Mon, 11 Dec 2023

Raiders are talking about T.J., Alex and more

The Steelers
23 Sep 2023, 06:30 GMT+10

Teresa Varley

The Steelers will be on primetime for the second straight week when they take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday night.

It will be the second straight year the two teams have met, with the Steelers defeating the Raiders, 13-10, in Week 16 last year at Acrisure Stadium.

The Steelers are coming off an AFC North win over the Cleveland Browns, while the Raiders are coming off a loss on the road against the Buffalo Bills.

"It doesn't get any better than that, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football at home in front of national TV," said Raiders offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi. "They're going to be ready to go and they'll be pumped up, and I know we'll have a great week of practice getting ready for it."

Coach Josh McDaniels on Sunday night's game:

"These are the kind of games - this is what you do it for, great opponent, two great organizations. The Steelers have done it the right way for a long time. Coach (Mike) Tomlin, 17 years, I mean never had a losing season. Just so much respect for him and the program that he runs there, the way they do things, how they play, how competitive they are every week, every year. Our team is hard at work learning the things that they do, how they do them, and they do a lot of things well. They've got a lot of really good football players. They can win and beat you in a lot of different ways. They're physical, they're explosive in all three phases. We saw that on Monday night, how they ended up kind of flipping the game around there."

Offensive Coordinator Mick Lombardi on the Steelers playmakers on defense and how playing against them last year helps:

"It helps a lot. We played them late in the year too, which helps even more, especially in terms of the personnel and the scheme. I mean, Mike Tomlin has been there a long time and they've run a similar defense for a long time. So, there's some familiarity with that.

"But for the players I think it helps in terms of just knowing who the guys are going against, the tight ends, the offensive linemen and 'Hey, this is what he did last year against me in this game late in the year.' I know Cam Heyward potentially could not be there, but this is him. And 'Hey, this is (Alex) Highsmith. This is how the linebackers fill in the running game. This is how (Minkah) Fitzpatrick plays in the passing game and in the running game, and the same thing for the corners.'

"Overall, I think there's a big help for that, playing against a team last year. It's like a division game almost with some familiarity, which is great. Because you always like that, the players feel comfortable, and they know what to expect from the scheme and personnel standpoint."

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on the Steelers Monday night performance:

"Yeah, got to see them - (dang) good defense. They made some plays, put some points up on the board, so it's going to be a good challenge for us this week. We have to do our part on offense."

Lombardi on how you prepare to make sure T.J. Watt can't wreck the game while also preparing for the rest of the defense:

"Oh, there's 10 other guys for sure. I think Watt plays a certain style of game where he plays hard, he plays aggressive, he plays fast. I think that's their defense.

"They play great as a unit. I think that's what makes them so good is that they're all connected, and they play to the ball. They play tough, they're hardnosed.

"And Coach Tomlin has done a phenomenal job his entire tenure there of making sure that's the identity of his defense because they're coming in here to make it a dogfight. And if your team is not ready to go in that fight, well often we'll lose.

"We have to do a good job of making sure we're ready to know that and ready to go because whether it's T.J. Watt on the edge, or it's Highsmith on the edge, or we talked about the secondary. They are all going to play as one and if you don't play as one on that unit, you're probably not going to play on the unit.

"We got to be ready to go because it's an aggressive, fast and physical defense."

McDaniels on what grabbed his attention from the Steelers Monday night win over Cleveland:

"They play with such a great effort regardless of the circumstances in a game. And so, Cleveland obviously outgained them. I think Cleveland had 80 some plays they ran offensively and Pittsburgh had 50 some. But you're watching the game and you're seeing it and I'm watching all three phases, and just the effort and the tenacity and just every play they're trying to do the right things to flip the game, and ultimately they did. And this is the kind of team that it could be in the return game, it could be on defense, it could be with the pass rush, it could be with a blitz, it could be with a big play to (George) Pickens or (Calvin) Austin or (Pat) Freiermuth or Najee Harris. They have a lot of different ways that they could create explosive plays and turn games and you know, just so happened the other day they scored two defensive touchdowns. (T.J.) Watt and (Alex) Highsmith, those are two fitting guys because they're great players. There's a challenge on every play, and you can't let your guard down, you can't stop competing and playing with great effort because you know that that's what they're going to do every single play that they're out there, and that's the challenge for us on Sunday night and we're going to be ready to go."

McDaniels on the challenge Watt presents:

"Yeah, I mean great players demand obviously a lot of attention. They've got more than one, I would say that to start with. They have a lot of guys on that side of the ball that do a really good job. Minkah (Fitzpatrick) has as many interceptions as any safety in the league since he's been in the league, and Patrick Peterson is still doing it at a high level. Both of the edge rushers, they've got interior guys that create problems for you. So, I mean their whole defense, they play really well as a unit. Knowing where they're at isn't always the problem, it's more the execution of it and the detail that you play with and the effort and toughness. So, that's what's going to be demanded Sunday night, so we're going to need to play like that in every phase on every play."

Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham on what the most pressing thing on defense is in terms of cleaning it up before the Steelers:

"Looking forward to this game against the Steelers. Just watching the game (Monday) night, I thought they did a really good job of perseverance in terms of being resilient and finishing the fourth quarter. The key thing there is it's going to be a four-quarter game - it's going to be 60 minutes.

"That's one thing that you see when you watch the Steelers and how Coach (Mike) Tomlin builds that team and how they go about it every season. So, from Week 2 to Week 3 you're just stringing together 60 minutes of good football, that's the plan."

Lombardi on the Steelers defense scoring twice against the Browns and will there be extra emphasis on protecting the ball:

"There's a huge emphasis every week for us in terms of ball security. You can't win games in this league unless you take care of the football. You can go through every game on YouTube TV and watch the Sunday Ticket and the team that's turned the ball over probably isn't going to have a good chance of winning. But defenses that play hard and aggressive, similar to how Buffalo played and similar to how we're talking about Pittsburgh, they're going to be coming for the football and we got to make sure we're ready to go and to take care of it both in the passing game at quarterback, in the running game and at skill positions and staying inside out in our protection. They rush a certain way to get to the quarterback and they come after from the ball in the open field, whether the ball is in the air or in the carrier's hands because they're going to be coming for it. They know that if there's an opportunity to get the football, they can change the game much like they did last night and much like we let Buffalo do last week. We have to make sure we do a better job with that as a unit because we know they're going to do it against us."

McDaniels on how the Steelers handle business:

"Coach Tomlin, obviously with what he's done with the organization, Omar (Khan), their whole crew, they've done it the right way for a long time, they believe in what they're doing and the results have bared that true. So for us, we're in the process of trying to get to that point. And again, you only earn it one way, and you've got to have consistent success and you've got to compete and be competitive to win and win at a high-level year in and year out. And I think they've shown that, and that's what we're working towards."

Bringing you the action: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on mobile, plus NFL RedZone, NFL Network, live audio and more - all in one place. Start your free trial today here.

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