Gilbride: You have to be on top of your game. I grew up fishing. When I was in Houston, that’s what we faced. Everybody in our division did it, from the Steelers, to the Ravens, to the Browns at the time. So, it’s a well-designed scheme, they do a great job of seeing how you’re protecting and then they attack very intelligently. Then they mix it up with a very good, complimentary package. You have to be at your best. The good thing is they mix it in with some two-man. Which is, if you’re lining up to defend against the blitz all the time, all of a sudden, you’re holding these guys in and they’re playing two-man coverage while you’re sitting there, holding the ball. So, there’s a reason they’ve been good for a long time.
Q: Does it help having so many veterans? How does that help them?
A: Well, there’s a reason for it. It allows them to have a lot more flexibility and their ability to be adapting from week-to-week, based on your protection schemes. So, there’s no question that they’ve utilized the cumulative intelligence that they have over there. They do a nice job.
Q: You look at these two franchises, four of the last seven Super Bowls have been won by them. Obviously, Eli and Ben. Is there something about those two guys that makes them winners, or helps the team win?
A: You know, it’s funny. Their styles are different, but they’re both very talented players. I just think, speaking to our guy, he’s a hard-working guy, he’s an intelligent guy. I’ve always asked a lot of the quarterbacks, as much as they can handle and he can handle a lot. I think he does a great job of deciphering what’s going on and is able to get our guys either a good run or a good pass, or adjust the protection accordingly. Ben is very physical, very unique with his size, arm strength and he’s able to perpetuate plays because he’s hard to bring down. You have two very talented quarterbacks and that’s a great place to start.
Q: Both teams seem to be, “let’s run the ball, and see how that combination of balance-”
A: Yeah. Both teams have become more passing teams in the past few years. That’s when they’ve had their success.
Q: When you talk about how impressive they are, how important is it for the wide receivers to get open really quick and releasing off the line for this game?
A: I don’t know that it’s more so this game, than any others. I think they’re going to get a challenge from these guys who are very physical, their DBs. They do a great job of getting up in your face and trying to slow you down from getting off the line of scrimmage. So, you have to do a good job of technically getting off. Obviously, the longer it takes, the more time the quarterback is holding the ball, and the more effective the pass rush is. We’ll have our hands full. They do a nice job.
Q: With (
A: We go in, waiting to see how he feels on game day. The nice thing is, because he’s not practicing a lot, you get a lot of practice time for those other two guys. It’s giving them some exposure that they might not normally have gotten in a practice week, and you hope that when the game comes, that if you have to use them an extensive amount, that they’re able to handle it. Certainly, Andre is looking like he’s making the strides necessary. David’s coming along, he’s still a little bit behind in some areas, but he’s improving. So, the more that they expand their knowledge, the more confidence you have that you can depend on them and not just limit their roles.
Q: You saw Nicks do once-a-week, now you’re seeing Bradshaw do it. Is there a difference between a wide receiver doing it, and a running back? Is it more detrimental to a running back?
A: You saw it the other way. You saw Bradshaw for the last few years, now you’re seeing it with Nicks. That’s a good question. I don’t know, because both have such demands, physically on movement that I guess it comes down, when you have enough command intellectually, and you have enough technique, and then you’re not held back by not practicing. I think everyone suffers when they’re not out there. They are both plugged in mentally. They’re both very, very attentive. They very much are involved intellectually in trying to grasp the things necessary to get themselves ready for the game. So, from that standpoint, I think they’re doing the best they can, but it’s never as good as doing it. There’s no question. Really, Hakeem has missed all of spring, all of camp. He finally got going in the Tampa Bay game, and then he got hurt again. So, there is no question that it’s slowed down what he’s able to do. Of course, being able to only practice once-a-week, and even that, it’s limited what we’ve asked him to do with. It’s about helping him. He’s doing the best he can under those circumstances. That’s all we can ask.
Q: Polamalu is going to miss his fifth game. So, he’s missed more than he’s played. Do they do things differently without him?
A: A few, not much. I think that he’s just the wild-card in the thing. I’m not sure that he’s actually doing necessarily what was designed for him to do. I think he just kind of freelances out there. He has a great feel for what’s going on, his anticipation is unbelievable. Sometimes, when he’s supposed to be over here, that’s the design of the defense, then all of a sudden, he felt the play was going over there and he ran over there. Usually, unfortunately for most offenses, he’s right. He makes a lot of great plays. I think you heard (Steelers Defensive Coordinator Dick) LeBeau’s acceptance speech into the Hall of Fame. He gave great credit to Ryan Clark for the difficult job of getting Polamalu lined up. He’s a phenomenal player, has much talent that’s hard to deal with. It’s the unknown of, he should be over here, why is he over here? He does a great job with that. Some of it is disguise, some of it is just intuitive feel for, “I think the ball is going over here, why am I going over there?” He just goes there. Usually, he’s right.
Q: Are Nicks and Cruz best when they’re both on the field?
A: No question.
Q: How does that manifest itself?
A: One is an outside guy and obviously he can contribute much more significantly when it’s single-high and that’s the thing. When they go to high, you have to depend on Victor to win when he goes on the inside. We can switch up when we do some things. For example, last week was a lot of two-man. Your inside guys are the guys that have to win for you and usually when they’re playing very, very well, that causes them to make an adjustment. Now, that gives Hakeem his chance to do well. Last Sunday, probably out of the 65 snaps, I’ll bet you 50, we were against a two-high. There’s no question that they play off each other. Sometimes, you get to the point like last year when those two are playing really well. It’s not necessarily a double, it’s certainly a focus on those two and that’s where that third guy has to come through for you. Like last year, when Manningham did such a nice job for us, because of what was happening.
Q: Going back to that game-winner against the Redskins, on the transcripts, Hakeem indicated he knew Victor would be clear. What does that mean?
A: Well, you hear them say it’s too high. Really, it’s cheap two-high. The safety has been sitting down all game long. We just hadn’t timed it up right. Where the safety is two-high on the right side, but to his side, they were dropping the safety down. So, it’s what we call quarters coverage. It’s a zone, but he’s zoned off not to play the traditional two-deep. He was trying to play anything intermediate. So, when he’s the outside receiver, he saw the safety drop. He knew he had one-on-one with the corner, but he also knew that there was going to be a great chance with our streak package. That’s the first option. If you just have the intermediate route, but not on that particular play, the first read is to run through. As soon as the safety dropped down and the nickel is here, it was like a double, but then they’re flat-footed. So, he just split it.
Q: Hakeem knew that from across the field?
A: Well, he was on that side.
Q: He was on his side? So they worked out…
Q: It’s like rocket science.
A: Well, it’s where you start. I know it sounds complex, but if that’s all you start, that’s all you do. In certain packages, that’s what we do. That’s the stuff that … 25 years in this league. That’s how we always start it out. So, when that component was called, you’ve got a chance for a big play. If what we called was a hook route, they would have played it perfectly. He would have dropped down, with one guy inside and one guy outside. We guessed right on that one.
Q: That unspoken communication between the receivers and the quarterback, do the best of the tandems know what each other is doing as well?
A: They should, because they know based on the coverage what the response should be. So, as they see what’s happening, they’ve got to see the whole picture with the guy over there, but also the safety and the nickel inside. They know why this, they probably get the ball if the quarterback is reading this right or the ball is probably going to the other person. So, I don’t necessarily think they know what the other one is thinking. They should be reacting the same way. It should be a coordinated reaction.
Q: Halfway through the regular season, how would you assess the offense as a whole?
A: As a coach, you’re always looking to see everything. We didn’t have a great game, so this is not a great time to be asking me. If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would have said we’re playing great. We didn’t have our best game this last week and I certainly have to give Dallas a lot of credit for that. I think we certainly had plays out there to be made. You’re always looking… I think we’re protecting very well, I think we’d like to be more consistent in running the ball. I think we’ve been good in three of them. Two and a half of the last four games, which has been good, but we didn’t beat the two-high in coverage last week in the way in which we had phenomenal success in the past. So, you’re asking me something that’s been tainted by the last game. When you’re top-three or four in the league, you think we’re doing a lot of things right. You’re never content and you always want to get better. I think we can be better in every area, to be honest with you.
Q: Getting open versus the scheme that they have, Nicks said that he feels much more confident in his knee than he’s ever felt. How important is that? Maybe show it on Sunday, that he’s improving?
A: That’s the key thing. We’re going to see it on Sunday. Hopefully, we will. I think the more he feels better, the more he’ll be able to play up to his full potential. When you have Hakeem playing at his best, he’s a formidable force to deal with out there. I don’t think we’ve seen him at his best, except for that Tampa Bay game, when he’s starting to come back, then he got hurt again. It was a big setback.
A: Some guys transition much more quickly. I think in certain things, based a lot on their experience in college. What was asked of them? Certain guys were asked a lot of things and they transition more easily to the pro game. So, the guys who are just tailback runners, you don’t have to catch the ball much, they don’t have to pass protect much, and of course, that’s an intricate part of what we do here.
Q: Was there anything in the scouting up to the draft that you can pick up? Maybe through the testing, how well he may pick up?
A: I think that’s part of it, yeah. It’s not an exact science. I think you’re trying to project who can transition quickly, but also who is going to be the significant contributor not just right away, but down the road.
Q: Is your tackle situation staying the same?
A: I don’t think we’ve made a decision, but they’ve pass protected very well. They’re doing a pretty good job. So, it’s hard to make a change, because of that. We certainly appreciate all the things that David brings to the table.