ML: “I kind of summed it up to the football team yesterday. I thought we were very, very good at stinking up October, and we need to do a cleanse. And the thing going forward is to be better in November and December, because we erased a lot of the positives that we had in September. We found a way to flush them down the toilet in October.
“So this (bye) week comes at a good time. We have an opportunity to fix a lot of the things that are ailing us. As coaches, we have to move them forward quickly. It's my job to get them moved forward, get us to play better, because what we've done is not acceptable, it's not the standard that we want to have.
“Right now, with the way things are in the AFC (many teams bunched at 3-3 or 3-4), we have an opportunity to still reach all the goals that are important. No. 1, first of all, is winning this division and having the opportunity to go to the playoffs and go from there. But we've got to make hay now. We've got nine games left, and most important we've got the next game coming in a couple weeks. This week will be spent really analyzing us, trying to fix us, and then moving forward next Wednesday when we start preparation for Denver.
“As for reviewing the tape, and the questions people have asked: There was a lot of concern about A.J. (Green) catching only one pass, and we have a concern that we didn't get the ball to A.J. enough. We didn't get the ball down the field and over the top. They didn't do anything special, other than I think their players did a great job of executing their plan – if A.J. was on your side of the field, try to do everything you can to get around A.J., underneath and over the top. And I thought their players did a great job of doing that.
“You've got to credit our quarterback for not throwing the ball into the coverage. We worked the plays opposite, we worked the people opposite, but at some point we lost the track. The dropped balls didn't help us yesterday. We had dropped balls in critical situations that kept us from moving the football down the field. There can be an occasional drop, one every four or five games, but to have three in one game is critical. We missed on a throw down the middle to our tight end, which was a big play. So some of those things have to be erased.
“We took the shot at the big play on the third-and-one-and-a-half, third-and-two down there in the second half, and it didn't happen. But we've got to get the first down – take a look at what you've got, make a good decision and get the first down and keep us moving for the next opportunity at a big play. But those are the things that, after watching the tape, I can better comment on than I could yesterday.”
How much did
ML: “That can happen to anybody at any time, so that's part of the National Football League. Part of playing football is playing with the number of guys you got.”
Are you still trying to figure out the right mix of receivers?
ML: “We just want to make sure we are giving guys an opportunity. Guys that come out and work and practice and do the things right. Marvin (Jones) gives us a good vertical threat, and that's key. We’ve just got to keep working and seeing. There is no other way around it but to keep coaching these guys up and making it better and better and better.”
Is there any news on Marvin Jones’s knee injury?
ML: “His tests were negative for severe injury, but it will be one of those things that’s day-to-day. This week off comes at a good time – it gives him an opportunity to play in two weeks, hopefully. I have not talked to anybody today to see how he is feeling.”
So it's not season-ending?
ML: “Correct. No.”
Is there a chance he could play against Denver?
Does the bye week give players like
ML: “They are ready to go at some point. If I feel like they are a better option, I’ve got to sit somebody else down.”
You’ve talked about using the bye to fix the things that are ailing this team. Are there a few that are at the top of the list?
ML: “There are a few things. Yes.”
What are they?
ML: “You know me better than that (laughs). Things we’ve got to fix, and we will.”
Do you envision personnel changes?
ML: “We’ve got to see if there is a better opportunity, just like we did at wide receiver last week. You can't turn your back to that. If there is a better way or somebody different, involve them at some point somehow. That makes your football team better by giving guys opportunity, because they are out here, they are working, we are doing things.
“But we’ve got to be more consistent with this. Let's be more consistent in things every time. You can't have roughly 50 offensive snaps yesterday and have 11 breakdowns, where now you only have a chance to be successful on 30-some plays. That's difficult. Same thing defensively, particularly on the third downs.
“They created a couple unscripted things – that would be another thing, we are not creating any unscripted things. That is our job as coaches, and for our players to be able to make some of the unscripted plays. Whether it be on offense or defense, we have to make some that affect the game. We did that early in the season. We haven't done it over the last three weeks. It's important we continue to do that. As we coach them and the scheme develops, they become comfortable in their position and responsibilities so that we can make some of these unscripted plays.”
It seemed like
ML: “We lost. I don’t get too impressed with many people when we lose.”
He laid it on the line, though:
ML: “He had some error, but he did do some good things. We just have to do our jobs all the time the right way. That’s important. He runs around, flies around, and he makes a lot of tackles – that’s part of playing linebacker. You can give the guy a minus, but at the end of the day, it’s your job to get the football on the ground, and he does a good job of that.”
When you assess possible personnel changes, would middle linebacker be one of those areas?
ML: “No, it wouldn’t.”
How would you assess the play of
ML: “He didn’t play as well yesterday as he played over the last couple weeks. But with some of it, it looks like he’s not playing as well because other people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and he’s actually doing what he is supposed to be doing most of the time. Unfortunately, on the last run of the game he decides he’s going to be Superman and get out of his responsibility. To the layman who’s sitting there watching, or whoever is being critical of Rey, they’re probably being overly-critical. Nobody’s going to tell me more about playing linebacker than what I know. So there’s a lot of good things he’s doing. Do we want him to play better and be the best linebacker in the National Football League? I sure do. And we’ll keep coaching him to be that.”
ML: “He did OK until we needed a big play. We get a runaround and we’re sitting there third-and-10. We get everybody else blocked on the play, and it’s a good play by them and a bad play by us. And the margin of error, that’s what it is. It’s what I’m saying a little bit. Right now we are not getting the unscripted thing. We’ve got to make it all happen, all the time. Yeah, we did a lot of that. The first drive had a lot of impressive things. The offense had some drives yesterday that were impressive. The defense had some plays that were impressive. We’ve just got to keep it up. Same with special teams. We can’t let the kick returner get out the first kickoff of the game. Every time we punted it was kind of one of the hold-your-breath things. We don’t want to do that. We want the ball where we need it, we want to be in the coverage the way we need it and then go from there and get the man on the ground right away.”
You’re 1-3 in the division and there are nine games left. Do you still think a division title is within reach?
ML: “Oh, no question. We play Pittsburgh and Baltimore, and they play each other. And I think they still have to play Cleveland three times between them. Right? So there’s a lot of division left to be played, even just based on those games. A lot of football left. As we see, everybody is who they are right now. We’re kind of down below where we need to be and we’ve got to just fight back and get up where we need to be in the mix of things.
Is there anybody that’s better at being unscripted than Ben Roethlisberger?
ML: “Not many, if there are. Very good. Exceptional. We may be playing one next week (Broncos QB Peyton Manning).”
Is there any concern as far as the rotation of the defensive linemen? Some are playing probably 80-90 percent of the snaps:
ML: “That’s a pretty good rotation. The more the guys deserve the opportunity to play, they more they will play. And in that game yesterday, you want all hands on deck. So I think our guys did a good job of stepping up and playing. Because when you’re playing a good football team, you want to have your best guys in there all the time. And I don’t think that’s ever changed. The only difference now is you (media) are getting the snap counts now. That’s the only thing that’s changed.”
It seemed as if you were getting good pressure on Ben Roethlisberger for a little bit, and then it would drop off:
ML: “Pressure comes and goes, based on scheme. For the most part, it’s what they’re doing as well as what we’re doing. When you’re blocking with seven and eight, you’re not going to get as much pressure as you are when they’re blocking with five or six.”
It looked like the Bengals tackles blocked the edge pretty well. There seemed to be some push into the pocket on the interior in the second half, but overall the protection seemed fairly good:
ML: “Again, looking at us offensively, you’ve got some variance in your drops. We have to make sure that, if we’re in our shorter drops, the ball comes out on time. It can give the wrong impression of what’s going on up front. We can’t hit a panic button and forget what we’re supposed to be doing because on this play, maybe the quarterback held the ball a touch (longer). Most of the time, he got the ball off on time and to where he’s supposed to. But if we’re in a certain drop, the ball has got to go on time. It’s up to both the guys running the routes and to him to deliver it, so that it doesn’t look as though the offensive line isn’t getting the job done.”
As far as the wide receivers that you chose to activate for yesterday’s game, did they win their one-on-ones enough?
ML: “We didn’t win enough because we didn’t win. That’s like the Burfict question – we didn’t win, so we’re not happy. We didn’t have enough offensive production throughout the game, so we’ve got to find a way.”
On the first drive, the running game looked like it did in 2009, when it was one of the best in the NFL, and then it dropped off from that point forward. What happened after that first drive?
ML: “There were a lot of good runs still up in there. We had one where there was a mysterious holding call, where a guy loses his feet and all of the sudden we get called for holding. We rolled up there for about 10 yards, then rolled up for 10 on a couple other ones. We just have to keep going. That’s the way it’s going to be. When they’re zigging and zagging up front, we’re going to crease some of those. Once in a while, they might zig and zag and hit one – we don’t block a guy off the edge and they hit a play in the backfield and get no gain. Again, we can’t have mental errors, whether it’s receivers or whoever it may be. We’ve got to block the look.”
Do you think you’re running the ball enough?
ML: “I think we ran the ball enough yesterday, yes. Some people would say we ran it too much (laughs).”
Usually during the bye week, you bring in a lot of players for tryouts. Can you envision doing the same this year? Could you bring in more than usual?
ML: “We looked at a couple of guys today that we already had scheduled to come in. We have so many guys that are sitting around not playing -- guys that I think can play for us. It’s a little different situation that we’re in, with so many young players. The overall health of our team is in pretty good shape. There are a couple of people we would like to check out physically, more just to see as far as status going forward. This is a good time to do that, so we may do a little bit more of it later in the week. But it would be more to get a physical on a guy and check his health status, particularly a guy that’s been in camp and maybe had an injury settlement earlier in the year with another club, just to see where his status is. We’ve been checking on some guys like that to see where they are on things.”
So Brian Robiskie (of Ohio State) reportedly being here today for a tryout is along those lines?
ML: “Yeah. Brian was in today.”