Tomlin Transcript

Mike Tomlin likes the health of his Steelers, but he particularly likes the fact that his team's playing a significant game this week in Baltimore.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. Quick assessment of the Buffalo game, there were a couple of things that stood out to me when reviewing the tape. I thought we had critical playmaking at critical times, and really in all three phases. Whether you look at Ben [Roethlisberger]'s scramble on third down – I thought it was a significant, uplifting play for our football team – but just our third-down playmaking in general, I thought it was a high level for the better part of the game in critical moments. I thought we delivered necessary plays defensively. Troy [Polamalu]'s interception in the red area was a critical play, forcing them to kick a field goal after Rashard [Mendenhall] fumbled when we gave them an extremely short field. What the defense was able to do in overtime, under the circumstances given that the initial kickoff return went to midfield. We were fighting an uphill battle from a field-position standpoint for the better part of overtime. I thought our defense did a nice job of defending the blades of grass that we had to defend. And of course our special teams, Shaun [Suisham] banged four kicks for us. Daniel [Sepulveda] had a significant punt out of our end zone of course that really changed the complexion of the overtime period. I thought we had significant playmaking in all three phases. I liked the way that our team didn't blink in the face of adversity. It was another positive. There was a lot of adversity, some trying times in that football game.

Negatively speaking, some of the adversity of course was self-induced, as is always the case in football. I thought the turnover jump-started them, and that's just how it is. I thought we were highly penalized. We can't be as penalized as we've been – not only in that game but in the last two weeks – and think we're going to be successful on the road against a good Baltimore Ravens team.

From an injury standpoint, Antonio Brown worked out this morning. He had a really good workout. We're optimistic about this guy being able to participate in the early portions and really, fully participate this week. Nick Eason looks to be pretty good. He might be limited somewhat in the initial part of the week. The same thing can be said of Bryant McFadden, but of course when you're dealing with a hamstring it could be a little more problematic. But he's slated to participate. Same thing could be said with Ben with his foot sprain. He might be limited somewhat tomorrow. I'm going to be optimistic and hopeful that he'll be a full participant, but there's a chance that he couldn't be. Similar approach this week with Troy as it has been the last couple weeks. We simply want to take every precaution possible to keep this man up and running. It's obvious he's playing really good football for us and we want that to continue. There's a fine line in terms of that, when you talk about limiting someone's participation, but he is a veteran football player and a good one, so we're going to do the best we can to get him to the stadium in once piece. Aaron Smith is a week better. Matt Spaeth will get some post-concussion stuff run tomorrow morning to determine his practice availability. So things are shaping up. We're feeling pretty good from a health standpoint. Brett Keisel's going to be a full participant this week and hopefully play of course, so we feel comfortable with that.

In regards to the Ravens, as usual Steelers-Ravens is a significant game. It's awesome to be a part of significant games in December, two 8-3 football teams. If you want to be a divisional winner you've got to go on the road and win division games. They did it earlier in the year against us. We're given an opportunity to go to their place and try to get a victory. That's the only way to get it done. The secret in this thing is there are no secrets. If you want to be a dominant team, if you want to be a good team, if you want to make a splash, you've got to take your show on the road in hostile environments against known opponents, familiar opponents, and make the significant plays that are necessary to win.

… The significant thing or difference in this game for them on the back end is the presence of Ed Reed. We all know what the presence of Ed Reed means: proceed with caution when attacking them vertically down the field because time and time again he shows that he's capable of making plays, game-changing plays. He surveys the deep middle of that field, but he's a sideline-to-sideline capable guy. This guy's missed a significant amount of action but he has four interceptions, one of which he pitched to a teammate who ran it back for a touchdown. This is an unselfish, top-notch, quality playmaker, so we have to reckon with him. If there's a significant difference in preparation for this game than the last one, it's the acknowledgement in the existence of Ed Reed. Of course, we didn't have Ben last game; they didn't have Ed Reed. Those two things probably cancel each other out. This game will probably come down to a last possession or two in a hard-fought game in a hostile environment like it always does.

Did Ben ever come close to coming out of the game? And did you know he was going to punt with his left foot?

I did. I called it. And he was fine. We have to do a better job of getting down there and downing that ball. No, I didn't really think Ben was in danger of coming out of the game. He was absent from our sideline at the very end of the first half and maybe late coming back from halftime but that was simply because we were taking a picture of his foot. I was pretty comfortable that he was going to compete and continue throughout the game.

The play before that, Ben was roughed up during the tackle. Is that something you sent to the league, that guys were giving him the business?

What I said to the league is between me and the league.

Was that roughing?

I don't remember what particular play you're talking about.

They sacked him on the play and then went after him.

Again, I don't have a response to that.

Could his injury get worse?

No, not at this point. There is some pain and discomfort. We have him in a walking boot.

Who would play if he couldn't?

Byron [Leftwich].

Did you consider replacing Chris Kemoeatu?

I didn't. And the reason I didn't, more importantly than the penalties themselves, I liked the way that we collectively responded to adversity. There were many instances in the game we were getting penalties and, boom, we were overcoming them immediately, whether it was the next play or converting a third down. I understand that that's not always going to be the case, and that's why I said moving forward this week, playing a team like Baltimore, we'd better be very cautious about putting ourselves into those circumstances. But largely throughout that game, I thought we were able to overcome the penalties that we sustained during the course of drives, at least offensively.

When opponents force you to change your defensive personnel or configuration, does that automatically give an advantage to the offense?

We don't always match up personnel-wise. Oftentimes, particularly on first-and-10, second-and-medium, when people go three wides, if we choose to, we'll stay in our base defense. The offensive personnel doesn't always dictate what we do from a personnel standpoint. It's the complete picture. It's offensive personnel, it's field position, it's down-and-distance, all of those things dictate to us what people we choose to employ. Offensive personnel alone never dictates that to us.

It looked like David Johnson had a great game blocking. Is that what you saw? What kind of season has he had?

I wouldn't necessarily call it great. I think his better days lie ahead. He took a step. He played with energy and emotion. He finished blocks. He's been a young guy that's kind of been on the come throughout the better part of the year. … We've monitored his progress and given him feedback. He's continued to adjust to the things we want him to do and the nature in which we want him to play. I thought last Sunday was a signature game from that standpoint. Let's see what he does with it.

Is Isaac Redman getting to the point where you feel more comfortable giving him the ball more?

I felt that way all season, to be honest with you. I don't think anything has happened over the course of the season with him that's made me feel more comfortable. This guy has been earning his carries since he's been here. … He's doing a nice job with the opportunities being given to him, and has been.

How was David Nelson's challenged catch different than the continuation play that occurred, say, with Calvin Johnson?

What happened was that was in the field of play, of course, so rules governing plays like that are different than in the end zone. The booth controlled the review so they wanted to look at it, so they blew the next play dead, the kill play, and took a look at it upstairs.

The rules on the field are different than in the end zone?


What about Ziggy Hood's progress?

Similar to the David Johnson discussion, he's a second-year guy that's been given an opportunity and has taken advantage it. He's consistently on the rise. The nature of his job doesn't garner a lot of attention, so the plays that he's making or not making don't get the kind of attention that, say, a Mike Wallace does. But he's a young guy that's on the come, that's taken advantage of opportunities. We're pleased with his progress and we hope and need it to continue.

Do you have any more clarity as to when Aaron Smith might return?

He's a week closer. A week closer. We're actually going to take some hardcore looks and pictures of his progress, probably first of next week, and I might have a significant update for you.

How did Bryant McFadden's replacements do?

I thought William Gay specifically responded to the challenge. He was competitive and combative. He made plays. He challenged throws. I think he had four pass break-ups. His play was as significant as Troy's interceptions. He made the initial breakup. Of course, Troy made an incredible catch. But William Gay stepped up and made some significant play, particularly in the latter part of that game. And the other guys, just having to step up and play defensive football, and log defensive snaps along with their four-phase special-teams responsibilities, I was impressed with.

Did you think James Harrison make a textbook tackle on the roughing-the-passer penalty? Does he have to change his technique?

Obviously he does because the league doesn't agree with him. My opinion doesn't matter.

Is there any kind of fairness issue when he gets fined that much?

Man, life isn't fair. I'm not concerned about fairness. I'm really not. I'm concerned with preparing for the Baltimore Ravens.

Are you concerned with your pass rush? Or is that impossible to evaluate when guys use rhythmic passing on you? And is that something you expect to see going forward?

What I want is consistent pressure when given the opportunity. I think our guys are capable of more. We're going to need more in this environment going into Baltimore, so that's going to be our mentality as we prepare this week.

How did Steve Johnson get so open?

Oh gosh, you're still in Buffalo. No, the guy ran a nice route. As Ike [Taylor] rolled out with his coverage and tried to track the ball, his angle was a little flatter than the receiver's. It created some separation. Ryan Clark came over and covered as much of the distance as he could. Quite frankly, it was a really good route and even a better throw, and thankfully he didn't catch it. But I don't worry about those things. I thought Emmanuel Sanders had an opportunity to catch and run and score in regulation where none of those plays even exist. I'm not going to cry about our drop. I hope they don't cry about theirs.

Might you consider dressing six WRs this week?

There very well may be two dogs and two bones. We'll see how the week unfolds.

How are both teams different since the last meeting?

We're different. They're different. It's all going to wash out. It's all the same.

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