something is going good for a game, they might stick with it. If they need to do something else, they're perfectly capable of doing it.
Q: What did you do with the time off? Were you able to get away?
BB: Just try to get ahead a little bit on, get a little jump on Pittsburgh, look at some of the stuff we're doing and try to catch up on a few personal things. Did some family stuff that you don't have time for, or you don't have as much time for that [during] the bye week you can get caught up on some of those things. I'd say it was a combination of all that.