*How much do you watch that Pittsburgh game from last year going into next week's game?
*We've obviously taken a look at it already. It's kind of part of our cut ups. You know, when you're playing an opponent, you do your best to figure out maybe -- obviously, there's a lot of information we could gather. They have played 18 games to this point. You could pick all of them if you wanted to. But typically what we do is we see if we can figure out what teams we're most similar to and use those for a statistical research. Obviously, last year's game, Coach LeBeau has been there. I want to say almost their entire staff defensively has returned. So it's a good reference for us.
Talk about Troy Polamalu on defense and how much of a challenge is he?
*You know, he's an excellent football player. He's a guy that can impact a game a lot of different ways. He's more than just a good run player. Obviously he's got a great reputation as a guy that plays down low in the box and is a physical player, which he certainly is. He's obviously an excellent blitzer. They use him in different packages and bring him from different alignments. They'll exchange his assignments sometimes. You can't always say, gee, Polamalu is playing safety on this play or he's a free safety or a strong safety. They play him at linebacker-type positions at times, so he's a versatile player. He's a dynamic player, and certainly we're going to have to have our eyes open and be alert to his location and his responsibilities. *
Joe, the Steelers have a reputation for playing up to the line sometimes. Does that figure into how you've prepared for this?
I really haven't even thought about that, to be honest with you. They're a good defensive football team. Obviously their statistics speak well for what they've accomplished on the field. I haven't really noticed. They're a good physical team. They tackle well. What did they give up, 232 points in the regular season. You don't do that unless you're playing physical and playing good football. But that hasn't jumped out on the film to me.
When you lost Grant and it looked like you had a shortage of play-makers, who in your mind has stepped up to fill the void?
*I think we've had a lot of guys step up. I think Brandon Jackson stepped up. We were just in an offensive meeting and we kind of did some review in the Chicago game. One of the plays in the Chicago game, just to highlight Brandon for a minute. It was a second-and-13 play, and he made Brian Urlacher miss on a short checkdown completion. But if you watch the whole play, he has some protection responsibilities. He chipped No. 75, knocked them down on the way out. Caught the ball, made a guy miss, protected the ball the way we wanted. This guy's done everything they asked him to do. He's made a great contribution. Obviously, Starks as of late has done some nice things from the running back position. John Kuhn, as has been well-documented, has contributed as well at that position. We've got a lot of guys at the running back spot, and some of our receivers have stepped up. Certainly the tight end, Drew Quarless, a young player, has done some nice things. Crabtree's made a contribution here in his first year playing for us, and D-Lee all these guys have helped out to a certain degree. It's been a team effort. We've had a lot of guys help and contribute and pick up the slack. *
*You mentioned Brandon Jackson. How was he in that Pittsburgh game just keeping Aaron safe?
*He did a heck of a job. He is a very aware, very bright player. Again, one of the challenges is going to be against Pittsburgh, I think they had 48 sacks during the regular season. This is a team that gets after the quarterback well. They apply a lot of pressure. They utilize a lot of different packages to get to the quarterback and a lot of different blitzes. So, again, he's going to be a vital part. Our whole protection unit, whether it's a back, whether it's a tight end, whether we're in empty and don't have any backs -- who knows what that's going to be but our entire protection unit had better be aware. Brandon last year played a very good game against them.
*I know you don't have time to reflect this week. You're so busy looking ahead. Considering where you started your coaching career and you were at some small places, I don't know if the Super Bowl was even a dream at that point. Can you talk about how special this kind of game is?
*The one thing I'll share, I think when you get into coaching -- everybody gets into coaching for different reasons. My reasons for getting into coaching have never changed. You know, some of the best memories that I have is Sunday night sitting on the bus, hearing from some of those kids from Allegheny College in the United States Merchant Marine Academy that nobody knows about or nobody cares about. So that's a great thrill for me to receive. You know, particular to this, I remember I told, I think Diane Coron, our secretary, the night that I flew to Green Bay to start my job here, Feb. 12, 2003, I was flying from Iowa City and was jotting down some of the things I wanted to accomplish from a selfish standpoint. And one of them was coach on a Super Bowl winning team. Very thrilled, honored to be part of this organization, a small tiny part. I was fortunate enough to coach in a Division III national championship game, and one of the great memories I have in coaching. We were down 14 0 at half. Nobody cares about this, but we're down 14 0 at halftime. We tied it up with about a minute to go, and we won the game in overtime. Three of those guys are head coaches now at small colleges and those types of things. So it's great. But it's rewarding, and hopefully, hopefully it won't be that close of a game in a couple weeks. But hopefully the outcome will be the same.
Have you heard from anybody at Washington and Jefferson College and is that Steeler country?
*Our commissioner is a Washington Jefferson graduate, by the way, Roger Goodell. He was a few years ahead of me. Yeah, I've heard from some guys over the Internet and that type of thing, some guys I haven't heard from in 20 odd years. It's been nice. *
Is that kind of neat for you? I mean, going to college there, very close to Pittsburgh, and now
*You know, it's good, I guess. Dan Rooney Jr., who's a scout for the Steelers, went to Washington and Jefferson a couple years after I did. Dan, that whole family, is a very humble individual. You'd never know it. I see him at the combine every year, and you'd never know his family owned the Steelers for 70 years or something like that. So it's good. But, again, it's more about I'm more concerned about how well our offense plays in the game. *
Any of those guys you haven't heard from in 20 years drop in a ticket request?
*I think they're, the prolific size of my family has been well-documented with six children. So I think guys figure that I might be not a very good source for tickets, you know what I mean? And my wife comes from a family of eight, and I have five siblings. So you get the idea that I'm not the ticket source. *
*Joe, a specific question about Aaron Rodgers. He's played such good football obviously the past couple months, the whole season really, but down the stretch especially. What's reasonable to expect with an extra week to prepare for him and in a controlled environment. He said he was happy that last week was the last outdoor game you guys are going to play this year.
*He's played extremely well. I want to say his quarterback rating is 107 or 109 in these three games, somewhere in that vicinity, which is excellent. I think he's completed 71 percent of his passes, which is very good. We were just in a meeting, as I said, and there's a lot of things we felt -- obviously, you have to give the Bears credit. They're an excellent defensive team and very well coached. However, we felt there's a lot of things as an offense we didn't quite get done on Sunday the way we're capable of doing. So each game's kind of unique, and the weather for the game in Dallas obviously is going to be a controlled environment. Whether that I think if we do a good job protecting our quarterback and our receivers do a good job running their routes, and Aaron's accurate with the ball, it will probably help them. If we don't block real well and he's on his back half the afternoon, it probably doesn't matter what type the weather is. I think every game we kind of take on its own merit, and it's kind of a new adventure for us. We're looking forward to it. I think he's capable of playing better than he did last Sunday. We're going to find out here in a couple days.
*Does anyone give him credit for toughing it out? He took a shot on the shoulder. Is that kind of a tough performance for him, you think?
*He's a tough guy, obviously. He's -- unfortunately, he's been sacked a bunch since he started playing in '08, more times than we'd like to admit. So I think his physical toughness has really never been in question. How this particular game compares to other games, you know, I don't really have a good feel for it. But certainly he's a tough physical guy.
Jennings had a point early in the year where he wasn't really involved all the time. It seems down the stretch here, from the middle portion of the season, he's been a factor in every game. What's gone into that?
*Sometimes I think our passing game is really predicated we have different types of reads that the quarterback has. And part of our game planning is to do the best we can in terms of creating matchups that highlight the talents and abilities of our players. However, usually some of that is subject to the defensive call that we face. We never want to force the ball to a particular player if the defensive call dictates that the ball should go somewhere else. So I think we're cognizant of Greg's abilities. We know he's a very talented guy. We'd like to get him the football as often as we can in the passing game. However, we don't want to do it at the expense of being unsound in terms of putting the possession of the football at risk by forcing the ball to him. Again, we're aware of him. He's made a great contribution. But at the same point in time, he's one of 11 guys. At times, teams can take a guy away. If they're committed to taking somebody away, whether it's a running back by an extra defender down in the box, whether it's a receiver by rolling a coverage his way, we've got to be able to counter that and be able to take advantage of the defense in another fashion. *
With so much extra time you have to implement your game plan, how much are you doing this week versus next week?
I think that's a question Coach is better prepared to answer. We're just kind of right now in the individual film-watching stage. We haven't really gotten together and formulated anything specific as of yet. We've had plenty of time obviously to take a look at these guys, and they're obviously as good as advertised.
Does the fact that they run a similar defense that you guys run have any bearing on this game?
*I don't know about that. Not a whole lot, I don't think, because, as you know, since probably since the middle of August we really haven't gone against Dom's defense. So I know obviously Coach LeBeau and Dom have a history back there together, but I don't know that's going to have a huge impact in the game. *
Can you pick their brain, though, Joe? A lot of your defensive coaches like Dom, Kevin Greene, Darren Perry have experience with Dick and their system. Can you pick their brain at all?
*Oh, yeah. I always, I oftentimes go by Dom's office at night even if it's not a team necessarily if I see something on film that I think might relate to some of the things that he does, even some of our other teams have utilized, I'll certainly feel free to stop by his office and pop in there and get his opinion.*