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Quotes: Thursday media availabilty

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel
DE Jared Crick
ILB Brian Cushing
WR Andre Johnson

Head Coach Bill O'Brien
(on if he has an update to any injuries) "No. It's getting closer to game time and we'll know better as we even move close to game time, but no updates right now."

(on if going back to Pennsylvania for the first time since leaving Penn State will be special) "Certainly my family's time at Penn State, my time at Penn State, meant a lot to us. We lived in State College, which is just a fantastic town right there in the center of the state and it's only about 150 miles from Pittsburgh. We spent some time in Pittsburgh also. Again, we had a great two years there, especially with the players on those teams that we had and the coaching staff. Just great kids there, a great university and probably see a few people when I go back there. A couple people have requested some tickets, so it will be good to see those guys when we get back."

(on how he overcame not being a 'Penn State guy') "I never thought that way about winning them over. I felt like the thing that we always try to do there as a staff and with me being the head coach was to try to make sure that the people understood what we were all about. Like, this was our philosophy: we cared about those kids, we cared about their education, we cared about winning football games and we had nothing to do with what went on in the past there, and so we just came in there and basically said, 'Hey, this is the direction we're headed. This is the type of student athlete that we're looking for.' For those two years we were there, for the most part that worked. I never even thought about who didn't like me, who liked me and all those different things. It never even crossed my mind. It was all about just doing what was best for those kids that we were coaching in those two years that we were there."

(on how much respect he has for Dick LeBeau) "Unbelievable. What I do on Wednesday mornings is try to basically give an overview of the team that we're playing. In many cases when you're playing a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, an original team that was founded in 1933, there is just so much history obviously with the Steelers and a big part of that history is Dick LeBeau. A big part of the history of the National Football League is Dick LeBeau. Fourteen years as a player, 42 as a coach, Hall of Fame player, 56 years in the National Football League, I mean, he's the guy that's credited with inventing the zone blitz. And from Day one, whether it was '07, '08, '09, '10, '11 and now here in '14, going against him is a very difficult matchup, going against his scheme and his player. The utmost respect for Dick LeBeau and what he's meant to this league. I've only been able to shake his hand once in my time in the league. I've got a lot of respect for what he brings to this league and obviously what he brings to the field."

(on if he feels the league is wide-open this year) "That's a great question because I do think the way that the league is set up with the rules the way they are and the new collective bargaining agreement, free agency and all of these different things that there is a lot more even playing field. I do believe that. I think that there is a lot of parity in this league. Obviously, there are teams right now that are playing a little bit better than some other teams and then there are teams like us that kind of in the middle of the pack right now and looking to correct some mistakes to get better. So I think it's a league that that's what makes it so challenging, that every single week that you have to come with your best effort, your best game plan, your players have to play their best every single week in order to win. That is how the league is set up and I think that's what makes it such an interesting and great league to be a part of."

(on his relationship with Mike Munchak) "Mike Munchak is a good friend, great Penn State player, great player here in Houston, Hall of Fame player, Hall of Fame player at Penn State, a guy that I got to know when I got to Penn State. He was one of the first guys that I reached out to. He called me right back as the head coach at that time of the Tennessee Titans. He called me right back and we formed a friendship there. He's a fantastic offensive line coach, just a guy that, you know, tough guy, class act. Looking forward to seeing him and shaking his hand before the game."

(on if he sees Mike Munchak's influence on the Steelers offensive line) "Certainly. Yeah. When you look at any line that Mike Munchak coaches, you're going to see toughness. You're going to see downhill running. You're going to see five guys that play together, guys that are seeing it through the same set of eyes, guys that are communicating well with each other, things like that. There is no question you see an influence of Mike Munchak there."

(on if he feels J.J. Watt gets held more than what is being called) "I'm telling you, it's an interesting question again that you bring because when you go back and you watch the film every Monday or this past Friday of the previous day's game, because of how difficult he is to block in one-on-one situations, the offensive lineman that are blocking him end up in some precarious situations. You do the best you can to mention that at times maybe in your pregame meeting with the officials. I think the officials do the best they can at trying to see it fairly and call it fairly. But again, he is just such a difficult guy to block that those guys end up in some different positions trying to block him."

(on what worries him about the Steelers offense) "There are a few concerns, challenges more than anything. Challenges is a better word than concerns. It starts with the quarterback. This guy (Ben Roethlisberger), he is a winner, he's an accurate thrower, he's big, he's hard to sack, he's smart, he's getting them into the right play. Antonio Brown is a favorite target of his. Heath Miller is another big target of his. Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount in the backfield. I think the line is playing well. I think they're sixth in the league in rushing. There are a lot of things that present challenges. But again, it's like I was saying before, that is what this league is all about. Like, how do we meet that challenge? We've had two good practice days. We'll have two more on Friday and Saturday and head up there Sunday. We're really looking forward to the challenge. These guys are really looking forward to getting out there back on the game field and playing a game. There are certainly a lot of challenges that Pittsburgh's offense presents to our defense."

(on how tough it is to prepare for a Dick LeBeau defense and the different blitzes) "You have to practice the repetitions of what you're running, the plays that you're running over and over again verses all of the things that you might see from him. It involves film work, extra film work. Our guys have done a really good job of being in here on their own. It requires a lot of walkthroughs, a lot of pre-practice reps, practice reps and they're still out there with post-practice reps because as you said, whether it's first, second or third down, they're probably a 60 percent blitz team. This is a team that we all need to be on the same page. Not just the line, but the tight ends, the backs, the quarterback with how we're going to pick these blitzes up in our different protections. It's a big challenge for us and it takes a ton of repetitions to see it all through the same set of eyes."

(on if he thinks this is an important stretch of the season) "I definitely think about one game at a time. I know that sounds like a cliché and it is, but I do think about the fact that every week is different. Whatever happened in the Indianapolis Colts game, if we think that would affect anything that happens in the Pittsburgh game, we've got to correct that or use that against Pittsburgh. Same thing with the game before that, whether it was the Giants or Dallas or any game, we've got to look at those games. What carries over? What can we use that was good? What can we make sure that we correct that may carry over that someone else would take advantage of? But then we have to look at is as an individual game. We never ever get too far ahead of ourselves. OK, Pittsburgh, and then who's next? To be honest with you, I'm not even thinking about who's next. Everything that we do is about trying our best to combat what Pittsburgh does and go out there and try to win the football game."

(on what he enjoyed the most from his time in Penn State) "The players. The players. When I think about the players that we were able to coach there the first year, I mean, I could go down a list. We had I think 38 seniors led by (Matt) McGloin, Michael Mauti, Mike Zordich, Gerald Hodges, Stephon Morris, I mean they were just, Jordan Hill, there were just so many really great kids and tough hard nose players. And then the second year with (Christian) Hackenberg and those guys and John Urschel and we just had some really good guys, some good players. From a football aspect, that will be memories that I cherish for the rest of my life. Just within that town there, my wife and I, we made some good friends so we'll always remember those friends and hopefully get to see them now and then."

(on if it is difficult to solve the slow starts because there seems to be a myriad of problems) "Anytime you look at losses. Anytime that you lose a game, there are always going to be things that you look at and you say, 'Boy, there is a lot of things that we need to correct,' whether it's a snap count or a leverage in a coverage or some type of communication on special teams or offense or defense. I think we've done a good job of having this extra day of making sure that we correct things that can be corrected that apply to the Pittsburgh game. I think over the last three days or the days that we've worked, Monday, Wednesday and today, we've been able to get a lot of things corrected. Now the proof will be in the pudding on Monday night to see how that carries over to Monday, and we'll see how it goes. I think to this point we've made significant strides."

(on how OLB Jadeveon Clowney will be handled at practice and getting him ready to go) "I think we've got to clear about that, too. I think he's still, like I said earlier was that it was still 50-50 and to be clear, if he were to play against Pittsburgh, it certainly wouldn't be for 70 plays. It would be for a certain amount of plays and that's what we have to determine as a staff with our trainers, our medical people and our coaching staff before Monday night. We have a while before Monday night. We've got Friday, Saturday, Sunday and obviously all day Monday to determine right up until game time what we think his ability to play in the game is and then we go from there. We've got a lot of time."

(on the offensive line lineup for Pittsburgh) "(Brandon) Brooks is back, so Brooks will start at right guard. (Ben) Jones will start at left guard. (Derek) Newton at right tackle, (Chris) Myers at center and obviously Duane Brown at left tackle, and then we'll rotate Xavier (Su'a-Filo) in there. Might be guard, might be tackle and then we'll also rotate (Tyson) Clabo in there. Clabo will play some tackle and he may play some other positions. We'll try to use all seven. If we bring seven to the game, which it looks like we would right now, we'll try to use all seven."

(on if OLB John Simon will play if OLB Brooks Reed is out) "If Brooks Reed couldn't play, which I think it looks like he's got a shot to play, but if he didn't play and regardless of if he did or didn't play, I believe John Simon would play."

(on if OLB John Simon showed enough in the Colts game rushing the passer) "No question. He made some plays in the game. He's got good strength. He's a tough guy. He's an instinctive player, one of those guys that can come in and kind of pick up on a system pretty quickly with his intelligence. He's had a good two days of practice here. He's got a chance to be on a game day roster and play for us."

Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel
(on how much he respect he has for Dick LeBeau) "Tremendous respect because he's one of the best in the game as a defensive coordinator, for the length he's been doing it and the fact that he's still doing it. He also played in League, so his resume is a tremendous resume."

(on what stands out to him about a Dick LeBeau defense) "They're very well discipline. They are a very well disciplined defense. They teach technique; the players understand the technique and play within the scheme and are very successful. All of those things show up. People talk about Troy (Polamalu) a lot and Troy will take some chances, but I think Troy takes calculated risks. It's what he does, but the discipline of the defense allows him to do some of that."

(on his philosophy regarding defensive linemen recovering fumbles and whether they're taught to just land on it as opposed to returning it) "Any time you can recover a fumble we want possession of the ball, but if there is nobody around or if they're your guys around you then you can get up and run with it. Generally, defensive linemen don't run very far, but J.J. (Watt) is a different kind of cat so he was able to run for a touchdown when he recovered the fumble. We look for opportunities and when we get them, we take them. You have to make a good decision about whether you get up and run with it or whether you secure the ball. The most important thing is to secure the ball."

(on QB Ben Roethlisberger and the pressure required to bring him down) "Ben has a lot of experience in the League. He's a big, strong quarterback, strong arm, moves well in the pocket. He can avoid the rush, keep plays alive, throw the ball down the field and then when guys are able to get around them or get a piece of him, he doesn't go down easily. He's able to stay on his feet. He's able to avoid sacks. The thing that you have to do is you have to try and contain him in the pocket, so that he doesn't have that avenue to slide out and play for time. I think that if you can contain him in the pocket, that helps. Now, containing him in the pocket allows him to throw the ball down the field some, so there is a fine line there. You have to get an even rush all the way around. You have to have guys pushing in the middle, so that he's not able to step up. Then you have to collapse the pocket from the outside so that he feels the pressure and maybe has to get rid of the ball before he wants to."

(on if DE J.J. Watt deserves consideration for MVP if he continues to play at the high level that he is currently) "It's kind of early to be talking about all that, but I hope he keeps playing like he does and keeps making those kinds of plays. Then, I think it will be cut and dry."

(on if he would like to get OLB Jadeveon Clowney out on the field to practice before he's able to play when returning from injury) "Generally, a guy needs to be on the practice field to play his best. We're hoping to get him on the practice field to find out what he can do and then we'll make a determination."

(on going for the strip first defensively instead of the tackle and how he coaches that) "You just keep putting the emphasis on it and telling the guys that the first guy needs to tackle the ball carrier and then everybody else can come and try to strip. A lot of times, the first guy tries to strip and then you miss the strip and you also miss the tackle and then they're adding yard. You try to get them to understand that yards after the catch are yards that count against you, so let's make the tackle. The first guy needs to wrap up to ensure that."

(on what he saw from the 24-0 start against the Colts and the defensive lapses) "Yeah, we had a few lapses and that allowed a 24-0 start, but to their credit, they fought back and made it a competitive game. If we don't spot them a couple of touchdowns, it could be a different game. But the things that happened happened and when you dig yourself a hole, it's hard to get out of a hole in this league because you're facing some pretty good people week in and week out. I think the lesson hopefully we learned is not to get down like we got down against a good quarterback and a good team."

(on if he sees WR Antonio Brown as even more of a difficult challenge than WR T.Y. Hilton) "In the fact that the quarterback relies on him; he's one of his go-to guys. When he reads the coverage and he gets the coverage that he wants, then he's throwing it to him. Usually when he throws it to him, it's a 30-yard gain, so we have to be cognizant of that and try to do some things to slow him down."

(on RB Le'Veon Bell) "He's a pretty good runner. He will block. Also, he catches the ball, so he's an all-around back that you just can't leave him. If you have him in coverage, you better be on him because Ben (Roethlisberger) will go to him."

(on playing in primetime and if the team learned from their primetime game last week) "I hope so because you should learn from experience. We've experienced—I think the last two games were big games for us and these young players. If we learn from those experiences, hopefully it will help us on Monday night."

(on if OLB Jadeveon Clowney has told him that he wants to play on Monday night) "I don't ask him because I'm not the trainer. When they put him back on the field, that's when we'll coach him. He's in the meetings and he's attentive and all of those things, but until he gets on the field, what I say or what he tells me doesn't make any difference. It's what the trainer says and when the trainer says he can come on the field, then we'll work with him."

(on his best memory from playing up at Pittsburgh) "We played a playoff game when Kordell Stewart was the quarterback and no one thought that we could win. I was at New England at the time. We were able to go up there and win the playoff game, so that's the best experience, so far."

DE Jared Crick
(on the challenges of stopping Ben Roethlisberger) "He's experienced. I mean, he's a big guy. He's tough to bring down. Like you've said, he's been in the league 11 years now and he's been playing good ball the whole time. We've just got to get after him and get pressure, and hopefully force some indecision."

(on if the close losses the past two games ate at him during the weekend off) "Any loss will do that to you. You've got to get back and get to work and improve and get better. Every week is a new week, so we've got to go with his week and put the past behind us and take this week for what it is. It's a big game and it's a must win for us."

(on what the defensive line can do better) "Just anything. Just improve on anything. Pass rush, playing the run. Whatever we can do, we've got to help our team some way. We're going to go out there and execute and do our job and play hard like we always do."

(on the strengths of the Steelers running offense) "They've got a good offensive line, great schemes obviously, and their backs are patient and they're good backs. They're tough runners and we've got to wrap up, we've got to gang tackle and we've got to get them on the ground. We're preparing for that all week and we'll be ready."

(on how tough it is to stop two different running backs that are different types of players) "IT's not really tough. Backs are back, you've got to bring them down. Whether they're 300 pounds or 150 pounds, you've still got to get them. You've got to tackle them and bring them down. You just have to take the mindset of whichever one of them is going to be in the game you've just got to take the mindset we're going to gang tackle them."

ILB Brian Cushing
(on some of the things Mike Vrabel has showed him) "I don't know. Just certain situations what he would do in certain things and certain plays and certain assignment because he's been through it before. He's seen it. Some coaches haven't. Some coaches haven't really experienced that. For him to say that, I think it carries a little bit more worth to it."

(on the expertise of Mike Vrabel) "He's been with different defenses; he's been with different coaches and different things. His experience is great with all of them."

(on the opposing team having two strong running backs) "I think every single week I think there is two really good running backs or at least one. As a defense, just got to continue to stay after these guys and know that they can run the ball on any given down no matter who's in, what situation, what kind of guy likes to do what. We've just got to obviously bring our best run defense and our best total defense."

(on if he sees Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount as different) "Yeah. They're very different, but at the same time one can run that isn't expecting to run and one can run kind of powerful that isn't expected to do that. They both can do a little bit of everything."

(on what he's seen from Le'Veon Bell on tape) "He's a good football player. He's got good moves and he can do a lot of different good things. He's a bigger guy, but he's very shifty and very quick. He makes a lot of people miss and that is very important if you want to get those extra yards."

WR Andre Johnson
(on what it will take to get him in the end zone more regularly) "I just think we have to execute our offense. I don't think it really matters who is in the end zone. We just need to score points and win. I'm not really worried about how many touchdowns or whatever I score. It's about this team winning. That's the biggest thing we have to worry about."

(on if he feels fortunate that the team is still in the hunt at 3-3) "Yeah. We're not in a bad spot. Of course we would like to be in a better situation. We feel like we let some games get away. At the same time, you can't hang your head on that. You have to move forward. We have to come ready to play on Monday night."

(on having the extra days off following a Thursday night game) "Anytime you have an extra day helps. At the same time, everybody has a Thursday night, so that's not an excuse for what happened. Any time you have an extra day, you ask any player in sports, anytime you have an extra day it helps. I think everybody is enjoying the extra day."

(on how special it is for him to play on Monday night) "It's a lot of fun. Everybody is watching the game on TV. It's a big stage for us. Hopefully we go out there and put our best game out there on Monday night."

(on how important it is to show the nation what the team is about) "I don't really get caught up in what everybody has to say. I think the biggest thing is just winning. That's pretty much it. I think as long as you're winning, you're doing alright."

(on how tough it will be on the road to get off to quick start) "I think that it will be tough. I don't think it's ever easy. Being on the road, it will be loud. I'm pretty sure their fans will be pumped up. They have a great defense. Going against those guys, so it'll be tough. It won't be easy. If we got out there and play the way we're supposed to be, we'll be fine."

(on what he thinks of S D.J. Swearinger) "He brings a lot of energy to the game. Fun guy to be around, brings a lot of energy to practice. I mean, that's hit every day. He's not a quiet guy. He's a loud guy. He's going to make his presence known, but he's a hard worker. A lot of the times you don't really worry about guys who talk a lot and don't work hard. He's the opposite. He plays around. He makes everything fun, but at the same time he comes in and busts his butt off every day."

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