Bruce Arians, the Offensive Coordinator Pittsburgh Steelers, chats with the media every Thursday during the season. Houston Texans Week (Wk4) was no exception, and following is the Q&A with "BA" and reporters spanning a number of topics:
Are the Texans soft?
"I think Wade [Phillips] has brought a very tough attitude, symplistic approach, attack approach. The same one he's always had. I've been going against Wade for it seems like forever. They're always very sound, solid, and extremely physical. I don't think there's any doubt [he's toughened them up]. Just where he's put the players, what he's asking of them, letting them play free and not thinking a whole lot about assignments just whipping the guy in front of them, and they're doing a pretty good job."
How do they compare to the Colts?
"Totally different structure up front. Totally different secondary as far as man coverage versus zone coverage. A 3-4 defense versus a stunt 4-3 defense. Very similar to us. That part of it is easy to get ready for. Blocking Antonio Smith and those guys, that's a whole different ballgame."
What's you comfort level with the offensive line given the injuries there?
"Fine. These guys have all started ballgames, Super Bowls. We can't afford a rash of injuries, obviously, but the five guys we're starting I've got all the confidence in the world in."
What happened on the audible on the Dwight Freeney strip-sack last week?
"It's not an audible that we call, it's a thing that we do in the running game that Ben has the ability with the receivers… everybody else is running the running play. It's not just that one play, we've had probably 200-yards of passing that were running plays called. If you look, everybody's blocking a run and we'll throw the ball to a wide receiver because of different reasons defensively. That was one that misfired. [The danger of a lineman downfield] is why it's got to come out fast. You'll get called for it."
How tough is it to get Mike Wallace deep every week when he has the success, how do you keep finding ways to get him loose?
"Keep sending him down there, see if they're going to cover him. If they take two that means somebody else is single-covered. I think he keeps surprising people that don't see him a lot. Last year as the games went on, more and more people played deeper and deeper. Both [Houston's] corners have faced him before, Jonathan Joseph in Cincinnati and Jason Allen down in Miami. They know what to expect, but their coach is going to put them in single coverage. That's what they do, they play man-to-man, so they've got a tough job. As long as Mike can stay healthy and keep playing, I think he'll get his yards."
How does Mario Williams look at LB compared to DE?
"It's a hybrid position for him, and standing up just gives him a faster start sometimes into the backfield. Most of the game he's in a nickel position playing his true "end" position, so he is both. But they can move him around in that spot and you've got to know where he's at at all times. You really don't want your backs having to block him as much as possible, because that's a bad mismatch. But he's a tremendous player and we've got our hands full with him."
How often a game do you try to utilize Mike's speed?
"I usually script five home-runs a game and I don't like coming home with any of them not being called. And we'll go back to them every now and then, but that's something that we love to do. We like to throw the ball deep, and I'd like to run the ball a hell of a whole lot better so that we can use that playaction because it's hard to drop back and throw it deep. If you get playaction and your running game is working, then you can get [Mike] deep because you can eliminate some safety play and we've got to run the ball better to continue to get him deep."
What have you come up with in regards to the running game struggles?
"A guy here or there. It's not a major concern right now, we're still young, we're still shifting around, getting to know what these new guys can do. It's one of those things where the passing game is going to have to carry us a little bit more than the running game but we have to get it going. The major concern for me is the goal line. We've been very good in short yardage, we ran out the clock the other night, got 11-yards and got our field goal when we had to have it. But the goal line situation with the new players involved has cost us in the Seattle game. We didn't get down there the other night, but I'm anxious to get back down there and find out if we've got it fixed."
Does Jamon Meredith get a "hat" this week?
"Yes probably. It'll all depend on game-day readiness of the other two guys."
Will you put Redman back in a little bit more this week on the 3rd down stuff?
"It depends on the down and distance, Mewelde has done such a good job and it's hard to take him out of there. He won the ballgame for us the other night, so a lot of it's a matchup on the linebackers if they're blitzing a lot with a big guy, then we like 'Red' in there to pass protect. But I'd like to get 'Red' a few more carries. A lot of it is down and distance, what their blitz tendencies, dog tendencies are, who in those tendencies is coming. Bigger linebackers, we like 'Red,' Mewelde when we can get him out and get him running. He's a good pass protector and he can handle himself but 'Red' is just a little bit bigger, stouter guy."
What do you attribute Rashard's slow start to?
"I think just inconsistencies in all areas, the entire thing as far as line, tight ends, backs. And the number of carries. We've tried to limit some of his carries to get Issac in so [Mendenhall] will be healthy down the road. I'm not concerned with his numbers at this point in time. Our run efficiency has to improve whoever's getting the football. We want to keep him healthy, it's a long haul. If he had 200 carries and 450-yards already, everybody'd say we're running him too much. It's a little bit of a Catch-22, but I'm not concerned with it, he's in great shape and he's more than ready to carry the load."
Will you give Redman more opportunities at the goal line?
"No, it's Rashard's job. There was one play [in the Seattle game where Rashard] bounced a play outside and he actually made the right read. We took him out because he didn't hit it straight up in there, and he actually was right. So, we should have left him in there. He's done too good of a job inside the 5-yard line. That goal line [TD] run against Seattle where he spun and hit it, that was a great run. That's his job."
Do you anticipate having Jerricho Cotchery?
"Yeah I am, I'm hoping that we can get him dressed and get him out there and see what he can do and what he brings to us."
What do you think about Brian Billick saying that "passing is ruining the game of football?"
"[Laughs]. Imagine that. Go back and look at that Vikings game when you were calling them plays at the end of the game against the Falcons. Maybe you ruined it. [Passing is up] because of the rule changes. It's harder to run the football than it used to be. People have gone back to a lot of 8-man fronts and a lot of stunting and blitzing to blow runs up, so it's a lot easier to throw the football right now. And I think with the lockout it's much easier to throw it than it is to run it. Most people think it would be easier the other way, but guys can throw and catch in shorts all the time. It takes a little time to grind out that running game and now with only one day a week in pads, it even slows the process down."
So why are teams coming out in 8-man fronts if it's a passing league?
"Some of it's your personality. When we come into stadiums, they still feel like that's what it takes to stop us. And they give us a lot of 1-on-1 out there. So it's a matter of, hey let's take what they're giving us let's don't beat our head against the wall. The big thing right now is turnovers, we've got nine turnovers. If we had all those possessions ain't no telling how many yards we'd have rushing and passing. And we can't give it away to [Houston], we'll pay for it."
Why are more teams around the league using 2 and 3 TEs?
"Just the flexibility of the positions. When you can have a TE that plays fullback, tight end, wide receiver, he just gives you so much of an advantage versus a defensive signal caller looking, 'Oh here comes a fullback, there goes a fullback, here comes a tight end.' So he's got his best calls for that personnel group, and when you have a tight end staying in there doing all those jobs, it's a huge advantage offensively. The Heath Millers, they're still there, they're the true tight ends in the league. And there are very few Heath Miller types around."