Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams:
On DB Damarious Randall's versatility:
"It is very valuable, but again one of the things that points out – when I tell you guys this I mean it – is that every guy, everybody on our team, every defensive player has to play more than one position. Position flexibility improves your chances of being successful in many ways. I really liked him coming out. When I was with the Rams at that time, we really liked him and would have loved the chance to coach him. At the safety position that he was playing in college, I think (former Packers defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers) and (Packers Head Coach) Mike McCarthy and everybody had him playing at the corner and nickel position up there, and I thought that is even a better position flexibility. When we had a chance to get him back here, we have been doing that since OTAs, mini-camp and training camp have been playing him in that position quite a bit and practices and stuff too. When the chance arose, we have to get ready to roll. It is the next man up. It is not only him. Each week, each day in practice guys are forced to go in and play other positions. As a coach and as a player, we concept teach and we concept learn. If you are challenged in that way, you will have a hard time playing for us because you have to understand the concepts of the call, the concepts of the scheme and the concepts of what we do and now next man up, best guy up."
On how Randall played last week:
"He played well. He played well. One of the things that caught my eye was last year when he played against us here last year when he was at the Packers. I was watching during the game. A couple times during the game, I am thinking wow. Then the opportunity for him to get here once that discussion came up back in the winter. I was all for it because I saw how well he could do those types of things. He had battled through injuries. That is the toughest part of the position. Everybody here has some type of a nick or something that is aching. I ache every day when I walk in here. That is just part of our business and you have to be able to fight through those things. He does a good job with that as do a lot of the other guys that we have. The position flexibility helps."
On DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun playing every snap on defense last week:
"Oh, it was a lot. It was a lot from the – fortunately, he was fresh. Not only that, but with all of the special teams plays, too. I think (Head) Coach (Hue) Jackson and (Vice President of Player Health and Development) Joe Sheehan as done a really good job of we have battled all year long on playing the most plays in the National Football League. We have played the most plays with all of the overtimes. Some of the things that you have to do to get your bodies right and get them back to recover and bounce back. Boddy has done a good job with that. These guys do a good job with all of the facilities we have here for recovery and all the things they can do to prove recovery. He played well. He did well, but he has been doing that. It was not something that we were shocked. He is playing and practiced in all of those positions, too. He played multiple positions in the game, too, not just in one position. I said this last week is that when it is all done, he thinks he wants to coach. I think he has a very good understanding about how to do those types of things and do more than one thing."
On how Steelers RB James Conner has improved from Week 1:
"Until you get a chance to be in live competition, you do not really know completely about a guy. I was very impressed in the opener. The first words out of my mouth when the advance scouts came back in and gave us the report last Monday night – we always meet on Monday night after a game to get a jump start going into the Tuesday game planning and stuff – I have watched a ton of film on him in the afternoon last Monday, and he looks fresh, he looks better and I think he has even improved since the first game that we played against him, and that is through experience. I think his quickness and his feel in space plays. He is doing a really good job, an even better job in space than what he was doing coming into our game. I thought he pressed the hole. I thought he was a dominant powerful runner, and he has improved in his pass game. Time on task for him. We have our work cut out for us. We are going to have to do a good job. He has played very well this season, and it is also good in the back of my mind that it is good to see guys overcome a lot in life that he has had to overcome. I shake my head. Those are the kind of guys that I have even more respect for – the guys that push through, do whatever it takes to overcome a lot of adversity and in life and then also have a good chance to be a good football player the way he has been doing it. He has grasped the moment, he has tackled the moment, he has done a good job with the moment and he is improving."
On the Steelers coming off a bye week:
"Yeah, it is always that way, and we look at that as a schedule as we plan as coaches too. We think we want to try and cover everything, but it comes down to the day of the game and playing on the day of the game. We think they will come out energized, and that has been a part of what we talk about from an analysis part of the fuse. As we situationally coach and we situationally talk about everything, even in fact today, we do a report today and spend time in practice and periods today on how we believe or how we are guessing that they are going to start the game. How they do and how we guess that they are going to start the second half. We do an analysis on that, and they will be energized. We have talked about we have to match and pass that energy. It is that way every year. When you are coming off of a bye date, somebody will have to do that to us later on when we finally get one."
On the incomplete pass that was reviewed as a potential DB Denzel Ward strip-fumble:
"I thought he made a really good play. Those are bam-bam-bam-bam type things, and he has a really good feel for that. We just talked about with Connor, these guys that all of a sudden there is a shock wave when they come into this league with a pace, the decision making, the speed and the reaction times and stuff. I thought it was a really good play he made, and then what we have to do now is he has to continue to fight through some of the other things that he only sees for the first time this year. There are things I can't cover in practice that all of a sudden come up in a game. You have to be able to react to that and grow from that, and he has been doing a good job with those things. He really has."
On if it is uncommon for a young player like Ward to be as successful producing takeaways:
"No, but I say that no because he has done it at every level. I do say this – not going into scouting or anything but I always shake my head when they ask me this in scouting season – a guy who has never intercepted the pass, who has never taken a ball away in high school or college and all of a sudden you think he is going to do it when he gets up here just because I am talking to him? The ones that are good at it have always done it, and he has always done that. That was one of the things that we went all the way back and talked to junior high coaches and talked to little-league coaches because he is local here, too. That does not surprise me that he is that good with it. He is very good at some other things that did surprise me on his ability to battle. Up in the air, strong in the air, in the back parts of end zones and on those things, he is a lot stronger than what I gave him credit for when I was evaluating, and I would not know that until I got a chance to feel his presence on the field. Once I felt his presence on the field, now I am asking him to do more. That is just more of up. He is very good with that."
On how Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster has improved from last season:
"He is making faster decisions himself. What I see, he is not over analyzing certain things within a route and stuff, but the biggest thing is the chemistry with the quarterback. The quarterback confidence in him, the quarterback throwing him open and that feel of they have had enough time on task together where they know what each other is doing without making an obvious alert or an obvious signal. I see that with better communication."
On keeping the team from making officiating an issue or focus, given some Browns players' comments on it:
"I will you tell this – I talk about it daily, I really do – I do not want to hear their excuses. I do not make the excuse. I do not want them to make the excuse. Everybody is going to make a mistake. We have to play. We have to do our part. That particular play (when the false start was not called) that has been talked about along, I am hot at how we handled the play, not how the referee handled the play. We have to finish the rush. We stopped rushing. We stopped finishing the coverage. You have to finish the coverage. We have had over 100 snaps like that. We had one of them in practice today. You guys were not out there, but I snapped on them today. We had a false start by one of our offensive linemen and our guy stopped in the rush. You do not stop in the rush. You keep going. You have to finish the play and let them call the play dead. No excuses. We have to do our job. It is hard. The other thing too that you see is that as the game has evolved. After 30 years I have been in the league, the game has gotten faster and faster and faster and faster. It is not easy for those guys making those decisions like that. It is not easy. There are not a lot of places to practice other than time on task here. You can practice all that you want in the SEC and you can practice all that you want in high school. It is not that fast until you get up here. I understand some of that. Those guys are doing everything they can to get trained more. They go behind the scenes and do a lot of more training things and spend more time in training camps before they have to make the full-speed decisions, but it is not easy. We have to do our job. They have to do their job. That is what I preach to our guys."
On if the Browns have changed practice techniques with officiating as it relates to dealing with adversity:
"No, we are not. That is a good question, though. I have been in the luxury for a long time. (Washington Redskins Owner) Dan Snyder did a good job of that when I was at the Washington Redskins. We had officials all of the time at practice. (Former Redskins Head Coach) Joe Gibbs wanted that. They had not done that until Joe came back. That does help in practice. It helps me push the point of what Pat (McManamon) just asked about; finish the play. Do your job. Do not worry about them. Do your job. Every place else that I have been, we have had officials at practice. We have to get going. They give a report every day to (Head Coach) Hue (Jackson), too so we can talk about penalty plays in practices. All of a sudden, we have to correct this here so that it does not come up in a game."
On if it is natural for players to ease up when expecting a whistle:
"It is in respect that they are expecting the whistle. You have to fight through that. If the whistle is not blown, stop on the whistle and not on the movement. That is a conditioned stimulus response. They get tired of hearing me say that, but you have to make that your habit. Some do, some do not."
Special teams coordinator Amos Jones:
On what he said to DB Jabrill Peppers following the fumble on punt return:
"You do not want to go to him too quick because he is visually upset. You try to tell him that he was making a great play, and you just have to make sure you take care of the football. After you watch it on tape, you can kind of see some of the things that he realized that he should have done to be able to probably hang on to it and keep it high and tight. It is kind of one of those bang-bang plays. He had had a good day and one bad play."
On challenges when a player like Peppers is beginning to establish a rhythm on returns and then has an error while trying to make play:
"If you look at the play from a coaching standpoint, it was the exact same play that he had when he broke free on the first one in the plus-field. Almost the same set up. We had a guy that if he just keeps coming to the right, he is probably going to out run the punter. Same scenario there. It was just a little bit more towards the 50-yard line. He is a competitor. He wants to make plays. It is just one of those things. You hate it for him. You hate it for the team and everybody involved in it. We were right there on the cusp of it and would have had a good setup had we not had given the ball back to them. You kind of have to move on, too. I thought the neat thing was when we got into the meeting room on Monday when we reviewed the tape, everybody in there was very supportive and told him to keep doing what he is doing. When your teammates appreciate you, you can get over it a lot easier sometimes – not going to forget it because of the situation, but it was good to show. We have some guys that are stepping up in leadership roles, and I thought that it was pretty neat of those guys. Before I had even said a word, that was the first thing to come out of those guys' mouths. That was good for him. It does not help him, but it is at least supportive."
On his mindset when Buccaneers K Chandler Catanzaro lines up for a 59-yard attempt after missing one earlier in the game:
"I brought him into the league. He kicked a 61-yarder for me in Buffalo. He set franchise records in Arizona. He never missed two in a row when I coached him. It was either going to be one of two things – we were going to block it or he was going to push it because of our rush and we were going to get the ball at the spot of the [kick]. Cat has been a great kicker in this league. He has struggled, like a lot of guys have, at times. He has changed some holders and snappers through his time. He kicked that 61-yarder for me so we knew the timeline of where he had to stop at. It was not a pretty ball – I am sure that he would like to have had a better kick – but he has a strong leg and there really was no wind at that point in time. I was not shocked that he made it if that answers your question because I have been with him and knew that he was capable of that. I hate it from our standpoint because it would have been a great setup for us to finish the game on the flip side of the previous play – for us, a chance to come back and get our own."
On replacing RB Nick Chubb on special teams due to his increased role at RB:
"I thought that we handled our own. You practice a little bit of in-game scenarios. I think that I have said that before. You have to be prepared for an injury or maybe somebody not getting a hat late because of another injury or things like that. We had a plan going in. We were actually going to try to use Nick if we needed to just to kind of get us out of the first play, and when the offense moved the ball and got us down to where it was going to be a sky situation, I felt comfortable putting (TE) Orson (Charles) out there because he had gotten those in-game reps in practice. He is a veteran guy and he was ready to step up and do it. He knew that. At least the 24 hours before, he knew that the trade had gone down and that Nick was a primary [running back]. You have to do the right thing by the team. Whether it is with special teams or not, you have to do the right thing by the team. We had the plan to put Orson in when we felt comfortable. Shoot, we made a great play right off of the bat and downed them inside of the 1-yard line. It was good."
On TE Pharaoh Brown's contribution on special teams units:
"I just think that he has been a guy that is pretty intense in terms of the show card stuff. He is a long-bodied guy. He brings a good work ethic. I think he has a chance to be somebody that could help us. It is a process for him, but he has been with us long enough now that he kind of knows how we do things. Generally for us, when we can – I would say probably about 90 percent – when we bring guys in like that and when (General Manager) John (Dorsey) and his staff bring guys in, we play them in the scout team roles exactly where we see them playing for us in our team. If he is a wing candidate on punt, we put him at wing. Those are the things that help get him acclimated and (special teams assistant) Sam (Shade) and (special teams coaching intern) Josh (Cribbs) do a great job of taking those guys and studying with them those roles, even when it is the scout team involved. You want to put them where they can have instant impact if they do get elevated. Work ethic, I do not think that is a problem. Game experience is going to be another thing for him. We are just going to have to see where that goes as we proceed."
On if there is a process to determining whether or not to down a punt inside the 5-yard line versus trying to down it at the 1-yard line and potentially surrendering a touchback:
"Yes, if you were out there last Friday, you saw a horrendous example of a couple of guys and one of them being the player that downed the ball, which for me was a great teaching moment for them on Saturday morning. We spent probably a good 10 minutes last Saturday morning correcting because I am working on the box and not watching the sky. Josh and Sam kind of do that stuff for us. Then when we get together and watch the tape after practice, it is like 'Crap, how did he do that?' We were able to have a little bit of a pow-wow Saturday morning. Ironically, we were prepared to maybe use a couple of other guys in there, experience wise. We left No. 27 (DB Tavierre Thomas) out there, and he makes a great play that he did not make in Friday's practice. We talk to them about never touching the goal line. We use the 1-yard line as our landmark. We tell them, 'You do not come off of that to chase the ball back off.' That is the other guy's job. The box's job is the returner. He was in perfect position, gets his back built to the goal line to kind of build a wall and then try to play everything in front of you. You hope that he has enough ball skills to be able to catch it. We tell them, too, that you can legally catch it if the punt returner is not in the area. We use that Friday as a big teaching tool for that part of the game. We try to spend six or seven balls of (P) Britton's (Colquitt) workout on Friday for just the sky area because it has been such a big factor everywhere I have ever been. Pittsburgh, it was a great factor for us in those years. In Arizona, our defense was prominent like it is here. Boy, you give them that one or two yards – I wish they would keep the stat for punts inside of the 10 because that is really where the skillset of the punters are nowadays in the league and where the gunners are. It was nice to see it because it was one of those deals where I could rip them about it a little bit on Saturday morning about how to do it the right way, and they took the advice and made a great play. Great punt, great protection and a nice job downing the ball inside."
On how potential rain on Sunday could impact special teams:
"Boy, it flooded the last time that we played these guys, right? Twice? It is just one of those things that you have to learn how to deal with. The comparisons for their field and our field are different. The wind is different. We have the big body of water, and they have the three rivers forming. All of those things factor in. It really goes back to the players and their ability with the cleats and to put the right cleat on and to trust their footing. Sometimes, you might not play as fast, but you have to make sure that you are running on the balls of your feet and not your heels because you will be planting and slipping in that respect. We are kind of always prepared. Our field yesterday had dew on it so it was a pretty damp course. We got a little bit of work there with snap, kick and hold, too."
On what makes Heinz Field a difficult place to kick in:
"If I coached in Pittsburgh, I would say 'mystical.' I have only coached there one time with the Cardinals – I think we went there in 2015 since I have left in 2012. That is before they added the open-end bleachers. That used to be the toughest end. We have a pretty good feel for how – our players have a pretty good feel for how – the wind plays down there. I think a lot of it is just through the years, everybody made such a deal about stadiums with grass in the north. It is just kind of one of those deals where you have to get used to the footing and stuff like that. The wind does play an opposite side for you down there. You have to kind of cut through it. There is that spot here at our stadium and there is a spot down there, like at all of them, once you get cut through, the ball is going to fly the way you want it to, if it is a tight spiral and things like that. I think I have said this before, (former Browns P) Dave Zastudil amazed me, one time when I was in Pittsburgh and we came up here, just how it was almost just like a pass off of a foot we used to call it, when he could cut it through as a lefty. It is kind of one of those unique stadiums that you kind of have to play it and once you get out there, you kind of get a feel for it. Tampa was interesting. I think we said it the week before, (K) Greg (Joseph) is learning all of them now because he is a rookie. Once he gets through this first season here, he is going to have played in some pretty unique stadiums – Oakland, Tampa and places like that. Every one of them kind of has their own deal. I think mystical is always what the Steelers like to describe it as."
On a trend of NFL Ks missing more PATs or closer FGs, including Ravens K Justin Tucker's missed PAT on Sunday:
"I did not watch the kick with (Ravens K) Justin (Tucker). We have not played them in the second game yet. I think the biggest thing is it t is almost like the question about the field. It is like, 'Man it is a longer kick,' but we are acclimated to that now. He has been a good kicker, no doubt about that. I think it is just kind of those deals where sometimes the ball is not going to go straight on you. I have had guys that just clank it off of the goal post. Matter of fact, if I have one that hits early in the goal post in the pregame, I am saying, 'Got that out of the way. Now, let's move on.' I think it really has been blown out of proportion because of the misses [on PATs], but in reality it is a 33-yard kick. Everybody is kind of varied. When I had (Cardinals K) Phil (Dawson), he was pretty much a dominant left-hash field goal and extra point guy, now. Guys have tried it off of the right hash, middle-right. Tampa was kind of spotting it to the middle-right because of the crown maybe in the field. Each stadium carries that uniqueness with it. Boy, if you can just hit the ball straight pretty consistently, you are probably going to be OK in terms of at least giving yourself a chance from the middle of the field. A lot of guys kick it out of the middle and a lot of guys kick it off of the hash. I think that it kind of comes back to a comfort point with where they see the ball spotted and what their lines need to be, in terms of that. I know it is a sick feeling when you miss one because everybody thinks about it being the old 1-yard spot. Those days are gone unfortunately."