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Thursday Media Transcript: DC Steve Spagnuolo

Eric from BBI : Admin : 12/1/2016 5:00 pm
Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo

December 1, 2016

Q: The defensive line looks like it has been taking over in the fourth quarter. What goes into that late game dominance?

A: Well, Iíll tell you one thing, most of those guys have done a great job conditioning, so when we get later in the fourth quarter they are fairly fresh or have enough juice I should say, to finish the game and that is important. We have kind of rotated guys in there. I know JPP and OV have played a lot of plays and we actually played more snaps this past game then we had the prior two, we were kind of cutting them down a little bit. The snap count got up there high, but at the end they were juiced up and finished it really well.

Q: What are your thoughts on JPP and how his game is right now and is it at a level that you even anticipated it being at?

A: Well, he certainly had a terrific game last week and look, I think if you asked him, I think he would tell you that he expects that out of himself every week and we look to him to make those kind of plays. I was talking to somebody the other day and sometimes when great players try to fabricate or go create or force plays, they are not the same kind of player, but when you let the game come to you, you let your natural ability take over and I think that is what JPP did a little bit in this last game. Usually good things happen, so we were happy about that.

Q: Was he forcing things a little bit before that?

A: No, that is not what I am saying. What I said is that sometimes great players, that happens and they donít come that way. The point I am really trying to make is he let the game come to himself in this particular game and he made a lot of plays, which is good.

Q: Is there something that he can do now that he couldnít do earlier in the year?

A: I donít know that. If you are asking about the hand and all, I canít answer those questions. That is something you have to ask him, he is the only guy that knows. But we like what he is doing right now and that is a good thing.

Q: How would you describe the step up that the Steelers skill players represent this Sunday?

A: From the standpoint of what we have been seeing?

Q: Or just how good they are on their own.

A: Yeah, John (Schmeelk) just said it to me over there, ĎGood luck picking you poison.í They have got skill all over the place. You try to take one thing away and they will open up a hole somewhere else. But they have been good for a long time. The quarterback makes it all go and when you have a skill guy like Antonio Brown outside and a back like (LeíVeon) Bell that can do the things that he can do inside, it is going to make it difficult for our guys. Everybody just has to do their job, is what it comes down to. Hopefully we will have enough things to change it up to take away what they do really well. Ben (Roethlisberger) is good enough that he is going to figure out what you are taking away and then go use his other tools, so it will be that kind of game all day long. We are going to need a couple of breaks here and there and need some turnovers and our guys need to play fast and relentless and hopefully something good happens.

Q: How important will Harrison be against their run game?

A: Yeah, huge. He has been huge in the run game in every game we have played. He has been such a key component to the way this thing has kind of gelled together and I am not talking about when he is out on the field, as much as when he is off the field, when he is on the sideline, when he is in the locker room. I watch him all the time. He has been the glue. He has been the guy that can get the guys to refocus. You need somebody in the group that will do that and he has been that guy. He has been great to have around here and I guess the run game, heck, he helped in the pass game by hitting running back coming through the line.

Q: Does he make more plays than maybe you thought he would?

A: When he came here, what you saw on film was a guy that could control the middle of the defense and he has been doing that. I think he stepped up his game a little bit in that regard. He used to talk about not having big stats and now he has a few here and there. He would like to get a sack or two more, you know how those big guys are. But no, he is unselfish, he is a team player, he is warrior and he is great to have.

Q: Why do you think a new guy commands so much respect?

A: That is human nature. People walk in a room and there is always one or two people that everyone else gravitates to, whether it is personality, whether it is approach, whether it is confidence or whether it is prior track record. He has all of that and he has been great, he has been terrific to have.

Q: Did you think you were getting that when you signed him?

A: I didnít know him as a person. That is the one thing about free agency, I have always said, unless you have somebody who has worked with the person you are bringing in the building, you really donít know. In this case, there was a lot of research done and we had an idea of the type of person he was, but really just saw most of what was on film and hoped on the best with the other things and he has been great.

Q: Do you see a little more excitement from Janoris this week?

A: He likes that challenge. He will be all over the place. All of them are going to have to be challenged by a great wide receiver, but I know one thing, he does not back down from anything. He loves to compete. He likes competing out on the field here. Remember back in training camp? He wanted #13 to come out to his side because he loves that.

Q: Do you think having gone up against Odell in practice will help him?

A: You would have to ask him. But I think that anytime you can practice against that type of level athlete it helps. We obviously donít go up against Odell this time of the year, but during training camp it did.

Q: Physically, what impresses you the most about Jenkins?

A: Well, his quickness and speed. I think he does a really good job at the line of scrimmage on receivers and he has a great nose for the football. The other thing is a lot of guys can get to where the ball is going to come to, the completion point, but not everyone always makes a play. He always does. He attacks the football. I think he would tell you that he would like to have a few more interceptions on his stat chart. He had a couple here and there. I told him that we were going to do 1,000 ball drills this week. We havenít got that many. But I keep coming back to this, he is an elite competitor. He has got that inside.

Q: Where is B.J. Goodson in his development?

A: He is coming along. We havenít been able to get him a foundation of reps, really once you get in season in practice and we keep trying, I think we got him out there once this past game. Every game we go in, we keep wanting to get him five, six, eight and then building the number of plays. We havenít been able to do that just because of the way the game has been dictated. I think he is progressing well as a rookie and what he has to do, but the position he plays demands a lot, not just physically, but mentally and that takes a little while. It is hard to throw a rookie MIKE linebacker in there. I had one, James Laurinitis did that did it for us back in 2009 in St. Louis, but he was a little different cat. B.J. is taking a little while, but I think he is going to be fine. He has done a nice job on special teams.

Q: Eli Apple has given up some big plays in recent weeks. How much does that concern you?

A: Well, the play that I am thinking about is the play where he came back and intercepted the ball in Cleveland and it didnít go for an interception because he just stepped out. I was impressed with the fact that he had a penalty the play before and the very next play he is out there competing and makes an interception, that is what I look at. He is a rookie, people are going to go at him, he is going to make some mistakes, but I like the way he has rebounded. He is a key guy too. We need Eli out there playing for us.

Q: People look at him and ask why isnít DRC playing above him.

A: Well, they are both in there. DRC right now has been playing inside for us a little bit and we rotate him through. But Eli does some things that fit what we do, DRC does the same. I am glad that we got all three of them. This week you will see different combinations of all three of them and I think it has worked out pretty well for them.

Q: Roethlisberger has been throwing the ball more on time and is getting sacked less. Is that easier or harder for a defensive coordinator?

A: He is getting it out quicker. We charted Ė drop back pass is one thing, but these play action passes that they have which is what I think they are really good at Ė a couple of teams that we have done that on, the quarterback typically holds the ball a little bit long on play action. These guys donít and I think it is a couple of reasons; Ben gets it out quick and the guys running down the field on play action get down there faster and so the routes are developing quicker, so our D-line does not have as much time on a play action pass on first or second down to get to them and I think it has been a really big part of their offense and the reason why they have played so well.
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