Q&A: Bruce Arians

Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians sat down with Fox 970's Jim Wexell, Greg Linelli and Bill Hillgrove for a radio interview after picking two players in the third round of the NFL Draft. Here's the transcript:

Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: You just drafted a receiver in the third round, Mike Wallace. What does he bring to the table?

A: Well, Mike is one of those guys who's pure speed. He can take the top end off the coverage. He's very, very similar to Nate Washington: a little bigger, maybe a little stronger at this point already being a 200-pounder. He is extremely fast on a kickoff return, which is what we need. He hits it like Quincy Morgan, who we had a few years ago. But he's an outside guy, deep threat, great kid. It's amazing, we got another guy who was his high school teammate in New Orleans, after Katrina. Great kid in that he's overcome a lot of things already in life. I really like his work ethic.

Q: Could you touch on his story?

A: One of his brothers was killed. I think another one's in prison. And he was displaced by Katrina. Walker High School is a great high school. We recruited a lot of kids out of there when I was at Mississippi State years ago. Yeah, he's not had the easiest of times, and to get where he is today tells you about the qualities he has inside.

Q: You wrote down the names of Wallace and Kraig Urbik three weeks ago and then sat back and watched them come to you. What moved you to do that?

A: Well, as an offensive staff we do it every year. We put down our dream drafts. If we can get these five guys out of this draft, it'd be the perfect draft for us. In the first round we loved Max Unger and we loved Eric Wood, especially Eric Wood, and then Ziggy Hood was way too good to pass up and we tried to go back up and get Max. As things fell to us, Kraig is a guy who's just a blue-collar, tough, Wisconsin lineman who can play a couple of positions. Smart and tough is what we're looking for, and both guys are extremely healthy. They don't have any nicks on them. So it was real clean for us.

Q: So it was like, ‘If we don't get these guys here, we can get these guys later.'

A: Right. And we have a couple guys down here as Round 5 guys who we'll have to fight the defense over. There are a couple kids we have penciled in here who can make our football team and dress on Sundays. We're a good enough football team to wait for guys to develop, but, if you can find a guy now who you think is going to dress next year on Sunday, that's a heck of a valuable pick.

Q: Especially on the offensive line, right?

A: Yeah. It's something we've had to address. I don't know. There are a couple more guys who possibly could be in the developmental stage for us at positions that we'd like to have a young guy at. It's kind of what we're doing with Tony Hills. It's a position to consider, but there are a couple of skill guys out there that I think could be really valuable to us.

Q: What can you tell us about Tony Hills? Or do we have to wait until preseason to learn how he's developed?

A: I think we all have to wait till we put the pads back on. He's bigger, stronger. He had a nice minicamp last week. He looks like he's improved his footwork and his tenacity. Now it's just putting the pads on and hitting people and seeing if that strength equates into power – not only at the point of attack blocking, but holding off those bullrushers. He's very athletic, so he can handle all the dancer types. But the big guys who are just going to come down the middle on him, let's see if he can hold them.

Q: Could Hills be your swing tackle now? Or does the drafting of Urbik allow you to use Trai Essex as the swing tackle?

A: That kind of was behind it. If Kraig is what we think he is, then Trai can go back and not have to play five positions. You know, we had him snapping the ball for the Super Bowl if we needed him as an emergency center. That's his value: He can play every position. But he can get back in the mix at both tackles, then we have a guy in the middle that we'll eventually try to teach how to snap the ball, too, so we have a third guy to get us out of a ball game and still only dress seven linemen.

Q: Urbik told us he's comfortable putting the ball between his legs, even though he's never done it in a game.

A: That's the nice thing about his position flexibility. He's played tackle and guard and practiced at center. Now let's see if he can do that with Casey Hampton over him.

Q: I remember asking Russ Grimm what's Casey's secret. Russ put his hand a foot-and-a-half from the floor and said, ‘That's his helmet. Let me see you block that.'

A: And then there are about 15 cinder blocks on his butt behind his helmet. He ain't going anywhere. If you just stalemate him you're doing a heck of a job.

Q: Were you consciously looking to address your short-yardage unit and does Urbik address that?

A: Yeah, that was kind of a four-pronged deal. The interior, when we did not make it on the goal line, it was more mental errors and people running through a gap, than it was getting our butts kicked. Gary Russell addressed a lot of that for us. He addressed that niche and he was very good at it. Now we've got to replace him. Hopefully Rashard (Mendenhall) is going to be very good at that because he's got the size and the speed to hit all the holes, but, yeah, we think just correcting it and not letting the lineman or linebacker run through a gap will help at the goal line. The short-yardage thing, we were OK once Gary came on. Also, the acquisition of Sean McHugh -- not that Carey Davis isn't a good fullback -- but Sean gave us a 260-pound guy to send up in there and still have three tight ends in the game so you don't know where they're going to line up. That's a nice little thing. When you have a fullback, you pretty much know you're going to have two backs in the backfield and you can get your defense set. When you have three tight ends, you can have wings, all kinds of different formation changes. Sean was a nice pickup for us.

Q: A lot of fans saw Duke Robinson at the top of the Mel Kiper rankings and thought he was the guy. What do you think about him?

A: He's more of a low-motor guy. We want high-motor, high-intensity, smart, tough guys. Not that he might not turn into a heck of a pro, but at this point in time his motor does not run fast enough.

Q: But Urbik?

A: He's got that. Now, when you go down to the Senior Bowl and watch the one-on-one stuff, I know he looked a little rigid and stiff. Most linemen are. But when you put them together, five guys, he knows how to play football. He knows how to cover up the guy next to him, work together. I always talk about the Giants' offensive line. They're not the most talented. I had Shaun O'Hara in Cleveland. He's a free agent out of Rutgers. He walked on at Rutgers. Now he's in the Pro Bowl because he knows how to play as part of a group. You have to have five guys playing as one to really have a good line. The last half of the season, once the injuries occurred, we got to play together, and in late November, December, our offensive line played extremely well as a group, other than the goal line where we turned a guy loose every now and then.

Q: The failings in the screen game last year, were they due to a lack of mobility up front?

A: Yeah. You lost two great, great players in Jeff Hartings and Alan Faneca, who might be the best screen combination I've ever been around; one getting out and the other peeling back, and they always knew who was out front. That takes time. We tried it and tried it and tried it and figured ‘We're just whistling Dixie here, let's just throw the screen to our wide receivers and get them out in space.' It's an area we want to go back to, see if we can get guys to work cohesively out in space. When we go back and study it – as a matter of fact, one of our offseason projects next week is to go back and look at all the screens – but last year in the NFL those things were way, way down compared to what they had been coming out of the backfield.

Q: What about the rest of your receiving corps?

A: Limas (Sweed) had a real nice camp, as did Dallas Baker. It was nice to see him come back and have some confidence because he's a guy who can play. He just lost his confidence last year when he dropped some balls. Martin Nance can play all four positions. There's quality and depth there. Young guys coming in and having speed, that's the thing. Hopefully Limas can continue. He got behind a lot of guys last year. He just needs to relax and catch the ball. He's working so, so hard at it, I have no problem saying he's going to be all right.


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