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What We Learned From Wednesday's Media Availability

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid, Quarterback Alex Smith and Safety Eric Berry spoke with the media on Wednesday

Andy Reid

OPENING STATEMENT:"Alright, so really don't have any injuries to talk about. Everybody is practicing and we're rolling there. We look forward to the challenge of playing Pittsburgh. We obviously know what kind of team they are, and they know what kind of team we are. It should be a heck of a football game. We look forward to getting everybody out there to the game and welcome them to Arrowhead Stadium."

Q: You were asked why Alex Smith maybe elevates his game in the playoffs – anything you can point to for the reason of that?

REID: "Well, I would tell you that he's good during the season. That was my comment back then when it was asked before. It's a tribute to his competitiveness I would say. I think he does well during the season too."

Q: His composure though? It seems like he has a heightened sense of awareness at the very least.

REID: "Well, he has a lot of experience in the playoffs there. He loves that challenge and does well with it."

Q: Ben Roethlisberger asked that you take your time with Justin Houston and not hurry him back into the lineup – any thoughts with that?

REID: "Ben's [Roethlisberger] a smart guy."

Q: Is there any reason Alex Smith has turned up his run game over the last few weeks?

REID: "Yeah, it's just what was there. It's not anything we've talked about, and we didn't build that in. It was just available, and he took off and went with it."

Q: How dangerous is it as a coach if your quarterbacks gets away from progressions too quickly? Why do you want a quarterback to stay away from that?

REID: "The route is designed to go through the progression, so you take advantage of whatever coverage you're going against. So, you're hoping as you go through that progression that there is somebody open there. If there is not, then you giddy up and go."

Q: What's your expectation of what Justin Houston will look like and how he will perform?

REID: "I'll probably know more watching practice. I think he'll be fine. I'm anticipating that. So, I think that's where we'll be at."

Q: Did Justin Houston go through the 10-10-10 the other day?

REID: "He [Justin Houston] did not – no."

Q: With Le'Veon Bell's talents and Derrick Johnson's absence, does that change responsibilities at all for a guy like Eric Berry?

REID: "Well, listen, gap integrity is important. He's pretty good at running through seams, so you have to eliminate those. Depending on whatever coverage you're in, the safeties become a factor – yeah. That's not the main thing. Everybody has to keep their gap integrity. When you're a part of it as a safety, then you have to do the same thing."

Q: What success has John Harbaugh had since he worked for you? Are you surprised someone hasn't given a special teams guy a shot since?

REID: "I've said this before, I think special teams coaches are as ready as anybody to be head coaches. They have to deal with the whole team when they game plan. When they talk to the media, they have to deal with a whole team there. Very seldom do they come out of a game where every phase was perfect. So, I think they're as ready as anybody to be a head coach." 

Q: What was it about Dave Toub when you brought him to Philadelphia 15 years ago that convinced you that he would be a good special teams coach since that was his first job in special teams? 

REID: "Dave [Toub] and I were together at UTEP and Missouri. I brought him in as an assistant defensive line coach and special teams quality control coach. There weren't any special teams quality control coaches at that time, so it kind of started a new position. It gave him an opportunity to learn that phase of it and still help out with the defensive line. I thought he was a good football coach. He was our strength coach, then he became the defensive line coach.  He helped me actually when he was younger with the offensive line when he was the strength coach."

Q: What's your message to the younger guys on this team who haven't been on this stage before? 

REID: "You have to go through the process, and it starts here today. You make sure you take it step-by-step, and then, you practice fast and make sure you have that going. Then, once you get out there, you do what got you there. Know the game is going to be a little faster – that's how the playoffs are – so don't be surprised by that, but go play. Do what got you here."

Q: What kind of challenge does it present having Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown on the field at the same time?

REID: "They have a good offense and both those two are All-Pro Players. So, we have to make sure we do a good job against them, and they've got a good quarterback. So, you don't want to leave that part out. You have to play. You have the game plan and make sure you master it, and then, go play."

Q: What did you learn about your team after the first Pittsburgh game?

REID: "Well, they didn't hang their head. They learned from their mistakes. They're disappointed, obviously. They learned from their mistakes, so they could progress and play the rest of the season there. We know they're a good football team. That's what you love about this, so we love this challenge of playing them because of that."

Q: Is there a response to Jamaal Charles coming out about his knee swelling?

REID: "It was not different than what I mentioned. You can go back and pull out whatever we said. He's here, and he's working. I don't know exactly what he said. I'd tell you that he's here working his tail off and trying to get back to where he can play at this level. I mean, I said what I said, we weren't hiding anything from anybody."

Q: Is there any concern that he would say that it wasn't what it was?

REID: "My concern, and I know his is the same, is that we take care of business right now."

Alex Smith

Q: What specifically about last year's experience in the playoffs is helpful this year?

SMITH: The biggest thing is just having played on the stage. There are a lot of emotions this time of year. Everybody's put in a lot of work and sacrifice to have these kinds of opportunities. Sometimes the stage and the setting and everything that comes with it can affect the preparation. Having gone through that and even this year playing on a bunch of big stages, I think all that stuff helps you, just a little more easiness about going about your business and focusing on football and dealing with the stuff that comes with this kind of game."

Q:Does it help at all that this one's at home as opposed to the previous three playoff games for the Chiefs?

SMITH:"Yeah. The big difference right off the bat is that you don't have to travel. And you have a lot of routines here. And then there's the benefit of Arrowhead. For us, offensively, being able to use cadences to our advantages. It goes the other way defensively where we can take advantage of the noise. Being able to lean on the crowd at times for energy is big."

Q:This team has been just as good, maybe even better on the road this year. Is there anything that can point to that?

SMITH:"It's hard at this point not having analyzed all of it. There's a lot of uniqueness in the weekly matchups. It's hard to get into specifics. I think every guy in [this locker room] would agree that when playing at home, there is an advantage that comes with that. It's different than being on the road. Especially for us offensively. It would be hard to analyze the whole season at this point."

Q:Through your entire career in the playoffs, is there anything different with your preparation?

SMITH:"Honestly no. I think we all trust our routine, trust our preparation and trust the process of how we go about our business. No I don't think I could point to one particular thing. You're just going out and trying to play to the best of your ability. More often than not as a quarterback, your performance is a reflection of the guys around you. I've been fortunate to be around some pretty good guys."

Q:How different is your offense as opposed to where it was in early October?

SMITH:"Some of it is different and some is the same. It obviously grows as the season goes on and there's the journey there of figuring out your identity, dealing with things, injuries and stuff like that. There's things that are the same as well from the beginning of the year. So a little of both."

Q:How long did it take to fully get Tyreek Hill involved in this offense? Is he someone you envisioned having?

SMITH:"He's a guy that from the jump was getting sprinkled in from the start. Even going back to OTAs, he's a guy that everybody was aware of. From Day One, he seemed to be making plays and he never seemed to slow down and never really hit a wall. Another big turning point was unfortunately when Jeremy [Maclin] went down for those few weeks. It presented an opportunity for Tyreek to play a little more on all downs. He started playing more and not just on specialty downs. He continues to prepare himself, he goes out and makes plays, he handles all the stuff we do with him -- and we ask a lot of him. I felt like that was the next big jump for him."  

Q:What did you see from the Pittsburgh defensive line? How happy are you that your offensive line is about as healthy as it can be right now?

SMITH:"They're always physical. That's something they hang their hat on. Being physical and playing with emotions is something that's been going on there for a long time and it's been part of their culture for a long time. Especially on that side of the ball. When you get to this point in the season, everybody is physical and all these teams are playing at a high level. We've got a big challenge ahead of us. These guys make you prepare for a lot on defense. They do it all: they play every front, everybody can come, every linebacker, every corner, every guy can drop into coverage, noseguard, defensive tackle it doesn't matter. They do it all and they make you prepare for a lot. It'll be a challenge for us."

Q:Is playoff football faster than the regular season and how so if that's the case?

SMITH:"I don't know about faster. All the teams are better. These are the best of the best and they're playing at a high level. The margin of error is turned up because there is that parity. Little details get magnified in games like this and environments like this. Part of that speed goes back to the stage and teams that can handle it. They don't get caught up in a lot of this. They get into the details of their job and executing. In the end, it's going to come down to the whistle blowing and the team that executes the best. Obviously, there's lot of buildup and a lot of emotion of getting there. The team that can handle that the best certainly has the best chance."

Q:How much of the first matchup with the Steelers have you watched this week?

SMITH:"I've watched that game a bunch of times, as well as some cut-ups and a bunch of other games."

Q:Has their defense changed much since the first time you played them?

SMITH:"Yeah. It's the same thing with them. It's been a long time so they've changed as well. Over the course of the season they've progressed and gone a certain direction. There's a lot they change up from week-to-week as well. They make you prepare for a lot and they do a lot. It changes week-to-week which makes it difficult to prepare for."

Q:How much more preparation do you have to put in for this Pittsburgh team as opposed to a 'normal' one?

SMITH:"It's just different. It's a different weekly challenge. These guys invented zone pressure and do a lot of it. They make you prepare for a lot. Front wise, they move guys around a lot and guys play all over. A lot of times, you can get caught up in that alone to where you're not spending time on the other stuff. You can spend a lot of time preparing for a defense like this."

Eric Berry

Q: What's your advice this week for some of the younger guys who haven't been through what you guys are going to face on Sunday?

BERRY: "A sense of urgency. It's going to be a little bit faster. That's pretty much it."

Q: When did you learn that yourself? Did you have older guys tell you that before that Baltimore game a few years ago your rookie year or did you have to learn that yourself?

BERRY: "I specifically remember Thomas Jones telling me that. He was the one that told me throughout the season about going from preseason to the regular season to December football into the playoffs and he just said it gets faster each phase."

Q: Was he right?

BERRY: "Yeah definitely"

Q: On the Week Four matchup at Pittsburgh:

BERRY: "It was a learning experience overall. You kind of see what you have to work on and what you have to correct and I think that was the biggest thing for us."

Q: On Ben Roethlisberger:

BERRY: "He is who he is. He's a great quarterback."

Q: How different is Le'Veon Bell's running style?

BERRY: "It's different. A lot of people focus on coaching technique, but it's a little easier to diagnose technique and figure out what it is. When you have a unique style, along with technique it's a little difficult. His style is unique and very unorthodox. He does a good job of changing paces. It's just playing good technique against him and understanding the style of run he has."

Q: He says he's changing the game like Steph Curry changed basketball, are you buying that?

BERRY: "Everybody has their own opinion. I feel like he does bring a uniqueness to the game and he's a very talented player. You have to look at what the running back really is doing and what running backs have done it in the past. If you see the ones that have done it in the past, if it's anything different from that, then hell he's changing the game."

Q: Now that the bye week is behind you, how do you feel and how valuable was it to have that week of rest?

BERRY: "It's been pretty cool, not just to get the rest but to clear your mind as well and just kind of evaluate what's been going on and what's been taking place. Just being able to clear your thoughts, it was very big."

Q: How prepared for this moment on Sunday do you feel this team is?

BERRY: "I feel like we're very prepared just because we're focused. We've been focused from the get-go. We're just going to go out and handle business, pay attention to our coaches, pay attention to each other and get the job done."

Q: How does this year's team feel different from last year's team at this point in the playoffs?

BERRY: "Chemistry and experience. A lot of people don't account for chemistry on a team. Some of them solely deal with talent but I feel like the chemistry has been pretty good."

Q: Last year's win against Houston meant a lot to this city because it had been a long time since the Chiefs had a win in the playoffs. Does it feel different this year? Are your priorities, your feelings on where you guys are at -- has that changed at all because you've gotten over that hump?

BERRY: "Like I said, that goes back to embracing the process. You can't really be concerned with any of the outside factors. It's just about keep putting in good work, keep coming into the building giving our best and making it happen in that way. I don't really know about any humps."

Q: What are the traits a corner has to have if he was going to travel with the receiver the whole game?

BERRY: "At the end of the day just compete. It's a passing league, it's an offensive game but at the same time they're going to make some catches and we're going to make some plays to. It's all about competing that's what I think it comes down to."

Q: Long-term, one day, if Marcus Peter got that responsibility, what would make you think that he could handle it and do it well?

BERRY: "He adjusts well and plays the game with passion. He listens and he studies. You'll have to ask him."

Q: We've seen you a number of times in pregame sort of kneeling, you seem to be visualizing before the game, how does that process help get you mentally right before?

BERRY: "I do that all the time even in walkthroughs. Just going through everything you can have a limit on physical reps but mental reps and visualizing and really painting that picture on how you want to play the game -- that plays a big role in what you actually do. I like to do that. I also like to appreciate the moment and take it all in and go from there."

Q: Because some of the tendencies the Steelers offense has, Ben Roethlisberger has a very good pump fake, Le'Veon Bell is a very patient runner, how difficult is it to be aggressive against this defense, go full tilt and get those good solid hits you like to get?

BERRY: "I think if we just play together as a team and get to the ball, read our keys, I think we'll be okay. I think that's the main thing."

Q: You've faced Todd [Haley] a couple times now, is it unique, interesting, is there anything from his time here that you can apply to facing this team?

BERRY: "I don't really have too much to say about that."

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