HC Freddie Kitchens (11.12.19)

Head Coach Freddie Kitchens:

Opening statement:

“We are finally back into the division, a very tough division. We have Pittsburgh coming in. They are an excellent football team. With what they have been able to do after the start is very impressive – losing their quarterback, never wavering, continuing to just play the games and they have won four straight. In those four straight, they have taken the ball away 14 times and only given it away once. That is a recipe for success when you can do that. Defensively, they were leading the league in sacks up until last night, but they are still [third] in the league now in sacks. They have 33 sacks on the year. Good defensively. Offensively, the quarterback (Steelers QB Mason Rudolph) does a great job of getting the ball into the guys’ hands who can make plays. He does not take sacks. He does not make mistakes. (Steelers Head Coach) Mike Tomlin does an excellent job of coaching them and having them ready to play. He is one of the best coaches in the National Football League. Tremendous history, story, great defense and good offense. We have our work cut out for us.”


On RB Kareem Hunt’s lead-blocking ability and his impact on RB Nick Chubb an the Browns run game:

“I think it is great. Like I said, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are very unselfish. All they want to do is win football games, and I like guys like that.”


On if having Chubb and Hunt on the field together opens up opportunities for the Browns offense:
“I think anytime you can get guys who can do things with the ball in their hands and they can also play off of other people, that definitely impacts decisions, alignments and assignments. The way you get the ball to those guys changes. When you have more a couple of options, it is always, from that positon in particular, very good.”


On how the tandem of Chubb and Hunt affects opponents’ defensive strategy:
“I think it depends really on what kind of defense they are. Some of them play zone, and some of them play man. If you are playing a bunch of man, you have to decide who is going to cover him, and in zone, things you do normally, you have to account for him.”


On if the Browns can add more to the current package with Chubb and Hunt together or if the Browns have to wait, given the short week:

“We will probably do the same plays we did last week (laughter). Come on (laughter).”


On how Steelers RB James Conner’s return from injury impacts the Steelers offense:
“James Conner is one of the best running backs in the National Football League. He is physical, he is tough, he is hard to bring down and tackle, he is good in space and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. I think he is a good all-around player. He is tough to defend. He makes their offense kind of go because they want to start everything with the run game, and they want to run the football because they know that is how you ultimately win in this division and in the NFL. You have to be able to run the ball when they know you are running the ball, and they do an excellent job of that.”


On if Hunt played as much as expected against the Bills:

“Yeah, I think I played him about right. It is just the sequence of plays got him a couple times. I told him he needs to build endurance. I have been telling him that for two weeks. I guess I had to make a believer out of him. He was not complaining, though.”


On if Hunt was able to shake off the rust, given he has not played in nearly a year, and if Hunt can get better as the season progresses:

“Yeah, and I think he has done that since he has been back with us. He had a couple of good weeks of practice in and you could see his movements, his fluidness starting to come back over the course of the weeks. I did not have any question that he was going to perform well.”


On making an effort to target WR Odell Beckham Jr. more often against the Bills:
“I think anytime we get the ball in our playmakers’ hands, it is a good thing.”


On the next step in the process for T Drew Forbes and the opportunity to activate him from IR/designated to return:
“We will probably wait until tomorrow and make that decision. There are a couple of things that have to happen in order to make moves like that, and I do not really know if I want to put that out there right now.”


On how prepared Forbes is to contribute, if activated:

“Drew has done an excellent job. Here is what Drew has done – he has done a great job of carrying over things that he learned, and his learning continued to improve, even though he was not on the field getting reps so that gives him a chance, yes.”


On Steelers QB Mason Rudolph being stepping up following Roethlisberger’s injury:

“I think he does an excellent job of protecting the football, first and foremost. Their defense has done a good job of getting turnovers. They have won four straight, and out of those, they are +13 in takeaway/giveaway. They have a bunch of guys that believe in each other and they rely on each other. They just keep moving on. They keep their head down, they keep going to work and they know how to go win.”


On if the Steelers’ ability to win despite losing their long-term starting QB is a reflection of their culture:

“Yeah, it does. They have done it. They have done it. Not just this year, they have done it before. What you want to do is be consistent over time and how you approach the season, and they have done an excellent job of that. Mike has done a tremendous job of just staying on task and staying the course. Anytime things like that happen, you always have outside influences and outside noise and they just kind of relied on each other.”


On how Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick transforms and boosts the Steelers defense:

“I think anytime you can add a playmaker on the back end, the ball just kind of finds him. He is always in the right spot. He is great with his eyes. It is almost like he knows where the ball is going before it is going to be there. He does a good job of being where he is supposed to be and then being where he is not supposed to be when there is a play to be made.”


On WR Jarvis Landry’s comment about not doing anything differently following the TD on the opening series:

“I do not like penalties. I do not like penalties. I want him playing with passion, though – not emotion but passion.”


On how a player walks the line of playing with passion but not emotion, which can result in penalties:
“I just do not like penalties. I am not going to question whether it is a penalty or not, but they threw the flag. I do not like that so we do not need to do things that gets us penalties.”


On if he needs to have a conversation with Landry about the taunting penalty:
“I am not going to talk about what I talk about with our players. I never do.”


On Steelers CB Joe Haden’s performance this season:

“He is playing very good. Their whole secondary is player very good. Anytime you can have that many takeaways, they are doing a lot of good with their eyes. You can tell they do a lot of studying in the course of the week. Well-coached defensively. Linebackers and D line, they do a tremendous job of creating pressure on the quarterback, and in return, it maybe makes the quarterback make decisions a little quicker than he needs to be. They are third in the league in sacks so they are getting home a lot and then the ball has to come out and then they are able to do their studying during the course of the week and know where the ball is coming out at. Overall, a good defensive football team, one of the best in the league.”


On Steelers DE T.J. Watt and challenges Watt presents:
“His ability to bend and turn the corner. His effort. His passion. A very, very high motor. Just keeps coming and does not quit. He is a very special player.”


On if there are any benefits of playing Thursday night following a Sunday game:

“You are trying to ask this question a couple of different ways or something. Thursday games, you know you have one a year, and you try to make a schedule fit accordingly to what gets your players in the best position to succeed on Thursday. That is what we have tried to do.”


On if the short week of preparation for a Thursday night game it is more challenging mentally or physically:

“I think it is a little bit of both, but I would say physically more than anything. When the physical nature of it goes down, sometimes your mental aspect of it suffers. You need to make sure and we are trying to make sure we get these guys and we are going to get these guys back and ready to play on Thursday physically. The game of football is a tough game, especially at this level. If these guys can be ready physically, you have a chance. If they are not ready physically, I know you do not have a chance.”


On DE Olivier Vernon’s status and being optimistic that Vernon can play Thursday:
“I would not say I am optimistic – I am just kind of waiting to see. We do not really know. Hopefully, he wakes up feeling great.”


On TE Ricky Seals-Jones’ status for Thursday:
“Ricky is going to be kind of day to day, too – probably a day-of-game type decision for Ricky.”


On S Eric Murray’s status for Thursday:
“Eric is probably not going to make it back – probably not going to make it back. I do not know if that is released or not. I am telling you he is probably not going to make it back – breaking news.”


On the importance of building off the win against the Bills and facing a division opponent:
“We try to stay focused on this week and this week only. We want to go 1-0 this week. That is the one thing we want to do. Not really building on anything, we just want to go 1-0 this week.”


On if the Browns asked QB Baker Mayfield for tips on defending Rudolph, given they played against each other multiple times in college:

“No, I did not. Maybe I should, though. It is a short week (laughter).”


On if he liked Mayfield taking more deep shots to Beckham Jr. and if he feels they are close to making that work:

“I do. I do feel like it was close. The first one was probably a little overthrown, and the second one he had a chance. 50-50 balls are not always bad. As a quarterback, you have to have confidence that the other guy is not going to catch the 50-50 ball – it is either going to be you or it is going to be incomplete. I think they are continuing to build that confidence, and it is moving in the right direction.”


# # #