Here is the transcript of Eric Mangini’s Friday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers’ P.R. department.
“So, we finished up practice today. Pretty tight turn around. We’ll get on the plane and head across country and finish up our prep between tomorrow and tomorrow evening. And, excited about it. Pretty tough challenge ahead.”
You must have a pretty long history of facing Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. What makes him stand out when you think about playing the Steelers?
“Well, he’s such a talented guy and so strong in the pocket. He has tremendous arm strength. You hear guys say, ‘he can make any throw,’ which is true, but he makes some throws that aren’t in the playbook. He’s got an incredible ability to create plays. I think he’s a smart guy and every time you face him plays can go for longer than you expect and he can do things with the ball in the pocket that other people can’t do. And, you look at guys that try to rush him and stop him and that just natural strength that he has is impressive.”
Do you have to remind guys that if you’re going to blitz Ben Roethlisberger you’ve got to bring him to the ground? He’s so good at shaking off tacklers and keeping a play alive. Does that have to be reinforced?
“To some degree, but as soon as you put on the tape there’s plenty of examples that, where it’s reinforced play-in and play-out just by what he does and team-in and team-out, doesn’t matter who he’s facing. So, you can talk about it, but them seeing the pictures gives them a pretty strong reinforcement as well.”
How has he changed most now compared to when you faced him as Cleveland Browns head coach five-six years ago?
“Well, [Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator] Todd Haley is there, which is different. Todd and I were actually assistants together in New York in, what was that? ’97-’98, so, he was the offensive assistant, I was the defensive assistant. And, he’s a creative guy. I’ve played against him multiple times as well and he’s a guy I’ve known for a long time when we were both young together, so that’s always fun too. But, you see his creativity in the offense and some of the things that he does and some of the problems that he creates through formations and through shifts and motions and pressuring the full field. I really like, it’s been fun to watch him work.”
Do you expect him to be more creative because he’s missing his starting running back and one of his receivers?
“Well, [Pittsburgh Steelers RB] DeAngelo’s [Williams] been, he was impressive in his first game. He looks like the DeAngelo that we’ve all seen through the years. So, I understand that nobody wants any missing parts, but he came in and did a really good job. And, it didn’t look like things changed dramatically when he was in, in terms of volume and the full package seemed to be there last week.”
LB Michael Wilhoite talked about, he called you ‘Mangenius’ because of, you know your game planning. What’s your reaction to hearing that and what’s it say about the relationship you’ve been able to develop with a lot of your guys?
“Well, it’s, I hope he was using it in a complimentary way, not ironically. It’s one of those things, it’s like anything else, you have a good week you get positive things and if you don’t then that name changes. I’ve heard other variations of my last name that weren’t as friendly and as positive. But, it’s such a good group and the success we had last week, and I’ve told you this as we’ve met, they’ve been working. They work on the field. They work in the classroom. There’s been a really consistent level of communication and it’s a group of guys that care about each other and care about the team. When you have that type of environment, you have a chance every week to be really successful and I think the important thing for us is, whether its success or failure, as we move to the next game, we learn from that. We learn from whatever it was because that’s how we’re going to grow and we’ve got a team, a group of guys, that need to continue to get experience and continue to grow and that’s going to come through these games and what we do and learn from them.”
What did it mean to see LB NaVorro Bowman on the field again given how much he’s been through to get back and what does he bring beyond the obvious, speed, tackling, the fundamentals? What sort of leadership presence does he mean for the defense?
“Yeah, I was really excited for Bo, really, really excited for Bo. There’s another guy that I can talk for a long time about how he’s worked in the classroom, how he’s worked on the field with the defensive guys. His leadership has been outstanding, but that’s a tough journey back. And there’s a lot of steps that you have to take. There’s a lot of boxes that you have to tick off to get back to playing a full game the way that he did at the level that he played it at, and it’s impressive. Just to see him in pregame was exciting for me. To watch him play, to have him go through that whole game and come out feeling good about it, physically, that’s fantastic. Fantastic. I couldn’t be happier.”
It seemed like he was very vocal. How does his leadership sort of manifest itself?
“Yeah. He’s a passionate guy. He may not be as vocal in the room in a sense that it’s kind of a quiet storm. It brews and then it hits and there’s a lot of trees down and a lot of homes without roofs and it’s a great quality to have.”
How would you assess LB Aaron Lynch’s first game?
“I thought he did a really good job. He’s another guy that I think has tremendous potential to grow. He’s very talented physically, physically gifted. Very smart. He has an excellent play demeanor. But, like all the young guys there’s going to be some bumps and growing pains here as he continues to understand things and to sense things. I was talking to him a lot about that yesterday, coaching guys like [former NFL LB] Mike Vrabel and [former NFL LB] Willie McGinest and players like that. One of their greatest assets was their intelligence and their ability to not just understand the opponent, what we do then the opponent, then the situation in the game and then the human being you’re facing. And those guys were able to go to each one of those levels and then everything slows down so your natural ability is just reinforced and emphasized. I think he’s got great growth potential in all of those areas.”
How do you stop a player such as Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown? From a defensive standpoint, what are some of the options that you have to try and contain him?
“He’s tough. He’s great with the ball in his hands after the catch. He runs really smooth routes where he pressures up the field and you feel his speed, but he’s got the ability to come out of his breaks. And he’s smooth out of his breaks, so it’s not like he’s telegraphing when he’s going to break down. Some receivers that are speed receivers, that’s their gift. But, when they have to break down, there are signs. He’s very smooth out of his transition. And then he’s got a great sense for Ben and when things do break down, where to fit in the coverage. Not just in relationship to the quarterback, but in relationship to the coverage that’s being played. So, it’s going to be hard. That’s a huge challenge with a guy like him. It looked like [Pittsburgh Steelers TE] Heath [Miller] too, he’s another guy that’s got a great feel for what you’re playing and then where Ben is and where he has to fit and it’s tough. It’s going to stress the whole core.”
Just try different coverages?
“Well, it’s one of those, you can’t. With a quarterback like this and a group like this, you can’t really just have the one thing. That’s why it’s so important that things look alike, things feel the same way so if you do change up they’re not able to zero in on what you’re doing.”
Are there ways to simulate, I mean, did you guys do this in practice where you had the play break down and you’d have the defense running against a freelance play, something that Ben’s done in the past?
“Yeah. You try to simulate all that stuff and we show team it’s a constant battle to get the best possible look. It’s just one of those things where they’ve got so many reps where they’ve done that. So, you’re going to get an X-amount of reps because you want to actually see the play itself, the deisgn of the play. So, you do the best you can. You try to coach that off of tape. But, it’s so different than when you have to react to it at that speed against people that know where they’re going and have a good sense for the guy who has the ball.”
I think most people would probably argue that they’re players have an advantage coming off of, getting another bye week, playing Thursday, a short week for our players. But, on the flip side, do you think it’s an advantage for the coaching staff having game-tape for four extra days to examine that over the weekend? After a short week for them, they don’t get the game tape until Monday night.
“I don’t know. You’ll have to poll the players on that one. I’m sure they’d rather have the time off for their body and regenerate, things like that. And then you pour so much into the first game that that’s really your focus. Even though you have that tape, you’re not spending as much time being able to really sit down and digest it as much as you’d like just because you have a game still sitting in front of you. I don’t know. I don’t know which one is better, but Thursday night game is tough, you know, being a short week. But, it’s always great afterwards. You get that extra time to unwind.”