Q: You mentioned yesterday that you would ask some of the players…
A: Yeah, but I didn’t. I just threw the questions out. I haven’t had the chance. I visited with a couple of guys, but they would have to think about it, and I would have to catch them.
Q: Eli spoke about how he felt like missing the playoffs this year was especially rough, because of the talent level.
A: I think when you start a year off, first of all, some of the guys are so young, you know they don’t think like this. But when you’re a coach, and you’ve seen this happen before, and you know that some of these careers are much shorter than others, and the opportunities that these players have to take full advantage of their youth and their ability, and literally the primes of their athletic lives, you just don’t like to see that not happen for them. You don’t like to see a year in which you certainly had high, very high expectations not be fulfilled. Whether you take it to the individual level, or whether you take it to the team level.
Q: When you look at this team, do you still see the core of a championship contender there?
A: Well, I do. Nothing stays the same. You’re going to have, you change. Some of your younger players have to develop, quite frankly, in more ways than just one. One of the things that you find a lot of times with young players is they struggle to get their arms around what the National Football League is all about. For some, it happens quick. For others, it doesn’t. There will be some people in that category that will be major surprises, and probably some that will be disappointments.
Q: The defense was one of the worst in the league, in terms of yards allowed. What changes can be made there to make it a more successful unit?
A: We’ll have to wait and see on that. Naturally, we need to play better, but….
Q: Is Perry Fewell still your Defensive Coordinator going forward?
A: He is.
Q: He had said that the scheme was sound. The players were right there, just not making plays. Would you agree with the assertions that the scheme you guys played was sound, and the players were not executing?
A: As I said before, I would think, based on what was actually said by Perry Fewell in that interview, that the thing that was not happening is that plays were not being made. I don’t think the defense would disagree with you at all on that one.
Q: Have you already started the 2013 season, or do you need more time to digest what happened?
A: Well, we’re jumping into the process of evaluation. That will take some range of time, and then probably digest some of what we discover when we do investigate, and then do some thinking in regard to what our beliefs are. It’ll be a process.
Q: When you go through a season like this, with the ups-and-downs, do you feel like not doing this anymore?
A: No, but I’ll say this to you, the losing part is hard. It’s very hard. It gets harder and harder, I think, the older that you get. The competition and the winning is what fires you, what gives you the true, true desire to seek more. But the losing part is very difficult to get over.
Q: You said that losing is harder, the older you get.
A: Well, I’m not talking about me. I’m much too young for anybody to talk about that.
Q: Has your confidence ever wavered with the leadership in your locker room this year?
A: Well, I think that term goes along with teams when a team is winning, and doing very well, then they have great leadership. When they’re not, there’s a question of whether there is. I think we have people of high character in our locker room. There are certainly ways on occasion when I would maybe do it a little bit differently, if I were a player. For example, I think the idea of players getting after other players may have been part of the past. It’s not necessarily the way it’s done today. They lead by everyone encouraging, and being part of a bigger picture, if you will. When you’re not as successful as you would hope, you may do some investigating, or some thinking about that. I think we have some very strong personalities, and quite frankly, you need to start with yourself, before you start down that road.
Re: Evaluating the personnel to find ways to win more than nine games
A: Well, we won 13 in ‘08, we were gone in the first playoff game. If you look at the division that we’re in, for whatever reason, the competitive nature of it, the parity, whatever you’d like to say. 9-7 wins the division, 10-6 wins it the next year. We won 10 games two years ago, and we didn’t even get into the tournament. I hear you. We were 14-2 one time, many years ago. I’d love to be back in that circumstance, because that’s not easy. It’s not easy to win, as you know. Winning and losing is a very fine line. You can play extremely well. I talked to our team today. When I talked about two games that will probably drive me insane, which would Atlanta and Baltimore. Not a question about how we lost the game, the question about why we didn’t play better. When you think about that, then you understand a little more about… Sixteen, that’s the way I talk to our young guys. It’s 16 games, it’s not 11, it’s not 12. It’s 16. That’s what professional football is. It’s hard. A lot of these guys play 12 games, they think the season is over, when it’s just started.
Q: Is the sting different this year, because of winning the Super Bowl last year?
A: Yeah, it’s a different category for sure. I think in ’08, the Steelers didn’t make it following a Super Bowl win. Here, we find ourselves as well. It’s not pleasant. It’s not pleasant at all. Because, why? Because you expect so much more, and rightfully so.
Q: Will there be any changes to the coaching staff?
A: Not that I would speak about, or have intention of.
A: You know, I just discussed it with Hakeem. A few weeks ago, Doctor Warren was involved in the discussion about those kinds of situations. In the first place, you love Hakeem. He is an incredible competitor. No matter what happens, he’s not going... He’s had a lot of things that have been an issue for him, medically. He’s had a foot, he’s had a knee, but the thing that you have to remember is he’s a tremendous competitor, he wants to compete and he wants to play. When you speak to a group of individuals, and you talk about having 53 people on your team, when you do have an injury, you’ve got to play through it. Well, he’s a tremendous example of a guy that wants to play through it, and wants to play through it despite that fact, and you love that about him. Was he able to play at the level that if he didn’t have the injury he could play at? No. No. But he believes he can play, and he believes he can be a huge part of it.
Q: How much did
A: Well, I think he’s made outstanding progress. I think he was looking for an opportunity to play, and contribute and be more productive, and he certainly got it. He learned, to his credit, as he went along, learned what we asked him to do, and how he performed in answering those questions, and so on and so forth, and did make a strong contribution. There’s more to be, as there is with all of us. There’s more to be learned, and more to be developed. He does have talent.
Re: On if the decline of the pass-rush will be evaluated
A: It’ll be one of them, yeah. It’ll be just like everything else. We’ll evaluate each one of these issues. That’ll be one of them.
Q: Do you have any reasons as to why the pass-rush disappeared?
A: Not that you haven’t heard.
Q: Are you concerned about
A: Well, I’m concerned about anybody’s lack of production. No more, or no less than anyone. I mean, that would be my answer to that. I’m concerned about mine.
Q: In terms of some off-season surgeries, it seems like
A: We’ll see. I mean, I don’t have anything for you right now. We have our standard statement, and our exit meetings, “Get the surgeries as fast as you can. Let’s go, so we can get you back out there on the field in the spring.” What the list looks like right now, I wouldn’t even speculate right now. As soon as the information from the final physicals is put together and Ronnie (Barnes) talks to me, I’ll have a little more information.
Q: Are you coming back next year?
A: As I’m standing right here, if they’ll have me.