Mike Tomlin held a press conference Wednesday to talk about the upcoming game with the Philadelphia Eagles at Heinz Field Friday night. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say:
Opening statement: Needless to say, there's some excitement in the air as we push toward Friday night. We're excited about playing against somebody other than ourselves. We're excited about playing in front of our fans at Heinz Field. It's a necessary step that we need to take. We're ready to take that step. We'll know more about our football team after Friday night and we're looking forward to doing that. Some people who have been ruled out of the game at this point are: tight end Cody Boyd; of course Troy (Polamalu) is out, as is Anthony Smith; and (Casey) Hampton. I think some of the other guys that are experiencing some aches and pains because of camp are coming around at the appropriate time. We expect those guys to play, the William Gays, the Deshea Towsends and the like. We're getting where we need to be. We're getting all hands on deck as we push toward Friday night. We continue to do that. We still have some work to do between now and then. We'll continue to do that. We'll go out and have a great afternoon, hopefully, and continue to grow as a football team.
I think when you talk about what you look for in the first preseason game, you look for some young guys not to be surprised by the speed of the game. We've got to win the game in the trenches. We've got to play up-tempo football. We've got to play fast and hard. Hopefully we play to an acceptable standard in assignments, but you know the first time out, there will be those issues. More than anything we're looking for the competitors, the guys who will step up when the lights are on in stadiums, guys who can tackle. There's limited tackling in training camp. We've had roughly 13 or 14 snaps of goal line football. Other than that, we haven't taken people to the ground. It will be interesting to see how our ballcarriers respond to that in terms of ball security and finishing runs. It was also be interesting to see how our defenders respond when they have to finish plays accordingly. Those are some of the things we're looking for. I'll answer any questions.
How will you work your quarterback rotation?
It'll go just the way it's gone out here. It will go Ben (Roethlisberger), Charlie (Batch), Dennis (Dixon) and then Mike (Potts). All four guys are scheduled to play.
Will Ben play more than one series?
Probably not. We'll play it by ear.
You mentioned the fans. Having gone 7-1 at home last year, will you be wary of any new NFL guidelines regarding fan behavior changing the atmosphere?
As far as I know our fans are great. They cheer for us and cheer for us appropriately. It's a great atmosphere to play in. I think it's something when you walk in a stadium as a visitor, you're looking for a hostile crowd. It's hostile in the right way. I think our fans provide that. I know I'm excited about making that drive across that bridge to the north side on Friday evening. That feeling doesn't get old and I look forward to doing it on Friday night.
Have you decided who will return punts and how that rotation will go?
Yeah. We're going to look at Mewelde Moore, (Eddie) Drummond and we'll look at Jeremy Bloom. All of the guys who have been working will get a chance to return. In kickoff return, we're going to look at Mewelde, Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Reid. You'll see some of those guys who are capable of doing both, won't get a chance to do both Friday night. They'll get a chance to do it when we play Buffalo. The big thing we're looking for is to give all the guys a chance to show what they're capable of doing. We'll harden this thing up as things go on. That rotation is just a basis from which to begin Friday night.
Will you include Santonio (Holmes) in that at all?
Not Friday night.
How long will you go with the (first team) offensive line?
Roughly the first quarter is our intent. But the game changes. I say the first quarter because I envision two 12-play drives. We'll see how that turns out.
How has the battle at center gone between Sean (Mahan) and Justin (Hartwig) and how will you play those two guys?
I think it's been one of the more hotly contested battles. I think both guys have shown good things thus far at camp. I think as we push into the preseason games, that will give us more of an indication of how this thing is going to go. Similar to the punt return situation, Sean is going to get the call in this game and then Justin will play. We'll probably swap it up the following week, then have a definitive direction that we want to go after that.
Will Lawrence Timmons play both inside and outside?
Right now he's going to play inside. Of course he's going to play in our substitution packages, which he's done a great job at.
Is Casey Hampton any closer to getting on the active roster and how's he progressing?
I think he's progressing pretty well. This process is running its course. He is closer to being ready to contribute. We'll continue to monitor it, but that doesn't mean he'll be participating on Friday night.
How close is Troy?
Like Hamp, he is getting closer. We'll continue to monitor it. Hopefully, he'll be ready to go as early as next week. I don't have a crystal ball in terms of that.
Has Daniel (Sepulveda) had his surgery yet today?
He's scheduled to have it today, I don't know exactly what time it is scheduled. I'm sure I'll gain some information as we get it, but it is taking place today.
How much action will Rashard Mendenhall see?
He's going to play. He's going to tote the football and we expect big things from him as I'm sure he does from himself. We'll see what he looks like.
(Sepulveda) is not on injured reserve yet is he?
No he's not. He's a vested veteran, so you have to carry him at least until you get to 75 (players). That's why he's still on the roster at this point.
What's your general theme of this camp at this point?
You seem to be working the goal line much more than last year. Is it mental toughness, physical toughness? It is. We're trying to develop the makeup that is going to be us, the playing personality that we desire to have, which is a tough, hardened football team that's good in situational football. Goal line is one of the situational drills that's gotten a lot of attention. But if you really look at it, we've focused on a lot of areas of situational football that can define us. I think our two-minute drills have been very spirited and has had some great competition. Our third down plays have been very good. We're just working on all the situations that are involved with football that really define football teams. When you turn on highlight shows, you see highlight reels that summarize football games that are situational football, be it third down plays, red zone plays, two minute, goal line. We're focused on those elements of our game because if we're good in those areas, it will give us a chance to be great.
Is there a guy who came in as a major longshot who has opened eyes and put himself in a position to make this team?
I think we'll know more about that after we play on Friday. There have been some guys that's gotten our attention. One thing we understand is that everybody out there in a helmet is capable of making it. That's just the National Football League. There's so many examples of guys in that situation that very rarely are you thrown or surprised by guys that step up and deliver. As recently as last year, look at Gary Russell. He was an undrafted rookie free agent who didn't play football the year before and made it. I don't think it gets any longer odds than that. There will be somebody who steps up and surprises us and shows that they're capable of playing. We'll be ready for it.
How much will you use Willie Parker against the Eagles and when you watch him on the practice field, have you seen a guy who's fully recovered physically and mentally?
I don't know about physically, but mentally, he's in great shape. Willie's a mentally tough guy. He's Willie. I think he's better equipped to answer where he's at physically than I. I know visually, he's Willie Parker. Where he is is probably better indicated before practice and after practices, how he recovers from the action. But on the practice field, he's Willie Parker, he's been good. We intend to use him there some briefly at the beginning of the football game as well.
What does Ryan McBean have to show you and how key is this preseason for him?
He's gotta show technique consistency. He's got to be able to take the techniques that we preach on and hang our hats on and take it into drill work. At times he does that, but not enough, not consistently enough to be at an acceptable level. He understands that. He understands how big it is for him in that regard. What he does inside the stadium on Friday night is going to be a big part of that.
When Dennis Dixon is in the game, would you rather have him stick in the pocket or does he have the green light to run?
He's a quarterback. We want the ball delivered in a timely manner. I'm sure there will be times when he has to improvise, as do all our quarterbacks. But we don't treat him any differently in terms of our plan or how we approach our plays or playing calling than we do anyone else.