Q. I imagine the Monday review of the previous game can take on a lot of different tones, with you holding the microphone, so to speak. Maybe instructive and business-like, or maybe emotional and angry. What did the team need from you the day after the opening loss to the 49ers?
A. Aside from the performance and the result of the performance at the early portions of the journey, one of my primary objectives is to teach, to instruct, to make sure that they understand what we’re trying to get done. And so I probably would’ve had that spirit regardless of outcome. So I was outlining what we do on a Monday, we assess what happened, and we’re accountable for what happened. Secondarily, we review our process. What led to the performance? What did we do last week? What do we emphasize? What do we not emphasize? What do we physically rep, what do we walk-through, what do we run-through? And so we assess our process from the previous week in terms of the performance it produced. And then lastly, we make some broad plans about what the next prep process that leads to play needs to look like. And so that’s what a Monday is for us, win or lose. Obviously, based on that performance against the 49ers there were some discussions to be had, some things to analyze, some things to own, and we did that.
Q. Is it possible to use anger as a teaching tool, or in situations like that does emotion tend to get in the way?
A. It just depends on variables, such as the when, the where, the who. No question, emotions are a component in this game. Emotions are a component of teaching and getting attention in this game, but you’ve got to be thoughtful and intentional about it. If you go to the well too often, it dulls the edge of the knife.
Q. So then could you compare using anger to using padded practices during an NFL season, where it’s generally best to pick your spots carefully?
A. Very much so. Very, very similar discussion in terms of the thought process. You’ve got only so many bullets, and you don’t want to waste them. You want to be really intentional about utilizing them.
Q. Do you spend any time or energy on the “why” things unfolded as they did, or is the time better spent on working to correct the things that did happen?
A. Both. Again, based on where we are in the journey, the “why” is a component of education. And win or lose, good performance or bad performance at the early stages of the season, you’re teaching and they’re learning. We’re growing through intellect, through knowledge, through the increasing of knowledge individually and collectively.
Q. On a couple of occasions during your news conference on Tuesday, you referred to “our agenda.” Did that refer to the day’s specific game plan, or was it more about what you want the team’s general principles to be in terms of how you want to play ball?
A. Really, it’s both. We have a desired mode of operation that could be evident in any game and then there are some game plan specific things that are dictated by matchup, environment, etc. And so in this week’s agenda, we’ll have some things that are in any week’s agenda, but we’ll also have some things that are really specific to this week.
Q. Your rookie class showed a lot of promise throughout training camp, and those players also had some nice moments during the preseason. What is involved in getting rookies onto the field once you get into the regular season?
A. Oftentimes it’s not necessarily what they do. It’s opportunity, things around them, and that’s just the truth of it. When you lack depth in competition, oftentimes rookies are thrust into starting roles and opportunities. When you have a good team and high quality competition and depth, they have to earn it. Or the attrition component of play creates more opportunity. Cam Hayward is down, so Keeanu Benton is going to get an opportunity to play more, etc. And so those are the main venues in which a young guy gets on the field when the regular season action starts. And there’ll be examples of all of the above, particularly at the earlier stages of this.
Q. If you remove the injury component, is the process of getting rookies playing time more about them or more about what the players around them will need to be able to do because the rookies are playing more?
A. It’s both. You don’t put a guy on the field unless he’s ready, and so that’s a baseline component of the discussion. And then secondarily, there’s an opportunity component. Experience is relevant, and most of the time those who have it have a leg up particularly in September-like football when you oftentimes just want to work to minimize negativity. When you do that you give yourself a chance for good performance.
Q. You acknowledged the communication problems the defense had last Sunday. Can those calls be simplified, or does it have to be a case of communicating the calls more efficiently?
A. They can certainly be simplified, but that’s a band-aid and not a cure. In the National Football League, there are certain complexities that you have to have if you’re pursuing greatness, particularly if you’re playing good people, and they aren’t simple. And then also, we can just do a better job of communicating. We had a lot of new people, new to Pittsburgh, in that group. Understanding what it means to play defense in our home venue, there’s no substitute for experience, and they better grow from last week’s experience because it gets no easier with Monday Night Football in this venue this week.
Q. In the past, you have said that there are times when what you say to the media on Tuesdays during your weekly news conference contains messages that you will deliver to the team when the week of preparation begins. Did your decision to refer to Cleveland’s running back as “Mr. Chubb” fall in to that category?
A. Most certainly, and that’s just a point I’ve been using to illustrate experience and expertise and things that you need to respect, particularly at the early stages of the season. A week ago, there was a veteran special teams player for San Francisco by the name of George Odum. I referred to him as Mr. Odum because I wanted the rookie special teamers to realize that when you’re competing against that guy, he’s a guy who has many years of experience and 21 special teams tackles a year ago. And since you’re just acclimating yourself to the game, you better respect that component of it. And so, I just used that same reference transitioning to this week to make points to the new defenders of the nature of this matchup and how significant he is in it.
Q. About Browns defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, you said, “He fits them.” What were you referring to there?
A. He’s a four-man front coordinator. That’s his resume. That’s his experience. They have elite four-down personnel centered around, of course, Myles Garrett. And so it didn’t surprise me that Coach Kevin Stefanski went out and got a guy who has expertise and experience in the area that fits their personnel.
Q. A lot of defensive coaches who build a reputation for bringing pressure on opponents have a signature way of doing it, with fire-zones or zone-blitzes having been Dick LeBeau’s signature. What is Schwartz’s signature?
A. I hesitate to answer that because he sat out, and oftentimes when a coach takes a year off they’re redefining themselves schematically in some way. Prior to him sitting out, he was a four-down-lineman rush and coverage guy, no doubt. In his days in Tennessee and so forth in the past that’s how he functioned. But I’m always hesitant, I’m always light on my feet and prepared to adjust, particularly when someone’s coming off a sabbatical, if you will. There’s a redefining that usually comes with that. And so we better not paint with a broad brush and assume that the Jim Schwartz of old is going to be 2023 Jim Schwartz. I would imagine that was a component of what transpired last week vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in terms of how that game unfolded.
Q. How do they utilize Myles Garrett?
A. He does what he does. He’s an edge guy. He’s elite. They move them around left and right to make sure that both offensive tackles are prepared to block him and to minimize maybe some chip and body position help, because if you know where he is all the time you can minimize him in that way. So they move them, but their past coordinators have done that. And last week, you saw him inside a lot in an effort to get him in some individual matchups on interior lineman. When you’ve got a special player, you try to make sure that as many of the offensive linemen have to prepare for him as possible in an effort to protect him, to minimize double teams, but also to challenge the opposing group. That’s what they’ve done, and that’s what I see them continuing to do even under the leadership of Jim Schwartz.
Q. In last year’s regular season finale, you got a look at Deshaun Watson in a Browns uniform. That day he completed 65 percent of his passes , with 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and a passer rating of 84.0. Beyond those statistics, what do you remember about the way he played that day?
A. His ability and willingness to extend plays, and it is a full-time job staying after that guy from a rush and coverage perspective. He makes a lot of plays when things get extended. We’ve got to be cognizant of that. We can’t allow downhill escape lanes from a pass rush perspective. And we’ve got to do a good job of covering extended down the grass because of his willingness and his abilities in those areas.
Q. Do they have designed running plays for Watson, or does he usually end up running the ball as a result of his escapability and improvisation?
A. It’s small body of work, but you know that is a component of their personality. He has talents in that area, and I’m sure they’re gonna come and play and play to win. And so particularly in the weighty moments, certainly we’ll be prepared for the designed quarterback running game. You know, he is a big component of what they do in all circumstances. And so the ball in his hand is something that we better be prepared for, run or pass.