BB: OK, we’re onto these Steelers. It looks pretty much like it usually looks with Pittsburgh, I’d say. They’re leading the league in red area, big passing stats, two great receivers, top of the league in rushing defense, lead the league in sacks, good in kickoff coverage – just a solid team all the way around. Very explosive, make a lot of big plays, dangerous from any point in the field. It’s always a great environment there. So, this will be a big challenge for us on the road against a good football team that does a lot of things well. So, a lot of respect for the Steelers. This will be a good football game.
Q: Heinz Field is obviously one of the tougher environments to play in. But given your history there and the intensity, is it one of the environments you enjoy playing in more?
BB: Yeah, it’s tough there. I mean, I’m not really worried about the other games that have happened there or haven’t happened there. It’s all focused on this one. We’ll see how it goes on Sunday.
Q: When you say it looks like it usually does with Pittsburgh, are you also talking about schematically? I know defensively they’ve had the same system over the years.
BB: Yeah, [Keith] Butler’s been there five years, Tomlin’s been there 13 or whatever it is. Yeah.
Q: They have a new offensive coordinator. How many changes or similarities do you see this year offensively?
BB: It’s pretty similar. I mean, Randy’s [Fichtner] been there for like 11 years, nine as the quarterback coach. So, I think he and [Ben] Roethlisberger obviously have a good feel for each other, and certainly the passing game. They’re very, very proficient.
Q: Between their two starting receivers and two tight ends, it seems like a ‘pick your poison’ type of offense.
BB: Backs, too. Yep. [James] Washington, [Ryan] Switzer – they’ve got a lot of weapons.
Q: With the running backs, is Jaylen Samuels used a little bit differently or has he been able to carry the same responsibilities as Conner has this year?
BB: He’s in there on every down. Yep, he’s been an every-down player for them.
Q: At the combine, he was listed as a tight end. Do you know why that is?
BB: He played a lot of different positions at N.C. State. They used him as a slot receiver, tight end, running back, a little bit of fullback. So, he did a lot of different things, very athletic guy, good in the passing game, good with the ball in his hands. He’s a guy they try to get the ball to and they put him in a lot of different spots.
Q: Do the Steelers do anything similar in terms of moving him around?
BB: He’s basically played running back for them. I mean, if they go empty, he’s out, detached in some empty formations. But, most of it’s 11 personnel, and they use their backs the way they’ve used him – the way they used [Le’Veon] Bell, [James] Conner – split out some, mostly in the backfield.
Q: How much has JuJu Smith-Schuster added to their offense?
BB: Yeah, he’s a dynamic player, tremendous player – great with the ball in his hands, great hands, makes some spectacular catches, hard to tackle, so he’s very good.
Q: Is it among the biggest challenges in terms of the secondary covering Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster?
BB: Yeah, you’re not going to get anybody better than these two guys, plus the quarterback. They’ve got a lot of other guys, too, but I mean, these two receivers are elite – elite elite.
Q: Every year, it seems like the Steelers are finding new receivers that can play well in their system with Brown as a late-round pick and Smith-Schuster in the second round.
BB: Yeah, those two guys are really good. I mean, I don’t care where they’re taken. They’re good.
Q: In the five months since the start of training camp, what have you learned about your team in terms of how they’ve responded to turning the page and embracing a new week, no matter what happened the week before?
BB: Yeah, well, we’ve been at it a long time, so we’re at it again this week. Another big game, so we’ll see how it goes.
Q: Have you been happy with what you’ve seen from them embracing that process week-to-week?
BB: The team’s had a good attitude. They’ve worked hard.
Q: When Stephen Gostkowski misses a couple of kicks, is he the type of player that you don’t need to give any reassurance to and just kind of move on from that?
BB: Steve’s kicked in the league a long time. There’s a lot of aspects to kicking. There are three people involved, not just one. It’s not like a kickoff where you just put the ball on the tee. So, just collectively, we’ve got to – obviously, the expectations are high, and hopefully we’ll be able to convert on all of our scoring opportunities. That’s the goal. But, nobody takes it more seriously than Steve does. So, I have a lot of confidence in him.
Q: How does Vance McDonald complement what Jesse James does for the Steelers?
BB: Well, they’re not on the field all that much together. I don’t know – 10, 15 percent of the time, maybe 20 percent at the most. So, they both play in the single tight end sets. They’re both good. McDonald’s a tough kid, he’s strong. I’m sure Roethlisberger has a lot of confidence in both guys. They’re both very dependable, they’re big targets, catch the ball well, dependable.
Q: You referenced the Steelers’ interior linemen yesterday and their length. What’s the best way to try to combat their unusual size? Do you try to use longer players against those guys or is it more about technique?
BB: Yeah, well again, we’ve played against long players before. I think the question was about the entire group, and I would say that’s kind of just as a group, probably have as much as anybody. Look, they do a good job, they’re well-coached. Mike’s [Munchak] been there for, I don’t know, five years. It’s been really the same line the last three years, including [Marcus] Gilbert, the right tackle. I mean, I don’t know if he’s in or out this week, but he’s obviously their right tackle. If he’s there, that’s been a pretty consistent group, they work well together, they handle things – movement, games, different looks. It’s a solid group.
Q: When you are facing a team that has lost three-straight games in heartbreaking fashion, is there anything special you tell your team? How do you handle a team like that when confidence might be down?
BB: Whose confidence?
Q: The Steelers.
BB: You can count on that. I think if you guys around competitive guys, you wouldn’t see that. So, I don’t really see that. I don’t give that any credibility at all. Competitive people compete. That’s what they do, and certainly that’s what the Steelers are. So, I’m sure we’ll get their best. I think they’ll get our best. We’ll see what happens.
Q: How frustrating can it be to play against Roethlisberger with his ability to extend plays with his strength and footwork?
BB: Yeah, he’s as good as anybody at that, and he’s strong, he can stand in the pocket, stiff-arms defenders, throws the ball. He’s got great length himself to be able to see over practically everything, he’s got a tremendous arm, can deliver with no wind-up or step into the throw – he can just flat-foot it and fire it 50, 60 yards downfield. So, he’s got great poise, great patience, he knows how long he can wait, and usually a lot of times he waits right until the bitter end and then delivers the ball, and a lot of times, like on the 97-yard touchdown pass to Smith-Schuster, he held it right to the last second, got nailed just as he released the ball and it’s a 97-yard touchdown pass. You know, that’s the kind of thing he does. He hangs in there until the last second and makes those throws. He’s tough. He’s really tough. We have a lot of respect for him.
Q: Some of the veteran defensive backs said that J.C. Jackson never lets the moment get too big for him. Have you noticed that fearlessness from him?
BB: He’s pretty competitive – competitive every day, whatever the situation is. So, works hard, competes well.
Q: In the event that James Conner is available this week, what have you seen from him? It seems like they pretty seamlessly moved on from Bell to him.
BB: He’s a very tough runner, physical, breaks a lot of tackles, runs hard. He’s a tough player to tackle. His playing strength, his balance, is good in the passing game, catches the ball well, gets upfield. He doesn’t spend a lot of time going sideways. He finds space, he gets into the defense and is hard to tackle, so he’s done a really good job for them. Good vision, excellent, excellent runner with good power, good hands. He’s had a very productive year.
Q: Samuels, like you said, played slot receiver at N.C. State. Was he also a goal line back in certain situations?
BB: He pretty much did it all. I mean, when you watch him at N.C. State, it’s every play is kind of ‘where is he?’ He could be in the backfield, could be out of the backfield, could be on the line of scrimmage, could be split out, could be in the wing – I mean, yeah, he was all over the place. So, very versatile player in college.
Q: Was he one of the most versatile players that you’ve seen come out of college in a while?
BB: Well, I think that’s the way he was used. I think there are probably other players that could do that if they were asked to do that – guys that are big and strong and fast and can handle the ball. But, to be in that many different positions, I would say, just kind of unique to maybe their system or the way they were doing it. I think there are other players that could probably play more than one spot, but usually they’re not asked to do that. It was kind of like watching [Willie] McGinest at USC on defense. He played outside linebacker, defensive end, defensive tackle, inside linebacker. I mean, every week, he’s in a different spot. So, it’s kind of whatever game you watched, you’d have to see where he was playing in that game and how they were using him against that particular matchup when Coach [John] Robinson was out there. So, sometimes you have players like that and you bump into them along the way. I’d say that’s pretty infrequent. Part of it’s a testament to the player’s versatility, but I’d say part of it is just that’s the way that the team used him to try to game plan opportunities for those players to be productive.
Q: In addition to preparing for Roethlisberger, you have to prepare for Joshua Dobbs. What are some characteristics of his game that you’ve recognized?
BB: Yeah, well, he’s a very athletic quarterback in the open game. For the, I don’t know, whatever it was, 20 plays or so that he was in there, ran some bootlegs, had him on the move. He had like a third-and-7, had a little seam in the pocket and ran for about a dozen yards or so for a first down. So, he’s quick, he’s very athletic, he’s got a good arm. I thought he threw the ball well in college, was a very productive player in college in the passing game, so I don’t think he’s just a running quarterback by any means. But, there’s only one Ben Roethlisberger. I mean, it’s a much different style than Ben.