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Quotes: Head Coach Doug Pederson

Posted Sep 21, 2016

COACH PEDERSON: Good morning. I just want to update you on some injuries: You know about [TE] Zach [Ertz] and Leo [CB Leodis McKelvin] are both out. We're going to hold [LB] Mychal [Kendricks] out of today's practice, obviously with the nose fracture and the quad contusion there. And [we will] also hold [G] Isaac [Seumalo] out today with the pec strain just to give him extra rest.
Q. What's been going on with Isaac and the pec strain? He practiced last week, right?

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, it's just still sore, basically. It’s healing, but the strength is not back necessarily. We just want to give him this week and just sort of monitor that and get him all the treatment he can and get him through the bye and then we’ll see where he's at after that.

Q. If and when T Lane Johnson is suspended by the fourth game, would this set Seumalo back in terms of the options of starting him at that left guard spot?

COACH PEDERSON: I don't think so, not at all. He’s had a lot of reps in there; his preseason reps in there. It wouldn't set him back. He’s one of those kids; very sharp kid, studious kid. [It] wouldn't set him back at all.

Q. How about RB Ryan Mathews? You had mentioned an ankle for him.

COACH PEDERSON: He's fine. [He’s] just getting treatment on it. But he came out of the game good. He's good to go.

Q. How did QB Carson Wentz come out?

COACH PEDERSON: Carson came out good. A little sore today, but they [the players] are all sore. We're only two days removed from the game. So, [it’s] just normal game wear and tear.

Q. What kind of different challenges does the Steelers defense present for Carson?

COACH PEDERSON: The biggest thing really, and it’s what you see on film, is the aggressive style. I mean, they love to get after the passer. They will bring those two middle backers, [Ryan] Shazier and [Lawrence] Timmons -- they’ll bring both of those guys.

One thing you notice, too, is they love to keep their eyes on the quarterback and vision on the quarterback, and so it becomes, for any quarterback, where you are looking in the progression of plays. You’ve got to be able to look off and do some different things that way.

When teams that play man [coverage] -- I don't want to say it's easy, but man coverage is man coverage. You know what you're going to get. When it's zone, it's a little bit harder. You have to be more detailed and precise in your routes and your progressions.

Q. This is the third straight 3-4 team that you are going to see. I mean, the Steelers kind of started the 3-4, but is theirs as different as the Bears and Browns? The Bears and Browns were kind of alike.

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, they were a little similar. The Steelers actually play a true 34. You will see more of that front with this group. [They’ll] still play their under front and over front and mix it up a little bit in their base packages. As far as the three games, this is more of a 34 look.

Q. Carson says that he's his own worst critic. As good as he has looked, can you talk about his drive to get better? He's in here early every day – what you see that we don't see from his drive.

COACH PEDERSON: That's one of his strengths, obviously, is he wants to get better every single day. Again, in here this morning, he and Chase [Daniel] and the quarterbacks and starting in on Pittsburgh. I mean, his own motivation, he wants to be good. He wants to be one of the top quarterbacks in the National Football League at some point. He looks at the games and goes, ‘Man, I could have done that better on that play or my eyes could have been here or I could have sped my feet up on this drop.’ Those are all things that come with playing and with time.

He attacks every day that way. It's a true sign of a professional that he can handle his craft and wants to develop his craft that way.

Q. When you see QB Ben Roethlisberger and his offense, what stands out?

COACH PEDERSON: Well, the first couple of games, obviously he's such a smart guy. They are on almost a different level, but they are on the same page offensively with his receivers and backs. You see him get the ball out of his hand extremely fast. They are not getting to the quarterback. Defenses aren't getting there just because of that.
He's so smart and it's fun to watch him, really, and how he manages that offense and how he kind of commands that team. Everybody rallies around him. Obviously, [he’s] a big leader. As you know, he's a tough guy to get to because of that.

Q. Roethlisberger has been in the league a long time. What do you think the key is to his longevity?

COACH PEDERSON: Well, I think because of his size he's hard to bring down. I know the older you get, the more you have to put emphasis on your offseason programs and your diet and exercise and all that kind of stuff. And then just how mentally sharp you can be and knowing your offense inside and out and knowing your personnel and moving the guys around, getting the ball out of your hand.

It was much like what Peyton [Manning did] at the end of his career. He was getting that ball out of his hand extremely fast, and that’s tough. That's tough when you go up against a pass rush like we have, getting the ball out of your hand. It can frustrate a defense. That's what we try to pride ourselves offensively the same way with Carson [Wentz]. Get the ball of your hand and just keep pressure on the defense.

Q. At the time you named Wentz the starter, you referenced the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger and what they did when he was a rookie as an example. What did you see back then that they did well?

COACH PEDERSON: Obviously the size, the arm strength. Carson’s probably a little bit better of an athlete. Moving around a little bit. And then the fact that they had great defenses around Ben and a running game and special teams and you can utilize all three of those and help your young quarterbacks that way. You've seen it time and time again with teams that have that formula. [Those teams] can be successful early with a young quarterback.

Q. Considering the way Roethlisberger can keep plays alive, what kind of challenge does that present for a rookie like CB Jalen Mills when he is trying to hold his coverage?

COACH PEDERSON: Ben is one of the best quarterbacks in the league at extending plays. He does many things well, but one of them is that he keeps his eyes down the field. It's something that as defensive backs, sometimes you get caught looking in the back field and let your coverage down. This is a week, with the weapons they have on offense, you have got to stick to your guy and maintain discipline that way throughout the entire play.

Q. When you get down to the red zone, does your philosophy change? Do you need to open up the play book even more? Some of the plays you've used have kind of utilized guys in various different --

COACH PEDERSON: You’ve got to maintain an advantage: sort of the un-scouted look that a defense may not have seen on film. You are seeing a ton of [defenses] drop eight into coverage down there [because] teams are throwing the ball so much down there. The run game becomes real important down there. The RPO [run-pass option] things with the quarterbacks become important down there.

Our decision making, our timing, our accuracy, we talk about this stuff every day, and particularly in the red zone where Carson has to be on point.

Then utilizing your strength and utilizing your personnel: a DGB [WR Dorial Green-Beckham], a tall receiver; Jordan [WR Jordan Matthews], a tall receiver; the other day [we used] the screen inside the 5 [yard line]. Things like that. So you kind of keep things mixed up and use your personnel that way.

Q. How important is your three-tight-end set down there?

COACH PEDERSON: Well, if you are counting [G/T] Matt Tobin as a third tight end right now? Yeah, it helps you obviously in the run game because you've got bigger bodies protecting the edge. But at the same time, you can still throw the football with him in the football game. It's an advantage. I think sometimes, with [TEs] Trey [Burton], [Brent] Celek or with [Zach] Ertz in there, it creates a little bit of a match-up. You can kind of set the defense based on the personnel and the formation called and that can give you advantage, as well.

Q. When former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb was here, we would often talk during the week about how he needed to limit the shots that he took unnecessarily on the field. Then he’d go out on the field and he would expose himself because he really couldn't help himself. Do you think there is a way to rewire a quarterback who has that natural inclination?

COACH PEDERSON: I think it's hard to rewire him. I think you just need to constantly keep talking with him and going back and showing him those plays on tape to just make him aware and conscious of, ‘Hey, again, as I mentioned before, I don't need the extra yard here. It's okay to throw the ball away. It’s okay to step out of bounds or slide.’ Just keeping showing him over and over and over again, because not only for his longevity, but obviously for the team, as well. You want to make sure that your quarterback, especially your starting quarterback, is the guy that's protecting himself the most.

Q. Going back to the three-tight-end set, sometimes you use two extra offensive linemen and DT Beau Allen in the backfield. Are you satisfied with that or do you see yourself adding a fullback?

COACH PEDERSON: You don't ever want to take offensive players off the field and put D-linemen and offensive linemen on the field. But at the same time, it can create some bigger size and bigger bodies in the run game.

Down the road, as we go, if we can develop a fullback at some point, we will do that. We're constantly looking at that position, not only around the National Football League, but on our roster.

But right now, the three-tight-end set with Matt Tobin in there has proven beneficial. We're getting out of it what we need to, and we've just got to continue to develop that package.

Q. Are you finding that rookie RB Wendell Smallwood is pretty much caught up after all the time he missed during the preseason? It seemed like you went to him earlier in the game on Monday night than you did in Week 1 against Cleveland.

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, for sure. And he's in a good position right now. Having four running backs available on game day is also -- it helps Ryan [Mathews], it helps Darren [Sproles] and it gives them a break. They are not taking the pounding every single play. But at the same time, Wendell gives you that -- he and Kenjon Barner both -- give you that explosiveness that you want at tailback.

One thing Wendell has, too, is he’s got great hands and the ability to catch the ball out of the back field.

Q. Is that something you can see going forward, having that four-running back rotation?

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, I think so. You are seeing two of those guys on the field at the same time; two of those halfback-type bodies at the same time. The more opportunities to put athletes on the field, to create match-ups – and this whole league is about match-ups – the better for us offensively.

Q. With the backs, is it more match-ups? Is it if a guy gets a hot hand, you feed the hot hand?

COACH PEDERSON: It's a little bit of both. If a guy is rolling in the run game, we want to keep feeding him. Unless it's a big run, then we give him a break and make the change. It's nice to have that guy you can put in at any time.

Q. Speaking of match-ups, WR Dorial Green-Beckham’s two catches both came on the first drive Monday night. He really wasn't even targeted in the last 35 minutes. What do you see from him? I guess he was in the formation penalty thing that had to do with him. What are you not seeing? What are you seeing?

COACH PEDERSON: That penalty was actually on [WR] Nelson [Agholor] more than it was on him, because he ended up coming in motion, but those are things we can fix. We actually had DGB targeted a couple of times from a play call standpoint in the red zone, it's just that the play design went to the other side of the field; I think Carson [Wentz] went the other way.

We just continue to keep working with him. We've increased his workload the last week and we want to continue to do that and move him around the more comfortable he gets with our system.

Q. Without divulging your game plan obviously, is Antonio Brown the kind of receiver that you have to do different things than you normally would?

COACH PEDERSON: Well, you've got to know where he's at. You see what they have done with him, moving him around the field in different spots. Single him up; put him in bunch packages; stack packages.

One thing [Steelers offensive coordinator] Todd [Haley] does well is he moves his personnel around and he takes advantage of that. He knows what he has. You need to know where [Brown] is at, but they've got some explosive guys on offense that I think if you put all your attention to one guy, another one can beat you. You have got to pay attention to all those guys.

Q. When you were scouting Carson Wentz in college, at what point does his drive stand out you and how important was that the determining factor of you guys drafting him?

COACH PEDERSON: Well, I think you just put on the tape and you just watch him and how he competes. And sometimes body language on film can raise an eyebrow -- good or bad, and in his case it was good. Body language meaning how he, you know, completes a deep throw or in his case he makes a nice run, and he gets up excited and motivated. You can see the guys rally. You don't see it all unless you watch a TV copy, obviously, of the game. Those are things that kind of stand out. You kind of raise the eyebrow that this kid has that fight in him, has that drive in him and that competitiveness that you want out of that quarterback position.

Q. You knew from day one watching Wentz?

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, you saw it. I can remember even going back and I think it was the first game of the season against Montana and just not really knowing much of him at the time, but hearing here is this kid out of North Dakota State playing Montana. You watch the game and you are kind of going, ‘Something special here.’

Q. How do you view a game like this in terms where you are, where you want to be?

COACH PEDERSON: This will be a good test for us. This will be a great opportunity for our players to go against a fine football team. The Steelers have great tradition, great history. They are a good football team. Coach [Mike] Tomlin does a great job of getting those guys ready to play.

I think from our standpoint, it's still early in the season -- Does it make or break your season? No, it doesn't. But at the same time, it's a good benchmark for us in our success of the year.

Q. How much time do you spend in the quarterback room?

COACH PEDERSON: I wish I was there now. (laughter) I actually spend quite a bit of time. I want to get in there and I want them to -- that's where all the dialogue begins. So I can hear what they are thinking, the quarterbacks, particularly Carson [Wentz]. After practice when we're watching film, a chance to get in there and watch practice tape and things like that. As often as I can, I'm going to be in those meetings.

Q. So, there are there times when there is all three of you in there with all the quarterbacks? You, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo?

COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, with all the quarterbacks, yeah. It's a tight room.

Q. How does the hierarchy go there?

COACH PEDERSON: I let John [DeFilippo], I let the quarterback coach run the meeting. If I interject, I interject. The way it works is I send my message through Frank [Reich], Frank through the position coaches. At the same time, if I want to interject something, I will interject. Just making sure there's one voice in the meeting room and they are not hearing three different answers from three different people, the message is the same.

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