Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Good afternoon. Tough, hard-fought victory for us last night in Cincinnati. Like I said last night, good to go on the road in the AFC North and get a victory. Far from perfect, but such is life. We're 6-2 here at the turn and we've got a short week and a scalded New England team to get ready for. Needless to say we've got a lot on our plate.
Kind of a brief synopsis of the injury report as we sit here right now:
-- Will Allen sustained a concussion in the game. He'll have a post-concussion test. He may be limited in the early portion of the week. We'll see how those tests go.
-- Brett Keisel still is working through his hamstring strain. He was really unable to get it going last night. We expect this guy to continue to work and see where he is this week.
-- Chris Kemoeatu has a knee sprain. He'll be limited the first part of the week and we'll see if we can get him going, get him enough snaps in preparation to be available for us.
-- Heath Miller had a little fluid on his knee. It may limit him tomorrow (Wednesday).
-- Mewelde Moore has a concussion; similar situation as Will Allen.
-- Maurkice Pouncey's going to be fine with a tibia bruise. He came back in the game and finished.
-- Isaac Redman also has a concussion.
-- Max Starks experienced some stingers. We'll see where he is.
We've got somewhat of a laundry list. Working off of a short week it's important that we prepare smart in regards to working around and with these injuries. I'm sure many of these guys will be available for the contest, but they have limited preparation. The standard's the standard. We have to prepare smart with these guys, even look at potentially alterior modes of preparation to make sure enough of these men get sufficient looks at what's necessary for us to play.
Of course, we're playing a good football team in New England, 6-2. It starts with their quarterback Tom Brady, who's capable of spreading the ball around to a bunch of people. They're capable of working exclusively out of the no-huddle offense, or huddling if they choose. I think last week they worked exclusively out of the no-huddle. Of course they've got Deion Branch back in the fold from Seattle. He's a legit threat. [Brandon] Tate is another guy. Wes Welker is the best in the business inside. I think that's well-documented. We're going to have our hands full there. Guys like William Gay and others will try to slow him down, particularly on possession downs and some of the things they do with him as run-game alternatives. We've got to be good against this guy because he's one of the best. Unique tight end situation, they really have some quality guys there. [Aaron] Hernandez, a Florida man, is playing beyond his years. He's a rookie and he's very productive. I think he's No. 2 to Welker on the team in receptions. They utilize this guy's unique skill set in a lot of ways. We went down there and looked at their Pro Day when we were looking at Maurkice and really came away impressed with this guy's skill set and what he's capable of doing in terms of route-running and catching the football. He's proven that to be true on NFL tape. [Rob] Gronkowski is another tight end that they give the ball to. They've got a stable of backs and they utilize them all. One noteworthy guy is [Danny] Woodhead, who's kind of taken the role of Kevin Faulk as a dual-threat guy, third-down kind of a back, match-up issues out of the backfield, draw runner and so forth. I really like the spark he's provided them in the games that we've studied thus far.
Defensively, a very young unit when you look at it. I'm sure there's great cause for optimism when you take that approach seeing the guys they have contributing and playing. Stabilizing veteran presence up front with [Vince] Wilfork, who not only plays nose but you see him quite a bit now at defensive end. He's playing quality football for them. At the linebacker position, they've got a nucleus of impressive young guys led by [Jerod] Mayo inside, along with [Brandon] Spikes, a rookie from Florida who we're familiar with and was impressive at his Pro Day. [Jermaine] Cunningham, another Florida man, is playing outside. He made the transition from D-end to outside linebacker. We, too, were interested in him as an outside linebacker candidate. He appears to be very comfortable in that role and is making plays for them. In the secondary, I really like their collection of safeties. [Brandon] Meriweather and [Patrick] Chung are really good. [James] Sanders comes in for sub-package football. He's starter-capable and has started for them in the past. That crew of safeties is as deep and solid as you'll find. And the rookie corner [Devin] McCourty is playing some really good football for them, a Rutgers man, mature, savvy player for his age. We held him in high regard in draft preparations as well. This guy's proving the NFL stage isn't too big for him.
Coach [Bill] Belichick and company will always be prepared. They'll put together a good schematic plan. They'll come in here ready to play, particularly so after last week's performance. They'll be excited about getting out and playing again, as will we. We recognize that this is a big game for us. It's great to be back at home in front of our home fans. The road's been tough but that's what the road is. We pushed through that stretch, not like we would like ideally but we'll take it. And we'll be back at home this weekend in front of Steeler Nation.
Q: If Moore and Redman are down, does that mean more opportunities for Jonathan Dwyer? Or would you look at bringing in another back?
A: If they're down. If they're down that might mean more opportunities. Of course we take these post-concussion symptoms very seriously, but we're not going to worry about it until it's evident.
Q: Could you talk about bringing pressure in Cincinnati and how the guys responded?
A: I thought the pressure was good for the better part of the night. With a guy like Carson [Palmer], he can dictate whether he gets hit or not and those type of things. He was getting the ball out of his hand early, so the pressure was sufficient early in the football game. Of course, later in the football game when he had to drive the ball downfield a little bit, he wasn't as in control of whether or not he got hit. Because of that we were able to hit him some and get to him some and the positive things that come with that. But I liked our pressure for the better part of the night. It's just with a savvy guy and quick decision-maker like Carson, you're not going to get to him in the early portion of the football games unless he wants you to.
Q: When did the Patriots evolve into an offensive juggernaut?
A: Since I've been here they've had Tom Brady, so they're always going to be among the elite.
Q: Is Belichick's defense too complicated for their young guys to pick up?
A: They're 6-2. I think that speaks to a pretty good defense. When you're ahead like they are, people are going to get yards and move up and down the field. They're doing what's necessary to keeping people out of the end zone. I've always been impressed with coach Belichick's group in terms of situational football.
Q: What did Cleveland do so effectively last week against New England?
A: I don't know why everyone's surprised that Cleveland plays well. They've got a back that will hurt you really bad. They're always good schematically, defensively, with their packages and the way they're capable of getting after you. And if they complete manageable third downs, they've got a chance to beat you. That's what the tape showed, not only in the instance of New Orleans but in the instance of New England.
Q: When the lead reached 27-7 last night, did you sense the air go out of your sideline?
A: No. I sensed the errors. That's always the case. I thought the turnover when they had the short field was big. They capitalized and made plays. We didn't make enough plays. It made the game extremely interesting.
Q: Are you gratified with the ability to run the ball late?
A: Yeah. It was exciting to see, particularly under the circumstances. Of course we had one back left and five offensive linemen and we were able to chew the clock up and get the necessary first downs and move the ball down the field. Unfortunately we weren't able to get the field goal. You'd like to let that be a signature of how you finish the game. Of course that wasn't the case but I liked the mentality of the group. I liked the way that they seized that moment and I thought had an opportunity to seize control of the game and finish it off in a manner in which you like as a coach. It just didn't unfold that way.
Q: How did you decide which receiver to double and take out of the game?
A: It felt like it'd be easier to get [Chad] Ochocinco out of the game because he was the single-receiver side guy. You had some route-combination issues when you're talking about T.O. [Terrell Owens]. That's probably been the case with most people who've played them. It's easier to get that single-receiver wideout out of the game than it is the combination route runner. T.O.'s hurt a lot of people; Chad's hurt a lot of people. They've got a really good group. It was somewhat ‘pick your poison' but also we were concerned about letting Cedric Benson get rolling as well. They've got a lot of offensive weapons, as evidenced by how they were able to get that thing going in the latter part of the game.
Q: Is the dramatic improvement in special teams the result of a new coach changing schematics or just the amped up play on the field?
A: It's probably a combination of all parties involved. I like the energy and know-how that Al [Everest] has brought to the table. I also like the contributions of some of the men that we've added. Arnaz Battle does a nice job in a lot of phases. Of course, William Gay's been a constant special-teams core guy for us. Young guys like Stevenson Sylvester and Jason Worilds have anted up and kicked in. Emmanuel Sanders put his hat on the ball and caused a fumble on the opening kickoff. It's really probably equally contributed to schematics and players.