Breaking down the game against Buffalo

Washington, Snell stepping up

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:BUD DUPREE

JUJU GEM

Past article

BY Mike Tomlin

12/28/2019

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Steelers

Breaking down the game against Buffalo, and looking back at T.J. Watt and the 2017 draft

That was a tough, hard-fought game, but we expected that. They are a rough-and-tumble outfit. We have to tip our caps to those guys and congrat-ulate them, not only on winning the game but not blinking and making the significant plays in the sig-nificant moments. That is something that we pride ourselves in, but we didn’t make those plays today. They did. It was a 10-10 ballgame. They got a chunk play to John Brown and that produced a sig-nificant field position switch that they were able to score on that series. And then we weren’t able to take care of the ball as we were trying to move it, particularly as time became a factor. We will learn from this and move forward and get singularly focused on our next opportunity. This one is gone. We lived it. There is scarcity in this business. You only get so many opportunities to state a case for yourself. There are no seven-game series and things of that nature. We respect what transpired tonight. We understand it. There is nothing we can do as we sit here but get focused on our next opportunity. We will do that, I promise you that. 

Q. What did you see on the last touchdown for Buffalo?
They made a quality play. We were playing zone coverage. They had an opportunity. If they got the right play call in and executed, I’d be remiss if I did-n’t acknowledge that they executed in that instance and others. 

Q. What led to the turnovers?

Quality execution by those guys. Not only schematically, but the play. They have a really good defense. We knew that and they confirmed it. 

Q. How tough was the turnover at the end of the first half?
It’s just unfortunate. It is how it goes. Again, we have some responsibility. We will and we are. But when you have a group that played the way that (Buffalo) group played, you have to acknowledge that. Particularly their defensive unit. They really played good football tonight. 

Q. That fumble came from the Wildcat. What made you want to keep coming back to that?

We have been living in that world for weeks, you guys know that. 

Q. What is the mind-set moving forward?

Our mind-set is the same as it has been. We will get singularly focused on our next opportunity at the appropriate time. 

Q. I want to take you back to the 2017 NFL draft. Why T.J. Watt in the first round?

He was a really good football player. We were picking extremely late in the first round, and I just feel when you’re picking that late in the round you look at who can play the game. It’s the same thought process we went through when we picked Cam Heyward late in the first round of the 2011 draft. When you’re that late in the round, you bet-ter trust your eyes, and by trust your eyes I mean what you see on tape. What we saw on tape were the same things that we see here. Maybe he’s not 265 pounds like Bud Dupree or runs as fast as Khalil Mack and guys like that, but that’s probably why he was available. But his tape spoke volumes, and it has continued to speak volumes.

Q. A lot of times when you’re at a college pro day, you’ll ask one of the significant players from that year who will be the significant player from that school the next year. Did anyone recommend Watt?

I didn’t go to the Wisconsin Pro Day the year before. But it was interesting because sometimes you play these games about who you’re interested in. So I didn’t spend a lot of time with T.J. (at his pro day), but I spent a lot of time watching him. I learned a lot about him. He’s not a rah-rah guy, he’s very much into his preparedness and his per-formance, and it was displayed just watching him over a 24-hour period. We went to dinner the night before, we sat across from each other. We were polite but there wasn’t a lot of talking going on, and I appreciate that about him as well.

Q. At a recent news conference, about the fans at Heinz Field, you said, “But more than anything, they inspire us.” Can a crowd really inspire grown men who are professionals?

There’s no question. It’s about their relation-ship with the game of football and with the peo-ple who love football. Often, people will ask me, “What’s it like instructing those rich professional athletes?” They’ve had a player-coach relation-ship all their lives. They play, we instruct. They understand the nature of that relationship, and it’s a very natural thing. The same thing goes for the fans. The players come out of that tunnel, and they’re inspired by the presence and the enthusi-asm and the love they get from their fans, just like they were at their universities or their high schools when they broke through the paper ban-ner that they put back together every week. There are just certain things in terms of your rela-tionship with the game that don’t change no mat-ter what the level of football, and gaining inspira-tion from those who appreciate football is one of them.

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