Coach Whisenhunt's Monday Press Conference



(on injuries from the game)

Delanie (Walker) is in the concussion protocol. He actually seemed OK today, but that doesn't really mean anything. I guess we'll find out as the week progresses. That's obviously out of our hands. Dexter (McCluster) banged his knee. I don't know other than the fact that we'll see how it progresses during the week. He has a knee bruise, and he had some swelling in there, and that's what limited him in the game yesterday. I don't think there's any damage in there other than just how he's going to progress during the week. We had a couple other nicks, but I haven't had a chance to talk with Todd (Toriscelli) yet. We'll see as they come up.

(on Dexter McCluster's injury)

He tried to go back in. I guess he hit knee to knee on the one play. That's when he went down. When he went back in and he started playing, it had some swelling in it. That's what started bothering him.

(on if Delanie Walker was knocked unconscious)

He was pretty much out of it when I was on the field. I don't know if he lost consciousness, but I know he was loopy.

(on if the hit on Delanie Walker should have been a penalty)

In my opinion, I felt it should have been a penalty. I don't know what his intention was. It looked like he tried to lead with his shoulder. That's a play that has been a point of emphasis for a while now. One of the things that was tough was he led with the top of his helmet, the crown of his helmet, and he made contact with Delanie (Walker's) helmet. If you base it off of those two things, then it's a penalty. I thought it should have been a penalty. I'll talk to the league about it later, and I guess we'll find out at the end of the week which is what their thoughts were on it.

(on Delanie Walker as a defenseless receiver when he was hit and if it should have been a penalty)

I guess the league will make that decision. I'm going to ask them about that. I don't know if I'll get clarification. I think maybe we'll find out later in the week one of the ways.

(on if Zach Mettenberger's face mask was grabbed when he was sacked)

He definitely grabbed his face mask on the one sack on the third-and-seven late in the game. That's what I saw on the tape in watching it today.

(on Justin Hunter's offensive pass interference penalty)

That's a judgment call by the official. Their defender turned and put his hand up, and Justin (Hunter) was trying to make a play to come back for the ball. That's obviously something that goes back to training camp and the whole preseason that we talked about.

(on if Justin Hunter could have done anything differently on the play that was called for pass interference)

He could have had a little better release, would have been the only thing. I thought Justin (Hunter) made a good play in catching the ball. That's the kind of things that we want him to do.

(on how many calls the referees make during games)

It doesn't really matter what I think about that, to be honest with you. It doesn't really matter. What we've got to do is we've got to find ways to overcome those situations. We've had too many penalties this year. We've got to find a way to make a play after one of those things happens and respond better.

(on special teams penalties)

Some of those things are judgment calls. You can look at them on tape. One of those things that you talk to the league about and ask them questions on it. They called a couple on them, as well, so that was something that they saw a number of times yesterday.

(on if Zach Mettenberger held onto the ball too long)

I think that's something that he'll get better at as he gets more comfortable with the position. He did a nice job in a lot of things yesterday. I thought early in the game he really made some good throws. I think a little bit that was underrated was how he handled that environment, especially early, to have the ball for a 15-play drive and a nine-play drive, make some throws on third down and handled the pressures the way he did, I felt there's a lot of positive in that. As the game progressed, as they had a lead and they were playing a little bit more seven-man coverages driving, those windows get a lot harder, especially with the field position. That really hurt us, being bottled up down there inside the 10 a number of times. You have a tendency to be a little bit more careful with your throws. That'll lead you to holding onto it. What we've got to do a better job of with him going forward is getting to the check down quicker, getting the ball out of his hand a little bit quicker.

(on what they could have done differently to improve field position)

We had two third downs. When you get into those situations and you have to flip the field position, you've got to have some type of sustained drive in order to do that. Brett Kern and our punt team are doing an outstanding job with the football. I think they netted almost 49 yards yesterday, which is incredible. They're doing a great job of covering. If we could have moved it a little bit, it would have given us a chance to maybe pin them and with the way our defense was playing, get better starting field position. Back to the third downs, it was a third-and-one where we just missed Kendall (Wright) and a third-and-six where we just missed Chase (Coffman). Those two plays I think were critical for us as far as if we'd been able to convert them. It could have made a big difference for us.

(on if Zach Mettenberger's game struggles impacted his confidence)

I can't say for sure about that. I don't know that I've spent enough time with Zach (Mettenberger) in that position. I don't sense that it'll be that way. I think that he made a really good throw. It was a struggle in the second half with a lot of different things. There was a throw to Kendall (Wright), which is a tight throw over the middle of the field on that last drive, that was a really good throw that he stood up in the pocket and made, and I thought that was a good sign. Even with the way the situation was going, he can mentally stay in it and make some throws. In my conversation with the game, he was disappointed with how it went, but he was very convicted that he could get better as we progressed, and I thought that was a good sign.

(on if he could have made play calls to improve the game)

Nobody's perfect, and I'm sure there were things that I could have done differently in the second half. We tried to continue to run the football and play-action it. I think the biggest thing is the third downs. If we were able to convert those, it could have made a difference.

(on what caused the team to falter in the game)

I know we had a series in there before the last series where Delanie (Walker) got hurt, where we were moving the football. If that play goes the way we think it should have, we're at the 50-yard line, with two minutes left in the half in a position to make points. I don't think that I necessarily agree with you on the standpoint of we petered out. Yeah, obviously, the statistics bear that out, but if you look at that particular position, we got the ball back with a minute and something left, and we had an offsides penalty, and we didn't do anything, really, in the two-minute drive. Yeah, I agree with you on that standpoint. There's no question in that losing Delanie on that play and then losing 30 yards when you add the penalty into it as well as losing a ball that we had on the 50-yard line affected us.

(on if Leon Washington's penalty after Delanie Walker's hit was fair)

It really doesn't matter whether it's fair or not. We're upset. It's something that we can't do. We've got to be smarter about that. I understand Leon (Washington's) frustration, a lot of our players' frustration with what happened. I said it before, I don't think their player's intent was to hit Delanie (Walker) in the head, but that doesn't change the fact that what we felt like we saw happened to him on the field.

(on if Chase Coffman is ready to be a starting tight end)

We'll see how it goes as the week progresses. He's been with us. Who knows that we have three tight ends that are on your roster that are injured that you get to the fourth, but that happens. If he's the guy, then you're expectation is that he'll step up and play.

(on the receivers' consistency)

We had guys open. We connected on them. We made some good plays in the first half. We'll continue to work and get better, that's what we're trying to do with those guys.

(on Avery Williamson's performance)

Avery (Williamson's) doing a nice job for a young player. He played a very good game for us yesterday, and he's making some contributions special teams-wise, as well. You're really excited about the young man going forward, just from how he's playing defensively. Like I said, he played one of his better games yesterday.

(on if Avery Williamson is emerging as a leader on the team)

The leadership thing for a young guy, that's something that you don't want make an assessment on nine weeks in. He has the players' respect, there's no question with how he goes about his job and how he works, and then production.

(on what is holding Bishop Sankey back from taking his game to the next level)

Some of it I think has been the way the games have gone. He started off running the ball really well yesterday. We didn't do as great a job blocking for him as it progressed. I think he's made some good cuts and some good runs. He's growing and learning about that. Some of the things that we're asking him to do is different maybe than what he's done before as far as his reads. That's one of the things that I said earlier in the season before he was starting. I think there's a lot of times where he's very good at making the first guy miss. We've just got to do a little better job with some of our blocks, of finishing those things. Let's also be honest about this defense. They were a good run defense. It's hard to run the ball on those guys. We had some success early, then once we got down, especially with the limited possessions in the second half and where we were, that took us out of it a little bit.

(on if he considered using timeouts at the end of the game)

I think they would have scored a touchdown or tried to score a touchdown there. Then you're down by three scores with a timeout, so I don't think it necessarily does you any good.

(on Shonn Greene's limited carries)

Some of it's package-driven. That's how it is, based on those plays. Like I've said all along, we're going to have a rotation with the backs. We've got specific plays and how we put things in, that's the way we try to keep the rotation going. It's just worked out that he hasn't had those opportunities.

(on if he will use more of the younger players in games)

If they warrant it.

(on if Bishop Sankey will be used in third down situations)

I think Bishop (Sankey) will still get a chance to protect and catch passes in first and second down, as well, as he did in the red zone, which got us down to the two-yard line. One of the things that you try to be consistent with is your protection and working together with those things on third down. Leon (Washington's) gotten most of those reps, and he's done a very good job of understanding, because a lot of times when you play a team that are giving you a bunch of different looks like that time, having a guy that understands that and can do it is important. Bishop's got to be prepared, because obviously with an injury you have to go in there, and he does work at it, but you also don't want to give Bishop every snap.

(on if Leon Washington is rusty as a punt returner)

I think I told you guys earlier in the week they had that wacky kick, and that's why we had two guys out there. We did the first time, and Leon (Washington) had a good return, and we had a penalty on it, which hurt us because we went from the 50 all the way back down to inside our 10. I thought he looked pretty good on that punt return. Obviously, on the one that was down the sideline that we couldn't get to, you can go look at all the other games and see those things pop up. That's why we had a two-man return prepared for it, and when we lost Dexter (McCluster), it took us out that. I don't necessarily think that was rusty when you see a number of other games where that's happening to their guys, too.

(if Shonn Greene's fumble led to his lack of runs later in the game)

Obviously, we weren't happy with that fumble. When you go into a place like that and you have a chance to get a touchdown and get up on them and you fumble, that's not anything that we want. I don't necessarily think it was a matter of punishment, but obviously you're not happy about those things, it can't happen.

(on losing team leaders such as Delanie Walker)

There's no question it has an effect on your chemistry and what you're trying to do. There are a lot of teams in the league that lose players. You have to move forward. That's part of this business. That's probably one of the things that we have to get better at as a football team. I'm not speaking specifically to Delanie (Walker). I am responding to those situations. We came out against a good football team and played well to start. Then we had something not go our way, and we didn't respond to that very well. That's something that we have to get better at.

(on if Pittsburgh will take an approach in the game similar to Baltimore's)

I think the thing that gave us the most trouble was when they didn't do anything from the standpoint of, like I said, dropping the guys in coverage. Where we could have done a better job was get the ball out a little quicker, maybe to the check downs. Those are things that we'll work on. They'll have their own blitz packages, ways to get after us. That's every week that you face. We'll work hard to prepare for that, and hopefully we'll make plays.

(on Zach Mettenberger playing against the Houston versus playing against Baltimore and the team's effectiveness)

It was a different mode. We were down further. Field position played a factor in that. The way they played their coverage was different than the way Baltimore played their coverage. All of those things were reasons as to why we weren't as effective. If you look at it, we didn't go into the two-minute mode until that last drive, which we went into earlier against Houston because of the way the game was. That was where Zach (Mettenberger) got rolling and had a little bit more success. That was part of it.

(on Jason McCourty and the performance of the secondary)

They did a nice job. The two things that I thought they did well, they defended the pass, obviously, and they tackled the catch. That was one of the things that we really felt we had to do a good job of going into the game. With the exception of the one pass they had for the touchdown, they did a really nice job the whole day.

(on if not winning affected Zach Mettenberger's confidence)

I think that this is a good, young class that we have. Not just Zach (Mettenberger). Four of the guys are starting and two of the other ones are playing significantly. That's good for us, but I don't think it's going to be a factor with Zach going forward. I think his background of having played at LSU, played in a tough conference, has prepared him to handle the situation better, maybe, than some other guys. Just his makeup, I think, will help  him be able to handle that.

(on how Zach Mettenberger avoided a safety)

He was actually in the field of play, and it's all based on where he was hit and carried back into the end zone.

(on Sammie Hill's injury status)

He was very close. He had just one thing that moving one direction it was tugging on him a little bit, and that's why he didn't go.

(on watching a young quarterback develop)

I'll tell you this, it was pretty nice when he turned back and threw it across the field to Nate (Washington) for a long gain in the first quarter against a good football team in that situation. It was nice to be able to see him do that. It was nice to be able to see him handle the noise, handle the protection calls at the line and do those kind of things. There are a lot of good things that you're really excited about with Zach (Mettenberger). It's not any fun when you don't win the game for any of us, and especially when you put a lot of effort and time into preparing for that team and going in. I think one of the things that maybe because this team hasn't been there in a while is underestimating how difficult of a place that is. The stadium was full. It's very loud. They have a specific way of playing, which is difficult. To open the game with a 15-play drive and get down there where we should have scored a touchdown, that's a pretty good response. The defense played well, with the exception of a couple of big plays at the end. Special teams did a nice job. If we didn't have that penalty, we would have had a very good day special teams-wise. We're all hurt that we didn't win the game. We all feel sick about where our record is, but if we can progress, if we can get better on some of the things, like responding to the situation that happened when Delanie (Walker) got hurt and doing a better job on those third downs in the second half. When we have different guys in there, we've got a chance to finish the season strong and be a good team.

(on Zach Mettenberger's improvements between his first and second starts)

I don't want to get into what he did better specifically as the games progressed. This is a process that you go through with a young player. I respect the way that he's working at it. We want to see him get better. He started the game better this week, made some good throws for us, had some sustained drives. We were four-for-four on third downs in blitz situations where they came and pressured him. There are a lot of things that we're excited about with Zach (Mettenberger).

(on what finishing strong would mean for the team for the remainder of the season)

We take it on a week-by-week basis, and we go in with the idea that we're going to win the football game. We prepare that way. Our guys have been working hard, preparing hard. As long as we can continue to work that way and get some wins, that's what we want to do.

(on if he discusses a bigger-picture goal with the team)

No. I think we all understand what this business is and what expectations are and that we haven't done what we wanted to do from that standpoint. We're going to work to do better.

(on what an extra day this week will do for the team)

Different people do different things. We're going to keep on our normal schedule for Wednesday and Thursday and then have kind of a recovery day, review day on Friday and then go back to a normal Friday and Saturday on Saturday and Sunday, if that made any sense. It gives us a chance, which will be good for us, to walk through a few things, review a few things, which you don't normally have instead of having an extra day off early and then getting into a normal schedule.

(on the impact of playing a primetime game at home)

Obviously, if you're not excited about playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on a Monday Night Football game, then you shouldn't be in here. I think our team's excited about that.

(on the impact of having the referees at practice last week)

We had four officials in here, and really our focus was on holding, hands to the face, those kind of penalties that have hurt us on first down and put us in those behind-the-sticks situations, so from that standpoint we were better. It's hard to say we were better overall because we had 10 penalties, nine that were accepted, but we had four special teams penalties, we had a couple that were Leon (Washington's) penalty, which was after the play. We had the offensive pass interference on Justin (Hunter). Obviously, we had the delay of game, which weren't going to take a timeout there because it was at the one-yard line. We knew we weren't going to lose more than about six inches. All those factors in, you understand what's going on. From the standpoint of hands to the face and the holding penalties, which have been bad for us, that was better.

(on if he is finished using the referees at practice)

Oh heck, no, they're coming back. My goal is I can say, 'Yeah, we got better.'

(on focusing on all penalties as opposed to only a few)

I'm actually prepared for that. We're missing three (officials), so it's harder to get full-field coverage with only four. Why don't you bring in seven? It's hard to find that many guys to come in and do it.

(on preparing for penalties that are driven by players' emotions)

We talk about it as a group in here in front of the team so everybody is aware of what's going on and the importance of not having those penalties.

(on players showing emotions and defending other players)

I have no problem with our players showing emotion and defending our other players, but we can't get penalties. That's a fine line. I understand that, but those are the things that hurt you.

(on working with Zach Mettenberger to develop his footwork)

I think he's got a good feel for the pocket. Probably a couple of times in the game he could have slid left or slid right and make throw and get the ball out quicker. There are going to be times in the game where you have to hold the ball and make the throw down the field, and that's something that he can do as well as anybody, but there are other times. There was a play early in the game, I can't remember if it was the first or second quarter, where we got a sack that was totally scheme-related. We had a play where we were trying to throw it downfield, they came out in something that we weren't prepared for, they jammed Kendall (Wright) and then he happened to be standing right there where Delanie (Walker) was for the check down. In that situation, what the play was designed to do was to take a shot down the field based on how they were playing coverage, throw the ball at his feet, throw it over the heads out of bounds. Those are the kind of things that you have to get better at in order to eliminate those. He'll get better at it, just from watching and understanding what we're trying to do.

(on if Zach Mettenberger is reluctant to slide in the pocket)

He did it at times in the game. I think part of it is just getting a feel for the game itself. I know when he got sacked the first time when he was looking to the left, that's part of the thing where you've got to shake that off and move forward. We'll continue to work with him, and he'll get better at it.

(on the impact of having leaders in the locker room)

I think we've got a group of guys that care about each other. Like I said, none of us are happy that we haven't gotten the results, but the way they're working in practice, the way they're relating to each other, that's all part of getting past this and moving forward. That's what we're doing. We're working to get better. A win would definitely help, and we're going to continue to push to do that.

(on if he has been with a team that practices well but doesn't perform well on Sundays)

I think there are a lot of different ways to look at that. My standing up here and saying practices are good really doesn't mean anything when you look at the win total. The only thing I can say is that if that continues, we'll get over the hump, and then when we're a good football team you can look back at that and say the reason that we did it was because of the way we practiced. I guess really there's nothing that I can say about that. Have I been with a team where it's like that? Sure. I've been with teams like that, but I've been with teams all over the scope in this league. It's a tough business. You can see that every Sunday.

(on similarities between Zach Mettenberger and Ben Roethlisberger)

I was very lucky to have worked with Ben (Roethlisberger) when he was a young player, and I'm excited about working with Zach (Mettenberger). We'll just leave it at that.

(on the success of Ben Roethlisberger's career)

When you win 13 in a row as a rookie, I think your expectations of him having a pretty good career would start right there. He overcame some bad coaching early in his career to have a successful one.

(on Al Woods filling in for Sammie Hill against Baltimore)

Al (Woods) did a nice job, and DaQuan (Jones) got in there and played a little bit, too. DaQuan was a little bit rusty and played a little bit stronger as the game went on, which is what you'd like to see. Al did a nice job early in the game of being disruptive and making some plays.

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