Q: How has Dennis Pitta looked since coming back from what looked like a pretty serious injury?
MP: Yeah, I mean obviously this is an extremely good football player, someone that is key in their offensive system. He’s a big guy, big target, got a good catch radius, and just does an excellent job of understanding coverage and finding open spaces, understanding leverage. I think he’s moving around real well. Obviously they’re bringing him back as soon as he’s ready to go, and then he looks obviously like he’s still an impact player in their system and in their offense. I think they’ve done a good job obviously with all of the tight ends, and you look through the different games – Dallas Clark or [Ed] Dickson – that position is a key position for them, and certainly with Pitta’s presence back he does a good job, which is really getting open off of the defenders. He’s a physical guy, so he can body them up and use his size and his strength to help him create separation in space, which is something he can rely on as he’s coming back.
Q: Joe Flacco has thrown 17 interceptions this season. Do you think that large number is something you might be able to exploit with the pass rush or in the secondary?
MP: I certainly think Joe Flacco does a great job of running that offense, and certainly turnovers are – they happen as part of the game, and we obviously are going to take a look at them and see if there’s any opportunity for us to take advantage in those situations. But I think he’s done a great job, and really going off the last time we played him, and I just through his ability to take care of the ball, be smart with the placement of the ball, and really, as you look at it also, to be able to move and get away from pressure and trouble. He’s done an excellent job with that, he’s been able to pull the ball down and run and get yardage and escape out of the pocket. He’s an extremely athletic, mobile quarterback that you’ve got to be conscious of when you’re in those situations that you are trying to put pressure on him, that he can break out of that pressure and create a big play, especially with the skill players that he has around him, which have the ability to get vertical on you very fast. I think, if you take a look at it, he’s really doing a good job of trying to take care of the ball here and not have those turnovers. I think that’s something that they’ve focused a lot of attention on here recently.
Q: Sealver Siliga has seen the field a lot in these past few weeks. Can you describe the kind of player he is and the type of production that he’s been giving you recently?
MP: Sure. I mean, obviously we’re trying to play some different combinations of players on the front, and Sealver’s been in there quite a bit, which has been good. He’s a real quiet guy, but an extremely hard worker. He sits in the classroom and gets all the information and asks good questions, then obviously goes out on the practice field and tries to execute the things that we’re talking about. But he’s a strong guy, he’s a big guy, he’s got good size about him, so [he’s] somebody that we try to get in the game to hold the point and be strong at the line of scrimmage and play with good technique, and he’s trying to really improve that. I mean, obviously we’ve got a long way to go and we’re only a couple weeks into it, but he’s certainly trying to improve that, and just trying to get him to play with some consistency in the technique and some of the fundamentals that we’re asking him to do. Definitely he’s a hard-working guy, quiet guy, but professional in his approach and is simply trying to learn the techniques and fundamentals that we’re teaching him and try to apply them on the field, which is good to see.
Q: When you say quiet, do you mean in a studious way, or in a shy, new-guy way?
MP: I’m not going to over-define the word quiet, but I just – he’s a very studious guy. He’ll sit and pay attention, and he’s really trying to – you can see him absorbing the information, which is good, and he asks good questions. So it’s in a good way.
Q: How would you assess Dont’a Hightower‘s work in pass coverage this year?
MP: I think I’ve said before in regards to Dont’a, I mean he’s obviously a guy who’s got a great skill set. He’s a big guy, can move well, and is a guy that maybe behind the scenes does a lot more than sometimes shows up in a production standpoint, but [he’s] certainly someone who’s working to improve. I mean, I think all of our guys, you take week-in, week-out, there’s going to be some plays out there that are really good and there’s going to be some plays out there that we want to improve on, and I think that would hold true for everyone. He’s certainly someone that’s out there trying to work hard to get better, and he has obviously improved through the season and obviously taken on more responsibility, which has been great, and can do a lot of things out there on the field for us from a communication standpoint and an adjustment standpoint, which is something that we ask a lot of those guys to do. He’s certainly been at a lot of different positions and a lot of different roles, so being the multiple type of player that he is, it’s been a big benefit for us. So certainly trying to – he works extremely hard, works hard in the classroom, works hard out on the practice field, and we’re just trying to get better every week.
Q: Have you worked with players with Hightower’s physical build in that pass coverage role before? How does being Hightower’s size make it more challenging, for example, to get the job done against a player like Miami running back Marcus Thigpen on his touchdown catch on Sunday?
MP: Well, I think with all of our guys, and certainly through the years we’ve had guys that have lined up at different positions; I mean, Mike Vrabel played outside linebacker, played inside linebacker, played defensive end, he would go into defensive tackle if we needed him to, and certainly each player has a skill set that has its strengths, and you try to use those skill sets to the best of your ability [in] whatever kind of position you’re in. So certainly a guy like Mike or like Dont’a, who has extremely long length and is a hard guy to get around, you’re going to use your advantages in that case going against a player of a different skill set – a running back, a wide receiver, whoever the case may be. There’s a lot of examples of that in our defense, so you certainly – what you’re going to try to do is, whatever the matchup is, you’re going to try to use your strengths to your ability and understand the strengths of the opponent, each individual player and where they’re set up and what the situation is, and try to attack and defend against those strengths. So certainly that’s what we try to work on, and all those guys that play in those different positions, whether it’s in close or out in space, whether it’s a linebacker, a defensive lineman, a secondary player, understanding the position that you’re asked to go into and play into and try to use your strengths to the best of your ability in those cases.