Well, it certainly was a game with a lot of ebb and flow, a lot of different type of plays, and I commend Baltimore, the effort they had. They came out and we kind of knew that they would. They were a football team missing two of their big stars, but they rallied and put on a heck of an effort tonight and I commend them. The bottom line is we did not play our best football but we won the football game and there's a lot to be said for that.
What happened on the punt snap into the up man's leg?
I've been in this game a long time and that's the first time I've seen that. The center heard the wrong command. We use a word to snap it and we use a word to identify the front, and he misunderstood the word. He snapped the ball thinking it was time to snap the ball. I didn't have to hear any explanation. It's a first.
Do the two words sound alike?
The two words are "easy" and "ready." They both got "e" in it.
You threw more out of the shoot than you have all year. What's up with that? Was that the plan coming in?
We wanted to loosen them up. We knew there'd be a lot of eight-in-the-box situations and we wanted to open it up a little bit to loosen them up, and obviously the first drive was pretty good. After that, Ben took a hit. He got his knee twisted on the first drive. It was a gusty effort to finish the game, and we'll see where he's at, but that was the plan coming in. We weren't able to make a lot of third downs but there were a lot of third-and-longs.
What is it about your guys being able to come back?
Like I said at halftime, we knew this was going to be a dogfight. It's one of those games where it's kind of a gut-check time and you find out about yourself. This football team has been a responsive team. A lot of things were good because of every phase. On special teams there was some great coverage and a couple big returns. Offensively, we responded again having to have a score in the last two minutes of the game. I looked at Ben and said, hey, this is what it's all about. And defensively we came up with some big stops. The first drive was disappointing; they hit a couple third downs. But after that they hit a couple passes but we held them to field goals and gave ourselves and chance and came up with a big stop at the end. I don't think any phase played well, but they were all part of this win and that's a big thing for this football team. It's a responsive football team. They respond to each other and the circumstances. They never stop believing.
What did Ben say when you said that?
He just smiled. He's got a look of confidence about him. He knows.
Bill, was there any concern about playing for three instead of seven at the end?
We were trying to make a first down running the ball.
Were you supremely confident in your defense at that point?
I wouldn't say supremely. No. We were trying to get a first down, but we wanted to get a first down making them use a time out. We had three yards to go. We may have thought about even throwing more than that, but at that point that was a play we thought we could get three yards on.
Has Heath Miller exceeded your expectations?
I don't know what the expectations were. Players come in and circumstances are different, situations are different. As Heath's continued to grow in this offense, he's becoming a big part of it. He's been a very pleasant addition to this football team, without a doubt.
How is he so wide open?
Well, there's some good design of plays as well. He made a double move on the first one and then the second one was a good route and a good call against that defense. He's a good target and he doesn't drop many balls if you get anything near him.
The talk coming in was this was an easy game. Were you afraid your players would believe it?
They've been around long enough. This is still Baltimore. When you get a football team that had the expectations they had, and I know you took two players away, but there's still a lot of good players on that football team: those two corners and those backs and that offensive line is a pretty good offensive line. They were challenged. Their head coach challenged them and I thought they responded tonight. We've been in our fair share of close games this year but that's the National Football League, so we've got to come back and get ready to go to Green Bay on a short week. You can look at that football team's record and I'm going to tell you something: It's going to be the same type of dogfight going up there. That football team's backed in a corner and that quarterback's one of the best of all times. There's nothing easy about the National Football League. I'm very proud of our players to do what it took to win this game tonight. Keep it in perspective. We're still in second place and we've got to keep up with Cincinnati.
Anybody say anything to Greg Warren before the field-goal snap?
Noooo. He's fine. The kid's fine. I guarantee it'll never happen again. There's a lesson learned in the win. I mean, no one was happier we won that game than him I'm sure.
What can you say about Jeff Reed?
He's Mr. Clutch. He's made a lot of big kicks for this football team. The players have a lot of confidence in him, but the most important thing is he has a lot of confidence in himself. He's a good kicker.
Were you disappointed in your defense?
I don't see how. We gave up one drive and a lot of field goals. They moved the ball some but we made a lot of stops when we had to make them. Could we play better? Yeah, but I don't want to take too much away from Baltimore.
What was it like when you had to explain what happened to coach Cowher?
I explained it. I knew what had happened. Nobody else knew anything about it. I owned up to it. I knew what had happened.
What was his response?
Everybody was confused. Obviously we were upset too. I mean, that's not normal. That's one of those things you never see. It's something we'll get worked out for sure and move on.
Was the field goal snap on the money?
Absolutely. I had no room for error.
The fullback goes through a set of calls and then he says "set." He'd gone through all the calls and then he called it off and I didn't realize it. And he was going through the calls again and I didn't realize it so I snapped it early.
Did you feel better than anybody when you won?
Jeff probably felt pretty good but I probably felt better than anybody, for sure.
Were you surprised the game was so close?
No. We knew they were going to play well. Could we have played better? Yes, we could have. But it was one of those games where we found ourselves in a dogfight and we found a way to pull it out. That's what really matters in this business. We wanted to play better. They came out and matched our intensity and we found a way to win the ball game.
Is the passing game shaky right now?
A little bit. We had some guys open. We dropped a couple balls. We had some overthrown balls. The protection broke down a little bit. It's a matter of getting back in sync. You work all week on practice and then you get in the game and last week you get 14 attempts, so you really don't get much. We're just trying to get back in synch and get in rhythm, but we made plays when we had to and that's the bottom line.
Anyone say anything to Ben at halftime?
No. Everybody just looked in the mirror and see what you can do to play better. We settled down. We didn't want to hit the panic mode and start pressing too much. We wanted to take it one play at a time and we did that. We executed our game plan.
Could you talk about Heath and the way he's complementing you in the passing game?
He's doing a tremendous job. I don't know why teams aren't doubling him. We were talking in the locker room, "How is Heath getting so wide open?" I was bracketed on the other side. Jerame said "I don't know. I've got two guys around me." He's a great complement to our passing game, especially with the loss of Plaxico. It's all about opportunities and we're finding ways to get him involved in the passing game, especially down in the red zone. He uses his size and he's got hands like glue.
When a big underdog hangs in there, does it get scary?
Yeah. You don't want a team to hang around all day, especially late in the game. Anything can happen. You don't want to put pressure on yourselves as far as the game going either way with one play. But it came down to that. They kicked a field goal. Our offense did a great job of driving back down and kicking the game-winning field goal. That's the sign of a good team if you can respond in situations like that. We rose to the occasion and did what we had to do.
How important is winning a close game like this?
A game like this can carry on down the road. You're in a dogfight and you feel that pressure on both sides of the field and some way we found a way to pull it out. I think it'll help us out in the long run. It's a great win for us. To beat Baltimore, to win at home, I mean, it's been a long time since we won at home.
Did you guys play tight?
No. We just didn't execute like we were supposed to.
What happened on that catch that you juggled?
I got the crap knocked out of me. But I caught it. Ray Lewis looked over and gave me a wink and said "Hell of a play." But whoever hit me knocked the crap out of me.
What will breaking John Stallworth's record for catches mean to you?
It's a huge accomplishment for my career. I just found out I was three short. I wish I would've had an opportunity to break it in Heinz Field. I think that would be the ideal moment. But just being close -- only in my eighth year -- to being the all-time Steeler reception leader, I would never have dreamed it or imagined it. It's kind of like I'm living a dream each day I go on. That's why I'm smiling all the time. I love playing football. I never would've thought you'd put my name among the greats of Stallworth, Swann and Lipps and guys like that. It's truly a blessing for me. Those guys epitomize Steelers wideouts. Just having my name up there with those guys is a big honor.
What's it like to throw so many passes?
It was great. You guys have been waiting for the big show. But we left a lot of plays out there. We had to do what we had to do. We're not going to pass the ball 30, 40 times. If you're expecting that out of the Steelers, then something's going wrong with us.
Why nothing deep tonight?
They were taking it away. The only one I can remember I got a PI on. We just tried to keep it short and simple, move the chains and control the clock. They weren't giving up the long ball. The corners kept going out deep. They played us man to man sometimes. The one he threw down the sideline, an out and up, protection broke down. If he holds up, that's a touchdown.
It wasn't your leg?
No. It had nothing to do with it.
What happened on your sack?
That side was open and he would've run and at least put them into field goal range. It was a play I had to make and fortunately I was there to make it.
Was it the haircut?
It is the haircut.
That was the play of the game wasn't it?
I don't know if it was the play of the game. It was a big play in the game.
Why couldn't you guys get to him?
I don't know what was going on. You know, their offensive line is terrific. The scrutiny they've had, I don't know. We have one of the best defenses in the league, and for them to be able to max up and get a hat on a hat on us was big for them, but fortunately we came away with a W.
What was Keydrick saying out there?
Keydrick doesn't say a word.
Oh, come on.
He didn't say a word to me. I was trying to talk to him. I was trying to get him riled up but he wouldn't even look at me until after the game, and then he said, "That sack was B.S."
Did you beat him for it?
Yeah. That made it that much nicer because our lockers were right next to each other.
That was the game of his life wasn't it?
He played well. He played real well. He and Orlando over there are enormous guys and they block well together.
How did the hit you took early affect you the rest of the night?
It was tough. My cleat got stuck in the ground and I got twisted around a little bit. Pretty painful. I re-aggravated an injury that was already on there. Hopefully we can get it checked out tomorrow and get it ready for Green Bay.
When was that?
Did you know you'd throw it 30 times?
We came in trying to throw the ball. Coach Whisenhunt said we're going to come in and be ready to throw the ball. I said you don't have to tell me that. I'm ready. Hopefully it's just a building block to prove that we can win the game if we throw the ball as well.
Did you have a lot of hands in the passing lanes?
Yeah. There were a couple of times today that they did get in my fact on particular plays, probably two or three times that they really got me that made me throw sidearm or over somebody or around them. That kind of disrupts you, but overall I think our offensive line did a great job today, gave me a lot of time. There were sometimes I was sitting back there and could actually move around quite a bit, hold the ball a little longer than normal. So I think you give all those guys a game ball today.
Could you talk about the last drive?
We came out and completed the first one to Antwaan. That's one of the ones where the offensive line gave me an extra second or two. Then we come right back and hit Quincy down the sideline. He came inside and widened out on the safety. Then all we had to do was grind the ball and run it down and use the clock and make them use their timeouts like we did.
What did you think when you took the field for that last drive?
You've got to go in and win the game. It's unfortunate they scored that way, off a mistake that way, but I told Jeff – I told him the last Monday game, too – I said listen, I'm going to get us down there, you win the game. And he's done it twice so far.
What did you say when Cowher turned to you on the sideline?
I just smiled. He knows he doesn't have to tell me that. He knows I'm going to be there for him.
Were you surprised they played so hard?
No, not at all. We knew it was going to be a battle. The only people who didn't think it'd be a battle were the fans and you guys. We knew it would be tough, a challenge. Throw everything out the window when the Steelers play the Ravens. We made some mistakes but we pulled through it.
What about the touchdowns to Heath Miller?
He did a great job getting open the first one. He ran a quick little out and up. When I let go of it I was a little scared that it was going to get intercepted because I didn't think I'd put enough on it but it just got over the safety's head and Heath hauled it in. The next one down there I kind of held on to it a second longer. Jerame Tuman did a great job of forcing a linebacker to slow down so he couldn't get underneath Heath. I threw it as hard as I could and Heath did a great job of snagging it like it was nothing. … The second touchdown to Heath, I really let loose on it and it was tough. It was above his shoulder to the left. I threw it away from the safety, and he doesn't know where the safety's at so he's just guessing where the ball is. I threw that ball so hard, but you'd have thought I just threw a little screen pass to him. He just plucked it.
Does Heath get excited and how would you know?
I know when Heath gets excited because I hang out with him and he's one of my good friends. But most people won't know. If you know him well, you know he's excited, otherwise you don't know.
Did you see Thomas on the interception?
I knew we had single coverage on Cedrick. So I was going to try to get it, but he was a defensive end and he dropped down and I tried to squeeze it past him because I didn't think a D-lineman could make a play on it, but he's an athletic player and he made a great play on the ball.
How's your rapport with Quincy Morgan?
Quincy's doing a great job for us in a lot of aspects. On offense, when we come in with four wides, he's a bigger guy, stronger, still very fast. He had a big catch. He may not catch 20 balls a game, but he's going to come up with the big catch when you need him to.
Is Willie Parker developing as a receiver or has he always had those skills?
We always like to tease Willie because he doesn't have the greatest hands, but he's doing a great job. I work with him a lot every day. He wants to become a complete back and he's doing a great job every day of becoming a better complete back.
Is Heath as quiet with you as he is with us?
For the most part. I'll get him to talk a little bit but he's pretty quiet.
Are defenses respecting Heath?
He's got great hands and Jerame Tuman's doing a good job as well. They're probably not going to threaten anybody deep down the middle of the field, but they're starting to become a threat. Safeties have to watch them, which hopefully will open the outside receivers.
Does Heath politic for the ball?
No. I never hear Heath. I just know he's going to be open and I'm going to get on him for not catching the one today.
Does anyone politic for the ball?
Every receiver politics for the ball.
Is Heath filling the void Plax left?
Well, Heath is a different kind of player, obviously being a tight end. Heath does a great job of blocking as well as route running and catching the ball and I think a lot of people miss that. He does such a great job. He doesn't make mistakes. He doesn't drop balls. That's what was so shocking to me that he let the one go. That might be his only drop the rest of the year. I have that much confidence in him, especially in the red zone. He's definitely a threat down there.
Is that your first left-footed punt?
I'm left-footed so I always punt with my left foot.
Was it smart to play for three instead of seven at the end?
I think it's smart because you make them use their timeouts and then you give them a minute and some change to go down with no timeouts, so I think it's a good play by the coaches. We almost got the first down. If we get that, it's over.
One more question about Heath. Is he developing into a Pro Bowl player?
He's doing a good job.