Good afternoon. I guess I'll start with a quick assessment of our performance Sunday. It was what was required. I liked the response the team had to the disappointing outing the prior week. I though the energy was awesome. I thought plays were delivered from a variety of people in all three phases. It's good to see signs of those things from a football team at this time of year, particularly in response to a sub-par performance. I thought the leaders stepped up, guys like Ben [Roethlisberger] and James Farrior and James Harrison. But it was supported by just about everyone. Everyone put their hand in that pile and made the necessary plays for us to come out of the game. So from that we're pleased.
From an injury standpoint coming out of the game, Antonio Brown has some swelling on his knee. It'll slow him down here in the early portion of the week. He's in the process of having that evaluated right now. As always, when you're talking about a young guy missing practice time, that might put his availability in danger. I'll have more information as we proceed with that throughout the week. Matt Spaeth sustained a concussion. He'll take the concussion test and that's going to guide us in terms of where we go with him. Troy [Polamalu]'s injury (near Achilles' tendon) is still the same. We're probably going to rest him in the early portion of the week. It didn't affect his play on Sunday and we don't anticipate it affecting his play on this Sunday coming up. Will Allen (concussion) has been cleared to practice and play so we're excited about that. Maurkice Pouncey had a quad contusion. He appears to be fine but may be limited somewhat here in the early part of the week. We're a relatively healthy outfit. We anticipate getting Brett Keisel (hamstring) back. He's going to be a full participant here in the early portion of the week and be available to play, so that's a good thing. Getting some of these people back, finding ways to put a winning combination together, some young guys, some starters-in-waiting, if you will, getting an opportunity to put their hand in the pile and contribute; that's all part of this journey that is the season and we like where we are thus far.
We've got a big week this week. We're going to Buffalo. We've got an AFC team here. It seems we always tend to run into people when they get hot, which is fine by us. The only way you're going to be the kind of team we desire to be is by playing good people, people at their best, teams on the rise, and finding a way to get it done. If you look at the last five games or so from Buffalo, they're really shaping up and identifying themselves. They've had some changes with the new coaching staff, but in the last five games they've lost at Baltimore by three, they lost at Kansas City in overtime by three, and of course they've won their last two. They're a warm football team. I'm sure they're looking to get hot. I'm sure they're excited about us coming in there. We have to be prepared to be at our best and go take care of our business, and that's what we intend to do.
When you look at these guys and the things that concern us, it starts at the quarterback position with [Ryan] Fitzpatrick. He's familiar with us. He started against us and represented himself well. Some of the blitzes and looks won't be foreign to him. He got after Cincinnati pretty good and really looks like he's establishing a nice rapport with his receiving corps. Young Man Johnson being one of them. Some of these receivers are some young guys, guys you're less familiar with, but when you turn the tape on you see why they're getting the recognition that they are. [Steve] Johnson, being one of them, had a big day last Sunday against Cincinnati in that comeback victory. But he's not a one-trick pony. This guy's got 9 touchdowns and over 700 yards receiving on the season. He's establishing himself as a legitimate player in this league. Lee Evans is a known commodity at X [split end]. He's a big-play guy, a speed guy capable of getting behind you. [Donald] Jones, No. 19, is another guy that's emerging as a weapon. Fred Jackson's doing some nice things for them at running back. He went over a thousand yards a year ago so he's not new to this. He did some nice things last week and closed the game out with a nice run against Cincinnati.
Defensively, they've been a unit in flux from 3-4 to 4-3. They appear to be settling in now. One thing they do have is a talented and deep and high-motored front. [Marcus] Stroud is rock solid; [Chris] Kelsay's a high-motor guy; Kyle Williams I've got big-time respect for at the nose position, an aware, hustling, playmaker type of guy; Spencer Johnson's played a bunch of ball for them; Dwan Edwards is familiar with us from his time in Baltimore and appears to be providing a spark and quality play. [Paul] Posluszny is an every-down linebacker that we need to be prepared to deal with. This guy's a sideline-to-sideline tackler, a very aware screen man. He destroys those things. They put him a lot against running backs and in coverage; he does a nice job with that. And they've got some quality players in their secondary. Leodis McKelvin is a first-rounder and at the safety position [Donte] Whitner is a first-rounder and a good football player and Jairus Byrd is coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season when he had nine interceptions.
Special teams have always been rock-solid with this group as long as Bruce DeHaven has been there as a coordinator. They never run out of return men. [C.J.] Spiller's missed some time. Roscoe Parrish has been on IR. They still have McElvin and Terrence McGee. These guys turn out Pro Bowl-caliber return men every year, so we've got to be on our screws in that area.
What's your reaction to the Richard Seymour fine?
None. I don't have a reaction. I tend to focus on the things that are relevant to our team, moving forward, the things we can control. That doesn't fall into either category. Really, that's between Richard Seymour and the league office.
Is the league in a period of adjustment in the way the officials are asked to call the game and the way the players react?
I know there have been some heated reactions from players around the league in terms of how games are being officiated, but in terms of the league being in transition, that's not a question for me to answer. Emotions always run high during the course of a football season, particularly as you push through the latter part of November. Guys are fighting for spots. There's going to be competitive spirit involved. Very rarely do I view guys pleased with officiating when it doesn't go your way. Such is life. We're not going to worry about those things. We're going to prepare for the challenge that's in front of us this week.
What's your philosophy on when to pull key players from a game that's gotten out of hand?
It depends on each particular game. Each individual circumstance has its own rules that guide you. You develop that mentality as the week develops. (It depends on) the nature of your lead; how you acquired that lead; are you controlling the line of scrimmage; the potential capability of your opponent to come back; what's their personality when they're behind; are they effective in that area; is that a strong suit of theirs. There's a myriad of things that go into those decisions and really makes each individual circumstance unique and those decisions are made accordingly.
Are the officials looking more closely at your team?
I hope everybody's looking closely at our team because we want to be that team. We want to be good. I'm not concerned about that perception or that talk. If we're as good as we desire to be, everybody's going to be looking at us.
If you're going to pull a guy with a 35-3 lead, is it to prevent an injury or to provide somebody with experience?
It's usually a combination of both, but with player safety probably being the premium.
We intended to run the ball. We thought he was OK to turn and hand the ball off to Isaac Redman and others, which is what we did.
Did Ramon Foster play well enough to start again this week?
He did. He wasn't perfect but none of us were. We liked the intensity. We liked the physical presence that he provided. We liked the way that he and Flozell [Adams] worked together. We'll push forward.
How well has Flozell played this season?
He's done maybe even better than we anticipated. He's an old dog learning a new trick, if you will, playing on the right side. He's been very stable, been a stabilizing presence for us, has a nice demeanor that we like. He plays. He's competitive. He's only concerned about winning. I like guys like that. This guy made a lot of money, has a lot of accolades, been on some high-profile teams. None of that seems to be overly important to him right now. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help us do so.
Has Ziggy Hood improved with increased playing time? And will Keisel start Sunday?
We'll determine Keisel's level of participation based on how he plays this week, and of course conditioning and our perception of how many snaps he can handle will be a portion of that. Ziggy is continuing to emerge. He played over 50 snaps this week and I thought that was significant, but I thought he just showed quality play. He was square at the line of scrimmage. He used his hands well. He made some plays. I thought he was a consistent presence in terms of providing pressure on the passer when given an opportunity to rush. This is a young guy with some talent and we expect him to continue to get better.
What has Emmanuel Sanders done to earn more playing time?
He's made plays when given an opportunity. He continues to prove it's not too big for him. More than anything, as much as those things, when he makes a mistake he doesn't go in the tank and he usually rebounds from it relatively quickly. He put a ball on the ground in Miami and rebounded from it relatively quickly. He dropped the first ball thrown to him on Sunday. He quickly rebounded. Not only is it not too big for him, he doesn't shadow box; he doesn't ride the emotional roller coaster. He tends to bounce back from failures pretty quickly. All of those things are kind of attractive to go along with the talent that we all see.
How would you assess Rashard Mendenhall's performance?
I thought Rashard played really well. I thought we left 40 or 50 of his yards out there in the form of penalties. I thought he played well. The stat sheet is not going to show the quality of his play in that game, but such is life. We're in a team game. Sometimes that happens. He gave us a winning performance.
Did your players show the proper restraint when your quarterback was sucker-punched?
Your words, not mine. No, emotion's going to get away from you when something like that occurs in a football game. You hope something like that never occurs in a football game, but it did. For the most part I thought our guys were able to gather themselves quickly after that sequence of events was over and get back to what we intended to do, which was play winning football. But their response, their emotional response, is understandable.
Is Mike Wallace developing to the point where he needs a new nickname?
Not yet. He's going to have to show me more than that play he showed me on Sunday.
He suggested ‘Bag of Tricks' (over a month ago).
He's got a lot of suggestions. I suggest that he prepare for the Buffalo Bills.
Do you want your players to respond when your quarterback wants them to respond?
That's what team is about. Am I shocked that they responded the way they responded? No. Am I excited they responded the way they responded? I expect them to be good teammates. That's part of being good teammates. They're going to protect one another when someone's been wronged. That's just human nature. These guys work extremely hard together. They're close personally and professionally, so why should we be surprised by the type of response that occurred in the stadium on Sunday? It's very natural. I'm glad both teams were able to move on from it and continue to play the football game.