It was a good day for Steeler Nation. The starting defense largely shut down the young stud Andrew Luck, including a *gasp* Ike Taylor pick-6. The starting offensive line, despite the usual injury-related pregame shuffling, kept Ben upright for the whole time he was in, if I recall correctly, although the run blocking left something to be desired. Thanks to a touchdown by Antonio Brown and the above-mentioned pick-6, the Steelers were up 14-0 when many of the starters were pulled. And, most importantly, there didn't appear to be any more serious injuries.
It was also a good day for memorable quotes. Between Tomlin's pre-game remarks, the comments by Hines Ward in his new role as a commentator, and some of the post-game comments by the players, I have a few new favorites. First up,Mike Tomlin, pre-game, from Steelers.com:
Q. Now that you have a preseason game under your belt, do the evaluations become a little less forgiving than they may have been with the preseason opener?
A. Certainly will. It’s just the nature of this thing. We’re looking for significant growth, both individually and collectively, in all areas. Execution of work, quality of detail, overall display of physical conditioning – all of that is important. You have an opportunity to grow in your second time out, and we’re just looking for everybody to play a better quality brand of football.
Q. For some of these young players, Sunday night against the Colts will be their first experience playing in front of Steelers Nation. Do you think that might open up their eyes a little bit?
A. It’ll open some eyes, and probably wet a few legs. That’s part of it. Sometimes the stage is a little big for them, but such is life.
[This one is going in the scrapbook : )
Q. Jerrod Johnson got a lot of playing time as the third quarterback in the preseason opener. Is that the plan again for this game?
A. If the snaps are there for him. Obviously we want to work our first wave of terror, if you will, with Ben, and then we’re going to move on to Charlie Batch. Whatever snaps might remain after that, we’re going to provide them for Jerrod at the end.
["our first wave of terror" is another one for the books. Fortunately hell doesn't seem to be involved.]
Q. Has anybody surprised you during this training camp?
A. I can’t tell you that I’ve been blown over by anything thus far. The longer I’m on this job, I kind of get a sense of how things are going to develop, and I can pretty much anticipate things. The longer I do it, the fewer surprises there are.
We have fallen in love with Rainey. And what’s not to love? He’s one of those players who, whenever he has the ball in his hands, is capable of making a big play.
Before the game NBC ran an interview with Sean Kugler, the offensive line coach. It was clearly made at training camp. When asked if there was any one thing which was more important than anything else for the offensive linemen to know, Kugler said:
I think a general understanding of the entire scheme. Knowing where the safeties are located, knowing which way the line’s going to slant, understanding their calls, so they have a lot of study, a lot of work to do off the field...It’s a tough job to be a lineman—they’ve got to study, they’ve gotta train, they’ve got to go through the repetitions. If they have a mistake to correct, it’s not just "hey, you go correct that." It’s going to take a hundred repetitions to correct that mistake.
Kugler must have known my organ teacher of blessed memory, who used to say something similar about learning a mistake into a piece I was working on. Suffice it to say he never got a hundred repetitions out of me. I suspect Kugler has better luck with his charges.
Some of the most interesting comments were from Hines Ward, who was in the booth with Chris Collinsworth at halftime and during the fourth quarter. When Collinsworth asked him what it was like to be up in the booth, Hines said
It was like a bad episode of the Twilight Zone. I come to the field, and all these security guys show up and are checking my credential passes. Man, I played here for 14 years—I can’t even slide by and get on the field.
Collinsworth asked him what he thought of Todd Haley’s new offense. After commenting on the controlled passing attack and the much better job the offensive line did keeping Ben upright, he added:
One thing I’m missing is a deep threat. Not having Mike Wallace out there, I haven’t seen a lot of shots taken down the field. Hopefully when Mike comes back, we can come back and you’ll see Mike making some big plays down the field.
Note Hines said "we can come back" etc. I suspect this was pointed out to him off-camera, because during his fourth quarter segment he mentioned it, saying it would take some getting used to, saying "they."
During the fourth quarter Chris Collinsworth mentioned the contract extension for Mike Tomlin, and said he had asked Tomlin whether he had time to think about what he’s accomplished and what his plans were. In typical Tomlin 'form or fashion,' he said "It’s all about stacking up Lombardies." Hines replied:
That’s just how Coach Tomlin is. It’s great to win a Super Bowl, but he’s always thinking about the next Super Bowl—that’s what you love about him.
He has a way—you don’t have to guess how he feels...He’s come after me a few times. If he’s got an issue with you he’ll let you know. What’s it called? The Daily News?"
The Daily News is something that doesn’t go out in public but only stays within the team confinement. When you get "put on the news," it’s the in-house news. He’s not calling anyone out [publicly] but he’s holding everyone accountable for their actions.
During the fourth quarter Andrew Luck was interviewed, and was asked what playing the Steelers Defense was like. Luck nicely understated:
The Steelers defense is every bit as good as advertised.
Tomlin really talked highly of Paulson. When Ben Roethlisberger came in for his interview right after Tomlin, he asked "Did Tomlin go on and on about Paulson?"
Apparently Tomlin was also quoted as calling Adrian Robinson a "one-trick pony." I’m not sure what he’ll be able to use on Mike Wallace now. Perhaps he's too annoyed with him to have a pet name for him any more.
For whatever reason, Steelers.com still hasn't put up a post-game interview with Coach Tomlin. But here are some notable quotes from the player interviews:
Quarterback Jerrod Johnson:
Q: For a lot of these guys it’s just a pre-season game, but for you to lead the game-winning drive, it had to be real encouraging.
A. It was. I give all the glory to God. It’s been a long two years for me. This was good for me mentally, physically, and personally. I’ve been through a lot the last couple of years, and now to see a little bit of success, it’s something to build on.
Q. So when the field goal gets partially blocked, it’s fluttering through, what’s going through your mind?
A. My heart dropped a little bit, definitely, but at the end of the day the ball went through the uprights. Points are points...
Q. You say your heart dropped a little bit. Was it because you came so close to the end zone and thought it could be over right there?
A. You know, I thought about putting the ball in right there, but I thought, naw, we’re only down by a point, we’ve got the first down, just make the safe play. It happened to be for the best.
Q. You’ve got two veterans in front of you here. Do you look at it as "I’ve got to be so good, I’ve got to rip a job from one of these guys who have such a pedigree?" [Momma’s comment - what a terrible question. If I had been in that locker room and heard that, that guy would have gotten an earful from me...]
A. No, I can’t, I try not to think about that. I was always told from [when I was] a little kid, "Don’t worry about the things you can’t control —it’ll drive you crazy." I can’t control who they decide to keep—all I can control is my reps and making the most of them...
Johnson seems like a very sensible young man with a good head on his shoulders. It was also very savvy of him to not respond to his initial instinct to keep running with the ball. I thought he made tremendous progress since last week's game. He clearly has been working and studying hard. Whatever happens in the next few weeks, his smarts and his attitude will stand him in good stead.
Chris Rainey got thoroughly grilled about the big hit early in the game. He assured the interviewers a) he remembered it (he laughed at that), b) his first question was "Was it a penalty?," and c) the Steelers ran all the concussion tests when he was taken into the locker room. When asked what it was like to play at home in Heinz Field for the first time, he laughed even louder and said:
It was packed! I was shocked! I had no idea, man... I’m just lovin’ it, and enjoyin’ it, and taking every opportunity I can.
And speaking of the Heinz Field experience, yesterday morning I spotted a man and his probably nine year old son at my church I had never seen before. The son was wearing a Polamalu jersey. Naturally I went over to say hello, and it turns out they are from Philadelphia, and made the drive to see the game in Pittsburgh. I asked the dad whether they had gone to the previous week’s game, and he looked at me like I had grown another head, and said "Are you kidding? The fans there are really rough. I was at a game in Heinz Field last year, [I think for the first time] and there were some fans from the opposite team sitting nearby. I thought "Oh man, here we go, this is going to get rough,’ but other than some good-natured joshing they were left in peace. In Philly they will throw beer on you, or worse..." The man said he has always been a casual Steelers fan—it is his son who is the hard-core fan, and he’s obviously bringing his dad around...
Next up, LaMarr Woodley. The interviewer asked Woodley how he thought they did, and when Woodley wasn’t forthcoming he rephrased the question:
Q. I mean, you guys seemed to hold him [Luck], you kind of shut him down, I think it was an interception and a sack...
A. I can’t even remember. I just remember being off the field, after Ike Taylor had that nice interception and took it to the house. That was definitely good—that’s something we didn’t do a lot of last year...
Q. Were you surprised Ike got a turnover?
A. Who, Ike? Nope. Ike’s been working on his hands, and he went out and showed it today.
The next question was indecipherable, but clearly concerned the injuries to the starters. Woodley replied:
Hey, whoever’s out there. Chris [Carter] has been doing a great job, he’s out there playing his role. Him and James Harrison, they’re two different players, that’s just how it is. But he’s doing a great job.
When asked about whether he was worried about the depth, Woodley looked genuinely puzzled and asked who was missing. "Harrison, Worilds, and now Sylvester" was the answer, and Woodley shrugged:
No, not worried at all. Those guys that you named, we got some guys going in there [in place of them] who are playing pretty good. You got #90 going in there, Stevie, he’s playing pretty good, Chris Carter’s playing pretty good, there are young guys that are playing good. When guys are hurt, it’s just another opportunity to go in there and play.
Finally, he was asked:
Q. What did you like about Carter tonight?
A. I think Carter does a great job of coming off the edge and getting after the quarterback. He got the opportunity to cover a couple of times, looked pretty good in coverage.
As far as I can tell, "pretty good" is Woodley’s ultimate accolade.
Next up, The Beard, and owner Brett Keisel:
Q.How does it feel to be back home [in other words, at Heinz Field?]
A. There’s no place like home. It feels fantastic, with a capital F-A-N.
When asked about Ike’s interception, he reiterated what Woodley said; Ike has really been working on his ball skills. He also stated getting better at taking the ball away had been a point of emphasis this season. His beard, BTW, is already in Super Bowl form, even if not all the players are. It is magnificent already. The picture above is from last night.
Finally, Antonio Brown:
Q. Take me through that touchdown. Was it called in the huddle?
Q. Talk about the somersault. Was that spontaneous, planned?
A.That’s a little reminiscent of Mike Wallace. I think he did that his rookie year, so I did that in reminiscence of him. I’m excited for his return, and the offense is definitely going to get better.
Someone from NFL.com obviously asked Brown about the somersault as well, and how he would rate it, because he said:
I'd give it an 8.5 I didn't stick the landing.
Perhaps he will have another opportunity next week...