Read the full postgame transcript from Head Coach Mike McDaniel's press conference on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022.
Q. A couple close endings this season already. Those last two drives – picks off Kenny Pickett and then Noah Igbinoghene gets the toe-tapping grab? What's going through your mind those two moments?
MIKE McDANIEL: 'Hooray.' This is something that we've been making a big point of emphasis within the team on turnover differential. So it's something that we've been focusing on, getting one early, and then at the end of the game when it mattered most to get two more was obviously the difference in winning and losing. So it was very exciting, but on top of that, it was something that we've made a focal point so it was good to see that happen.
Q. What do you think happened with the offense? Obviously they scored 13 points in the first quarter, three the rest of the game. You were bogged down in the red zone. What do you think went into that?
MIKE McDANIEL: There was some — it wasn't one thing. We were doing some good things, and players were doing some solid things. But then there was key mistakes, whether it was a bad play call or it was a guy making a play here or there. We just weren't really coming together. We lacked that rhythm and especially after we had in the third quarter, that first drive that we went for it on fourth-and-3 in the tight red, felt like right after that we kind of hit a lull that we can all learn from because it was like we got punched in the stomach or something. Yeah, it was a struggle to the Pittsburgh Steelers defense, to their credit. They adjusted themselves, and we didn't make the further adjustment, which is something that we'll focus on moving forward.
Q. You mentioned that fourth-and-3. Can you discussion the decision to go for it there and then also the play call?
MIKE McDANIEL: Yeah, so that's something that we'll never — I'm very aware that it's one of those things that if it works, it's a great play, and if it doesn't, you know exactly what you have to — it could be a deciding factor in the game, so you do that. I think at the moment I had some faith in the players and then regardless, you do it, and you don't convert; that's a bad decision because you have points, especially with the way Jason (Sanders) is kicking. It would have been a two-score game. Those are things that you're well aware of when you enter into it. It was something that I felt pretty good about it working out. It didn't, so that's something that I take full responsibility for and luckily the rest of the team had that decision's back, and we were able to come up with a win.
Q. Specifically to that, was it one of those — in terms of your decision-making process, do you have somebody in your ear telling you the analytics behind it and win probability and then you go with your gut, or is it just a pure numbers thing in deciding?
MIKE McDANIEL: No, I have a couple guys within analytics that are in my ear in all those types of situations. In this situation they did not advise me to go for it. So there's plenty of decisions that are made that — it's a balancing act. You take the statistical percentage chance, which is what they're evaluating, and it's one of those things, I think it was a fourth — I think the scoreboard might have said three, but I think it was like a long two and a half, but it's one of those if it's fourth-and-2 they're a lot more supportive; fourth-and-3 the percentages go way down. But that was something that I do pretty much every game where you're balancing that with the momentum of the game and where we were at. I felt really confident that we'd be able to convert. Obviously we didn't. I would have never even entered into that chance-taking process if I wasn't super confident in the way the defense was playing. I really wanted the team to be able to make it a two-touchdown game because we were going to go for two if we were able to get in the end zone and score. It didn't work out, but that's why it's an entire team function and job to win a football game. The defense came through, and we didn't turn the ball over, so we ended up on the winning side.
Q. From a defensive perspective, what are some things you liked about what Josh Boyer did from a planning and then in-game adjustments, especially with all the injuries?
MIKE McDANIEL: No, it was a tremendous plan. We felt pretty good about our matchups with regard to our front and how we could really disrupt them and get them out of the pocket. We didn't really get the sacks that we were hoping for, but you have to be very disciplined with that young quarterback because he is quick and he can make you pay if your rush lanes don't have integrity. I really liked that. I really liked how the plan all week was going to play to our strength and then utilize fundamentals and make them earn everything and be physical. We've been working on a lot of open-field tackling and things like that and getting turnovers, and I thought collectively the entire defensive staff and the defensive players put forth a very winning effort, so it's encouraging.
Q. Tua's performance especially the quick start after missing three games and two full weeks of practice?
MIKE McDANIEL: It's not an easy thing to do because we were on a Thursday night game in Cincinnati when he last played. Those games you don't have full-speed practices. So his last full-speed practice was before the Buffalo game, which was our third game of the season. It's to his credit. If he wasn't so prepared and hadn't put himself in the position of playing quarterback when he was out, he wouldn't have been able to have any sort of success like that because it wasn't like — I mean, it was a legitimate couple weeks where you're not playing football. I think he did a tremendous job. I know he's a competitor and a perfectionist and there was some stuff, particularly in the second half that was getting him frustrated to a degree but did everything it took to win the game, and that's all that matters.
Q. Were you okay with him twice lowering his shoulder in those situations?
MIKE McDANIEL: You know, it's hard. Was I advising him to do that? I think no. I think he immediately the next series after the first time he did it, he was like, 'Coach, I'm sorry. I needed that.' I was like, all right. But it is football, and he's going to protect himself, and he's got that component to his game where he's a competitor and he's trying to get a first down for his team. I'm never going to totally encourage that at all. I'm probably going to advise him to slide every time, but when push comes to shove and a guy has the ball in his hands, it's going to be tough to get him to completely turn it down, although I will try.
Q. Going back to the no-interception, how proud of him are you for that, and what do you think that will do for his confidence?
MIKE McDANIEL: No, it's a big deal. It just goes to show, and it's a great example for the entire team, this is a guy that because of certain matchups that we had going on at the beginning of the year, he didn't start the year dressing. You can go one of two ways with that. You can either let it define you and rattle you, or you can not even blink and worry about the opportunities you do get. I think that's one of my favorite examples of this season because he does his best to ignore the noise, but nobody is oblivious and he really, really wants to do big things in this league, and he's only 22 or 23 years old. He's super young. But I think the whole team really just in the locker room was really excited for him because they know how hard he's worked to get on the field, to contribute, and then to do it at the end of the game, that's a big moment that will always be one of the bigger ones in your NFL career because it's his first game-ender.
Q. Realizing scoring is down across the league, you guys are moving the ball a lot. Your yardage is a lot and it doesn't seem to be reflective in the points. Do you feel that way?
MIKE McDANIEL: Absolutely. No, we should be scoring more points than we are. I think everybody on the team would agree with that, so you have to — there's no just like some sprinkle fairy dust to fix that or it's just not an absolute. You have to identify and address what has been the hiccup when you get in those situations. I think we've had both misfortunes during the year. There's been times we haven't got it in the red zone enough because we are scoring when we're there. In this case we were moving the ball, but things were — we had some hiccups and weren't able to get touchdowns. So the whole deal is to continually progress with your game and make sure that that is not the norm because you don't — it is frustrating for the whole team, and we're not going to be able to just have to out-score 10 points every time to win games, so we've got to find a way to get better at that, which we'll be focused on moving forward.