Q: Is there a part of you that will miss competing against Ben Roethlisberger after hearing that he will be out this Sunday?
TB: I think he's been such a great player, and anytime, you always want to go against the best players. He's one of the reasons why they've been such a great team for as long as - we've had so many memorable games against that team, some really important moments, and it seems like he's been a part of those. It's tough to see any injury for any player, and he's obviously dealing with a significant one, but I'm sure they'll still be ready to go. They've got a lot of good players, especially on defense. It's a very veteran group and they play well at home. They lost two games on the road, but we're not playing them on the road. We're playing them at home where they've won them all, so it's going to be a big challenge for us.
Q: What is your definition of a 50/50 ball and when would you take a chance and throw a pass like that?
TB: I try never to really throw a 50/50 ball. I mean, I don't ever want them to get their hands on it. I think some other quarterbacks maybe do it a little more than me, but it's probably situational, also, with some of those things. It's all risk-reward, so if it's fourth down, you'll throw any ball. If it's late in the game, you've got to start taking some chances because time is running out. If you've got no time left, you better start, so that risk-reward changes a lot. If you're up 14, that play that I over threw Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] on last game, the last thing I want to do is throw an interception, so I ended up throwing it out of bounds. We didn't necessarily get the look that we wanted so we just kicked the field goal. It just all factors in to me, I think situationally, but I like to throw 100 percent balls that we've got a 100 percent chance of getting, or no one else.
Q: What is the rust you've mentioned still having since your return and what do you need to do to get back to where you were?
TB: I'm still trying to just get back into the kind of football shape that I need to be in. Being here for two weeks has been great and the practices and so forth have been really good for me. I just need to have another good week. There's no way to really replicate the kind of intensity and duration of what a practice is, and then certainly what a game is, when you're not doing those things. It's been good to be able to do those things for the last couple of weeks, but there's a long way to go and this will be another important week for that.
Q: How do you think Pittsburgh has changed defensively going from the Dick LeBeau defenses you faced early on in your career to where they are now?
TB: I think there are a lot of the same elements. They've got still some of the same players even - [Lawrence] Timmons and [William] Gay. Cam Hayward is a great player, Mike Mitchell's a great player; they've got some veteran players, but it feels like it's always kind of the same Steeler defense. It's a lot of pressure, I mean, they blitz a lot. They have every blitz in the book. They've got every combination that you could think of, so much of it for us is about making sure that everyone's aware of who we have in pick-up and who we have in the run game, and making sure we kind of have a hat and account for everybody. A lot of times they overload you, and you've got to get the ball out if you need to, based on the protection or based on the calls, so it's a challenging defense to play. They test you in every area and that's why we've always had so many tough games against them. They're just tough to play, especially at home.
Q: What makes a good silent count in places like Heinz Field that are going to be especially loud?
TB: Well, again I think it's just always being on the same page. Whatever we do in terms of the count and so forth, it's all about us trying to make sure - it could be, at home, it's verbal communication, on the road, it's nonverbal communication, and we work on those things pretty hard. We practice them all week and we're going to need to really utilize this week because it's going to be a tough environment.
*Q: You've played with a lot of great linebackers who have really been leaders of the defense - do you see Dont'a Hightower developing into that role? *
TB: Yeah, I've played with so many great linebackers from when I got here - Ted Johnson, and [Chris] Slade and Willie [McGinnest], all the way through that line of players, all the way up to now, and Dont'a has been such a great player for us. Really since he got here, he really assumed a starting role pretty early and there's a lot of responsibly that's put on you at linebacker. You call the defense most of the time, if not all the time, and he's done such a great job of that. He's really got a great understanding of the game, and the plays that he's been making - sacking the quarterback in the end zone, intercepting passes, knocking the ball out, tackles - it's been great. He and Jamie [Collins], I mean, they're both spectacular players. Like I said the other day, I have to go against them in practice every day, so I'm glad they get to kind of terrorize someone else.
Q: You're always looking to get the ball to the open guy, but can you speak to the fact that that always happens to be different guys in different spots on the field?
TB: Yeah, you have to be able to make them defend the width of the field, the length of the field. [Patriots Football Research Director] Ernie [Adams] told me, he once told me, 'Make them defend every blade of grass.' I think that's a great thing to do. They've got to be able to - that's how you stress the defense. You can force the ball to all different parts of the field, and they never really know who's going to get it. They can key on certain players, but if you do that, you're vulnerable to other things. It's just part of - it's good to have kind of a lot of tools in your toolbox and to be able to use them at different times. Whatever you need, that's what you've got to pull out and be able to do. Good offensive execution takes all 11 of us and so much of what we practice is us all being on the same page every play, every day, every week, so we can be our best. We're going to need it. This team really forces you to have every guy on the same page because it's hard to anticipate what they're going to do, because they do so many things. We've got to be on the high alert.
Q: In processing the pictures and trying to figure out what the opposing defense is going to do pre-snap, was there any way to keep yourself sharp from that angle during your absence?
TB: I think just to rely on the experience that I've done before. Like I said, just the week of practice is very helpful. This week has to be a big week for us because every week it changes. You win the game, you go home and celebrate, and then at some point you shift focus to the next week and you've just got to put the same process in in order to try to get the same results. You have to start fresh every week. I think the practice reps are really important for me. I love to be out there practicing, seeing what I'm going to get so I can really anticipate and go out there and play with confidence. There's nothing good that happens when the ball is my hands. I've got to get the ball to somebody that can actually do something with it, so that's part of it for me is identifying who should get it, how quickly they should get it, and then getting the ball out of my hands and into the hands of the receivers or the running backs so they can actually make some yards.
Q: Bill Belichick talked yesterday about tablets versus photos - is there a difference to you?
TB: I've never been too much of picture/tablet - I kind of know what I see. I see out there and as soon as I come off the field, Josh [McDaniels] will say, 'What was it?' and I'll say, 'Oh, they did this and this guy dropped.' I'll peek at them from time to time with Josh. It's great for the coaches because they have a different angle. It's hard to see when you're seeing from the sideline. When you're out there playing, a lot of times I can come over and tell Josh, 'This is what happened and here's why we did that.' Maybe to verify some fronts and stuff like that to make sure of where guys are shaded and identification, because in our system, we always set the scheme of blocking on every play, so we just want to make sure we get it set the right way so that everyone can really be deployed the right way. That's where the pictures probably help me.
Q: How much can a challenge like the one you're presented with this week really help you find out what you have in that locker room?
TB: Yeah because you're challenged in all these different ways, so you have one big challenge one week versus a certain style of team, against a certain style of coach in a certain time and place, and then the next week, it's totally different. I think that's - it's a 16-game season. I always say, you never know what type of team you're going to be until much beyond this. But we're still trying to figure out the things we're good at and the things that we can do well consistently. Those things will change based on personnel and based on the teams we play, but we always try to get to the plays that we like and we always try to put our guys in the best position to succeed. Sometimes teams - obviously, the better team that we play, the less margin of error that we have because they kind of take away more of those things. It's still about finding ways to execute, ways to continue to do the things that you do well, and to also try to force the defense into things that they don't do well.
Q: If there is a team that's rivaled the success that you and Bill Belichick have had since you've been in the league, it's been Pittsburgh.
TB: Yeah, they've been one of the best for a long time. The history of the Steeler organization with so many great players and teams and championships, you know you're always going to get a dog fight when you play them. I have a lot of respect for them. They play the game the right way. They're always physical. They're a tough, physical group and that's pretty much what comes out of Pittsburgh. They play well, they're coached well. They're just a great organization.