In this week's edition, the head coach discusses his early football memories, play-calling and new RB DuJuan Harris, among other topics.
The Festival Foods Facebook question of the week is from Mike from Greenville, WI. His question is: What was your first football game like?
I went to some Steelers games as a kid, but what I remember most was watching their games on TV with my father and brother. Every Sunday, we went to church and then we'd go clean my father's bar because it was closed on Sundays. My father would work on the books while my brother and I played pool. When the Steelers game came on, Dad would have some sandwiches ready for us and we'd sit at the bar and watch the game. My brother and I always religiously looked forward to that weekly tradition.
Eric from Milwaukee, WI
Why do you call run plays on second-and-long?
When we're in second-and-long situations, we have to make a determination. Is there a play call that will give us a chance to convert the first down, or is the better option a play call that will put us in a manageable third-down situation? In taking the long view of a game, the more opportunities the quarterback and our offense have in manageable third downs, the better chance we have to extend drives.
Eric from Cottage Grove, MN
How much, if any, are you involved with watching and evaluating college players during the season, or is that primarily the responsibility of the GM and scouting department?
It's primarily the responsibility of the GM and scouting department. I always enjoy talking to Ted when he returns from scouting trips. He'll talk about specific players that he's excited about, and those initial impressions often influence how he formulates the draft board. It's like anything in life – first impressions do matter. Our roster is loaded with examples of players that impressed him on campus visits. I distinctly remember him talking about T.J. Lang and Clay Matthews after trips. USC had a very talented senior class when Ted visited, and when he returned he talked a lot about how impressive Clay Matthews was. The evaluations from campus visits definitely carry some weight in the team's approach to the draft.
Q. Are you playing your best football yet?
No, and that's what's exciting about our football team. We still have the opportunity to improve and that's evident to our players and coaches. We have a very strong work ethic and our focus is to start playing our best football this week. The intensity of this rivalry is something our players are looking forward to.
Q. Division title on the line late in the season in Chicago. What's that do for you?
It does a lot for the fans. In reality, it's about beating the Bears. It may be cliché, but it really helps that we are playing Chicago this week because nothing else matters. If we just keep our focus on beating the Bears, everything else will take care of itself. I know I was the first to talk about the division championship after Sunday night's game, but the reality is we need to beat the Bears. If we do that, we can talk about everything else after the game.
Q. Why did you make that commitment to the run in the fourth quarter on Sunday night?
In every game we play, there are times during which we have to pound the football. That was definitely the point in that game when we needed to. We held the advantage at the line of scrimmage and we could feel the energy on both sides of the ball. Our players did a great job, and it was one of the turning points in the game.
Q. Is DuJuan Harris a different style of running back than you've had on your roster?
No doubt about it. He possesses a different skill set and we've been excited about him for the last month. It's been exciting to prepare him, while looking for opportunities to get him into games. Hopefully he'll get more opportunities.
Q. What kind of grade did the offensive line get for Sunday night's game?
They played well and there were segments of the game during which they played very well. The position coaches assign and discuss individual grades after every game with each player. That process is an important component of the in-season evaluation and development of players. Opponent film study is often emphasized, but the most important film the players watch every week is their own on Monday morning after a game. I was pleased with the progress Don Barclay made, and I thought our interior linemen did some really good things.
Q. Your team seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. Is that about conditioning, will or both?
There were many factors involved, but this is a very well-conditioned football team. We potentially have one of the best-conditioned teams in my time here. We'll finish the season before we make any final judgments, but I'm very pleased with our conditioning and the state of statistical information that we track.
Q. Do you sense that your team is starting to get healthy?
We are getting healthier. There is no question about that. Hopefully we'll have a good, healthy week of practice that will allow us to head to Chicago in better health than we were for the Detroit game.
To see previous editions of "Tuesdays with McCarthy," click here.