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Transcript: Mike Smith news conference


Opening statement:

"Yesterday obviously was not the way we wanted to start our season off. We wanted to start off with a win and we didn't get it done. I think in all three phases of the game, there are areas that we can improve on."

On what the offense needs to do to make big plays:

"We need to block better. We've got to sustain our blocks in the running game. I think that was evident yesterday, our longest run was seven yards. That's something that we definitely have to do. Then of course, when opportunities are presented to our team, whether it's offense, defense, or special teams, they've got to make plays. I think there were a number of examples yesterday where a play was presented, where we had an opportunity to make it, and we didn't make it."

On what he saw from the running game:

"Anytime you're not operating efficiently, when it's the running game it's not necessarily just the offensive line or the running back it's a combination of things. It's such a fine line, in regards to what you have to do to be efficient in the National Football League. It's really about the little things and it's something that we have to address as a coaching staff, as a team, we have to make sure that we address those things. I think you'll see throughout the League the most improvement usually comes between week one and week two. Fortunately for us, we've got a lot of things that we can improve on, so we should have a good week of practice."

On the mental mistakes of the offensive line:

"Very easily correctable. It does surprise me because that's very uncharacteristic of our entire football team. We pride ourselves on being a smart, physical football team. The first game of the season you're going to have probably the most that you're going to have all season long simply because it's the first time that they're out there. That's not an excuse, we definitely have to address it. We've already started to address it in our team meetings today and our film review. I know that when we get here on Wednesday this game will be behind us and we'll be moving on to Arizona."

On the game-winning touchdown run by Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall:

"It's all in the eye of who's watching it. We were in eight-man spacing and we had a misfit. As you saw for the most part of the game, through 60 minutes there wasn't a run where there was a 50-yard run. My hats off to the running back, when he got into the secondary, because of the leverage angles that we had the thing went for 50 yards. It was an eight-man front and when you misfit it and there's two guys in one gap and somebody not in the gap that they're supposed to be in there's going to be a hole. It's unacceptable for us to play that way for 60 minutes against the run after the first drive to have that type of thing happen. Misfit meaning somebody was out of their gap. That's why that thing ran right up to the free safety."

On WR Roddy White's performance:

"It was very good to see Roddy have the 13 catches for over 100 yards. I thought Roddy did some good things when he wasn't catching the football as well. I think that's going to bode well for us in the future. There are some things that we can clean up. There were still areas in the passing game that involved him that we can clean up, but pleased with his start."

On the Steelers defense taking TE Tony Gonzalez out of the game:

"Each and every week guys are going to come in with a gameplan on who they want to try to stop. I thought that when they tried to take Tony away, then WR Harry Douglas got into the action. I thought Harry had a number of catches I think he was three for three in terms of being targeted. I thought WR Eric Weems was targeted four times and he had four catches. The thing that you have to do is you have to be able to take what defenses are giving you and realize what they're trying to defend. I think that for the most part in the passing game, except for some errant throws by pressure, that we did a pretty good job. I thought QB Matt (Ryan) threw the ball well for the most part. He completed 61 percent of his passes."

On whether the Steelers defense was trying to take away the vertical game:

"There were some plays they were taking away the vertical game, some plays they were taking away the underneath stuff. I think our longest completion was 27 yards if I'm not mistaken I believe that was the longest completion in the game."

On how big of a challenge Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald poseses:

"It's going to be a very big challenge to our defense this week. You're going to have to know where Larry's going to line up. We are familiar with Larry, we played them two years ago. He's going to be a guy that they're going to move into different spots on the offensive formation so there's going to be an opportunity for a number of guys to get matched-up on him. It's going to be very important that we have a solid plan to try to minimize his catches. He's a kind of guy like Roddy, Roddy's going to get his catches, he's going to be targeted and having an opportunity to get his as well. It's going to be a big challenge for us. Have not had an opportunity to see the game from yesterday that they played. After this 24 hours of getting over the game from yesterday, we'll start moving on and working towards Arizona."

On what he remembers about Fitzgerald from when they played a few years ago:

"It's going to be a different quarterback throwing the ball to him. His skill set is unbelievable, he's got great size, he's got great range. When I say range he's got the long arms that if you're covering him closely, he's someone that can go get the ball. He's got real deceiving speed in terms of how he runs."

On whether they will be more aggressive offensively on the plus side of the field from now on:

"We're evaluating everything we do each and every week. It has been an issue for our football team through the preseason as well as yesterday. When we get on the plus side of the 50, we have not been able to be as efficient as we have when we've been on the other side of the 50-yard line and it's something that we definitely have to address schematically and mentality wise. It's just something that we've got to do. When you get on the plus side of the 50, field position is so important in these games, as you saw yesterday. When you get on the plus side of the 50, you've got to make sure that you come away scoring touchdowns and not attempting field goals."

On how big DE Kroy Biermann's sack was:

"It was very important for us to be able to put pressure on the quarterback in crucial times. I know that in times throughout the game we were okay with our pressure. We had back-to-back sacks there when we had to get the ball back to our offense there in the fourth quarter. In a close ballgame, I'll take sacks in the fourth quarter or the last five minutes of a game, three to one, when they take place in the first quarter. Those are when you've got to go make hay and make your plays. It was good to see our defense put together those two consecutive plays and knock the offense back inside the 20-yard line."

On the two overtime penalties hurting the drive:

"That might be an understatement. In terms of what we want to try to do on special teams each and every week, we stand up and Special Teams Coordinator Keith (Armstrong) talks about our three musts, that we must do and one of them is to play penalty-free football on special teams. The penalties on special teams are spot fouls. It may be only a 10-yard foul, but if the return is out 40 yards they're going to bring it back to the spot of the foul. They're spot fouls and then march the penalty off from there. It's very difficult to be efficient when you start your drive inside the 10-yard line. That was a crucial penalty in the ballgame. As well, we had a third down and eight to keep a drive alive and ended up having a penalty there. We only had three enforced penalties during the ballgame and two of the three were in overtime. That is a big concern because that's crunch time. It's really not overtime, it's sudden death. That's how we've got to look at it. Obviously, we did not perform up to our capabilities in that overtime period."

On what it means to get DT Jonathan Babineaux back:

"It will be good to get Jonathan back. Jonathan is a guy who can create negative plays. Two years ago he led the defensive tackles with minus yardage plays in the entire League. He's a penetrating defensive linemen and it will be great to get him back into our rotation this week."

On how he felt the defensive players performed overall:

"Inconsistently, in terms of effort and technique, we've got a lot of things we have to correct on the defensive side of the ball. I thought it was inconsistent in terms of what we were wanting to get done with our technique and our effort. We can play a lot harder. We gave up two explosive plays. We gave up a 50-yard pass that ended up not leading to points because of LB Mike Peterson's interception. Then, we're all aware of the 50-yard run there at the end of the game. We had four explosive plays, and two of the four explosive plays were a total of 100 yards. That's something that we definitely have to address. That's a team that is well coached, Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians did a nice job. I thought their quarterback managed the game for them and my hat is off to them. If we can play a little bit more consistently I see some promising things from the new group that we have as our 2010 defense but yesterday, way too inconsistent."

On whether what the defense did on third downs was promising:

"Third down is something that you guys have harped about and we have harped about as an organization since last season. We were horrendous as a third down defense last year and I thought that we were able to do some things this week and keep them under 30 percent. They were 4 of 14 if I'm not mistaken in their third down efficiency. That's going to bode well for us if we can continue to win on third down it's going to definitely eliminate our exposure to offensive snaps. In this day and age that's what you've got to do, you've got to limit your exposures to snaps."

On whether the defense holding the Steelers offense to nine points in regulation is something to build on:

"Definitely something to build on. We kept them out of the endzone in regulation and I think that's something that you can definitely build on. I think that the guys can feel good about that but I also know that we have to get the things corrected that we did not do well in the ballgame the other day. That's just not the players, that's the coaches and that's starting with me. It's not just the 45 guys that were dressed, it's all of us. We've got to improve from week one to week two."

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