Transcripts: Smith, Ryan Press Interviews

Head coach Mike Smith
On how practice went today:

"Good. We had a walk-thru practice this morning. That was a physical game on Monday night, and not even be 48 hours we didn't want to come out and do anything with helmets and all that. So we met this morning and had a walk-thru practice."

Injury report:

"Robert Alford did not participate in practice, and if it would've been a full practice today then Julio Jones and William More would not have participated in practice. So they'll be listed as did not participate, and all the other guys were limited participants."

On what the effort from Monday night's game meant to him:

"We were inconsistent in our play, but the effort was outstanding in the second half. You've got to be pleased with the way the guys came out in the second half, very disappointed in the way that we played in the first half. Unfortunately, you don't get participation medals, it's all about winning, but I think it's something that we can definitely build on, and I think we found out that this is a resilient bunch of guys. Went out and played much better football after playing not a very good first half."

On Ben Roethlisberger:

"There's a lot of similarities to the team that we're playing this week to the team that we played last week. That quarterback, Ben, will extend plays. He's a guy that's very strong. He doesn't move like Aaron (Rodgers), but he's much stouter and tougher to get on the ground. We're going to have to make sure that we attack his arm because he'll be able to throw the football when guys are on him. The running back I believe is similar to the running back that we faced last week. He's a strong guy, 245 pounds, very patient runner. Interesting fact, he's had 200 yards of total offense in 2 consecutive games. That's the first time any running back has done that since Walter Payton, and it's been a long time since Walter Payton's played. That's an impressive number."

On how they get better on stopping additional yardage after check downs:

"We've got to tackle better, and we've got to leverage the football. There was one specific play in the game that we had three guys that were within two yards of the receiver, closing well it would've been a two yard gain if we make the tackle. They end up having leverage issues and three more missed tackles. We didn't tackle well in the first half, and it's just not the physical part of the tackling. It was the leveraging the short passes. They wanted to have their running backs involved in the passing game; that was very evident, and I think we'll see the same thing this week. Their running back is one of their top receivers. He gets the ball not only carrying it, but gets in the passing game as well."

On whose responsibility it is on the check downs:

"It's linebackers or safeties depending on what the coverage is. That dictates who's underneath. You usually have four or five guys based on whether you're playing two deep or three deep that are going to be underneath. You've got to make sure that you leverage the football when the check down takes place. You want to take away the deep ball and force them to check it down, but when they check it down you've got to be very crisp with your angles and you've got to be able to tackle. That's something that we didn't do very well, especially in the first half."

On how frustrating it is when the defense doesn't get stops:

"We've been moving the ball. We moved the ball there extremely well in the second half. I think we stopped ourselves quite a bit defensively in the game last week. It's going to be important that you win third down. It's the same thing every week. You win third down. You can't give up the big play. We had the ball thrown over our head for a touchdown. You've got to stop the run. That's the tenants of being a good football team and a consistent football team. We're continuing to work on it. We have to be better in those areas if we're going to play the defense that's going to take us to where we want to be."

On whether tackling is better today than it was in the past:

"In general, I would say that's probably the most challenging things as a coach, is having your guys prepared and ready to tackle because you don't have the opportunity to practice in pads. We won't practice in pads again for the rest of the season. We practice once a week, and the only way you learn a skill is you go out and you do it. We try. Everybody works at it, but the backs are bigger; the backs are stronger, and the backs are quicker. I think that the offenses have done a much better job over the last five years in understanding spacing and the geometry of the football field and putting those guys in different spots. It's not always a tight end that's lined up close to the core. Sometimes you have their fastest receiver. We have to be better at our tackling."

On Ra'Shede Hageman being a weapon on special teams with blocked field goals:

"He had done it in college. He had a number of them. He does a good job, and we've gotten some really good push, and he's long armed, and if he gets in the flight land of the ball he's going to knock it down. So he's done a very good job for us."

On how he gets the players focused mentality this late in the season:

"I think our approach this week is we're focusing on the mental part of it, and that's why we're walking through in practice today. We'll have a different schedule tomorrow as well, in terms of what we're going to do on the practice field. We've got to be mentally sharp and try to get these guys back physically on a short week. But in terms of what we're playing for that ought to get everybody's focus. The last quarter of the season, we're in the last three games. Lots of things are going to happen in the NFL, not just in the NFC South, but all across. The way the schedule's made up it's going to be an exciting three weeks."

On being home this week:

"Yeah, we're glad to be home. I can assure you that. We've had a long period away from the Dome and got back. We're looking forward to it, and hopefully we'll have the crowd ready to roll. I think it'll be a fun game. The Pittsburgh Steelers are basically playing for the same thing we're playing for. There are right now, if the season ended they'd be in the playoffs, so there'll be some pads flying and some hitting going on this weekend."

On whether Drew Davis is ready to get some offensive snaps if the team needs him:

"Yes. Drew has been back with us for a couple of weeks, and we've kind of had the luxury with the number of wide receivers on our 46-man roster."

On what makes facing a Dick LeBeau defense so challenging:

"Well, Coach LeBeau has either been playing or coaching in the NFL, I wasn't even born, and I'm 56, so I think he's got 57 years in the NFL. He's seen everything. He sees how you're trying to attack him, and he can go right to it. He's got a very innovative scheme that is simple for his players, but is complicated for the opponents, and that's why he's been so successful. He's got good players doing it, but he does a very good job of changing up whose blitzing, whose covering. He is, without a doubt, the father of the zone blitz. That revolutionized the NFL about 15 to 20 years ago."

On whether he's hopeful Julio Jones and William Moore will play:

"Absolutely. We're anticipating that both those guys will continue the turn around. We've had a big turnaround, it's not even been 48 hours. So we've had a big turnaround thus far. Both of those guys are guys that don't need to go out and practice. If they're ready to go on 1 o'clock on Sunday both of those guys will be out there."

Quarterback Matt RyanOn how tough it is for a team to get ready on a short week this late in the season:

"It obviously makes the beginning of the week, you got to kind of suck it up and get some work done, but we'll be alright. We've got plenty of time between now and the game to get some rest and get recovered, and also get some work in. It's a little shorter week, but we're fine."

On Dick LeBeau and his Steeler defense:

"Pittsburgh's defense is very good. They present a lot of different looks. They've got a great blitz package, so you have to work really hard in the film room and on the practice field to be able to get the communication where you want it, in terms of pass protection and the run game. I think guys have done a good job early this week of getting a jump start on the week, and starting to get ourselves prepared for Sunday, but it's one of those things, I think guys know how to get themselves right and know how to prepare. We're going to do a great job of that this week."

On what makes Dick LeBeau's defenses so good:

"Well, they've got good players. They got good players that fit their scheme really well. I think probably they've had as much continuity as any team in the NFL, in terms of staying in the same defense, staying in the same scheme and getting players in there that fit their scheme. I think they do that really, really well. They give you a lot of different looks. They're very multiple in what they do, but they're very sound. I think Dick's done a great job of teaching that defense, getting those guys to understand that defense. They've got a handful of guys that have played in that defense for a long time and understand adjustments to motions, different formations. They know their defense really well, but at the end of the day it comes to the players. They've got good players."

On taking the momentum from the second half of the Packers game to this game:

"We've got to continue to play at a high level. I think there were times in the game this past week where we did that. We just need to be more consistent for four quarters, but it all starts up front for us. We've got to try to win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and that's where as a team that's most important."

On whether it's up to him to be able to outscore teams the next couple of weeks:

"I think every week you've got to feel like that. You go out there and you try and play your best, and be as productive as you can be. I think collectively if you ask guys across the locker room, I think they would have that mindset, and that's a good thing. You have to believe you're going to go out there and play well, and you have to believe that you're going to be the one that sparks the team to go, and I certainly feel that way."

On what he took from the performance against Green Bay:

"There's no give up. I think that's a good thing to see because it's not the easiest thing to go back out when you're down. There's belief. There's belief that regardless of the situation you can make things happen. At the end of the day, we went up there to win the game, and we fell short. We've got to get back at it this week, and find a way to get it done this week."

On whether the opposing fans being loud in the Dome bothers him:

"No. We've got great fans here in Atlanta, and we've got a great support across the city. I'm sure they'll be out there on Sunday loud and proud."

On whether he'll take having two of the last three games at home, and being in the playoff hunt:

"I think anybody would. One of those things at the beginning of the year is you want to have a chance in December. You want to be in the mix, and we're in the mix. We've got to focus on this week though. We can't worry about the next two weeks, or what's happening with other teams. We've got to take care of our business. We're at the point of the season right now where it's time to play our best football for four quarters consistently. I think that's where everybody's mindset is at, and what everybody's thinking at this point."

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