Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: Obviously, we have turned the page completely from training camp. We're all Pittsburgh at this point going forward. I'd just say opening remarks wise on the Steelers, very simply put, this team defines continuity in professional sports. From the ownership with the Rooney family who have done tremendous things in the development of the National Football League, for the good they've done for the players and the coaches in this league. We have a lot of respect and appreciation for helping to develop our game. Obviously, three head coaches since 1969. All three have been as highly achieved as possible. We have a lot of respect for them.
To play the Steelers, it's important for our players and coaches to understand the tradition and the culture that's in their DNA. They're a tough team from a tough city. They have a blue-collar mentality. This defense is very talented, they're experienced, they play together, they're tough, they're opportunistic, they make plays up front and take advantage in the backend on the mistakes you make. This offense is heavily explosive. Obviously, they have one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. They have a tremendous collection of receivers, tight ends and running backs, all of which can change the game on any play. They're only a few plays away from the end zone at any point in time. We have to respect everything they do. They run the ball very effectively, they throw the ball at will, and they can extend plays. Ben (Roethlisberger) is obviously one of the best in getting the ball out of his hand fast. They give you enough to work on on both sides of the ball. In the kicking game, it all starts with the specialists. They have two big leg guys in (Chris) Boswell and (Dustin) Colquitt. Obviously, that was a big addition bringing Dustin in, a left-footed punter. That's always kind of a novelty to some people, but this guy has been tremendous throughout the duration of his career. We have a lot of respect for him having gone against him in the past on other teams. Then starting with the returns, love to see what they do on kickoff returns and punt returns. Whether it's (Ray-Ray) McCloud, whether it's (Diontae) Johnson, both guys are very explosive with the ball in their hands. We have to do a tremendous job in space of playing with leverage in tackling.
I know Mike (Tomlin) has those guys practicing and playing aggressive. That's just the way he is in-person. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach for what he's done for me personally in my career, giving me the opportunity as a young coach to tag along at times and impart to me some of his experiences that have helped me develop my own career.
Q: I was wondering about your history with Tomlin. Can you give us a little more elaboration on your interactions over the years?
A: Very simply put, when he was an assistant in the league at the time with Minnesota, I got to meet him simply by answering phones when I was GA'ing for Amos Jones. He would call Amos sometimes, Amos would say 'grab that phone and talk to Mike for a minute." I got to meet him briefly through the phone. Shortly thereafter, he was a head coach in Pittsburgh. To be honest with you, I immediately became a Steelers fan because amongst him and some other people that have been good to me that were good enough to give me the opportunity to tag along with them. I was able to visit them early in his tenure in Pittsburgh when I was a GA. There were times at the combine he allowed me to be a fly on the wall, sit there and have dinner on his check, so I'm very appreciative of that. But he was always very open for a conversation, very open to share some advice when it came up. I have a lot of respect for him as a person, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. He's done tremendous things in his career.
Q: Mike Tomlin spoke with praise about Dexter Lawrence yesterday in his conference call with us. I was wondering if you could, since you got on board, tell us what you've thought of his skill set? Is this a guy that you see moving up and down your line quite a bit, or is he maybe getting hammered into one position and just shine there? How do you view him since you've gotten him as the coach there?
A: We're going to preach versatility for all of our players at all times. Game by game, we'll have to see what the best matchup is for our players, the best opportunity to put them in a position of strength. To answer your question real simply, week by week his role is going to change based on where he lines up and who we're playing. But he's a tremendous worker. He has a great energy and urgency on the field, he's very attentive in meetings, I love working with him on a daily basis. He always has a big smile, but you can't confuse that smile for being soft. This guy brings a lot of heat to the field. He's a pleasure to work with and we love having him on the team.
Q: Just wondering with the fact that Ben was out for so much of last season, how much do you kind of watch what they did last year without him versus going back to two years ago the last time you really had a chance to study him over the course of a full season?
A: I think there are a lot of things you need to consider. First off, Ben is a tremendous player. He's been great in this league for a long time, well over a decade. Obviously, there are going to be some things that carry from his past, whether it's directly early in last year, whether you go back to 2018, you have years and years of tape to watch on Ben and what he's done well, and you have to factor in for all of it. Look, Randy (Fichtner) has been there a long time with Ben. Obviously, they have a very strong relationship. Ben's been there with Mike for a long time. There's a lot of communication between those guys and what they do. We'll see what Matt Canada's influence on the offense is. I'm sure he's doing breaks and multiples. We'll have to see as the game unfolds what it ends up being. I wouldn't be surprised to see new wrinkles. We're going to prepare for whatever comes our way and adjust within the game. But at the same time, what's made them good over time is their ability to do what they want to do, and that's to play a physical brand of football, to run the ball effectively, then throw the ball when they have to throw the ball and create explosive plays.
Q: Everybody has kind of been wondering about how good your offensive line is going to be. Playing Pittsburgh, is this going to be a really good indication of where you are?
A: I think playing any team in the National Football League is a good indication of where you are. Everybody has talent, everybody has ability. This defensive line we're going to see this week is obviously the measuring stick for talent and success. They've done tremendous things on the field. You can't talk about the top defenses in the league without talking about Pittsburgh year in and year out. Look, they have a ton of talent on that defensive front. They use it very effectively. They can play with scheme, but they don't really need it except to get off on the ball and play to their physical strengths. They're extremely talented and we have our work cut out for us this week.
Q: Is there anyone this week that you're going to be watching to make sure that they can be ready physically for this game?
A: We're a little ways out right now. I think everyone is going to have the time over the next few days to make some progress. We've kind of had a few days off from training camp on the backend with the weekend last week. Everyone is feeling pretty fresh right now. We'll see where everyone goes in these next few days. I think tomorrow we have our first injury report.
Q: Is there anyone we shouldn't expect out there today not practicing?
A: I think we should have all of our players on the field today. I'm going to check with Ronnie (Barnes) in a second when we get out here and see where we unfold with a couple of these guys.
Q: As far as this is a strange offseason. There's no preseason at all. How much of that do you view as an advantage because the reality is, yeah they're going to go back and study Jason Garrett or Pat Graham, but nobody really knows what you're going to run, right?
A: You can study enough tape of our coordinators and our systems, you can look into my history and get an idea of what it's going to be like. I'd say the only advantage is going to be the team that comes out there and plays physically and sound on Monday night. No matter what you've done in the past, no matter what we've put together, it's all going to come down to when that ball is kicked off, who the most physical team on the field is.
Q: I know you guys released (DeAndre) Baker yesterday. Just curious what you can say on that and why the timing worked out like that?
A: I'll go ahead and defer that to Dave (Gettleman) or John (Mara) if they ever want to answer that. I'm going to focus on the guys on the roster. But I appreciate the question.
Q: How much of an input will you have on play calling? Obviously, the idea is you are like the CEO. Are you going to be telling Pat 'I want this run in this situation on game day' or is it more game planning for your role?
A: As I said in my opening press conference, I'm not here to call the offensive or defensive plays. T-Mac (Thomas McGaughey) and Tom (Quinn) are here to do the special teams. Obviously, I'm involved with all sides of the ball. I'm very involved with the day to day operation. I'm very involved with how the game is going to be unfolding. I want to be informed with how the game is going to be called. Obviously, I'll have opinions but when we get to game time, I'm going to let our coaches coach and our players play. I'll obviously be involved with all sides of the ball, but I'm not there to micromanage. We hired good playcallers, we brought in good players, we're going to let them do what they do.
Q: How did that process work out? We talked about a lot of firsts for you these last dew months. First meetings, first practices. This was your first Tuesday spent in the trenches game planning. How did that work out with everybody?
A: It was productive. Obviously being the first game and Pittsburgh not having played any games before this, we had a lot of time in the spring and the summer to look ahead and kind of gauge what they are. With that being said, their final roster, our final roster, is really what shapes what you are able to do in a game plan from matching the opponent and using your own players for strengths. It was a very productive day, I thought we had a lot of good work on all three sides of the ball. We had really good communication between Monday and Tuesday. We're not done with the game planning process yet. This continues throughout the entire week. We'll have four days on the field this week to look at some different things, see how we like it, make sure we are planning things that we're comfortable with. So far, it's been very productive working with all sides of the ball.
Q: What kind of input does Daniel have in the offensive game plan in particular? How much conversations go on with him about what he's comfortable with, what he likes?
A: There's obviously conversations with the quarterback throughout the week. Whether it's with myself, Jason, and Jerry Schuplinski, whoever that may be. There's also conversations on other sides of the ball. Whether you're talking with Nate Ebner about some of the special teams calls. You're talking to Blake Martinez and those guys as far as the signal caller stuff on defense. There has to be input with the players and the coaches, and it has to be conversation back and forth. What you find with players is when you present them with the why and how you want it to look, a lot of times they find a better way for what they are supposed to do. You really learn a lot from the players. We always have open communication with our guys. At the end of the day, whatever we decide to do everyone is going full steam ahead with it. Our players understand the final decision has to come from the coaches. We're always receptive of what the players say because we know they are the ones on the field. We want our players to play aggressive by being comfortable with what we're asking them to do.
Q: Those conversations have already taken place or will take place?
A: They never really stop taking place. It goes on a daily basis as you are watching tape with different players. It goes into talking about the game plan in install meetings when they may have certain questions about things, and you can clarify and clear it up. It happens on the practice field after an offensive or defensive series of clearing up with someone why they did a certain thing or how they saw it on the field. Then when you watch the tape after practice and you clean up mistakes, that's when you really find out how they process it, how they're thinking, what they're looking at. Ultimately as you get to the end of the week, you have to check with your signal callers on all sides of the ball. Your captains to make sure the whole team is on the same page and make sure everyone is comfortable with the game plan.
Q: I know we have asked you a bunch about Logan Ryan over the last couple of days. When you are this far out from Monday night, do you know that you are going to be able to count on him to be a part of this team right now in this game plan?
A: Right now, there is still a lot of catching up that he has to do. Obviously, he just joined us. Whether it's the alphabet in our terminology, he has to get on pace with. We still have to make sure that we are fair to him as far as acclimating him. He just got here, he hasn't been in training camp with anybody else. We have to be careful about how we just throw him into the fire. He's a tremendous competitor, he's a very smart player. He did a great job training himself getting in. As coaches, we have to put him in the right situations.
Q: When you are looking ahead to Monday night, and I know you touched on the Steelers front seven a little bit, how much more dangerous does going up against someone like T.J. Watt with an inexperienced center potentially make that matchup? Do you need to do anything to account for their defensive line in terms of calling out the protections and all that because this could be Nick Gates' first start at center?
A: Here is the thing, if you overplay T.J. Watt, you have Bud Dupree on the other edge and he's just as fierce. We've got all that and (inaudible) our matchups. We have to play smart as a team, we have to call it the right way as coaches, put them in the right position. This all ties into game planning and how we're working together. The simple answer, do you have to account for really good players, obviously we have to account for really good players. Watt, Bud Dupree, go down the whole list of those guys, they're all really good.
Q: Is there a way that you simulate those guys in practice, I know they like to run a lot of stunts in Pittsburgh, that can kind of get Nick up to speed on that sort of thing?
A: In terms of what they do on the front, you want to kind of give him a progression and look on everything they do based on down and distance for a situation. That's a whole week process right there. It's up to us to make sure they see what they do in meetings to give them a chance to execute on the field and clean it up in post practice meetings. That way we can handle it better. With that being said, because you have the history of what they've done, it doesn't tell you what they are going to do. We have to prepare for not only what they've done but also anticipate and play to our rules for anything that comes up. That we have a way to handle it without panic. We never want the players and have them feel they weren't prepared for this. That's not what we are going to do.
Q: Now that you have been through a whole summer with Daniel Jones, is there one or two things that you can look back on and say I'm a little surprised by that about him? As a second part of that, are you a believer that the quarterback and the head coach have to have a certain special relationship?
A: I think everyone's relationship is unique on a team. I try to have special relationships with all the players. I know what your question is about, I think absolutely there is a lot of merit to what you asked. The quarterback and the head coach have to be able to talk. Him being one of our captains obviously puts him in a position that we're going to have a lot of conversations. Not all involving football but involving all aspects of the team. That should open the platform to him and myself to talk a lot throughout the weeks. You have to have a good relationship with all your players that are signal callers especially. You have to trust them, and they have to trust you. When it comes to the signal callers, and I'm talking about the quarterback, the center, the mike linebacker, whoever the safety is on the back end that's making the calls, the personal protector on the punt team, these signal callers are critical to the units they are on. Ultimately, they are the quarterback when they are on the field. Whether it's the quarterback or defensive player or special teams player, they have to see the game the way you are presenting it to them. You have to see the game the way their lens is on the field. That only happens through a lot of conversation. As you watch the practice tape and watch the opponent, you may be saying, 'hey look, I really see this this way.' They may say, 'that's great, but on the field when I'm playing it, this is how I have to do it to give myself an advantage.' That's how we have to be receptive as coaches. Make sure when we get that feedback, we're smart about how we go ahead and we allow the adjustments to favor the players.
Q: Anything looking back when you look at Daniel and you say, 'I didn't expect that from him'?
A: I think the thing that some people may miss on Daniel is he's quiet natured at times because he is not just up there spouting out. He's not a quiet guy. Daniel, you get him going, you get him talking, you get him in the huddle, you get him around the guys, Daniel has a very big personality. He's a great dude. Until you spend a lot of time with him, you can miss that depth of him as a person. That's been a really pleasant surprise. I always knew he was intelligent, I knew he was respectful, I knew he was a hard worker. Until we really got time to be with each other and spend a training camp together, you don't really see those layers in people.
Quarterback Daniel Jones
Q: Two-parter. One, how many points do you think Duke is going to lose to Notre Dame by on Saturday? Two, what was the first game week Joe Judge practice like?
A: You know what happened last time Duke went to Notre Dame, so I think our chances are pretty good. Practice was good today. We got a lot of good work in. I thought guys were locked in and ready to go. I thought we did a good job out there on the field today. There certainly are some things to tighten up and keep focusing on, but we'll continue to work on it. I think we had a good start to the week.
Q: How collaborative has the game planning process been so far? I know we're still early in the week, but Joe made it seem like he was taking a lot of input from the coaches and the players like yourself.
A: We're all involved in that process. We have a good plan. Yesterday was a big day to study the opponent and getting an idea of what's coming this week and what to expect. We're all involved. Obviously, the coaches are doing a majority of that. I think we have a good plan going in.
Q: How much say do you think you have in terms of what goes on in the offensive game plan particularly?
A: My role is to try to understand what we're trying to execute, certainly to talk through things and to get an idea of what I like and what I think works in the plan. We have great coaches. We have guys who are experienced with game plans. Like I said, I think we have a good plan going in.
Q: Going into a game like this when you know you're going to face a player like T.J. Watt, who's shown a penchant for strip sacks, stripping the football, what kinds of things do you look for on film? Are there certain techniques he might use that you would hone in on? What kinds of things would you add to your preparation to make sure you're prepared for a player like that in Week 1?
A: You look at their defense, it starts up front with those guys. You look at, like you said, Watt and all those guys up front can make plays. As an offense, as a quarterback, we have to make sure we're executing, that I'm understanding where to go with the ball, getting the ball out on time, and making sure we're sharp from that perspective. Like you said, they're good players. They cause you to study what you're doing, make sure you're prepared going in and I think we will be.
Q: Are there certain ways that you can kind of look at the techniques that he uses, whether it's certain types of punches or rakes his hand to get the ball out, that might help you as you go into a game to be mindful of what his specific technique is?
A: Yeah, I think you can see he certainly is attacking the ball when he gets back there. He's working hard to get that ball out. A lot of the fundamental things as a quarterback, like keeping two hands on the ball, and like I said, making quick decisions and getting the ball out. Those are things that we're certainly focused on.
Q: You got zero snaps last year with Darius (Slayton), Golden (Tate), Evan (Engram), Saquon (Barkley) and Sterling (Shepard) all together at once. It looks like Monday night might be a possibility. What are the possibilities and the potential of this offense with everybody together?
A: We have a lot of guys who can make plays, like you said. All those guys bring something different to the table and allow us to attack defenses in a lot of ways. We'll look to utilize guys' strengths. It'll be exciting to get back out there on the field.
Q: How much is it an opportunity basically to show 'hey, this is what this offense can be,' and do it against a defense that quite frankly a lot of people say will be one of the best defenses in the league?
A: Yeah, this is the first opportunity we have to show what we've been working on, to show what we can be, like you said, as an offense this season, and we're excited to do that. They're a good defense. They have a lot of good players, a lot of good players coming back who played together. I know we'll be prepared for it and we're excited.
Q: Joe Judge was saying that he was initially surprised when you guys started forming your relationship that you were not this quiet guy. That you have a very strong personality, you just don't go off spouting a lot of things. Can you talk to that a little bit, and is there anything in your growing relationship with Joe Judge that you look at and say 'you know what? I'm surprised by that. I didn't see that coming'?
A: I certainly feel like I have a good relationship with Coach. I've enjoyed working with him and learning from him through camp and into this season. Like we've talked about a lot, he's a very detailed coach. He's clear. The way he communicates, the way he says what he wants is very clear and purposeful, and you can feel that. Guys respond to that. As far as him and I's personal relationship, we have a good one. Like I said, I've enjoyed working with him.
Q: When you guys named the captains and you found out that you were voted a captain, what was your reaction and what does that mean to you, going into your second year, for the locker room to kind of recognize you with that status?
A: Being voted by your teammates is a tremendous honor. It's something I don't take lightly at all and I appreciate the responsibility that the position comes with and what it means. I'm certainly grateful to be in this position to be elected. Like I said, it's a serious job. It's something that I don't think you can take lightly. You have a responsibility to your teammates and to your team to represent them and do what you can to be their voice and lead.
Q: To piggyback a previous question a little bit when Judge said he was a little surprised when he found out you're talkative and all that, will you get up in a guy's face? Will you get on a receiver if he runs a wrong route or an offensive lineman if he misses a block? Are you fiery like that? Will you get up in a guy's grill a little bit?
A: Everyone responds to communication in different ways. I think it depends on the guy and the situation. There are times where maybe that's appropriate, but I feel like most of the time, I find it most effective to communicate clearly and make sure that we're on the same page. I'm comfortable doing that if I need to, but I think each of those situations need to be handled differently. I try to do that the best I can.
Q: A year ago, you went into the season opener as Eli's (Manning) backup. Are there any more butterflies going into a season knowing you're the guy?
A: I don't think so. I feel prepared, our team feels prepared. I'm certainly excited and looking forward to it. There's a level of anticipation waiting for that game to come, but I feel prepared. I think we're in a good spot as a team and as an offense. I feel comfortable going into Week 1. We're all excited to get back out there.
C Nick Gates
Q: Big test coming Monday. You have the Steelers, a team that has a very complex defense. In your preparation for this team, what are some of the things that you've been doing in addition to practice? Have you been doing more film work? Have you been kind of reaching out to Spencer (Pulley) maybe for some advice? What are some of the ways that you've been getting ready for a complex defense?
A: I've just been watching a lot of film. Me and Spencer go in as the centers, we have to watch more film than most of the other guys and do the scheme and everything like that. Me and Spencer came in on Tuesday on our off day and probably watched film for about two, three hours extra, just kind of talked through a couple things. 'If they run this, what are we going to do? What are our calls?' Vice versa, things like that, just kind of pick each other's brains.
Q: Any butterflies about going up against a group like that?
A: I think I always get butterflies before my first game. I think it's just the first game of the football season, especially this year, it will be a lot different. But I'm excited. I think it's good to have butterflies.
Q: Kind of a tough debut walking into a defensive line with T.J .Watt and Bud Dupree and all those guys. How much more of a challenge is that? What does Watt present specifically that makes him such a tough draw?
A: Everyone on that front seven is really good. All those guys. Watt, those edge guys are really good. The linebackers are really good. They're just all good. It's a really good front. Watt, he's really good at getting after the QB and trying to get the ball out.
Q: Talk to me about the pressures of playing in New York, the fact that no one's really thinking the Giants will do anything well. Everyone's talking about the Cowboys and the Eagles. How does that resonate in the locker room?
A: To be honest, I haven't really thought too much about that. I've just been worrying about the task at hand, the Steelers, getting to learn their defense, getting to know each one of those guys individually, how they play the game and how they do their moves and everything like that.
Q: What are your impressions of Daniel Jones throughout this whole process?
A: He's been a good QB. Last year, he was a really good QB, too. I think he's going to do really well and take that step, so we'll see.
DL Dalvin Tomlinson
Q: Tell me about the whole process given the pandemic? What do you think it's going to be like when you play your first game and there's no fans in the stadium?
A: It's certainly going to be different, of course. But I know the crowd noise, it helps a lot because we get so locked in on the field that it sounds like the fans are there even though you look up and it's empty. You still get the feeling of somebody's watching from the noise.
Q: Coming into this season, not a lot of folks are expecting a lot from the New York Giants in the NFC East. Everyone is talking about the Eagles and the Cowboys. Is that something you guys have talked about internally?
A: No, we've just been focused on the process. One day at a time. Just come give it your all each and every day, improve as a unit because all we can control is what we do.
Q: What is it like to be named a team captain? How much does it mean to you? Sometimes, captains are real, real, crazy rah-rah, talk all the time guys. I think you can try to lead a different way. Can you talk about your leadership and what being a captain means to you?
A: It's an honor to be a captain. To have my peers and everybody vote me in to be a captain is a great honor, I guess you can say, because just to see all the other captains in the past are just great players. I always try to lead by example. I feel like I can't be a captain if I don't go out there and give it my all each and every day. That's one of the biggest things that I feel like every captain has to do.
Q: The fact that there are a couple of new guys on the team who are team captains, which is unusual, what does that say about this team?
A: We brought some great guys in who come in every day to work with that work hat on. They just keep grinding. They have respect from all of us and everybody on this team. They're great guys.
Q: You guys have a new defense, new scheme, new coordinator. You're going up against a team on Monday that's got a longtime established quarterback. Are you curious to use this as a measuring stick to see where you guys stand? Are you excited to get started with a new group. Just what's your approach on Monday?
A: My approach is to just go out there and execute the game plan. What we set out to do, those are the things we're supposed to do. I'm going to go out there and execute the game plan, have fun while we're doing it and just be happy football is back.
Q: Does it feel kind of like a measuring stick for you guys as far as where you might be as far as building this new defense?
A: I probably wouldn't say that simply because it's football. Anything is possible. We just have to go out there and give it our all and play.
Q: When you're in there in that tight phone booth with a guy like (Maurkice) Pouncey, how much video do you study of him, even going back to last year but previous seasons? You are head up a lot of the time. Just curious how much do you put into researching anything you can pick up on him on film?
A: Yeah, you watch a lot of film and you try to pick up all the tendencies from each offensive lineman, especially with their interior for me because I'm always on the inside. You always try to pick up as many possible tendencies and things that help benefit you in the game. I watch a lot of film on Pouncey and stuff like that. I'm super excited for this week.
Q: I know we've asked a couple of guys this and we may have even asked you a couple of weeks ago, but you mentioned the artificial crowd noise. Will you guys be curious to see how Monday night plays out? I know you're focused on your calls in your huddle, but what you may hear from the other side of the line of scrimmage may kind of tip you off to certain things that maybe you're not going to get under normal circumstances?
A: I feel like everybody is pretty excited for that part because you're going to hear a lot more things you probably wouldn't hear. But also as part of the game, you may hear some dummy calls, so you can't always focus on what they're saying. You need to focus on your call and execute that.
Q: If you look at the early injury report on the Steelers, (David) DeCastro seems to be somewhat of a question mark, Pouncey is the same way. Do you have to study two deep when you're preparing for guys?
A: I always study two deep because the way the game is, injuries are likely because it's a tough sport. You never know what's going to happen on game day. I always study two deep, always make sure I focus on the main person first but you always have to prepare for the backup to come in and support them, too.
Q: Real simple question. I don't think we really know, we haven't seen this defense get out on the field. What is this defense going to be like? What are your expectations?
A: I just expect a physical defense. We just want to be physical across the board. That's what we want to build our defense around, physicality.
View photos of the history between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.