Q: Pepper Johnson used the phrase 'teaching old dogs new tricks' a few weeks ago. How are you guys doing with those new schemes and new packages along the defensive line?
VW: I think we've gotten better. I think as a team, we've gotten better and moved forward. That's what you want to do as a team; you want to be able to each week move forward and be able to do keep doing the positive stuff and [with] the negative stuff, if it's something you like and you didn't get a good look at it, you try to build on that. I think everything is moving forward. We're in the middle of the season and things we do well, we have to continue to do well. Things we don't do so well but can help us, we need to find a way to make those things happen for us. We're definitely at a situation where we're still building. Everything's not perfect but it's moving along pretty good.
Q: You have Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick back practicing. How do those guys look and how could those guys help you as a unit going forward?
VW: Only time will tell. I don't what the plan is with them, but only time will tell. If their number is called, they have to be ready to answer the bell. I just don't know where we stand with that. That's probably a question better suited for Bill [Belichick]. Whoever Bill puts us out there with, we have confidence in them. That's how it's going to be. We can't do anything about that.
Q: You've played a lot of snaps. If they were activated, I assume that would help depth and might limit some of your snaps. I don't know if that's good or bad.
VW: I don't know. I always want to be on the field regardless of how you slice it. Sometimes I can; sometimes I can't, depending on how many plays I've been out there or how I'm feeling at the time. Like I said, I always work hard towards conditioning. Being a big guy and playing a lot of snaps, you really don't see that around the league anymore because you have guys that can come in and give guys breaks at times. But I'm the type of person that I'm going to do whatever I can to stay on the field because I want to be on the field. I want to be out there in every situation. I know that sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, but I'm prepared for it. I love to play. I love to play because I think the more I'm on the field, the better chance for me to help my teammates. And vice versa, when I'm off the field, the guy whose in for me, I'm confident in [him] doing his job. I always want to play. I always want to be on the field, no matter how you slice. I'd play both ways if they let me but I don't think that would last too long at this level.
Q: How much has your role changed with the new faces you're on the field with this year?
VW: Not much. We're all coming in and learning new schemes with the 4-3 and going from [3-4 to 4-3] to whatever we may be going. It hasn't changed much. It's just all of us learning something new. Even though a lot of us come from a background of a 4-3 defense but you know myself eight years and Albert [Haynesworth] nine and [Shaun] Ellis 12 and Andre [Carter] [11 years] – these guys have been around for a long time, so to be able to teach them a scheme that's kind of different, you have to knock the rust off. I think it was a little different for all of us. Now I think we're actually getting the hang of it. We're starting to play better together with one another. We're starting to make the plays that we need to make on defense. Everything is moving forward. We're progressing each week; we're getting better each week. We want to continue to do that. I'm pretty sure the next couple games are going to be really tough. For the rest of the season, there're going to be some tough games that we're going to come and play, starting with this week.
Q: Why has Kyle Love been able to make such a strong amount of progress this season and make the impact that he has?
VW: He's taken it upon himself to be good. He's worked hard. He put in the work. I don't think there's a guy out there that can say he hasn't done that and it's showing. He's making plays, he's making a lot of plays. I think sometimes you get overshadowed with everybody else out there but he's a player that is doing very, very well for us. I'm happy he's playing well because the more confidence a guy can have, the better off we'll be as a defense. We have a lot of guys playing with a lot of confidence. In order to keep that up, we're going to have to continue to get better.
Q: On the Steelers, what's different as you prepare for them this year than when you prepared for them last year?
VW: You have a lot of guys moved around through injuries and stuff like that but other than that, nothing much. This is a team, they'll never make excuses win or lose. That's a team that's always known for being tough, physical, being able to run the ball, being able to stop to the run, being able to get after the passer, being able to make some plays with Ben Roethlisberger throwing it down deep or check downs, whatever it may be. You still have the same old Steelers: just a tough, tough football team. It hasn't changed. They're playing well. We know we're going to get their best. One of the things they do well is run the ball and we want to slow that down. To be successful, we're going to have to be able to slow that down. Being Big Ben, he makes plays with his legs and with his arm. [They] have the total package and we're going to Pittsburgh with the total package, being able to throw the ball downfield and being able to run the ball behind those big guys and the tight ends. We have our plate full. It's going to be tough; it's going to be a tough-fought game. We already know that because the Steelers are known for how physical they play and how big they are and how strong [they are], so we're going to have to match that to be successful.
Q: You guys have given up 13 touchdowns in 24 red zone chances for your opponents. Are you pleased with that? Statistically it's middle of the pack league-wise. What did you need to work on? What's been working in the red area for you guys?
VW: It changes each week. Whatever it is, it is. I didn't know where we stood in the red area. I know that the red area is a critical point offensively and defensively in the game. You have to be able to win in the red area. There's a difference from three points and seven points. Sometimes three points turns to none if they miss. So that's a critical area. Like I said, each week is different. You have guys that go down there and want to run the ball. You have guys that go down there and want to throw shots to the end zone. You have different setups down there but we have to be able to defend it – defend it all. If you can win in the red area, you'll be pretty decent. You'll get out and you'll feel good about yourself, but when you don't, those three points turn to seven and before you know it, three trips into the red area and you give up seven points that's 21 points compared to nine points or whatever with field goals. That's definitely a point where we always want to be strong, especially defensively we want to be strong and be able to walk away making them kick a field goal instead of kicking an extra point. Whatever we have to do each week – like I said each week it changes – so whatever we have to do, we do.
Q: Does the mentality change or the intensity ramp up when you're in the red area?
VW: Absolutely, that's like a goal-line stand. When it's first and goal, we know it's basically do or die for this series and same thing when you get in the red area. You have to be alert. You have to be tuned into what they like to do down there. I think a lot of times you can actually win a lot of ballgames just by playing well in the red area. I don't care if a team runs up and down the field, but if you're able to play well in the red area, you'll actually be okay. You'll be okay not giving up a lot of points down there [and] win a lot of ballgames. That's always one of our highest points is being good in the red area. I think it's been up and down, but that's an area that we can improve on and I think we will.
Q: How conscious do you have to be because of Ben Roethlisberger's strength and scrambling ability that the play might be a little bit longer, especially for the defensive backs?
VW: We're all alert of that. Like I said, he makes a lot of plays with his legs and arm. Most times, you have quarterbacks that either scramble to run or scramble to throw. I think Ben does both. I think they have a good understanding with their receivers [that] if he gets out of the pocket, you have to uncover. They do that very, very well. What we have to do upfront is be able to get him down on the ground because he is a big guy. We have to be able to get him down on the ground without roughing him, without being too rough with the quarterback. We have to be smart on our end, but at the same time, we have to be able get him down on the ground because it's very tough. You watch film and there are a lot of guys falling off him. There are a lot of guys that think they have him, but they don't have him, where at the last minute he flicks the ball. I think this is the only guy that you have him wrapped up and he can flick the ball 30 yards down the field still. You have to be very, very cautious with how you tackle him and make sure you get him on the ground without it being a roughing penalty because of a quarterback.
Q: Does that stick in the back of everybody's mind because the rules seem to be everywhere with roughing the passer penalties popping up for no reason?
VW: Sometimes it is. It's hard. It's definitely hard, especially when you have a bigger quarterback. You have these big quarterbacks and they're not calling the play dead until they're on the ground sometimes. We're stuck because we're taught to get the guy on the ground. Sometimes you might slam him and get a penalty because of it will be roughing the quarterback. All that stuff plays a part, but at that moment, our goal is to get him on the ground and whatever happens after that happens, but we definitely have to be able to get him on the ground when we have him wrapped up.
Q: You hear a lot about the footing at Heinz Field. As a player, what are your thoughts?
VW: I love grass fields. I really do love grass fields. That's just me personally. But it can get a little crazy at Heinz Field. But that's the last of our worries. Trust me, they'll be playing on the same surface. What affects us, it affects them too. I'm really not concerned about the footing. I'm just concerned about going out here and being able to play a good solid football game and help this ballclub win, which is going to be tough, going into Pittsburgh. They don't lose much there. I'm pretty sure everything is going to be black and gold and they're going to be ready for us. Our goal is to go into Pittsburgh and play a pretty good football game.