[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="355796"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]HEAD COACH BILL BELICHICK
Q: You said you got a lot of good information last night on a lot of players. Is the time crunch more significant than usual where you're trying to take that information and use it before you have to make some roster decisions in the next day or so?
BB: Yes, I'd say it's a little more of a crunch than usual, absolutely, because not only do we have to prepare for Pittsburgh, but we also have to be ready to practice on Saturday. So, that's a little bit of a challenge. We spent some time on Pittsburgh last week, so I think we're further along than we would normally be at this point if we were playing on Sunday, not Thursday. Hopefully that will put us in decent position to be ready for the players when they come in since we've already done some of that. We'll just have to spend the time that we need today and tomorrow to make some roster decisions.
Q: What are your thoughts on Tom Brady re-joining the team?
BB: He never left.
Q: What are your thoughts on him being available to play the first four games of the season?
BB: We'll do the best that we can to have the best plan, the best preparation for Pittsburgh, same as we always do.
Q: On your list of objectives for the upcoming season, where does winning the AFC East rank on that list?
BB: We're one game at a time right now. We're just trying to get ready for Pittsburgh and that's it. I don't know about all the rest of that. I'm sure if we win enough games we'll be in good shape. But right now we just need to try to win one.
Q: The fact that the Steelers don't have Le'Veon Bell, how much does subtracting him change their team?
BB: DeAngelo Williams is a good player. He's certainly a challenge for us to defend. They've used [Dri] Archer quite a bit. He's a different type of player, but also extremely fast and explosive and he presents a lot of problems as well, too. I'm sure that [offensive coordinator] Coach [Todd] Haley and [Head] Coach [Mike] Tomlin will use their explosive players and put them in positions that are tough for us to defend them. However that goes, we'll just have to be ready for it. They have a lot of options. We have a lot of things to be ready for. We'll just have to do the best we can to prepare for it and then see what happens Thursday night.
Q: It's tough to judge based on the preseason tape because they move a lot of players in and out, is that accurate?
BB: Archer played a lot in preseason. I mean DeAngelo Williams, we know him pretty well. Look, I think they have plenty of weapons. The question is how they decide to deploy them and what combinations they are and where they line up and what they do with them and all that. We'll just have to see. Look, Le'Veon is a good player, I'm not saying that, but they have a lot of other good players, too. We have to be ready for all of it. They have a lot of talent.
Q: Was the coaching staff prepared to have Tom Brady for Week 1 all along?
BB: Right now, we're going to take the players that are available and try to figure out the best way to prepare our team for the Steelers Thursday night. That's all we're doing.
Q: As far as you're concerned, is everything from the AFC Championship Game and deflated footballs and all that, is that all in the rearview mirror?
BB: We're focused on Pittsburgh.
Q: Does not having a practice squad until Sunday affect your preparation for a Thursday game at all?
BB: Yeah. We're on a different schedule than everybody else, but we'll do the best we can to make the most of our opportunity to prepare, that's all.
Q: What are your thoughts on Ben Roethlisberger now as opposed to a couple years ago? I know it's been a couple years since you faced him. Does he still extend the play as well as any quarterback in football and have you seen any changes to his game?
BB: He's really good. He had a tremendous year last year on a lot of different levels. That's the best – the Steelers have a great tradition, a great football tradition, and that was their best offensive year in history. I don't know how you could do it any better than that. The last few times he's played us, I don't think we've held him under 350 yards, we might not have held him under 400 yards, I don't know, with a lot of touchdowns. He's played very well against us, and he's a great player, one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He's great on the deep balls, reads coverages well, hard to tackle, extends plays. He's a really good player and he has a lot of great weapons. He'll be very difficult to defend. We've certainly had a lot of trouble with him.
Q: The transition from Coach [Dick] LeBeau to Coach Keith Butler at defensive coordinator, with the 3-4, but they did use the 4-3 in the preseason, do you have thoughts about that transition?
BB: Well, we've seen some of the things carry over from last year defensively. We've seen a few new things. There certainly is the potential for other new things that they haven't shown that they've been working on that we see for the first time on Thursday night. That's always the way it is opening day. We have to prepare for some of last year, some modifications they've put in this year and then there's the unexpected if you will. I'm not saying they're going to reinvent the game or any of us are, but there are some things that maybe haven't shown up on film that might show up Thursday night in the game. It's a combination of all those things, but it always is for opening day. That's why opening day is such a hard game to prepare for. You have all the things you've seen in preseason, you have the things that they did last year and then they've had a lot of time to work on whatever it is they want to work on that you haven't seen. Everybody is in the same boat. That's opening day. When you get to that second game, I don't want to say you can eliminate a lot of things, but I'd say you can eliminate a lot of things if they don't show up on opening day and they haven't shown up in preseason, there's probably a pretty good chance they're not going to be a real big part of what your opponent is doing. But we're not there yet.
Q: Did you see anything last night that clarified the cornerback position or do you see a scenario where everyone sticks?
BB: Sure, I think we got a lot of snaps of Logan [Ryan], Robert [McClain] and Dax [Swanson]. They played multiple positions. They played on the outside and also played some on the inside. It just gave us a great opportunity to see all of them play, see them compete [and] also see them play in the kicking game. They've gotten a lot of reps through the course of preseason as well. It's just another piece to the puzzle in the evaluation. Like I said, we have the Carolina game, the New Orleans game, the New Orleans practices, the Green Bay game, training camp. So there's a big body of work there for all the corners. We'll just use last night as I said, as another component of that and make the best decision we can for our team based on quality of play, position flexibility, role in the kicking game, upside or improvement, however you want to look at it and just try to figure it out from there.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="355801"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOSH MCDANIELS
Q: What was your reaction to the Tom Brady news yesterday?
JM: I'm happy for Tom, and this week, hopefully, we'll be able to focus on just football. And he'll be able to do that, but quite honestly, it hasn't changed a whole lot of what we've done up to this point. And our preparation for the Steelers game should be normal, and like I said, that's kind of how it's gone the last so many months anyways – trying to get everybody prepared for the season and get the three quarterbacks a lot of repetitions and try to improve everybody that we could at every position. But [I'm] happy for Tom, and you know, just focused on what's in front of us, which is obviously a really good team in Pittsburgh.
Q: Do you think Aaron Dobson has done enough in the preseason to secure a spot on the roster?
JM: I think our receiver position, it's a competitive situation. I think we had a lot of guys that had opportunities and came in and did some good things with them. Certainly, he's a guy who made some plays for us and went out and tried to do the best he could with his chances. I think ultimately those decisions are going to be made here in the next few days, and Coach [Bill Belichick] will make those final choices as to who will and won't be on the roster. But I like that whole group in terms of the competitiveness and what they've done to try to put themselves in a position to help us, and we'll see how it goes here in the next couple of days.
Q: What stood out to you with how Brady compartmentalized and did his work on the field throughout the whole court process?
JM: I think in this game we all have to deal with adversity and at times, some distractions, as much as we may try to limit that. I think we've had enough of those in the past and over many years that you don't ever get used to it, but I think you understand how much of a part of – handling yourself and improving as a player, as a coach or whatever role you play – I think it's very important that you're able to do that. And Tom is a veteran player with a lot of experience, and he's had to deal with different types of adversities and distractions in the past, whether it be injuries or personnel or something else. I thought he went out in practice and improved and tried to do his job and work on his craft and put in a lot of hard work in different areas of playing the position of quarterback and was prepared and studied hard for practice and games and the OTAs and all those things that we've done. And I think that's the best way to try to go about it is control the things you can control, and I thought he did a good job of that.
Q: When you study Pittsburgh's defense under Keith Butler, is there a significant difference in scheme or is it kind of a carry-over of what they've done over the years?
JM: You see some of both. You definitely see the Steelers that we've played many times in terms of some of the things that they do schematically, and then you see some other things that are maybe sliding in there. Coach Butler, Coach [Mike] Tomlin – maybe some wrinkles here or there, some new things they're taking a look at in the preseason. But ultimately, we're going to have to be prepared for adjustments on opening night like you always are because you can take a look at the preseason tape, you can look at last year … They've had a lot of practice that none of us have been able to really get into exactly what they're going to choose to do in the game, so we're going to find out together on Thursday night. And a big part of that first week or two, first month of the season really, is being able to really adapt and adjust to something new that you're going to see for the first time. So we're going to get ready for the things we've seen and the things we feel like they may do and ultimately be ready to change gears if we need to.
Q: Is if difficult to get a true evaluation on Travaris Cadet?
JM: Well, he has a lot of snaps between the OTAs, training camp practices and then the preseason games. You have a lot of film and a lot of repetitions that we've seen and we've evaluated. I think at each position, you have to take the body of work and make the best decisions you can at each position, and sometimes you don't have as much as you would like in one area or another based on injury or some other factor. But in that case, certainly the lack of games played or preseason games participated in, certainly you have to take that into consideration. But I think there are a lot of things that go into these decisions, and ultimately, however Coach ends up deciding who the roster will finally be made up of, there's going to be a lot more than just that that goes into the decisions, even though that is an important part of it. So you've got to consider a lot of factors, and certainly the running back position is one that we've had some [competition]. We've got some guys competing in some different spots and areas. And we'll see how it all shakes out here.
Q: What were your impressions of the offensive line through preseason and training camp?
JM: I think certainly that's a position group [where] you need to work very closely with one another, and there's a lot of communication that goes into playing that position with five guys needing to be really tied in together. Many times that includes the tight end or tight ends, and I think that we've had a lot of guys competing at a lot of different spots. We've tried to play some different groupings because certainly during the course of the season you're going to have to do that anyway. [You] try to get as many guys comfortable working with one another as you can. At the same time, you try to get all of them improving individually so that collectively as a unit, you can play well as a group, so I think that our focus is going to be on continuing to try to improve each week. As we head into the season, the growth process, the development of that group, the development of the offense, the development of the skill grouping – those are things that are going to continue to be, hopefully for us, works in progress where we can make strides each week and play better as the season goes on. So [I'm] happy with some things we've done up front and offensively, and then certainly some things we can work on and try to improve. And I would say that applies to every position group and certainly the offense as a whole.
Q: What are your thoughts on Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler working together?
JM: It's like what I just talked about with the whole offense or the line or each grouping individually. It'll be interesting to see kind of how all our skill guys kind of meld together. There have been times where we've played two tight ends together. There have certainly been a lot of times where we played one tight end on the field at a time. We have multiple tight ends who play different roles in our offense, so I think a big part of that is going to be what they can do and how productive they can be in their role when they're out there together, if they are. And then there are certainly going to be a lot of times where one or the other may be out there as the game goes on, so we have a lot of things we're looking forward to kind of seeing and figuring out as we go forward with different position groups. And ultimately our best groupings are going to play together. I don't think any of those conversations are finished or finalized at this point. There's still a lot of work to do and a lot of things that we need to go through together to figure out exactly what the best fit is and how many snaps each guy may or may not play. I think those are some things that we need to ultimately figure out as we head through the season, but we're excited to have both guys on the team. And certainly we feel like they can both contribute and help us offensively.
Q: What did you think about the development of Jimmy Garoppolo during the preseason? How did you think LeGarrette Blount did throughout camp and the preseason?
JM: Jimmy made strides and worked really, really hard to improve in a lot of areas of his play. I thought he had some production with his opportunities in the preseason and did some good things and moved the team and threw the ball accurately, and really there's a lot that goes into playing the quarterback position well. And Jimmy's list of things that we can work on and improve is long like every first or second year player's is, and I couldn't ask for him to do more than what he did in terms of trying to address those things and work hard and be diligent in trying to improve. So the opportunities that he got, I think are certainly going to be helpful for him. I think every game experience that he has an opportunity to play in is hopefully a positive, and we'll try to build off of. And again, the big focus is going to be trying to improve each week as we head into the season because certainly the development and the improvement shouldn't stop there. And then with LG, he's had some opportunities in the games and tried to work hard, and there are things that he can improve in, things that he does well. And I thought he made some plays for us last night, and the whole running back position, I'm sure it will play itself out. But he had some opportunities to do some things and gave us some production there. And like everybody, there are some things we can work on to try to improve as we head into the season.
Q: Do you think Blount played better this week than in the beginning of the preseason?
JM: I think there are a lot of things that go into saying something like that. We don't really look at it in a window like that. We're looking at it as the entire player can get better in a lot of areas. That's never going to be done, but we're going to continue to work on the things that we feel like we can improve with him, just like everybody.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="355806"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MATT PATRICIA
Q: What have you seen out of the development of your cornerbacks this summer?
MP: I think as a whole, we approach everything the same. We've obviously tried to get our guys as a defense to improve and try to really understand what we're doing. I think everyone across the board has really tried to embrace the understanding of the defense that we're putting in right now. I would say in the defensive backfield position, those guys have done a really good job of understanding the concepts and the different coverage and run responsibilities. I'd say those guys are working extremely hard to get better. I think they've gotten better through training camp. It's obviously a little bit of an adjustment for them from a technique standpoint in the way that we play things, but I think they've really tried to embrace that and get better. Obviously we're pushing forward here, so we're looking forward to Pittsburgh and trying to get ready for them, and that will be a huge challenge for us across the board.
Q: What stands out to you about the Steelers offense?
MP: Obviously, Pittsburgh is a huge challenge for us. It starts with the quarterback. They have a very experienced, winning quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger – a big, huge guy. He's got a strong arm, can get the ball downfield to any receiver at any time, can stand in the pocket, can absorb a lot of hits, and really a lot of those hits bounce off of him. A lot of people have a hard time getting him down, which allows him to extend plays and creates those big plays and that big production that you see out of the offense. He's a key component to it. I would say his mobility looks really good right now. He's doing a really good job of kind of mastering the offense they're running and understanding the different checks that he can run with it. He's doing a really good job. Obviously the skill position with the quarterback being able to get the ball downfield, the speed that they have obviously presents a problem. The ball can get downfield as those plays break and escape and get out of the normal routine and the normal pattern, and those guys do a great job of uncovering from the coverage and getting downfield and running and finding separation. [Markus] Wheaton and [Antonio] Brown and [Darius] Heyward-Bey, all of them do a great job of it. They've got a couple young receivers that through training camp and preseason have done a good job of turning those situations into big plays. [They're] very strong at the tight end position. Heath Miller, obviously a very savvy vet, does a great job of finding the open spots in the zone. He's a big body guys, he's got a great catch radius, he's got soft hands, so he can really snatch the ball out of the air very well. He's a problem from that standpoint. They'll mix the other guys in there. They've got the young guy, [Jesse] James. [Matt] Spaeth, who's another vet does a great job for them, another big long tight end, which those guys are really hard to cover. They do a good job in the run game of getting on you and they're really hard to separate from. It'll be a big challenge from the skill set positon. The run game for them is always strong. [DeAngelo] Williams will be running the ball, you're going to see [Dri] Archer out there, who's another kind of a matchup player for them, a guy who can do a lot of different things, a very fast, fast player. He'll be out of the backfield and they'll try to get him the ball. From that standpoint, Pittsburgh coming in, they do a good job of creating a lot of problems, a lot of mismatches, a lot of speed and downfield issues, so I think they've done a good job there.
Q: What does Malcolm Brown bring to the team?
MP: Malcolm obviously is in his initial stages here, so we're just trying to get him to improve and understand what we do. We obviously have to keep everything in check as far as him trying to get better. He's still got a lot to learn. He's still got a lot to improve on and technique to work on and be consistent. That's what we're looking for really from him.
Q: Rufus Johnson seemed to have a very strong game last night. Do you see him playing a role on this team either on the edge or in the middle of the defense?
MP: Yeah, I think Rufus has really tried to do a good job for us here in training camp. He's a long guy, he's a strong guy, he's explosive, so he certainly has been able to flash some things that hopefully we can use. He's going to have to continue to keep showing that he can do that and work on it and be productive. I think he's done a good job of trying to put his skill set out there. Like I said, he's explosive, he's long, he's strong and he can create some problems for an opponent just with his combination of skill set. Still obviously has a long way to go, and we'll try to do what we can to get him better.
Q: What was the experience like to have Patrick Graham call the defense last night? How might that help in terms of communication and understanding the defense?
MP: As far as we're concerned, we go through our normal process here during the training camp and during the preseason. Right now our focus is on Pittsburgh. Obviously the guys around here, everyone from the coaching staff to myself to the players, everyone really does a good job understanding all the different aspects of what needs to get done. Our guys are ready to go. The communication is obviously a big part of what we do week in and week out and everyone needs to understand and know how to do that so every opportunity we have to work that and test that is what we're doing.
Q: With Le'Veon Bell out for this game, how much does it affect their team?
MP: I think there's really two different kind of situations there. Number one, it's the NFL. These are professional football teams. Deangelo Williams, Dri Archer, those guys are extremely good football players, so they're not going to miss a beat from a standpoint of offensive production. Those guys are good football players. They fit very well into their system. They're going to be just fine from that standpoint. I don't think they'll have a problem. Bell is a phenomenal player. He brings a skill set and a combination of speed and quickness and vision and the ability to catch the ball and run the ball that really does make him a problem as a player. He's a heck of a football player.
Q: So you don't look at it as a dramatic drop-off to DeAngelo Williams and Dri Archer?
MP: They're good football players.
Q: What is it about Antonio Brown's skill set that has made him such a well-rounded receiver?
MP: This guy has a great catch-and-run ability. Also, tackling is an issue with him. He does a good job of getting through tackles and can create extra yardage. Even when it looks like you kind of have him locked up, he does a good job of finding space. He also has a great element of quickness. He's got great hands. He also has a good feel for coverage and really also has a good feel for the extended plays with the quarterback. He uncovers extremely well. Even if you're in a good leverage position and you have him covered downfield, he's really smart enough to understand what the coverage is, how the coverage leverage works and then be able to work off of it. And he and the quarterback are on the same page as far as that's concerned – they see it the same way, and they do a good job of working together from that standpoint. That's definitely one of the advantages that those two have and the chemistry they have. He's not going to run just to get covered. He's going to [work] off of that and find the open spaces.
Q: How have you noticed the impact of the Steelers' new offensive line coach, Mike Munchak? I don't think you guys have played the Steelers since he's been there.
MP: Definitely the run game influence is prevalent there with the zone schemes and the stretch schemes that they run, and they do a great job of being able to move the front guys, get them going sideways and get good and placement to create space enough for the backs to be able to stretch it and cut it and get downhill or cut off a block or bounce back outside. There's a big element of that that's involved there. You can really tell that the run game and the blocking schemes fit well with what they're doing – it kind of matches really well with the offense and the play action and everything else there. That's blended pretty well for them and obviously [they're] just a well-coached unit up front. They do a great job of keeping guys off the quarterback and allowing the quarterback to step up in the pocket and make plays. They're doing a great job.