Alex Smith on the Steelers D: “They’re all very skilled at reading routes, reading the QB, especially the two safeties.”

SANTA CLARA – Here’s the transcript of Alex Smith’s Thursday press conference from the media tent.

Q: Jim Harbaugh just said that you guys are going to spend more time on red zone offense this week in practice than you normally do. Do you think that will be beneficial?

ALEX SMITH: Yeah, I think you find some little things here and there. Obviously with more time down there, there’s more reps. No question you can get better down there, and part of that is just getting comfortable with it, getting reps. We’ve got to execute better, too. We left a lot of food on the table, so to speak.

Q: You guys have tried a lot of things. Do you guys need to hone in on something down there?

ALEX SMITH: Yeah, it’s a mix there. Obviously you’d like to form an identity, what you’re good at, what your strengths are down there. But then, no question, week in and week out each defense is unique down there in how they play, what they play, where the matchups are, so it’s not just cookie-cutter each week, like, “Hey, we’re just going to run these things.” It’s also how you matchup versus their personnel and their scheme. You’re always going to add new things in down there.

Q: A lot of the sacks seemed like miscommunications between the linemen. What’s happening on those, and what can you do to try to get everybody knowing what the assignment is?

ALEX SMITH: Some of it is communication, like you’re saying. Some of it isn’t. Some of it’s just getting it done. It’s tough – you’re on the road, it’s noisy, especially on third down a lot of times. So it’s tough to make calls, hear calls, they’re moving around at the last second – all those things kind of go into it. We’ve just got to continue to focus and hone in.

Q: What’s your thought process on risking a sack versus risking a possible turnover?

ALEX SMITH: Obviously turnovers change games. I think we all understand that. You don’t like sacks either, but there’s lots of situations – almost all situations, I can’t think of one…you’d rather take the sack than the turnover. That’s part of the deal of playing quarterback. You’ve got to protect the football – that’s making good decisions, accurate throws, but it’s also in the pocket protecting the football.

Q: From your perspective, what’s particularly difficult about facing a zone defense?

ALEX SMITH: Man-to-man, you know what you’re getting. Everybody’s manned up. You’ve got to beat the man in front of you. Matchups outside – usually people are playing tight, bump-and-run, things like that. Pittsburgh is obviously known for the zone pressure – it kind of got invented there and it’s spread throughout the league. It’s kind of revolutionized defensive football. You get overload pressures from one side, they’re beating your protection and then they’re zoning off the field basically. And then most of them are looking at the quarterbacks eyes and trying to read the quarterback’s eyes and see where he’s going with the ball, and it’s all meant to disrupt your hot throws, sight, things like that.

Q: Going back to that eye thing, do you have to make sure you’re not telegraphing more than usual facing a defense like this?

ALEX SMITH: The dangerous thing is throwing blind – that’s where you get a lot of turnovers and things like that. You’ve got to see out front. You’ve got to see the zones. But obviously, a team like this, they’re a veteran group across the board. They know what they’re doing. They play fast. They’re all very skilled at reading routes, reading the quarterback, especially the two safeties. They’re very instinctive players. They jump things, make plays on routes that a lot of guys don’t make.

Q: You developed a good red zone rapport with Vernon Davis the last couple seasons. What’s different this year with that connection?

ALEX SMITH: It’s all different. Obviously we’re running different stuff, we’re doing different things. And some of that is just taking what they’re giving us. And I think Vernon, obviously, has shown what he can do in the red zone and I think defenses are aware of it a lot of times. A little bit, obviously, is just execution as well, getting those opportunities and capitalizing on them. Just getting the extra work down there, especially the last couple of years being in the same system where they’re running the same stuff, getting really good at it down there. You could see why we had success down there, especially last year. This year I still think, obviously a work in progress, need to get better.

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