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REX: It'll Be Tough Sledding in Pittsburgh

Posted Sep 12, 2012

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's morning news conference before the Jets' Wednesday afternoon practice at the Atlantic Health Training Center:

I’m really proud of this young man, Jeremy Kerley, AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. That’s quite an honor. He will receive no gameball because of that honor, but that’s outstanding. Unfortunately for Jeremy, he woke up this morning and has a lower back, so he’s stiff and will not practice today. I asked him, "Did you come down with Pittsburgh flu?" I’m not sure. I’ve seen it happen. It is a very physical football team, but all kidding aside, he does have a lower back. I hope that he’ll feel better tomorrow. He’ll be evaluated and we’ll see how he is. We’re going to list him as limited.

All these guys will be listed right now as limited in practice, but they’re all going to be evaluated before we get to practice, so it could change: Eric Smith with his hip and knee, Dustin Keller, hamstring, John “Concrete” Conner, “The Terminator,” with a knee, and Jeremy Kerley, low back. All those guys are going to be listed as limited. They’re limited right now, but that’s based on pre-practice evaluation, but this is where we anticipate them being. Sione Po‘uha and Stephen Hill will be limited today in practice, Sione with a low back and Stephen with a calf. The guys that will not practice today will be Dennis Landolt, knee, Darrelle Revis, concussion, and Bryan Thomas, hamstring. The following players will be full [participation]: LaRon Landry, heel, Brandon Moore, hip, Mike DeVito with a calf, Antonio Cromartie, shoulder, Chaz Schilens with an ankle, and Nick Bellore, shoulder. All of those guys will be full.

Revis is cleared to resume physical activity [running and lifting], but he's out for practice today. As the week goes on, we're hoping he can progress further and do more things, but obviously we'll follow the NFL protocol and lean on the trainers and doctors, so that hasn’t changed.

This week we’re playing Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh. This is our third time playing them, and our third time playing at Pittsburgh. It’s about as tough a place to play as there is in football. The fans are outstanding. Anytime I go into a stadium, I don’t know why I do this, but anytime I go into a visiting stadium and I’m hearing all the heckling, which is good, I always look at the jerseys. How many different players’ names do they have on them? They have [Jack] Lambert, [Terry] Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Mel Blount. They have Hines Ward. They have Jerome Bettis and then they have a million of their current players. [Troy] Polamalu, it seems like a ton of people have those. Most of the women out there, they’ll have the Polamalu jerseys or the Jack Lambert jerseys, obviously. But you go in there and it’s kind of neat to see. Then, "Man, we’re facing a good football team," with the Roethlisbergers and all that kind of jazz. I don’t know why I always look at them.

I don’t know why I’m bringing that up [laughter], but it’s Pittsburgh, so that’s it. We've had some great battles against these guys, lost two championship games — you don’t forget that. You have to go in there, this is as tough a place as we talk about playing in, and it’s based on the fact that they have an excellent football team and they get after it. They have seven players who are over 30 years old on their defense. You see that. They don’t make mistakes. This past week, they gave up a 70-yard touchdown pass, so uncharacteristic of their football team. Last year they only gave up two plays over 40 yards in the passing game. They don’t beat themselves. They’re smart. Dick LeBeau is a tremendous coordinator. I’ve stolen a lot of things from him. He borrowed some from us, but doesn’t admit it [joking]. I have a great deal of respect for him, but that’s who they are. They’re extremely physical up front. Casey Hampton and [Brett] Keisel do a good job up front, but their linebackers are spectacular. The [Lawrence] Timmons kid is really a guy that's jumping out to me lately, always been a run-hit guy. He’s a tremendous player and Polamalu and Ryan Clark are two big hitters over there. Ike Taylor ... who else am I missing? They’re pretty darn good over there, this just in, obviously, the best defense in the league last year, perennial top-five defense in every statistical category. So we know it’s going to be tough sledding there.

On the other side, you get the day off because you have Ben Roethlisberger [joking]. That’s where it starts. It’s amazing, when you look at his quarterback rating at Heinz Field, I believe it’s 107. He’s tough, there's no question about it. He does a great job in a traditional offense, but he also does a great job staying alive, making a guy miss, extending plays. Then those receivers really come to life. You have to do a tremendous job on them. You can never assume that Ben is down. I think that’s something that over the years I’ve learned, he can make every throw, a big, strong kid and a better athlete than what you think a guy of his size would be.

Very physical football team, huge offensive line. They’re running more two-back runs. It’s more like old-fashion Pittsburgh football, so we have to be ready for that, the running game, so it’s a huge challenge. Interesting personnel when you look at Pittsburgh’s, all that speed on the outside, everyone knows about [Mike] Wallace, but [Antonio] Brown might be one of the most underrated players in football. Underrated, he still made the Pro Bowl last year, but I believe he’s the only receiver in NFL history to have over 1,000 yards as a returner and over 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Obviously, he’s a special talent as well. They have a throwback tight end, who’s the real deal in [Heath] Miller.

It’s a huge challenge, so we’ll see. It’s going to take everything we have and we’ll see what happens. Obviously, we’re going to give that kind of effort and at the end of the day we’ll see if that will be good enough to beat Pittsburgh.

On Revis’ status.…

I’m not really sure. The NFL protocol, there are stages that he has to get to and then it could be limited tomorrow, for instance, and maybe contact, but I don’t think he’s going to have live contact, even if he gets better, until much later in the week.

On what Revis has been cleared for…

Cleared for physical activity, out for practice. We should stay with that.

On what physical activity means…

He’s lifting and running.

On if he is optimistic Revis will play on Sunday…

I hope so, but obviously you have to take care of your player, number one, and that’s the way it should be. Unless he’s ready to go, you don’t put him out there, period. It’s funny, he’s in the meetings and he’s engaged, so that’s encouraging to me.

On who starts when Revis is out…

It will be Kyle, Kyle Wilson will.

On the secondary…

I feel great about our secondary. I think Kyle’s really improved in my opinion. He’ll have a big challenge this week as well. But I like the way Cro [Antonio Cromartie] is, here’s a veteran player, but I think his game is improving. Then obviously he’s got Darrelle and then our two safeties. When you have LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, that’s about as good as it gets. If we can get Smitty [Eric Smith] back, that really helps us.

On the chances that Smith and Po‘uha will play Sunday…

I hope good. We’ll see. I think we’ll learn more about that today, see how they are, and really the next day see how they come back to practice.

On how Smith will fit in to the defense…

We use him like he’s a starter anyway, so it doesn’t matter. We’re going to use those three guys.

On if he has to stress the importance of the game Sunday to the players since they just came off a big win last week…

We’re not overlooking the Steelers, let’s just put it that way.

On if the team is mentally prepared for the game Sunday…

Every Wednesday, I’ll talk about the upcoming game and make sure they understand what I see as the challenges for the week, who they are, the players that they have, what they do schematically, different things. I try to give our players an overall view. That’s with the whole team in there. We talk about special teams, offense and defense. It’s just a quick overview of the opponent and I think I like to do that with everybody in there so it kind of gives them an overall picture of what they can expect. It’s not just one side of the ball is worried about what they do, obviously that’s what their job is, but I like to let the entire team know who we’re up against.

On what he says to the players before the game…

I don’t know. Usually, the night before the game, whatever’s in my heart or whatever, that’s what I do. I’m not going to plan this or that going into it, we’ll see.

On if watching film from the AFC Championship game is any different than watching film from other games…

Well they’re all painful, but that one in particular, you’re one game away from the big game. Obviously, that stings worse than other games, but they all hurt. But you learn from them. You try to go back and you look at them. They’re a little different team, they have Todd Hailey, who is an outstanding coordinator, an outstanding coach. I think he’s now leading that offense, that could be a little different. But you absolutely go back and you look at what they had success against you with. Maybe how they’re looking at you as a team. Obviously, the head man, Mike Tomlin is still there. Those are things you’re always aware of.

On who will play if Kerley is out…

Again, we’ll let this thing play out. Kyle would be our punt returner, and [Clyde] Gates is the guy who would be active.

On the amount of big passing plays against Buffalo…

That was great and I think a lot of it was, our ability to run the football opens up some things in the passing game, I think that was part of it. We had a couple double moves on them, one with Stephen Hill was tremendous. That starts with the protection up front. The offensive line just did a tremendous job in both the protection and the running game. But yeah, that was great to see. Again, will we see it against Pittsburgh? I don’t know. We’ll certainly give it a shot, but they are one of the toughest teams to get a big play against. Everybody knows that [Tim] Tebow pass was in zero coverage. We’ll see if we get that coverage this week.

On if he has different rules for his defensive players going after Roethlisberger…

The big thing about him is you have to be under control. He’s a big guy that shakes off tacklers, so you have to do a tremendous job at tackling. That’s it. But in the back end of the play, you can never assume the plays over. You have to do a great job in your coverage and plastering your receivers down the field. You have to do that, because time and time again he makes huge plays. Whether he’s throwing it deep this way, across the field, wherever. Number one, he’s an extremely talented guy but he’s got an unbelievable knack for avoiding the rush and shaking off tacklers.

On how much the physical play will have to show up on Sunday…

It’s going to have to show up because this team will run the football and obviously, they have a big tight end. You have to be physical. If you’re going to compete against this football team, you have to be physical.

On if the threat of Tebow’s passing success in Denver’s playoff game against Pittsburgh last year is an advantage…

I don’t know about an advantage. When you watch that game, they brought everybody when Tim was in there. Will they have the same strategy? I’m not sure.

On what percentage of the plays made specifically for Tebow were ran on Sunday…

We’re never going to put a number out there. We’re going to leave it as it will always be in the game plan. We’ll see how much we need to use it, how little we’ll do and how much we’ll do. It will obviously depend on what we think is in our best interest. Will it vary from week to week? It probably will, but teams need to prepare for it.

On the team not being taken seriously…

Last year, that’s in the past and it should be. When we got together, that should have been behind us, but I thought, for whatever reason, people wanted to focus on it. We knew we had to improve as a football team and we attacked it that way. It was pretty obvious that our team should be taken seriously when we had 99 percent participation in a voluntary offseason conditioning program, for the entire thing. I think we’re the only team in the league that did that. We probably should have been taken a little more seriously, but again I certainly understand we did not reach our expectations the year before and whether it’s concerning, that’s all fine and dandy. Again, it’s a brand new year and I think I’m wasting my time on dwelling what happened in the past.

On if it looked like Pittsburgh has place an emphasis on getting rid of the ball quickly…

You don’t want your quarterback to take hits, I certainly understand getting the ball out of his hands a little quicker. He’s also such a weapon that he is going to make plays down the field. Todd [Haley] is an outstanding coordinator. He’s going to do what his quarterback does. I think it’s kind of a combination and I think you’re starting to see more of an emphasis on the running game. You mentioned the quicker passes, you’re seeing some of those, but you’re also seeing where Ben drops back and extends plays and tries to get the ball down the field. He has some burners out there and they try to take advantage of it.

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