Q: Cincinnati is playing good defense, aren't they?
A: They're playing very solid. Front – outstanding, second against the run. The linebackers – those young linebackers have really improved their defense. And the corners – they're playing shutdown football and they're allowing their safeties to get more active in the run game. That's always a ticket to success when the corners can play one-on-one and allow you to play an eight-man front. It's tough to run the football.
Q: You seemed to pick on Johnathan Joseph last time, but hasn't he improved a great deal?
A: Yeah. That was a good game for us, but he has played extremely well. They both look like they're playing with a ton of confidence right now.
Q: With all the mistakes last time, what did you hit – 50 percent? 60 percent? – of what you're capable of?
A: Yeah, probably because we left so many points on the field. We had a mental error on third-and-1 on the goal line, we had a mental error on third-and-5 on the goal line, we dropped a touchdown pass, and when the game comes down to a tight game like this is probably going to, that's going to haunt you. That's all we've talked about is making sure we're right. Respect who you're playing, but make sure we're right and do what we're supposed to do and we'll be all right.
Q: How were the mentals out in Denver?
A: Excellent. Excellent.
Q: Could you talk about the progress Rashard Mendenhall has made from that game, when he didn't play, to now?
A: He had made really good progress up to that point, and when it come time to take the next step – and details is what is the next step, talent is not it; everybody's got talent. But it's the guys who pay attention to details and the little things that make you a better player, and Coach (Mike) Tomlin made a very good point to him that that's what he needed to do. He's done that and his game's improved. He's always had the talent to run and we had seen that from training camp all the way through the preseason, but his attention to the details is showing in the passing game now, so he's becoming an all-around good player. His pass protection's been excellent, so it was a perfect thing for him.
Q: Does it surprise you how quickly he's made that jump?
A: No, no, because running the football comes natural. He's been a good pass protector since he's been here, so there's no reason to take him out of the game.
Q: With the near-fumble, should the coaches come down on him?
A: No, no. He's had one fumble for me. He learned a lesson in the Cleveland game that you're not down until the whistle blows. And the Minnesota one, he was just being too aggressive. But this was a guy that beat us inside and he got blasted. That could've happened to Jim Brown if that ball would've come out.
Q: Peter King has Chris Kemoeatu on his mid-season all-star team. Has Chris been playing that well?
A: Chris was playing extremely well. He had the play the other night where he missed his punch and got beat for a sack/fumble, but Ben (Roethlisberger) had a lot to do with him settling down and playing extremely well after that. Kemo's been playing extremely well all year.
Q: Peter King also called Brian St. Pierre one of the top free agents-to-be. Will you be looking into him?
A: I like Saint. I've always liked Saint. He's a good systems player.
Q: Do you remember what you thought of Cedric Benson when he was coming out in the draft?
A: Coach (Dick) Hoak loved him. He had great feet, size, burst; very similar to Rashard but had probably more success at Texas, and ran the style of plays that we run extremely well, and he's in that system now. A lot of times with young guys it just takes a little time to adjust to the NFL lifestyle and having all that money and everything else. I don't know what his circumstances were in Chicago, but he's one helluva ballplayer in Cincinnati.
Q: Which way would it have gone, draft-wise, if he was still on the table when the Steelers drafted?
A: He'd have been in the talk, that's for sure. I know he was very high on our list.
Q: I can't remember who you got that year, but I think that guy did OK.
A: Which year was it?
Q: I think it was 2004 when you took Ben. [Benson was the fourth player drafted in 2005.]
A: It probably would've been (Shawn) Andrews then. [chuckles.]
Q: How has your line improved over the past few years? And why?
A: Well, there was a big change in coaches first. Larry (Zierlein) and Russ (Grimm) are great coaches, but they're different and there were very different techniques to learn. There were different things I was asking them to do. We had a major transition. We went from Marvel (Smith), Kendall (Simmons), Alan (Faneca), Jeff (Hartings) to all new guys. That doesn't happen overnight. Each week we've gotten better. The continuity; the group is as close of a group as I've ever seen. I really like where they're at. Are we the most talented? Not by any stretch of the imagination, but neither are the New York Giants. The New York Giants might be the best offensive line in the NFL, but taken individually they're very average. Collectively, as a unit, they're tough to beat. I think our guys are starting to feel that as a unit, and that's really what you want in that room, that five-man brotherhood.
Q: Did it take a while to get used to Larry's different techniques?
A: Yeah. We're solid now, but the first year it was different. Older, veteran guys are going to duck it a little bit because they like what they've done and had success doing it. Younger players are more likely to jump in and these guys have bought in. I think the chemistry part of it is what it really is.
Q: In layman's terms, what were the differences in what Larry and Russ taught?
A: Every technique we have is a little bit different. Some of it's the same but it's not going to sound the same coming from two different people.
Q: Wasn't Russ less adamant about technique as long as you got the assignment right?
A: No, Russ is a good technician, a great technician coach, one of the best I've ever seen, and Larry's right there with him. I've been with Larry a long time and our system we put together in Cleveland, we both know it and help each other. I've been very lucky that we've had two great line coaches here in the last six years.
Q: Ben's been able to mold these linemen, too. He can chew them out on the sideline. Would that have been possible with a veteran like Faneca around?
A: No. He wouldn't even try it. That wasn't his place. It goes all the way back to the comment ‘No, we don't want a rookie quarterback in there,' but he won every game. That's part of the growing process. When you have Jerome (Bettis), Hines (Ward), Faneca, Marvel, all those old guys, you just want to carry your weight. Now it's his group. These are his guys. They all came in together within a year or two. They hang out. They're very close.