Trying something new - here are what I consider to be the top ten things to come out of Dave Wannstedt's press conference with the media today. No 'breaking news', but some interesting comments.
10. Pleased with offensive line changes...well, at least considering the circumstances:
On Jordan Gibbs’ performance in a starting role:
"I think he did a good job. From an assignment standpoint he did pretty well. He’s a big man out there, and with some of the plays and things that we’re doing from a run standpoint, he brings some consistency to our offensive line.
"The guy that really had the biggest transition was Lucas Nix going from tackle to guard, which he’s never played. I was very encouraged for his first game. Everything is different for him from a standpoint of pass protection, pulling on our power plays, pulling on the sweeps, screens, all those things. He was the one that had to make the biggest adjustment. I thought that as the game went on he got more comfortable. He’ll get a good week of practice in, and I think he’ll be more confident this week than he was last week."
Other than the ridiculous false start penalties, it's hard to say the line had a bad game. Tino seemed to have time to throw and we all saw what the running game did. I'd definitely say there was improvement, but I don't know how much of that was due to the line changes and how much was due to players being more comfortable.
9. Not much improvement at linebacker:
On whether the linebacker unit played more confidently last week with the personnel changes:
"I wouldn’t say that. I think Dom DeCicco was kind of feeling his way himself. That was a lot to throw him into, the fire so to speak. He’ll get better week-after-week. Max Gruder was starting in the middle. Since August he’s taken all the reps from the outside, so that was a little bit different for him. I would expect us to feel a little more confident this week than we were last week."
8. Dan Mason underwent successful surgery on Friday:
"Dan Mason had his surgery on Friday and went home yesterday from the hospital. The surgery was successful. We’ll see where it goes from there."
Obviously he's still out for the season.
7. Jon Baldwin needs more touches:
"For us, trying to take our offense to another level, which we need to, Jon Baldwin needs to get his hands on the football. He had probably as good a week of practice last week since he’s been here from an execution standpoint.
"We had three plays that we felt were touchdown plays for him on Saturday. One we step offside, one we get pressure in our face and we can’t get the ball to him and the third one they rolled the coverage on us and ran in circles. One was the coverage, one was a blitz-pressure that took us out of it and the third one we jump offside and move the ball back and have to change the play. That was just three plays that we thought were perfect setups that could have been touchdowns, and we don’t get a chance.
I thought it was interesting that Wannstedt didn't mention the play that Baldwin should have made. One of the tosses in the end zone, while not hitting him in stride, hit him square in the hands. He's got to come down with that ball. I can't help but wonder what he's thinking about the NFL right now. Clearly, there's no connection between he and QB Tino Sunseri right now. Assuming Sunseri starts again next year (and according to Paul Zeise of the PG, that's a big 'if', I don't know if Baldwin would want to put himself through this again.
Part of me thinks that Baldwin would be inclined to go to the NFL with even a half-decent season. He's got the size and skills, but his numbers are looking like they're going to be down this season. Does he go to the NFL if he only has, say 800 yards receiving, and rely on his makeup to get himself drafted in the first round? Hard to tell at this point.
6. No serious injuries from Saturday's game:
We don’t have anybody that is ruled out for this week. We need a good week at practice.
Yeah, and Dion Lewis was listed as probable last week. I'll believe it when I see it.
5. Greg Romeus back to work tomorrow:
"He will start his rehab program tomorrow. It’s just going to be week-to-week, as quick as we can get him back. Up to this point, everything has been right where it needs to be from a healing standpoint and him feeling good. Now it’s just a matter of him getting strength back. He’ll be around more often."
Good stuff, but Pitt needs to be cautious with him. At this point, the most important part is not jeopardizing his NFL career.
4. First time all year the team has had confidence in the running game:
"I think we have some confidence now, for the first time all year. Whatever the reasons are, it really doesn’t matter. Whether it’s focus on the offensive line, or they think that our running backs are getting into the groove.
And you're not starting the guy who just ran for the second highest total in school history because...?
3. Both running backs will play:
"I expect Dion (Lewis) to be fine this week. Ray Graham and Dion Lewis will both practice and they will both play. We have a lot of other issues that are a concern to me whether than who’s going to be carrying the ball. We’re fortunate to have both those guys, and we’ll continue to play them both."
I've got no problem with this. Lewis will likely be needed at some point this year and by no means should Pitt sit him completely. I just think at this point, Graham should get the bulk of the carries. He's earned it by his play in each of the three games he's played and gave the team a spark each time.
2. Dom DeCicco will play some games at linebacker and some at safety, depending on the opponent:
When you’re defending three and four wide receivers like FIU was using from an offensive package, he was really lined up as a nickel back. That’s what the move is. If we were playing a team like ourselves with two backs and a power running team we would probably put him back in safety and play Tristan Roberts.
1. Pitt's field position determined whether Ray got back in the game:
In fact, if we would have gone back out on offense and been backed up, we probably would have put him in the game and given him a chance to get 300 yards. Unfortunately we got the ball and I think it was on the 15 or 14-yard line so he couldn’t achieve that goal.
I thought this was mildly interesting. It would have been nice to see if he could have gotten the record and at least had a shot at it. Glad Wannstedt would have given him a chance to get it if the situation presented itself.