MIKE PETTINE ON STEELERS WEEK, INJURY UPDATES, JUSTIN GILBERT AND BEN ROETHLISBERGER

Opening statement:Mike Pettine Head Set Photo

“Pittsburgh week – not much to say to our guys, as far as motivation, a division game. We all know what our division record is at this point. We need to get ourselves a win in the division. The second time around, you don’t want to get in the habit of overthinking it, too. That game was so recent that the teams haven’t really changed. I know they lost some guys defensively, but offensively, they’re very similar to what they were. A couple of the guys they had out are getting back. It’s a big challenge, and we’re hopeful that the Dawg Pound we know will be there for us. Even going back to Sunday – I think I was remiss in mentioning afterwards – that was shocking, but in a positive way, just how well our fans traveled. We had a huge group of fans waiting for us at the hotel. There were so many of them at the game and they were really loud at the end of the game. That was impressive. I know our guys appreciate it. We’re looking forward to getting back home and feeding off their energy and getting a victory. Our challenge still remains on defense to get some things cleaned up. We’ve talked about consistency, and that’s the key word. We’ve shown, at times, that we can be dominant, and we’ve shown, at times, that we can be where we are ranked, among the worst in the league. We’re not hitting the panic button. We know that the issues are very detail-oriented. We need to get them cleaned up, get them fixed so we can move forward and be the defense that we know we can be.

“On the injury front, I know it was out this morning: (DL) Phil (Taylor)’s going to miss some time, had a knee scope this morning. I think that best source for Browns news lately has become Phil Taylor’s Instagram, right next to our website. He’ll be shut down for a couple weeks. We’ll know a little bit in a few days kind of how that went as the beginning of his recovery starts. At this point, there’s really no more news on that. (DL) Billy Winn won’t practice today with a quad. Then, (DB) Joe (Haden)’s hip, we’re not quite sure. There is some soreness in it. He went through the walkthrough this morning. I think we’ll be very cautious with it. You get to the point with certain guys where you feel good about their practice habits and where they are. You get them into Sunday mode. We’ll keep a very close eye on that and update you guys as the week goes on.”

On who will start in Taylor’s spot:

“It depends on what grouping we’re in. We can be out there with Des (DL Desmond Bryant). We’ll probably have, if Billy’s down, that’s the one position where we felt we did have some depth. (DL) John Hughes who was inactive, will be active. ‘Kitch’ (DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen) will likely be up. If I had to say who will replace Phil, it could be either one of those two. In run situations, it will likely be Kitch.”

 On if Hughes was a healthy scratch from the lineup against the Titans:

“He was. It was just a numbers deal. We wanted to go with the fourth outside linebacker instead of the extra d-lineman.”

 On if DBs K’Waun Williams or Justin Gilbert will be getting extra reps in practice in place of Haden:

“K’Waun’s more of a slot. It’ll be on Justin and ‘Nelly’ (DB Robert Nelson) will get a lot of the reps while Joe’s out.”

On his confidence level with the secondary:

“I’m not down on that group because they want to get it right. It’s a matter of going out there and putting the work in. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s going out there, putting in the work. We’ve shown that we can do it. If it was a situation where it was just a matter of what we were doing, we just couldn’t get it right and can’t make a play – that’s not the case. There are times we get it done, times we don’t. We need to – just the consistency thing that I’ve talked about – take a lot of those minuses and push them into the plus category.”

On the defense giving up an average of 7.3 yards on first down:

“We’re inconsistent on first down because it’s not like every first down is seven yards. You even look at the run defense. I thought we were playing pretty well against the run until they busted the 40-yarder on the jet sweep. You look at just the raw number and the average is what it is, but it’s the consistency thing. When we’re playing well for nine plays, and then the 10th one we give up a huge chunk, that’s a problem. You feel you’re much closer to getting it fixed as opposed to five a play, six a play, seven a play. Then, the average ends up being about the same. If we can eliminate the big ones, we feel we’ll be much closer to where we want to be.”

On how Williams and Nelson compare as cornerbacks:

“K’Waun’s more inside, more of a nickel. Nelly has played nickel, but he’s more of an outside corner.”

On Nelson and Williams playing against the Steelers as two undrafted rookies:

“It doesn’t matter to us how we acquire guys. We’re going to put guys out there that give us the best chance to win, and if they have to play we’re confident that they’ll be prepared. K’Waun – other than the early play in the game where he backed up too far in the red zone, and then giving too much cushion, gave up a touchdown – for the rest of the game, he was rock solid, made some huge plays, made the sack and then the tackle to end the game right there on the last one. We don’t get wrapped up into that. If they have to play, they have to play. I talked to the team today just about the whole theory of the phrase ‘next man up’, what it means and why it’s so prevalent in the league. Everybody talks about it because it’s true. You sometimes, especially if you’re a guy who’s on the practice squad or the perceived bottom of the roster and you’re not playing, you start to get into the routine. You get comfortable. We make sure we do it as a staff, but it’s also on them to make sure that I prepare myself to be a starter. That’s why we’re confident because those guys have been doing that, and when they get asked to do it, they’re ready to go. Injuries are a part of the league, and it happens. There are no excuses on Sundays.”

On if Nelson and Williams are outworking Gilbert:

“I wouldn’t say they’re outworking him. Justin’s been inconsistent. That’s a problem. Really to compare K’Waun to him, it’s like comparing a guard to a tackle. He’s an inside corner; Justin’s outside. He’s had his issues, and he knows that he’s been picked on when he’s in there. There are a lot of things that we need to get right with Justin, but we’re confident that we’re going to do it. Nobody’s bailing on him, and if he’s getting some tough love in the DB room so be it. We all recognize the talent, and he showed for long stretches he can do it. Then, he has his breakdowns. We just have to eliminate those, and that’s really indicative of why we are where we are as a defense.”

On if Gilbert thinks he already knows what to do:

“No, that’s not the case at all. I just think when you get into a game situation that sometimes young guys that haven’t had an extreme amount of reps in a system to get a coach and get it ingrained they fall back on old habits. That can tend to get you in trouble.”

On if Gilbert’s issues have to do with his attitude:

“It’s not an attitude thing at all, no.”

On if Gilbert has been addressing those issues behind the scenes:

“Every day.”

On if he has warmed up to the idea of using Gilbert as a punt returner:

“No, because we just feel that the options that we have are better. We want him to focus still on…that’s pulling focus away from getting him right as a corner. That was briefly discussed, but that’s not a direction that we’re going to go.”

On if there is a mental component to losing consistently to a QB like Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and how to get over that:

“There could be. To me, it’s not you dealing with a quarterback. You’re just dealing with the team in general. You just look at the lack of success against Pittsburgh. That’s what we talked about that first week, but now that we’re into the season and we’re rolling, we’re onto the next one. That’s our next opponent. I don’t think you get caught up in the history at that point. We know how we played them the first game. The improvement that we can make, the things that we can continue to do well and the matchups and, ‘Hey, that’s who I played against’ – that’s all this game comes down to. I don’t think you can get tied up in it because I think it can only be a negative. I think it’s critical for our guys to—you get to the point where you use the cliché, ‘Just treat these guys as they are nameless and faceless.’ We’re more competing against our standards than we are anybody else in particular.”

On if he mentioned Brady’s success to the Bills defense last season:

“We talked about it briefly, but not to the extent that we did here. It was less just talking about Ben, specifically. It was more just the two teams, the franchises.”

On if he has a better understanding at this point in the season why the Browns came out like they did against Pittsburgh in Week 1:    

“Obviously, we don’t because we came out that way against Tennessee. Still searching for it, but it’s something that we’ll look to get it corrected. That’s something that we’ve discussed. We’ve discussed amongst ourselves, as coaches. We’ve discussed it with the players because we know we’re close. If we can increase our level of consistency, we can very quickly get to where we want to be. That just doesn’t happen, and we’ve got to find the answers and we’ve got to get it corrected.”

On how much of a necessity it is that the defense straightens itself out this week against Roethlisberger and Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell:

“Again, I don’t think at this point for us defensively it matters who the opponent is. I think we play quality players every week. I think when guys just take it upon themselves to, ‘Hey, do my job. Get a plus on the grade sheet,’ and then the cumulative effect of that means we’ll have a positive result. That’s the important thing, I think, because when you get too wrapped up into who you’re playing, to me, I think we need to be much more introspective defensively. Just line up, do my job and trust that the guys around me are going to go theirs.”

On Gilbert and LB Barkevious Mingo getting off to slow starts and examples of guys that he’s coached that started slow and then came on strong:

“I think there are guys that progress at all different levels. I don’t know if I have any specific that just jump to mind, but it’s important for those guys to know that No. 1, we have their back. They wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe in them, but at the same time, we have to do what’s best for the Browns. We have to do what’s best for the team and get guys out there that are going to maximize our chances to be successful. At the same time, they still have to play. I just think it’s important that they know that nobody’s giving up on them, and they’ve just got to keep playing. That’s the key thing. When you’re in a slump, you’ve got to play your way out of it.”

On how the Browns came upon Williams from Pittsburgh:

“(Secondary coach) Jeff Hafley coached him there. There were some other teams interested in him after the draft. The Steelers were one because the Steelers and Pitt share a building, share practice fields so they were very well aware of him. Jeff was there, and it was his position coach. He essentially recruited him after the draft.”

On if Haden was injured after a hit to his hip:

“I don’t know exactly how the injury occurred, but he didn’t miss a play. He went in; they looked at it. Then, he came right back out and went right from the tunnel straight onto the field.”

On if he expects Haden to be ready Sunday:

“I’m cautiously optimistic.”

On if Titans QB Jake Locker escaping the pocket is easy to fix in meeting rooms going up against Roethlisberger this week:

“It is easier said than done. I think their scramble, though, to compare the two is they’re very different. Locker is faster and looks more to run first, throw it second, whereas Ben constantly has his eyes downfield. They’ve perfected that to an art in Pittsburgh. Their receivers, they run the first route, the ball’s not there, he makes the first guy miss, gets out of the pocket and then they all break it off. You don’t have to go any further than Week 1, when we had a free runner, missed him, got out of the pocket and threw a perfect pass to (Steelers WR Antonio) Brown in the corner of the end zone.”

On if he thinks CBs have a difficult time adjusting to the officials being stricter on no-contact rules:

“I can’t speak for the league. I think our guys are probably better than most, as far as adjusting. I don’t know where the numbers are and where we are as being penalized, but it’s an educational thing, as well. I don’t like to discuss the details of the report that we send in, but we’ll ask questions and send them in. It’s not like, ‘Hey, we think you missed this call.’ It’s, ‘Please educate us. How can we coach our guys better?’ There’s been real good interaction. (NFL vice president of officiating) Dean Blandino put out a video every week to staffs and the first five, six minutes of it every week are usually about secondary play, plays that are, ‘Hey, this should be called. This shouldn’t be called.’ It’s good education for all of us, and I think as the year goes on it’ll settle down.”

On if the way the secondary defends guys has changed because of the league’s rule changes:

“I don’t see any difference based on the rule changes.”

On if he got any clarification on DB Joe Haden’s pass interference call:

“I did.”

On if it made sense:

“It made sense. That’s a good answer.”

On not only going no-huddle in the second half against Tennessee but going faster than average, and how comfortable that is for QB Brian Hoyer and how much he can use that in the first half to spark production:

“We talked about this after Week 1 – how that wasn’t going to be our lifestyle – but I think that’s a great tool to have in the toolbox, to be able to go fast. When we’ve fallen behind, I think we’ve still been committed to the run because I think when you go that fast, you can still run the ball. We’ve proven that now twice. You can still run the ball and get back into a game. The average number of possessions, you can go up-tempo and still get back into it, especially if that’s your thing. It’s important for us to have it, and we can jump in and out of it. It’s tough on us. I can’t say it isn’t. It is tough on us, the physical part of it, but I think it’s much tougher on a defense. You’ll get some watered-down calls. You can catch them in some base groupings, and you can get them tired.”

On what the mindset of the defense is right now and what he wants the mindset to be as it gets closer to Sunday:

“The mindset is I think they’re getting a little pissed off. I think they’re tired of hearing it, but they know it’s on them. They’ve got to go out and play. They know as a unit that they’re better than where we are statistically and better than what we’ve put on tape. It’s a prideful group. I’ve said that – prideful, competitive. It’s not a happy group. That’ll show up on the practice field. It already did in the meetings and in the walkthrough. I’ll be surprised if we don’t make strides in the right direction.”

On what makes defending the wide zone so difficult and if part of it is that you don’t see it a lot throughout the course of the season:

“I think that’s part of it – the commitment to the zone-scheme that we have. I think most teams have some element of it, but because it’s our lifestyle, I think we’re really good at it. I think that’s difficult to prepare for in an opponent, especially if you don’t have the players to match that scheme. You might have tight ends that are more mauler types or even offensive linemen that are more built for gap-scheme and downhill and down blocks. The athleticism required in the zone-scheme, you might be able to practice those blocks, but they’re not going to be at the speed, the tempo where our guys can get on top of you.”

On if Baltimore has a similar commitment level to it and the Browns:

“Similar. They are similar.”

On why he thinks DB Buster Skrine struggled on Sunday and if he played better in the first three weeks:

“I don’t really have an explanation for that. Count him in with those other guys where it’s ultra-important to him. He’s passionate. When we talk about ‘Play like a Brown,’ he’s that guy. You don’t need to get on him about it because he’s as upset as anybody else is about it. I know the double-move is the one for sure that he’d want to have back, but as with the rest of the defense, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t bounce back.”

On if he’s ever been on a team that had this much contribution from rookie free-agents:

“I doubt it. Going back to the Baltimore days, we had a bunch of guys. I don’t know if it was ever both sides of the ball, this big of a contribution. That’s a credit to them, and it’s a credit to our personnel staff that kind of put them on our radar and got them in here. As I said before, we’re going to coach everybody the same once there in here. If a guy is worthy of making the 53 and playing and being active on game day and playing then he’s going to be out there. I think it’s a function of the personnel staff, the coaching staff and the guys themselves. (If) you get a guy that has that ability, he’s going to have a chip on his shoulder for not being drafted and want to prove a point.”

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