Head Coach Jay Gruden
On the injury report:
"Limited was Josh Doctson, Achilles; Kendall Reyes, groin. Full was Matt Jones with his shoulder and Spencer Long with his ankle. Everybody else was full go."
On WR Josh Doctson's status for Monday:
"Yeah, I don't know. We will see. This thing is, again I keep saying it, new to all of us and it's kind of a day-to-day thing, how he feels. Today he felt better than yesterday and hopefully tomorrow he feels better than today and then Saturday the same thing and then we will make a decision."
On the overall health of the team:
"I feel great about it, really. I think last year at this time, it feels like we were a little bit more banged up but we've got a lot of active participants out there at practice and they're working hard. The health is outstanding."
On if he would be concerned using only five defensive linemen should DE Kendall Reyes not play:
"No, we would feel OK with the five. I think if he is OK, it's a good chance we go five, it could be six. You know, a lot will determine how many linebackers we dress, how many defensive backs we dress. We still are talking about that. We have choices, which is a good thing, and then we just have to make the final decision."
On if LB Trent Murphy could help on the defensive line:
On how much more confident he is in the strengths of this team compared to the past two seasons:
"I think everybody is a lot more comfortable, really. When you have some guys that are coming back in the same system, doing the same things and not having so many new people trying to teach the offense too and trying to get the people on the same page, it's always a benefit, especially offensively. We have got the same offensive line back. Other than Vernon Davis, the same receiving corps; tight ends are back. Matt Jones is back, Chris Thompson is back. Obviously Kirk [Cousins] is back, so having that luxury of guys in the same system working together, knowing the scheme, knowing the concepts, is very beneficial. And then defensively having Joe Barry back for the second year, we added a few pieces but you can see that they're more comfortable with Will Compton leading the show at middle linebacker and DeAngelo Hall more comfortable at safety."
On if he has to go back and teach the fundamentals at this point of his tenure:
"You always want to go back. My brother always said 'It's reading, writing and arithmetic.' Sometimes you have to go back and you have to go back to the beginning because you can't take for granted what they know. I think we have great teachers that are coaches, and Bill Callahan on the offensive line and Sean [McVay] is doing a good job, Quarterback Coach Matt [Cavanaugh] is doing a good job. Defensively Joe Barry, Perry Fewell, Robb Akey, these guys are doing a good job teaching the fundamentals, which we really ingrained in their head in OTAs and in training camp. During individual, we still go back to those same fundamentals and then schematically we can branch off into different areas when everybody feels comfortable and I think we are growing in that regard."
On working with Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin in Tampa Bay:
"Yeah, it was not too long ago, really. And, you know, I was just a grunt back there in the back office, sharing an office with him. You know, I could hear him talking to the defensive backs. You know, I knew he had so much charisma and so much knowledge of football that even as a young coach and a 'wannabe' coach, I knew that he would eventually make a big leap. He had that personality, that rapport with players and was just an excellent football coach. I'm happy as heck for all the success he's had. But, that was a long time ago. Raheem Morris was also with me back then and we had a good time, the three of us."
On if a healthy offensive line can help the run game:
"I think so. You know, I think you need to have some continuity on your offensive line. When you're mixing and matching centers and guards and tackles and then you're changing tight ends like we had to do last year, that was a big issue too – the tight end position. Hopefully with stability on the offensive line we'll get more good looks in the running game. Pittsburgh's not easy to run the ball against, like I said before, but we're darn sure going to try."
On using two-tight end sets throughout the season:
"I think we're always going to be versatile in what we do. We're going to have some two-tight end sets, we're going to have some one-tight end sets, three-receiver sets, we're going to have some maybe four-receiver sets, so we have some different variety in what we do. And those tight ends are very versatile, they can line up at wideout in the slot, they can line up in the backfield at fullback, so it's fun to work with those guys. They're all very smart, they're very athletic and they're all very dangerous."
On what he's seen from the pass rush and the challenge of playing against the Steelers:
"Well, it's one thing having a good pass rush, it's another thing getting them on the ground. That's what Ben [Roethlisberger] is so good at. You can have a great pass rush but he has a great knack for finding holes and breaking tackles and keeping plays alive. But it's just a matter of the 'want to.' We've just got to keep coming, and it's going to be a grind, it's going to be hot. They do a lot of no-huddle. The biggest concern I probably have is how tired are we going to get on Monday night, because if they're doing no-huddle and he's dropping back to pass and they're having to chase him around all day, we'll see what kind of shape we're in. I think we're in good shape and I think we'll be up to the task, but we'll have to see."
On the improvement of the pass rush:
"Yeah, I feel good about them. I feel good. I feel good about [Chris] Baker. I feel good about the guys that were here and their progress too. You know, I think Baker's getting better, Ricky [Jean Francois] has gotten better. [Ryan] Kerrigan, obviously, [Houston] Bates, [Trent] Murphy's gotten a little bit better. I think Preston Smith is growing into a second-year pro, doing a lot better. And then you add Kendall Reyes to the mix and obviously Big Ked [Kedric Golston], he's always a mainstay in there at the nose position. I think we have a lot of guys in here that can be disruptive and then the addition of Ziggy Hood has been very, very good. You know, we have to do it by committee. And all those guys are going to have to find a way to get home and that what it's all about – finding a way to get home to the big fella and making him uncomfortable in the pocket."
Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry
On the quote about wolf packs from "The Jungle Book" he presented to the team:
"It was something… I don't know… I saw it over the summer – not the movie – I saw the quote somewhere over the summer. The Kipling quote. With my phone, I made the note, 'Cool thing to hit guys with at training camp.' I think I made that note to myself. I brought it up in the hotel before the Jet game, before the second preseason game, and kind of just hit them with it. They kind of bought into it, kind of took a life of itself. It's kind of been a cool little deal for us the last month or so. But it's true. It is the greatest quote that I have ever seen talking about, as an individual, you can be great. You can play great, but in a team sport, which football is, obviously, playing defense is about the team. It's about the unit, it's about the pack, it's about all 11 playing as one. If you've got a bunch of individuals out there doing their own thing, nothing happens. But if you have individuals playing great together, as a pack, there's strength in the pack. There's not strength in the individual."
On what he hopes to gain out of the wolf pack mentality:
"Just togetherness. I think we've got a pretty good group to begin with. We've got a group of guys that as a unit, as a whole, really already understand that. But I just thought it was a cool thing to hit. They kind of took the lead with it and ran with it. It's cool. We've got a bunch…we've got young guys, we've got old guys, we've got veteran minimum salary guys, we've got high-paid guys, but that doesn't matter. When you're in the huddle, it's just about being a unit, being together – 11 guys playing as one. So it's been a pretty neat deal."
On preparing for Steelers WR Antonio Brown:
"Yeah, he's something else. I think the combination of [No.] 7 [Ben Roethlisberger] and [No.] 84 [Antonio Brown]… and they have a nice complement in addition to that. That's always the hard thing. You've got to be careful focusing so much on one jersey number because there's other guys. The tight end's played well, [No.] 81 [Jesse James] with [No.] 83 [Heath Miller] retiring. [No.] 11 [Markus Wheaton] is a great player, [No.] 17 [Eli Rogers] is a great player. The thing you've got to realize, too, yes, [No.] 84 is one of the best in the business, there's no doubt, but this is the National Football League. There's big-time matchup issues every single week. But he definitely is one but that's the challenge every week. That's the exciting thing about competition and going and competing against the best. We're definitely going up against one of the best on Monday night."
On if CB Josh Norman will follow Brown:
"Yeah, we'll change it up. We will do some of that, but I think with what Pittsburgh does, they do such a great job… It's easier to do that when a guy is in one spot all the time. When you say, 'OK, in this formation, he's going to be here. In this formation he's going to be here.' Kind of the theme with elite No. 1 wideouts with every team now, they do such a good job of moving him around so you can't get a bead on him. But we will do some of that. We'll deploy a certain, different number of players on him, but they counter-balance that just by moving him around."
On if defenders have to attempt to tackle Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger differently:
"Yeah, you have to. He's been doing it so long. I think the No. 1 thing with him is that he's such a big body back there. He's a big man to come in and tackle. We talk about – and every time I've ever gone against him – the thing that we preach is you want to tackle the ball, you don't necessarily want to tackle him. Because he's been doing it for however long – 12 or 13 years. He's proven he's tough to tackle just because he's so big. Especially you see undersized linebackers or DBs literally just fall off him and bounce off him. He's able to make the unbalanced throws so well just because he's so big and so strong. But no, it's absolutely something that we've shown our guys, we've talked to our guys, we've preached to our guys because he's been doing it his whole career. Tough man to bring down."
On the emphasis on finishing plays in the pass rush:
"Well, obviously, the pass rush is huge. With a team that does throw the ball, throws the ball well, as we talked about, they have a featured wideout, so I think it's always an ongoing battle when you talk about pass rush – not only rushing, but winning, finishing. It brings up the challenge. You do a great job, you beat the one-on-one, you win the one-on-one, you get home, well now you've got to deal with tackling No. 7. That's the great thing about the National Football League, that's the great thing about every week. There's great challenges every week and our pass rushers have a huge challenge getting to No. 7 this week."
On what makes RB DeAngelo Williams effective:
"He's been doing it a long time. Years ago, when I was back in Tampa when he first came in and had a chance to go against him quite a bit just being a division opponent and he's one of those guys that seems like he's never slowed down. He did such a wonderful job last year with [No.] 26 [Le'Veon Bell] getting hurt, coming in and filling for him and my opinion they didn't drop off at all. I'm going to tell you guys every week, this is the National Football League, and when you do have a player – whether he gets hurt, whether he has a suspension, whatever – there's able backups with every team and [No.] 34 [DeAngelo Williams] is much more than a backup. He's a legitimate starter. He's gained a bunch of yards in this league, so we've obviously got issues in the passing game with [No.] 84. We've got issues with [No.] 34 also, because he is a very able runner."
On if the defense needed to hear the wolf pack quote or if it just seemed appropriate:
"I obviously know it's from 'The Jungle Book' but it was a Kipling [quote]. I can't remember where in the heck I saw it. I saw it this summer and like I said, I made that note to myself saying, 'You know what, this would be pretty cool at the right time.' I am one of those guys, I don't have times when I talk to the team necessarily always scheduled and mapped out. As I said, we were in the preseason, we were in the hotel a couple hours before the meeting and I came across that note to myself that I gave myself over the summer. I said 'You know what, this would be pretty cool to hit the guys with it.' Whenever you address a room, you don't know how they are necessarily going take it. They could be like 'Oh, OK, whatever,' or you can kind of feel them say 'Oh, wow.' And they were kind of into to it. They thought it was kind of cool. I just kind of stayed with it a little bit and then obviously them as individuals in different units – the linebackers, the DBs, the D-Line – they've kind of used it, so it's kind of cool. It took off."
On the advantage of having CB Bashaud Breeland so Norman don't have to shadow Brown:
"Exactly. That is a nice problem to have. Like I said, I think a lot of times when teams attempt to do that, it's not hard for the guy that's shadowing the guy. As I said, if he was just always right here we could say 'OK, you're going cover to him right here, everyone else get aligned.' But when he could be here, he could be here, he could be here, he could motion from here to here, he can motion from here to here, it's not hard on the guy shadowing, it's hard on the other four guys that have got to get lined up and be in coverage and play responsibility football. But, it is nice in the fact that [No.] 84 will play on our left, [No.] 84 will play on our right. To be able to have Bree and Josh, that is a nice problem to have."
On what will make the run defense better:
"Well, you know, I think you know it's always going to start with me, it's going to start with tackling. Tackling. I think that's always the No. 1 thing. Especially if you really go back, very rarely any teams in the NFL when you see a big run, very rarely is it just a gaping hole where a guy doesn't get touched. A huge percentage of the time on explosion plays, which I call them, a missed tackle was involved. Again, that was a glaring issue for us last year, especially early. We went through some stretches where we didn't tackle well and I'd say 90 percent of the explosion runs that we gave up – runs that are 15 yards or more – there was a missed tackle involved. So, just like every offseason, we go back and study it, we try to say, 'Get to the root of what the issue was,' and then that's what we use our offseason [for] – our Phase 1, our Phase 2, our Phase 3, our OTAs, our training camp – and we really put a heavy emphasis on tackling better, on emphasizing tackling."
On if the run defense can be improved by focusing on that skill rather than just adding personnel:
"Yeah, and I think if you look at a great defense, I guarantee you they're a great tackling defense. If you look at a poor defense – and I'm talking overall, I'm not just talking one area, run defense or whatever; I'm talking about in general – generally, when you look at the elite defenses, they're great tacklers. You watch a game and you don't see a lot of missed tackles. When you see an average or below-average defense, tackling is usually the root of it."
On how having Norman in the secondary helps the pass rush:
"I think when you have a great individual player or a great secondary in general, that obviously helps a pass rush. Obviously, simple… Quarterback holds on [to] the ball because he can't throw a pass because no one's open, that buys time for the rush. I think on the opposite end also, the better your pass rush is, it can help a poor secondary, right? Because that quarterback knows that he doesn't have a lot of time, he's got to get rid of the ball faster. So they kind of balance each other. I'm excited about our secondary right now. They've really come together as we talked about before. Obviously Josh, but we've got some new guys and new positions and they've really, really come together this offseason."
On the difference in the depth of the secondary this season with players like CB Greg Toler as compared to last season:
"Quinton Dunbar… he was a practice squad player this time last year… Greg has been… Because you never really know when you sign a guy like Greg Toler or a guy like Ziggy Hood – not that they're 35-year-old guys, but guys that have been in the league, they're going into their seventh/eighth/ninth year, you really don't know what you're getting when you bring them in. You know, they had decent OTAs, but they were learning the terminology, learning new words, learning the system. But those guys have really been… Greg especially had a great camp, a great training camp, played really well in every single preseason game and that was cool to see just because he was a surprise. Like I said, you're really, you're like 'Oh my God, this worked out well.' So he's a very nice addition to obviously Josh and Bree, but to have him, to have Quinton just getting better every single day, having two young guys like [Dashaun] Phillips and Kendall [Fuller] coming on, that's exciting. It really is."