We have good backs on this team and we proved today we had a three-headed monster. Willie (Parker) added something and made it four-headed. That's a lot of heads, but it's a good problem to have. But he got hurt at the end of practice Friday. On Saturday, during the walk-through, we knew there was a possibility he might miss the game.
Did you notice an increase in Jerome's intensity as the game drew near?
You know, he has a lot to prove. A lot of people were counting him out, his age and everything, but he showed today he still has it. He's a competitor. He's one of the greatest to ever do it and he's still doing it. And he's still out there competing and looking good doing it.
Was this a showcase for yourself?
Absolutely. I've been fortunate and waiting all year long to showcase what I could do. I did a little bit of it in preseason, but that was preseason. Now there are real bullets in the gun. You just want to show you belong here.
You didn't get much help from the line, did you?
Yeah, right! They opened up holes like they've been doing all year. The rest was easy.
What were your perceptions of how everyone reacted to the news Duce wasn't going to play?
Well, it was kind of similar to that playoff game a couple years ago when Jerome got his groin shot up and we didn't know he was going to play until the last season. It was like, 'well, we'll go out and play with the guys we've got.' That's what they were saying in here.
How did you learn Duce wouldn't play?
I had talked to him. He came in early and tried to run around. He said he wasn't feeling good and at that point we knew he was going to be down.
Was it the same old Jerome or did he turn it up?
The more carries he gets, the more fired up he gets and I think the better he runs. As the game went on, he got stronger and stronger. The defense got tired of tackling him. That's the bottom line.
Their safeties didn't want any part of him did they?
That's safe to say. Can't blame 'em though, either.
What was the key today?
We're not doing anything special. We are just blocking and the coaches are putting us in good positions. I was thinking about that late in the game and I though, 'We're not doing anything special up front.' We're just getting after them, sticking on our blocks and the running backs are making plays.
The difference from last year, is it simply better health?
We're playing a lot better as a unit up front. No matter injury or what now, we're playing a lot better up front.
Any indication from Jerome that he was going to turn up the intensity?
We've been here with Jerome. He knows us. All it was was a look in the eye, a pound of the fist and let's go. We know what Jerome's got in the tank. You'all are the ones, and the people out there, who are doubting Jerome, and he had a great game.
What do the last two weeks say about the Steelers?
It says we're a hard-nosed football team and we're going to be tough to beat down the stretch.
Surprised by success with rookie QB?
Right now, there's no doubt in my mind where we're going.
You're pounding the ball. What's going on with you and the line this year?
Not only pounding the ball, but just knowing the system, like what they're thinking as coaches. A lot of coaches in the NFL doesn't do a good job communicating with the players. But this year, since all those guys on offense played, they communicate with us so much better it's helping out a lot.
Didn't you have the same coaches last year?
It's a different year and we just got better.
Obviously the coaches got smarter. It's about time, isn't it?
Yeah. Oh, yeah. New coordinator too.
Has the new coordinator made that much of a difference?
Me personally, I know what we're trying to do going into the game. Last year I didn't feel that way, so it's hats off to the coordinator. I know, when he says we're going to run the ball, he's going to call the run. That's it. It's a big difference, knowing what you're going to do and who's going to do it.
Did camp harden you guys up physically?
Six and 10 is a sour taste in your mouth. I think guys came in this year knowing what we had to do and we're trying to get it done every week.
Is it true that Oliver owned Jevon?
Did Oliver own Jevon?
Did Oliver Ross owned Jevon Kearse?
Who is Jev--? I didn't hear that guy's name. Who?
You got me there big guy, didn't you?
Oliver came to play today. Hats off to Oliver. We're getting better every week. We've just got to keep this thing going.
Is this the best game the line played this year?
I think each week we get better and better, so it's still a tell-tale story. Talk to me in February.
Any doubts Jerome could get the job done today?
No. I knew he could get the job done. That showed the fans, the NFL, that Jerome has a lot left. I was right in his ear when he came to the sideline, congratulating him. I'm a big fan of his. That lets you know about the 1-2 punch we have around here.
How close were you to playing?
Close. Close. Of course, if it was my decision of course I would've played. But the coaches and the training staff made a good decision by pulling me.
Will you play next week?
I don't know.
Was it frustrating sitting this one out?
Of course I wanted to be out there. I wanted to continue to jell with the team, continue to learn. That's when you learn, during games. And of course I wanted to play my old team. But hopefully, if things work out, we might see them again.
Was today one big 'I told you so'?
I would definitely do that. It's one of those games where you get the opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong, especially some of the fair-weather fans who, at one time, were Bus fans and they turned their back on me. So it was real good to get out there and just show that my ability is still there. It's just the opportunities aren't there and the opportunities aren't there but it was my choice to stay here and be in the role that I'm in. I understood what was going on. It was one of those situations where the franchise has to think about the future. I understand that. I just wanted to be a part of this team, this city, and I didn't want to leave.
Will people stop begrudging you those 1-yard touchdowns?
I think they will. I think they understand it's just a product of the situation. I'm in there because I can pound it in between tackles. I've been doing that my whole career. It gives me an opportunity to be useful and for the team to benefit from 12 years of experience.
Did you feel the need to establish yourself on the first drive?
It wasn't important to establish myself. It was important to establish the running game. That's been our identity. So i wasn't about me, make no mistake. It was about this football team and that was our goal to go out and run the football. That's what we've done all year. Regardless of the running back, we want to go out and run the football and set everything up. The offensive line did a great job in establishing that. It isn't about me. This is Pittsburgh Steeler football. I've been a part of this for a long time. I'm just happy I can come in and do my part. And I told coach in pre-game when he asked if I was ready, 'Hey, this is the reason I'm still here. This is the reason you kept me here.'
Were other people around the team more worried than you were?
No question. And it bothers me that people were concerned. I've been getting it done for a long time. I'm not on the all-time list because I look like this. Believe me. I'm on that list because I've been getting it done for a long time. This was just an opportunity for me to go out and play and represent this football team and do my part. You know, my job as a relief pitcher and a back-up is hey when he goes down for me to go in there and not have a drop off. It's the best situation for this football team because the depth that we have at running back means we can continue with this brand of football and not have to worry about the guys getting banged up and beat up. We have two guys, actually four guys, who can get it done. You got a chance to see Verron run a little bit more and the secret weapon, Willie Parker, so that was fun.
Is there a huge difference in the line this year?
Yeah. The offensive line is playing great. When you look at the game, you see it. A lot of people have a tendency to put the running game on the running back. The running back is not Superman. He can't go out there and run over 10 people. You need those guys up front to pound the football and give you an opportunity. Now, once you get to the secondary, that's the mark of a good running back, being able to make people miss, get tough yards, those types of things. That's how you judge a running back. You don't judge a running back getting to the line of scrimmage. You judge a running back once he gets past the line of scrimmage. My whole career, that's what I've been all about. When we didn't have the success, they put it on my back. 'Oh, the Bus is slowing down. He doesn't have much gas left in the tank.' And so that's fine. I understand that. I've taken the good parts, so you've got to be a man and stand up and take the bad parts. So I did that. And going into this season, the role I was given to me was not what I wanted, but I understood it and told coach I'd go out and do everything as if I was the guy - practice hard and give 110 percent. But when the opportunity presents itself, you're going to get the same thing you've been getting for a long period of time. So I'm just glad I was able to come in and help this football team. That's really what it's all about.
How good does it feel to hurt again?
It feels good. I was so blowed some of those times because you cannot prepare for 33 carries. I don't care what you do. You could run the length of the football field all day long, but 33 carries is 33 carries. It felt good. I didn't have a problem with it.
Were you directing an I-told-you-so inside or outside the organization?
It's directed at everybody who assumes that J.B. couldn't get it done, or wondering why I'm being kept around here as a charity case, or the fans saying, 'Why are you still keeping this guy here?' I'm still here for a reason. You know what? The organization understood that. That's why I'm still here. Believe me, they don't pay people to just sit around. They pay you to go out and produce. They believe in me. I wouldn't be here if they didn't, so it was just a matter of me going out and showing the people on the outside of this room that the Bus is still here. It's just a role that I chose. And make no mistake, I chose to be in this situation. When I talked to coach Cowher in the off-season, and he told me what was going on, he gave me the opportunity to make the decision. If I wanted to do this, they were probably going to bring another guy in and I understood that. So it was a choice that I made and I'm comfortable with it.
What do the last two weeks mean?
It gives a lot of confidence that the better football teams in the NFL, we can go out and get it done and play our brand of football. At the beginning of the season, people were saying 'Well, who have they played?' This gave us an opportunity to show that Pittsburgh Steeler football can be played against anybody.
Is there a bullseye on the Steelers now?
I said that toward the end of the game. We've been hunting these teams to get respect. Now it may be a situation where we're being hunted. We've got to understand the situation, stay as hongry as we've been, and keep trying to prove we're a good football team.
Can you relate to Curtis Martin and Emmitt Smith?
Yeah. The crazy part is that the people who say the career ends at 30 are the people who watch the game, not the people who play the game. I'm not going to say who's saying that, but a lot of them may be in the room. But you know what? That's the thought. The bottom line is if you're a good football player, you're a good football player. What you have to look at is a guy's skills. And different running backs have different assets. Myself? My feet. If my feet aren't quick, if I can't get in the hole and make people miss, do the things I've been doing my whole career, then it's time to say this guy isn't the guy. But you don't do that in the game. You do that every day in practice, seeing if the guy still has it. Does he still have a burst? Can he still accelerate? Can he still make people miss? And I think that's how you should judge a running back, not on his age because age doesn't mean anything. Age is a number, like a shoe size. It doesn't mean anything. People in the organization looked at me and saw that at the end of the season last year I was still getting it done: 30 carries, 25 carries, putting up the numbers. They understood that. In a few months, you just don't forget how to run the football. It doesn't happen like that. Am I the same running back I was at the age of 25? No. But I'm still a damn good running back.
Run game quotebook, Post Game Locker Room
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