New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday, November 28, 2008.
BB: We are trying to close the book here on the Steelers. Like I said at the beginning of the week, they are a real good football team. They do a lot of things well. They are right at the top of the league in a lot of categories. It really underscores not just that they are really good but that they are exceptional on lot of the things they are doing. We will try to tie up a few loose ends today and be ready for a hard hitting football game on Sunday, the way it always is against Pittsburgh.
Q: Can you talk about not having to move your offensive line around now that you know Matt Light will play in Sunday's game?
BB: We haven't made any changes.
Q: In a general sense does bulletin board material ever work as a motivation and do you instruct your players to concentrate on their jobs and not worry about what everyone else is saying?
BB: I think in the end the games are won and lost out on the field by the players. You can go in there and beat your helmet against your locker before you go out on the field, hold hands, chant, kick chairs and break blackboards, but as soon as the ball is snapped you do your job better than they do theirs or vice versa. After a couple plays, it might be after one play, it is really about execution. What team can do what they have to do better than the other team. No just individually one-on-one but collectively as a group. You get into situational football, field position, clock management, changing personnel groups, substitutions, calls and adjustments. That to me is what the game is about. I think you can go in there, take a sledge hammer and break up the cinder blocks, but I don't think that helps you block them. I don't think that helps you tackle them. I don't think it helps you do what you need to do from a football standpoint. If you can't do that then I think the rest of it is minimal.
Q: In your career have you ever had to tell a player to knock it off if they were talking about other teams and other players?
BB: I think in general what we all need to do is focus on what our jobs are and do that. There are a lot of potential distractions out there, stuff gets said and we all know what kind of stuff happens. Sometimes they can be distracting and I am not saying that we don't feel them or it isn't a burr in your saddle, but in the end you have to put all of that past you whether you are on the giving or receiving side, I have seen it go on both ways, and go out and do your job. That is really what it comes down to.
Q: Has the personality of the Steelers changed at all after Mike Tomlin or has the personality of the team stayed the same since he took over?
BB: I would say it is basically the same. I am not saying he hasn't had any influence in it but you look at what they do, how they do it and how they play – there is a lot of carryover from the last 15 years regardless of who some of the players are. Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene to [James] Harrison and the guys that we see now, whether it is [Barry] Foster, [Jerome] Bettis and Willie Parker – there is a lot of carryover there.
Q: I was curious about your practice players and how you award them with that black shirt. What does it mean to that guy, when did you start that and how do you make that decision?
BB: We make the decision based on a player that we think has done a great job of helping prepare the other group the previous week. We try to find ways to make everybody feel a part of the team. Not everybody can be active for the game. Not everybody plays in the game but everybody has a role during the week in preparation and that is important too. Same thing in the off-season program, everybody participates in that and can be recognized, to a certain degree, for what they do. There are some guys that get a lot of attention – the guys who get a lot of sacks, get a lot of touchdowns and they get their recognition one way but there are a lot of players that contribute to the team in a very significant way that we can recognize as a team and appreciate. There are a lot of different ways to do that and the practice player's jersey is one way. There's a lot of other ways to do that too. There's a lot of other ways to recognize performances of players that again don't score the touchdowns for lack of a better example. We do that a lot of different ways. I think most teams do that. They find different ways to recognize players, not just football, players that contribute to the victory or to the team effort that don't score the most points.
Q: Is that like a helmet sticker for the guy who can't get one.
BB: Yes. There are a lot of ways to do it but helmet stickers are one thing that college and high school teams do. I am sure those teams have a way of building up that recognition and making it important and making guys want to perform for that recognition – saying, 'Hey you did a good job and here is what you get.' Whatever it is, whether it is a parking space for the off-season program or a black jersey – it is something that says, 'Hey he did a good job,' and that is important to us. We recognize it.
Q: In what way did Vince Redd do a good job to earn that this week?
BB: Last week his role was really Joey Porter. I thought he did a real good job on him, whether he had one tackle in the game or whatever it was. I think we were well prepared to play him.
Q: Did he do some good talking leading up to that game?
BB: [laughter] Yes, he kicked the dirt.
Q: The Steelers sub packages, what have you seen from them when they have gone to the sub package?
BB: They have used different combinations of people in there, based more on injury than them trying to change the scheme. [Deshea] Townsend, [Bryant] McFadden has been out with the forearm, so they have just had to scramble to get players in there. They don't change their scheme. That is one thing about the Steelers, [Dick] LeBeau, no matter who the players are they do the same thing. We saw that a little bit last year with [Tyrone] Carter and [Anthony] Smith. They didn't change what they did. [Troy] Polamalu was out - they put other guys in and did what they did.
Q: Did they go to sub often over the last couple of weeks?
BB: They go to it when they want to go to it. They go to it on their terms. If they want to be in it, then they will be in it. They don't always go to it when you bring in multiple receiver groups. Sometimes they will leave their 3-4, their base front, on the field. But they do that anyway. They did that at the beginning of the year in the Cleveland game when they had basically everybody. They put it in when they want to put it in. It seems like they more do what they want to do and they expect whoever is in there to get it done. Whoever the players are, they sub them in and do it. When guys have gone out, they don't change too much.
Q: How much has Fernando Bryant played in the last few weeks for them?
BB: In their sub package. So, whenever they are in it they are in it, whether it is two minute or the end of the game then they are going to be in it – if it is not then they are not. On early downs, first and second downs, they have to decide how they are going to play those different teams. Sometimes it varies within the game. It is not always one thing or another, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don't.
Q: (On Hines Ward blocking...)
BB: He is a good blocker. He is a big physical guy and when he locks up on those big defensive backs it is hard for them to get off. He has good playing strength. He wants to do it. He takes pride in it. Most of his highlight hits and all come on peel back blocks and plays where he is really not assigned to anybody but he just blocks. In the normal assignments he is a guy that they count on a lot in the running game a lot to get the force, depending what the play is, but usually to get somebody from the secondary and to keep them out of the run force element. He does a good job.
Q: When you played this team in the past, you said their defense doesn't change much…
BB: When I said it doesn't change much I am saying that when you look at the last five, six or seven games you are not sitting there and saying, 'Wow, look what they are doing on this play. We have never seen them do this before.' You see something and say, 'Ok, that is Sam Will, that is their Mike Sam, that is their under double call 8-3, that is their blitz in the red area.' I am not saying that you can put on a play and say, ok I know what they are going to be in here. You can't do that but what you have seen them do are things that you have seen them do before. You are not talking about a game plan saying, they put in a new package here. We have to prepare for this differently because we have never seen it before. There are very few things that they do that we haven't seen before. They might come in different percentages and we might see that this may be 30 percent and now we look at it this year and it is 50 percent. But, something that was 50 percent last year is 15 percent this year. So, there is some fluctuation like that. When you watch them, you don't have a lot of, wow we have never seen them do that before. It would be more, they are using [Lawrence] Timmons to do this and they are using Townsend to do that. It is more plugging their people in to the schemes that you know they run.
Q: (On their 3-4 defense…)
BB: When they have their normal 3-4 people in there, Greg Lloyd does what Harrison did which is the same thing that [Jason] Gildon did. When they get to their sub packages, their 2-4-5 or their 2-3-6 package then sometimes it is not as clear who is doing what. You need to say well [James] Farrior is really playing the Mike on this play but now when they do this, he is playing something else and Polamalu is playing the Mike.
Q: Is that a complexity that Matt Cassel has to try to distinguish pre-snap and post-snap?
BB: What we try to do is make it so the whole team can understand it, so that when they're in this here's how we're going to treat this. We're going to treat this as a 3-4. We're going to treat this as a 4-3. We're going to treat this as in our nickel rules or we're going to treat this as whatever our rules are that we have in different categories. You can't really treat everything the same each week because it isn't the same.
Q: Matt Cassel would have to identify what it is…
BB: Sometimes he does. Sometimes we know by the personnel that are in the game. When these guys are in the game here's – you know [James] Harrison is a linebacker in this group, Harrison is a defensive lineman in this group. [James] Farrior is the Mike in this group; Farrior is the Will in that group. [Troy] Polamalu is a safety in this group; Polamalu is the Sam linebacker is that group. It just depends on what kind of people they have in there. Sometimes it depends on what we have, what protections or what running plays we have called. Q How do you become a game plan coach? When did you see the benefit to becoming an offense or defense that changes week to week and does it take awhile to build a base to be that kind of team?
BB: It's a broad question. It's a hard thing to answer. In some respects there's not necessarily one straight answer to it. You can do elements of both. Let me just say in general terms, I think it's hard to change everything every week. I think you can change certain elements from week to week but it's hard to change everything every week. Some teams will run – if they are going to change certain things then other things stay the same. Like maybe their two minute offense, their goal line offense, their red area offense, or their third down offense. Then they change something else like their first down offense or they change their third down offense but they keep their running game the same, or they change their running game but they basically keep their red area the same. It's hard to change your entire offense every week but I think if you play a 3-4 team then these are the runs we're going to run against a 3-4 team. If you play a 4-3 over and under team well here are the runs we're going to run against a 4-3 over and under. They might be completely different. You see teams do that but if they do that then they probably don't change everything else. You see some teams pretty much run the same runs every week but depending on what coverages you play - if you're a zone team then they have this set of patterns. If you are a man team then they have this set of patterns. If you are a pressure team then they have another set. If you're a quarters team then they have another set. Now if you mix it up then they mix it up. It's like they have a little block on their game plan. If you're playing cover two we run this. If you're in cover three we run that. If you blitz we run this. Other teams do it by protection. It's hard to give a specific answer to that. I think what you have to do each week is figure out what their formula is, what they're going to change and what they're not. What their philosophy is in certain situations, on certain plays or certain groupings. Sometimes it revolves around them and sometimes it revolves around the defense.
Q: I've noticed in the past you've spread it out against Pittsburgh.
BB: I don't know how much you consider us spreading it out a game plan thing. We spread it out last week. We've spread it out other weeks. Some weeks we are spread more than others, some weeks we're more closed than others. You've seen us play. We've been in different modes. We went and played Pittsburgh and Corey Dillon had a great day running the ball in the playoffs. I don't think every game is the same against every team but I think that if you want to change how you're going to play the game a little then you have that element of, 'this is how we match up against that team.' Part of it is what they're like, part of it is what you're like and then you decide in that game, 'ok this is what we think the best thing to do is.' At New York, when I was there, we basically played three coverages but we played a lot of cover two. There were games where we played 80 percent of cover two. Now within that coverage it wasn't always quite the same. We played it differently depending on the offense – how they aligned and what they were trying to do with it. But, I can remember playing cover two 45 out of 51 snaps against Miami with [Dan] Marino. Sometimes it's good to do what you do, try to do it well and try to adjust what you do to what the opponents do. Sometimes you feel better about changing what you do to try and match it up differently. The advantage to doing more things is that it makes them defend more. The advantage to doing less things is once you see it you're going to be in the same spot again, you're going to have the same assignment again and you can play it better. Sometimes it's hard when you're changing things. When they do the same thing, well now it's a different guy in that position and he has different responsibility then he had the last time, so the carry-over effect of 'we've seen that play,' well yes we've seen that play but we were in different spots when we saw it. Like everything in football there's a lot of give and take and there are advantages to doing things different ways and you just have to decide how to do it.