Two veteran leaders of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense spoke at length after the team's 20-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Here are those conversations from Cleveland Browns stadium with S Ryan Clark and NT Casey Hampton:
How tough is this one?
"S***, we lost man. I feel bad, I feel terrible. Despite all the turnovers and everything we had a chance to win at the end. That's all you can ask for, we just didn't get it done. That's about it. It's tough, man. As bad as we played, we still had an opportunity to win at the end. We just couldn't pull it out. It's tough."
How were the battles with Browns RB Trent Richardson?
"He ran the ball OK, man, he wasn't nothing major. Nothing we haven't really seen or nothing we really had a problem with. Just a bad day over, man, s*** was just going bad the whole day."
How is team morale?
"We're going to be all right man, we're mentally tough. Everybody in this locker room man, we're going to be together. We're going to fight, we're going to fight for each other. It's team. It's a team, and we're real close. Nothing can faze us, and I can't see this fazing us either."
Are you close to getting some players healthy?
"If guys get healthy, if they don't get healthy, we've got to find a way to win. Ain't no question about that. You can't count on guys who you don't know if they're going to be there or not. We have a good enough football team to win those type of games. We've got to do it. We've got to take care of the ball, and we've got to force more turnovers on defense. Just like they did, however many turnovers they got, we've got to do a better job of getting turnovers ourselves. It goes both ways."
How do you turn it around?
"Just have to keep grinding man. We've got to do what we've been doing, man, we aren't that type of team to try and do something different. Just get better."
Can your team win without Ben Roethlisberger?
"Yeah, I think we can. I mean, you play with a quarterback with no ribs last week, and this week you turn it over constantly. And it's wasn't Charlie [Batch] continually turning it over, it was everywhere. You have to step up around him. Defensively, you have to make more plays to get them the ball in good position. By Cleveland keeping the ball where they wanted, we didn't force Brandon [Weeden] to have to make any plays. We didn't force him to have to go downfield to give us the opportunity to make plays on him. I thought he was smart with the ball. They continued to give it to Trent. And we didn't get it out enough for our offense."
On the game starting well, taking a 7-0 lead:
"It started off with a bang, it started good. Lawrence [Timmons] has been playing extremely well and he's been making those impact plays. It was awesome, Keisel gets the tip which he does all the time and Lawrence capitalized on it. We felt good going in, that we could stop their offense. And that we could do good things against them. And overall, I felt like we did. We were on the field a lot, but we needed one more play. We needed something else to help out our offense and we didn't."
How does 8 turnovers by your offense affect your defense?
"You just run back out there. You just smile at a couple of Cleveland fans as they scream obscenities and you run back on the field. Give them a few winks. But you go back out there with the mentality that you're going to stop them."
On Trent Richardson's decisive TD run:
"I missed a big tackle down there on Trent's touchdown. I thought he was going to go outside and he cut it back in. That's why defense has to fit together. Maybe if we force a field goal the offense can have a different mindset in the way that they drive the ball, not having to get a touchdown. Maybe coach Haley can call different plays to get the ball down the field. It all works together. And when everybody isn't doing their part, this is what you get. You lose to teams that shouldn't beat you."
How big is the Baltimore game next week?
"They're all big. We just need to win. If we were playing Clairton high, trying to break their 60 game win streak, we need a win. We need to play well, and it's not going to be easy. It's a very tough place to play against a very good team."
What does this loss mean?
"You lose one game in Pittsburgh and the sky is falling. It's just part of the culture. It's part of winning six Super Bowls. It's part of going 12-4 three out of the last four years. We're a spoiled bunch, and overall we've become entitled. But you can't be entitled, just walk into places and expect because you're the Pittsburgh Steelers you're going to win. You need to execute. And we haven't been executing. Do we need to win next week? Without a doubt. We would have needed to win next week had we won this game. But around here, we need to make more plays. Defensively, we need to find a way to find our offense out and we didn't do that today."
You're not a team that is known for team meetings…
"Still won't be. It's not going to be a players-only meeting. We are not going to get together and sing "Kumbaya." We're going to try to figure this out. We're going to go to work the same way we go to work when we win the game. Find ways to get that one play. I kept saying that all game, 'one more play, defense, one more play.' And we didn't produce that. No matter what happened offensively, had we produced one more play we have a better chance to win."
What will it mean to get Roethlisberger back?
"We don't know when he's back, though. Ben's a special player. If you look at the AFC Super Bowl representatives the last three years, there's three names: Brady, Manning, and Roethlisberger. So whenever you're included in that group you're a special guy. We know that. We need to find a way to win games without him. It's going to be tough. There's a reason he's a franchise guy, but we can't lean on that. We can't put the pressure on him to come back early or to come back when he's not healthy. We need to win games so he feels comfortable rehabbing and getting to a point where he can come in and be the Ben that we need."