Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks Press Conference

Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks

­­Press Conference – September 7, 2023

San Francisco 49ers

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Opening comments:

“We’ve had two good days of practice this week. Consistency is always the key with anything that you’re doing. Again, we’re preparing for a good football team and the Steelers are well coached, very talented, and definitely have weapons all across the board. So with that, I know you have a lot of questions, so I’ll open up the floor.”

What was your first order of business when you found out that DL Nick Bosa was going to be here?

“Excited, number one, that he’s back in the building. We all know that he makes us a better football team, not just a better defense. So business as usual in regards for his preparation, but understand that he brings a little bit more to the game plan.”

From an energy perspective, what has he kind of brought even the short time he’s been back?

“Everybody’s excited that he’s back in the building. Coaches, players, you saw the energy that we had on Monday when we came in and just magnified when he got here. So once again, excited that he’s back and looking forward to him being on the field.”

The Steelers this offseason made a big deal about trying to be more explosive offensively. From what you’ve seen from QB Kenny Pickett in the preseason, have you seen that’s something they can reach?

“I think they’re living up to that. Yeah, for sure. He’s pushing the ball down the field quite a bit. Definitely have weapons in [WR George] Pickens. I think he is phenomenal in everything that he does for as catch radius, you throw the ball anywhere close to him, he’s pulling it in. So solid run game and they complement that with play-action down the field.”

Did Nick do any work with the team today or was it just individual stuff today?

“He was just individual, yeah.”

What do you think is a realistic snap count for him on Sunday?

“It’s hard to say. I think each player’s different, and I say that in a meaningful way, he’s different. So it is not really trying to put a limit on what he can do, it’s just trying to get a feel and once we get into the game and then go from there.”

He obviously hasn’t been in training camp, hasn’t kind of gone through the soreness that everybody else goes through. Is that at all a concern that he might be able to play a lot of snaps, but there might be something on the backend that he would deal with?

“Well, I think you always have to judge that with all your players. A guy that hasn’t been here, as you stated, guys that have multiple years in the league, you’re always trying to foresee things. We’ve got a quick Thursday Night game. That’s things to think about for his reps on the frontend as well. So yes, we have thought about that.”

Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada, he’s got three different backs, how does he use them? How’s he used them in the preseason and what do you know about Canada?

“Great coach, good offensive mind. Played him last year. I thought they do a great job in everything they’re doing. [RB Najee] Harris is more in between the tackles, a power runner, but I think he has the ability to be able to get on the outside as well. So, I think he does a great job in using all three of those guys. And when you look at their run game, I think the simplicity of it from a standpoint of what they do, but the magnitude and how they do it is some somewhat complicated. So, they hit you inside, in between the tackles, they get on the outside with the jet sweeps, the bounce play. So we’ve got to do a great job of setting the edges this week, to say the least.”

CB Charvarius Ward wasn’t practicing today. Is there any concern about him being able play Sunday?

“No. I’m not concerned at all. I think he’ll be ready to play, so it’s not an issue with me.”

What about S Talanoa Hufanga? I know that he missed today because of a personal matter, but was the knee, the cist, problematic in yesterday’s practice at all?

“No. Again, as you stated, it is personal, so I won’t go into detail about that. I just understand and know when guys like that aren’t here, Bosa, Mooney’s out, Huff is not here, it just gives us an opportunity to get other guys reps as we’ve seen. And at some point in time those reps are going to come into play rather Week 1 this week or Week 10. So I look at it as a positive sometimes.”

With him out, with those two safeties not practicing, how has S Ji’Ayir Brown handled everything?

“I think Ji’Ayir’s getting better. I think he’s becoming a little bit more comfortable in the things that we’re asking him to do. I think he saw that in preseason. Again the transition with a lot of these rookies, just understanding how we do things and most importantly, just trying to operate under consistency because at some point in time, hope it’s no time soon, they will hit that rookie wall.”

Have you met Bosa before he arrived last night?

“At mini-camp. Mandatory mini-camp when he was here.”

Offensive line/run game coordinator coach Chris Foerster has talked about the first extended drive that an offense gets in the first regular season game is as tired as he’ll see them all year because it’s their first real strain that of a regular season game that cannot be replicated even in preseason. Is it same for the defense?

“It is. And I think [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] does a great job in how we practice in trying to orchestrate those different looks. And there’s times that we’ve gone 10-play drives, 12-play drives, just trying to create that game-like similarity.”

Pickett has gone five drives and five touchdowns in the preseason. Obviously, you looked at him this preseason, but you looked at his film last year. How’s he different from last year from what you saw this summer?

“I think he’s a little bit more comfortable in the offense and what they ask him to do. He makes great decisions with the ball. Again, I think they have a solid run game, which I think really takes a lot of the pressure off of him having to constantly push the ball down the field and go win a game. They create a lot of balance in what they do. I think again, the play-action down the field has definitely been a difference and it jumps out at you on tape. And the receivers again, they have in Pickens and [WR Diontae] Johnson, I think are outstanding.”