Linebackers Coach Bill McGovern
December 2, 2016
Q: It has been a while. What are your thoughts on how your position has been playing?
A: We are progressing. Again, we are about two-thirds of the way through the season obviously and we are still a work in progress. You aren’t where you were in the beginning of the year, but after the season is over, then you have a better, true evaluation.
Q: What do you want to improve on in the next five or so games?
A: Everything. No, again, we just want to keep taking our game to the next level. We want to try to keep bettering things, looking at it every game, what things we can get better at, whether it be in the run defense or pass defense, whatever it may be. But there is always something to improve on.
Q: We saw a stretch where the tight ends did some damage against you guys. How did you put that into perspective and what do you need to fix to keep that from happening?
A: It would probably have to be a little bit more specific of what play it was.
A: There are going to be situations where we have to do a better job of matching guys up or we had somebody miss on something or we put them in a bad spot, whatever it may be. But it is one of those things where each week you prepare and you are just trying to get yourself in the best matchups all across the board.
Q: Is there a formula when you have good receiving tight end and great backs? A lot has been made about Le'Veon Bell. Can you scheme it up or is it man-on-man a lot of times?
A: There will be times where obviously it will be man-on-man. But you do try to scheme it up and try to change it from zone or man, doubles, different types of things, but again, they have a number of weapons. It is not just Bell. With Brown and their tight ends, they are a talented group. Obviously Roethlisberger does a great job of spreading it around, so it is a challenge each and every week, but these guys obviously present some challenges and we are looking forward to that.
Q: Anything unique about Bell as a receiver that makes him so effective?
A: I think that obviously he is a gifted player. He does a lot of things very well. He understands running routes, which a lot of guys are used to just coming out of the backfield, but they use him in empty sets and spread him out and he seems to have a good awareness of what kind of routes he is running and what he is trying to accomplish as he is doing it.
Q: How valuable has Keenan Robinson been to that group?
A: I think he has really been a great addition because his intelligence, his athleticism and all that stuff is adding a lot to the room and he has really done a nice job for us on the field.
Q: I am curious from your perspective if you think the defensive line’s performance creates a trickle down that increases the production of your group?
A: It is a good question because it all goes hand-in-hand. I know everyone thinks it is coach speak, but because our guys are having good pressure on the quarterback now, but also the things you don’t see is the good coverage that is going on in the back end, too, like the DBs and safeties doing that. There are some other guys that are maybe trying to step up and draw protection away from them and get them into more single blocks. Everybody kind of works one-on-one and hand-in-hand with one another, but that has been a big thing. It is usually when one group is playing better, then the whole unit is playing better.
Q: What did you think about the line’s performance these last games and if that does keep up, what does that mean for this defense?
A: Obviously it bodes well. If you can put pressure on the quarterback, then that is something that everybody is trying to accomplish. Those four guys in particular and that whole group, whole unit, is really doing a good job of putting pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
Q: Everyone knew Keenan (Robinson) could play. The knock on him was all the injuries. Is there anything you guys have done to manage him?
A: I think it is with everybody that we have on the team. We try to look at each other. I think it goes through the whole organization, through our strength and conditioning, from the training room, all the guys, I think it is guys kind of understanding and taking care of their bodies and preparing that. It is a long grind and we are trying to get guys out there on the field, a number of guys, not just one or two guys, but we are trying to play guys and take some wear and tear off their bodies.
Q: How much has B.J. (Goodson) progressed this season?
A: He has done a nice job. He is getting better and better, but again, you want to try and get him some game reps. We have tried to get him in sometimes, it is just that certain games it kind of dictated that it didn’t work out that way. But he has progressed. He is understanding the defense. There are a lot of little subtleties and nuances that a young guy has to learn, especially in Spags’ system with the linebackers and right now he is getting to them though. You are seeing the light bulb really starting to go on and seeing him starting to improve.
Q: I know that every position has its challenges, but is the MIKE position even more challenging because of all the calls?
A: Well, I am sure that for any position there are going to be adjustments that they have got to make, but again, we have our linebackers make a number of the calls and the adjustments and everything else, so it goes to that position and being the MIKE linebacker, it kind of runs through you.
Q: How has (Kelvin) Sheppard done in that role?
A: He has done great. He is one of the leaders of our defense. He is vocal, he is intelligent, he is showing up on the field, so he has been a real outstanding addition also.
Q: How has it been for you to juggle? You juggle a lot of different linebacker packages.
A: Well, it is not bad for me. As we talk about it as a staff getting ready, I think that has been a little bit of where Spags has done a nice job in terms of trying to mix and match and taking advantage of everybody’s different abilities, strengths and skillsets, but also then it is really a credit to the guys in the room. They understand that we have got a lot of good players in the room and we are trying to get them on the field and maximize their talents and everybody is rooting for one another and are helping to get better.
Q: How has Kennard handled the extra responsibility of being on the D-line also?
A: He loves it. Are you kidding me? He loves it. I think that was one of the things that we mentioned just before, I think we understand guy’s skillsets and we are trying to get them on the field as much as we can and I think nobody would be more prepared than DK. He does a great job in terms of preparation. He loves the challenge of going up there, but he also understands that he can be an effective pass rusher for us, too, and obviously he has always done a great job at outside linebacker for us.
Q: With all the mixing and matching in your group and the fact that they all have roles, does that help you keep the room together?
A: Well, I think again, it goes to be a credit to them. I think it speaks to their maturity and their professionalism. If you asked them individually, they would all want to be on the field for every snap, that is just the natural competitor in all of them. But they understand, ‘Hey, everyone has a skillset and everyone has some certain talents that we can use and we are going to need them as we go through the year.’ They have been willing to accept that everybody is fitting into their role. DK talked to the group and made a point about being a star in your role and I think that is one of the things that really struck a chord with our guys. I thought it was a great talk by DK when he talked about being a star in your role and that is what we kind of ask our guys to do. Hey, whatever we ask you to do, do it as best you can and be a star at what you are doing.
Q: Does that say a lot about Kennard? He is a young guy.
A: Extremely mature. He is a tremendous professional, he is extremely mature, as is that room. For the most part, we have all of them in there. But really it just shows you that he accepts anything. We were talking about it, if you are not talking about this defense, then he has his face in the iPad studying something and trying to find a little bit of an edge.