Q. How’s Walden? COACH McCARTHY: Erik Walden has an ankle sprain. To go through the schedule, we won’t hit the practice field until Friday. So I can’t really tell you if he’s going to go on Friday or not. They feel that he has a chance to practice on Friday.
Q. In terms of putting your schedule together this week, and I guess next, who have you called and talked with who have you consulted to try to make sure you do it right?
COACH McCARTHY: Well, there’s a number of administrative things that you really do ahead of schedule. I haven’t called any one person specifically.
I had a few coaches reach out to me. So I’ll bounce some ideas off them. I have the schedule in place, preparing to be in this game. So we’re just going to take the first couple of days to give the players and coaches and everybody involved to get all their planning and administrative responsibilities done here Monday/Tuesday.
Wednesday is just going to be a Monday for us. So Wednesday will be a Monday, and our practice structure will be exactly the same. Wednesday will be on Friday. And then we’ll leave for Dallas on the following Monday, so a week from today. So we’ll leave for Dallas and it will serve as a Saturday schedule, and then with the Media Day down there on Tuesday, and then we’ll pick back up and get on an abbreviated Wednesday schedule.
Q. Two‑parter about playing your hometown team in the Super Bowl. Probably wears a lot on managers and coaches from Wisconsin who have Pittsburgh ties, they’ve been very successful. And just wondering if there’s a comfort, a familiarity, and what the whole Pittsburgh experience did for you to this point?
COACH McCARTHY: Well, I’m not sure what you just asked me there, Mike.
Q. Just the second part of the question.
COACH McCARTHY: Pittsburgh is obviously a big part of who I am. And my family’s still back there. This is going to be a very unique experience for everybody.
Half my coaching staff has either played in Pittsburgh or is from Pittsburgh. So there will be a lot of storylines from that perspective.
But one thing we talked about as a coaching staff, and will continue to talk about as a football team, you know we’re not preparing for Super Bowl XLV. We’re preparing to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in a football game and that’s what we need to stay focused on.
They’re an excellent football team. Obviously. They’ve had a lot of success. They’re a veteran team and an experienced team. This is not their first go‑around. They’ve definitely been through this experience before where we have not.
And we understand that. But we’re going to stick to our approach. And that’s the way we’re going to face it. And I think the fact that I’m from back there, it’s neat. I’m a Pittsburgh Steeler fan growing up. They’re my second favorite team.
I thought it was awesome to have Terry Bradshaw present the Halas Trophy in the locker room. Personally I got a charge out of that. Terry was obviously the quarterback in my youth during the ’70s when they won the four Super Bowls. But trust me I’m a Green Bay Packer and it’s important for us to bring the Lombardi Trophy back home.
Q. What problems does Roethlisberger present?
COACH McCARTHY: Dynamic football player, Roethlisberger. I’ll tell you, really loved him when he was coming out. And he’s very gifted in extending plays. That’s something, when you look at Ben and you look at Aaron, they have that unique ability to play in the pocket and play out of the pocket.
Roethlisberger can make all the throws inside the pocket and particularly when things break down, just once again extend the plays. He’s a world champion. He’s been to this game twice. He has two Super Bowls under his belt. So he definitely makes that offense go.
Q. Can you draw from the last time these two teams played, the personnel on both sides, but can you draw anything?
COACH McCARTHY: We’ll watch the game. It’s something that will be part of our preparation. But they were a different team last year. They had some injuries last year when we played in Pittsburgh. We also had some injuries going into that game. This will be on a different surface. So we’ll look at that game. And there will be a lot of carry‑over, though, because I think if you walked in their defensive huddle it would sound a lot like our defensive huddle.
Both teams have the ability to be explosive. The special teams, Al Everest, I think does an excellent job with their special teams. I’ve worked with Al in New Orleans. This is going to be a game that’s going to come down to one team’s going to really have to play at a very high level to win the football game.
Q. Tell us about Ted Thompson, can you talk about him as someone who works with him and what he means to this organization?
COACH McCARTHY: Ted Thompson, he’s the easiest guy in the world to work with because he’s so consistent. He’s perfect for a first‑time head coach. He was for me. Definitely, because he’s the same person every day. He doesn’t make emotional decisions. Has a plan, sticks to his plan. Has the strength to stick to the plan even through the storms.
So he’s once again, he’s the leader of our football operations. He’s why this team is in the shape that it’s in and why the future looks so bright.
But you would never want to have a better partner for a GM/head coach relationship, in my opinion, because you know what you get every day. That’s important. He’s very gifted at personnel evaluation. I think that’s obvious. He stays true to that.
I don’t know if there’s another GM that’s on the road as much as Ted. He’s out there every week. And you know when he selects a player in the Draft, it’s someone that’s well-researched. So I have great respect for Ted Thompson.
Q. I don’t want to revisit the Favre thing in any way.
COACH McCARTHY: Let’s not do it then.
Q. I want to ask you about Ted specifically after what he went through, the fan base was kind of divided, obviously. He took a lot of grief. A lot of people were very critical of him. Did you see that affect him in any way, and how disappointing was that for you, given your relationship with him and I’m sure how much you like him on a personal level?
COACH McCARTHY: Well, I think that’s the big part of our business. We have a plan. Unfortunately, for the media, we don’t have, … it’s probably not in the best interest for us to put every decision, every conversation out there in the public, and I understand how passionate our fan base is.
So at that particular situation, there was a lot that was out in the public. But I think it truly shows the strength of Ted to stick to his guns, stay the course. We stayed with the plan. We made the decision based on what we felt was the best interests of the Green Bay Packers, and we never budged off of it. It wasn’t popular, and it wasn’t fun at times, but we felt it was the right decision. And I think why we’re standing here today talking about it proves it was the right decision.
Q. You mentioned personnel evaluation and then getting guys to step in for players that have been injured. That obviously plays a role. How much of it is also cultural in terms of what you or the organization does in getting guys in the mentality to do that?
COACH McCARTHY: I think it’s how you piece it all together. To me, when we talked about building a program, you know you have player acquisition. You have player instruction. You have player finance.
Those three categories have to come together. And we have that in place. I think culture, everything you do has to be about your culture, make sure you have the right individuals in the locker room. Make sure you have the right support people touching that locker room and be the best that you can be, be experts in your particular position, make sure everybody has a clear understanding what their responsibility is, what their role is, and that’s in place.
And once again, Ted, he’s the head of the football operations and he makes the tough key decisions, and he’s a big reason why we’re all standing here today.
Q. Sam Shields really stepped up yesterday. What does it say about this defense that every week seems like there’s a different star to the show?
COACH McCARTHY: I can’t say enough about the defensive players, the defensive coaching staff. But Dom Capers, you talk about being on the same page, players clearly understand what are their responsibilities and stepping up and making plays, there’s no thinking involved.
The communication is smooth. They’re out there playing football. And I think it speaks volumes when you can take a young man like Sam, bring him into your program, and he’s now just playing football. He’s not thinking about his assignments. He’s recognizing routes.
He’s playing at top speed, and he puts himself into the position to make those plays and ultimately the credit goes to Sam, because he had a huge day for us down there in Chicago with the two big interceptions and the sack.
Q. You talked a lot in the preseason about going to the Super Bowl, expectations. Perhaps the path didn’t turn out ‑‑ what did you guys do to get there?
COACH McCARTHY: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear the first part of your question.
Q. You guys talked about Super Bowl expectations in the preseason, making the path and making it a reality. Even though the path wasn’t to your advantage, what did you do in your estimation to make it a reality?
COACH McCARTHY: You really have no control of the path. That’s part of the deal. I mean, every season’s different. You just try to keep it on the road. So our particular path this year, in hindsight, has made us a stronger football team. It’s shaped us in a different way.
We’ve had opportunity, really, to play five playoff games going into this Super Bowl. So I think that really helps us. We feel like we’re a razor‑sharp team as far as the level of play that we’ve been bringing to the table here the last month.
We knew we were a good football team when we came out of training camp. We knew we’d have an opportunity to be part of this. And things sometimes go your way, sometimes they don’t.
But I think it speaks volumes about the men in the locker room, the character, everybody keeping an eye on their target. And really coming down to the New York Giants game, that’s the one thing that we just kept reiterating to our players: All of our goals are still in front of us. We didn’t need any help. And I think that really helped our guys stay focused, stay on point, and the Giant victory there at home was big and then we were able to run the next four in a row. Just part of shaping of a football team.
Q. Why has Aaron Rogers been so good this year?
COACH McCARTHY: Well, I mean, Aaron’s, he’s a special athlete. He can do everything you ask at the quarterback position, can make all the throws. Very smart, has great command of a very versatile offense. He has a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage.
He’s in sync with his perimeter players. You can just see that on a daily basis. I get to witness it as far as the communication and the meeting time and the way they discuss routes, how the defenders are playing them and so forth.
And I think you’re just seeing the maturation of a great quarterback on a high‑powered offense.
Q. Clay was in here earlier. Reminded us he’s only in his second year in this league. Do you ever find yourself thinking, going into just his second year in the NFL, the types of plays he makes at the right time?
COACH McCARTHY: I mean, Clay’s a very gifted young man. He’s off to an incredible career. But it is special what he’s accomplished, statistically, the first two years.
And that’s really the ‑‑ with all these guys being so young. We have an opportunity to be a very good football team for a long time. But Clay Matthews brings an intensity, a motor, a passion to our defense that’s just contagious. I’m glad he’s a Green Bay Packer.
Q. Is there any sense of validation when you go to the Super Bowl for the first time just from your standpoint?
COACH McCARTHY: Haven’t thought about it. Validation really hasn’t crossed my mind. I’m just focused on winning because that’s all that matters right now. It’s nice that people say nice things about you today and so forth.
But I really don’t spend a whole lot of time with that thought process. But we need to win the game.
Q. Is there anybody particularly you can call upon for advice for how to handle these next couple of weeks?
COACH McCARTHY: Not really. A lot of those conversations really have already gone on. This is something personally that I’ve been preparing for. I’ve always had the schedule in place what I would do when we got to this point.
You always need to adjust it based on the health of your team or something that changes that’s out of your control. So a lot of those conversations have already taken place.
Q. Anything about the Steelers organization that you admire, just the way they go about their business, and do you think a lot of NFL teams model themselves after them because of their successes?
COACH McCARTHY: One thing I know for sure growing up there, and now being in the NFL for a number of years, you just always admire the consistency of the Rooney family. Their approach, it never changes. They’ve been running the same defensive system for almost 20 years. So they just have so much consistency how they acquire personnel, how they treat their players, how their organization is ran. And I think that’s a huge part of their success.
Q. You talked about a plan for Super Bowl week in advance. How far are we talking?
COACH McCARTHY: I don’t know. Quite some time. I mean, I was in the position in ’07 to prepare for a Super Bowl ahead of time. So for a number of years.
Q. What did you think about that play that B.J. Raji made yesterday?
COACH McCARTHY: I loved it live. Wasn’t real fired up about it this morning when I watched it on film. I didn’t realize he had the ball hanging out there at the 10‑yard line. That’s not what you’re looking for. It’s just a great individual play. Dom had him on a spy technique. He jumps in front of the ball. Quarterback never saw him. Just to catch and show his athletic ability. And the dance is a little bit undesirable, too. So he got two minuses on that play.
Q. Got mixed reviews on the dance?
COACH McCARTHY: Like I said he got two minuses on the play, one for holding the ball out and one for the dance.
Q. Don Driver said earlier that he feels like no one can beat us but ourselves. How confident do you sense your team is right now?
COACH McCARTHY: We’re very confident and it’s been building every week. We came out of that Giants game, that was probably one of our better performances of the year, and to beat Chicago at home, and then go to Philadelphia for three road wins is, as you know, is huge especially in playoff football. So confidence has just been building.
If you talk about validation, Mike, that’s the one validation we’ve had as a football team. We’ve always felt we had an opportunity to be a great team. We get an opportunity to achieve greatness here in two weeks. But we haven’t lacked for confidence really all year.
And as long as the goal has always stayed in front of us, I’ve never felt that our confidence ever wavered.
Q. In the first half yesterday you went up and down the field. Second half struggled a little bit. What changed? And also did the fact that hit Rodgers took have anything to do with a little bit of the struggles in the second half?
COACH McCARTHY: What changed offensively really for me was the second series. The first series went exactly the way you’d like it to go, and it was the plan obviously going into the game. We lost Chad Clifton on the touchdown, the first touchdown that Aaron scored on down there. And then the play calling changed. We had T.J. in there on Peppers, and there’s some things that we backed off of.
But we were still able to move the ball effectively there in the second quarter. Really, the turnover before the half and the turnover in the third quarter were the two plays that probably kept Chicago in the game.
I felt we had a chance to get them on the ropes and potentially get the score to a three‑score game. I think the outcome would have been more different. It’s a credit to their defense and to them as a football team for really hanging in there and fighting, because they’re a great team, playing at home.
We never really got back on course after that third quarter. But I really like the way we came out. But Chad Clifton’s injury definitely changed it a little bit for me. But I thought Chad did a good job responding, coming back out and playing in the second half. I thought he did a good job.
Q. Is Aaron okay this morning?
COACH McCARTHY: Aaron’s fine. He’s smiling, he’s happy. Counting his Super Bowl tickets. He’s in good shape.
Q. His shoulder is okay? Because he got hit pretty hard on the touchdown run, hit the pylon?
COACH McCARTHY: He’s sore. I think every NFL players, especially any quarterback that’s playing this time of year, he’s got some bumps and bruises.
Q. You do a lot of things defensively. Is that Dom just having skills in complex situations, and putting guys in matchups where they don’t feel like they have to process all that much? Can you talk a little bit about hat?
COACH McCARTHY: Dom Capers is clearly probably the most detailed coach that I’ve been around. You may be as detailed as him, but there’s nobody who’s more detailed in Dom’s approach as far as his teaching and organization with the defensive staff and the players. And that’s one component of a great teacher.
He’s obviously a great teacher. And we’re in the second year of the defense. You can see the improvements we made from year one to year two. And you have to give a lot of credit to Joe Whitt. Joe Whitt has done an excellent job with the corners, and he’s been hard on Sam from day one. And it’s definitely paying off.
So excellent coaching going on there, but once again you’ve got to give Sam the credit. He’s taking full control of this opportunity. He’s doing a heck of a job.
Q. Do you use this week to fit in all your game-planning, or are you someone who maybe saves a little bit?
COACH McCARTHY: Oh no. We’ll be ready to play. When we get on the plane Monday we’ll be ready to play the game. This will be a normal week for us.
Q. Seems almost unheard of for a team to go through an entire season not having trailed by more than seven points in any game. What do you attribute that to?
COACH McCARTHY: I think it says a lot about our football team, everything involved in it. We’ve had a number of victories that were significant. We had a significant victory against the No. 1 seed there in Atlanta. But on the other side of it, like you’ve already stated, we kept it close. We’re a very competitive team.
We handle adversity so much better compared to last year. That was a major emphasis for us in the off‑season. So just ‑‑ it’s just really the confidence and the level that we’re playing at as a team.
Q. Can you talk about adversity, point to where an individual didn’t handle it the way he should have or do you leave that behind and focus ‑‑
COACH McCARTHY: I mean, you use your off‑season to establish teaching tapes and how you’re installing for the next year. We do a lot of our work in March and April and past years with the off‑season program that you’re able to get into the hands of the players as early as March.
So just identifying what you think you need to work on as far as the things that have gone wrong in the past year, and try to make them into positives. But, more importantly, maintaining your strengths. I think that’s important anytime you’re developing a football team.
Q. How about Tim Masthay, how has he been able to take his game to another level?
COACH McCARTHY: He may be the most improved player on our team. If you want to look how the beginning of the season, just from a pure production standpoint. Tim was huge in the Chicago game. Twice now. That’s something that has been a very big strength of Chicago.
You look at their victories, their special team production has factored in so many of their wins this year. Really, I know in my time here that they’ve given us fits on special teams.
But Tim has really changed that for us the last two games. I thought his punting was exceptional again. Big factor trying to keep Devin Hester out of the game.
Q. Your strongest memory growing up?
COACH McCARTHY: Really, just Pittsburgh, the ’70s, just championships, period. We were the City of Champions. The Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls. The Pirates won the World Series in ’71 and ’79. Pitt won a national championship in ’76. And I went back to the University of Pittsburgh as a coach ’89, ’89 and ’92, and the Penguins were winning the Stanley Cup. Got a lot of great memories as far as Pittsburgh goes particularly with sports.
Q. Do you think the Steelers’ Super Bowl experience is meaningful?
COACH McCARTHY: It’s meaningful, but we’re aware of it and we understand that we haven’t been there before, and that’s something we’ll talk about and make sure expectations and responsibilities is very clear for everybody.
Q. Most of us are going to write Pittsburgh stories about you this week and next week. When Ted made the comment, and we’ve teased him a little bit about that, in the introductory press conference about Pittsburgh macho, what do you take that to mean? And there is a definite thing about folks from Pittsburgh, isn’t there? There’s a toughness there?
COACH McCARTHY: Probably the way I talk. You make fun of me on the radio all the time. So maybe that’s it. That’s what my sources tell me, my unnamed sources. Excuse me.
Q. I’m glad they’re listening.
COACH McCARTHY: I think the one is over here. But I don’t know after that. (Laughter) The Inzers, he wishes he was the Inzer. I don’t know how to answer that question. I think Pittsburgh, proud of my hometown. I grew up the right way. So it will be a neat experience.
Q. Do you know what uniforms you’re going to wear yet?
COACH McCARTHY: Yes, we’re going to wear the green jerseys. We’re excited about that.
Q. Any particular reason?
COACH McCARTHY: We’re the home team is my understanding. Obviously prefer to wear the green, too. But we’re the home team.
Q. Does it feel like you thought it was going to feel? You wanted obviously, as a head coach you want to coach the Super Bowl. Does this week feel like it’s what you expected it to be?
COACH McCARTHY: It will when I get some sleep. It hasn’t started yet. It’s going to be a great week. Trust me, we’re going to enjoy it. But everyone wants to get to the football game. I think it’s very important for our football team to stay in tune with that. Thank you.