Tomlin Transcript

Mike Tomlin talked about his new punter -- Jeremy Kapinos of Penn State -- and injuries. He also fleshed out some of the interesting details of Sunday night's Steelers win in Baltimore.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. I guess we'll start with a bit of personnel news. Of course, Daniel Sepulveda is going to have surgery on Friday and is going to have his ACL repaired. It's good news from the standpoint it is repairable and should be a normal recovery, so we're excited about that. But with that we had to acquire the services of a new punter. We worked out several candidates today, selected Jeremy Kapinos, a Penn State man, 3-year NFL veteran, was employed by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this year, has punted in a game this year, has done a nice job, formerly employed by the Green Bay Packers. Here's a guy that met the criteria we were looking for: He's got league experience; he's kicked in games this year; and of course he's no stranger to the elements, as we know that may be a factor for us moving forward. So we're excited to have him in the fold and moving forward with him as our punter. Again, he represented himself nicely today in the workout, as did all the men. We appreciate their efforts.

In some other injury news, Flozell Adams has a mild high-ankle sprain sustained in the game, wasn't able to finish the game. We'll see how that limits him in the early portion of the week and let that be the determinant of whether or not he's available to us. Ben [Roethlisberger] of course had surgery yesterday and had his broken nose fixed. I think he's going to have some gauze or so forth removed today. I'm sure there's going to be some level of discomfort. I don't think it's going to keep him out of football in any form or fashion. About the only adjustment is he's probably going to wear a shield on his helmet, a clear shield to protect him. Heath Miller is experiencing the discomfort that goes along with concussions, so his availability might be doubtful this week. But we'll see if it picks up as the week goes on. Of course, if we're going to err, we're going to err on the side of caution when it comes to player's health. We're still taking a similar approach with Troy [Polamalu] in terms of his potential practice participation in the early parts of the week, like we've done the last several weeks. It seems to be serving him well, and us well, so we'll continue to do that. Aaron Smith had an MRI. He's doing pretty good. He's going to take the next step now and begin lifting weights. We're going to take another MRI in about two weeks or so and see where that takes us, but we're encouraged by his progress. There are no setbacks in his recovery. It's time to take the next step now and start tossing a few weights around, which is good news. Matt Spaeth appears to have a clean bill of health from his concussion from a couple weeks back. He's been fully cleared. He's going to be practicing and participating tomorrow, so that's an encouragement.

There's usually a laundry list when you come out of a Baltimore Ravens contest, so our last one is no different than others. We're pleased of course with the win. It was very necessary. We had to even the score. A significant win; to go into a hostile environment and win in December, that's the measure of a good team. It's our desire to be a good team, of course. But we're going to keep it in perspective. It was a win that had to happen for us. The guys delivered it and now we move on to a new week and a new AFC North opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals here at our place.

I think it's important when you start talking about playing someone a second time, you start with: How are they different? When you look at how the Cincinnati Bengals are different, they've sustained a significant number of injuries in their defensive line over the course of the season. I would imagine that they've been pleasantly surprised by the talent and skill of the young players that they have on their defensive line. This young-man rush rotation that they have has been pretty impressive over the last several weeks and we're going to have our work cut out there [with] the young guys, like [Carlos] Dunlap, a rookie out of Florida. I think he leads them in sacks. Man, he's come on like gangbusters.

They're playing [Robert] Geathers inside in rush situations. He's highly athletic, a big matchup problem for guards. Geno Atkins, a young under tackle-like guy out of Georgia is another guy being very disruptive in the inside for them. Then of course [Michael] Johnson, their second-year man out of Georgia Tech, is on the other end. Those four young guys come in in passing situations and are really rushing well together. Their games are disruptive. Their edge men in Dunlap and Johnson are really breaking pockets down, and Geno Atkins and Geathers are really getting after guards and centers when given an opportunity. I think that's the No. 1 place where they're different defensively. In the secondary, Reggie Nelson continues to emerge as a guy that's a playmaker for them. Their linebacker group is essentially intact since the last time we played them. Of course they had a high-quality corner tandem. When you talk about playing the Bengals' defense, it starts with those guys, [Johnathan] Joseph and [Leon] Hall, because they can cover folks. They've got a new nickel in Jonathan Wade, new to them not new to the National Football League. This guy's been around.

Offensively, if you look at how they're different, I don't know if there as drastically different from a personnel standpoint as there are defensively, but what you do see is a division-of-labor change in the guys having an opportunity to make more plays for them. Their rookie tight end [Jermaine] Gresham is really coming on. [He's a] first-rounder, of course, high-pedigreed guy. You see that. I think Carson Palmer's developing a great deal of comfort in delivering him the ball, particularly in critical circumstances. Last week against New Orleans, he converted some highly contested and pivotal third downs. He also was a 2-point conversion man for them that tied that game up. Same thing can be said of Jordan Shipley inside. He's playing beyond his years from a wisdom standpoint, an awareness standpoint. They're rotating some offensive linemen in because of injuries and so forth. [Anthony] Collins, the Kansas man, is playing some right tackle for them. This guy's started against us in the past and quite frankly has blocked us well. Seeing some more guys participate out of the backfield for them, whether it's [Brian] Leonard in the passing game as a third-down back, or whether it's Bernard Scott as a change-of-pace back who's a nice perimeter runner and provides a nice complement to Cedric Benson. They're a 2-9 football team or so, no doubt, but they've been in just about every football game. They made us absolutely miserable the last time we played them. This is an AFC North matchup. We expect no different. Sixty minutes of football is going to be required.

How important was Kapinos's holding ability?

It was an element in the equation but I definitely wasn't going to let it be a significant element in the equation. We need a punter. We have some holder candidates on our football team, some guys that have held in NFL games that are capable, Antwaan Randle El being one of them. So I wasn't going to let holding be the determining factor in terms of selecting a punter. I was more interested in the punting.

Will he hold?

We'll determine that over the course of the week, and really it'll lie on the comfort level Shaun [Suisham] has in the candidates.

Could you talk about Ben Roethlisberger's performance?

You know, he's a competitor. I think I even said it after the game we expect that from him. Not that it goes unappreciated; we just expect that from him. He expects that from himself. He's our quarterback. AFC North football is competitive. The series against the Ravens is a competitive one. No one's going to leave that stadium extremely comfortable, on either side. We understand what playing those guys is about. He delivered for us.

If Adams can't play, does Trai Essex play right tackle? And the other day, who would've been the other tight end in a 2-TE alignment?

We had no other tight end. David Johnson was the last one on our roster, so we had no other. In regard to the first part of the question, Trai finished the game and did a nice job for us. He is the first man off the bench, but we'll see where the week takes us in terms of Flozell's availability. (Pause) I'm a little uncomfortable playing with one tight end and six O-linemen, but there's a lot that's not comfortable about the NFL this time of year.

Did you blitz more often as compared the last two or three weeks?

It's probably in line with our personality. We don't let opponents dictate how we go about our business.

Is it nice to see another team talk about fines this week?

I didn't know someone was being asked.

(Inaudible muttering … )

Not my business. It's Cincinnati Bengal week for us. That stuff's between the league office and the people they're addressing.

It seems like they're beating you deep.

I don't like it when it happens. I'm not overly concerned about it, though. They've got some talented people in Baltimore. They've got a talented quarterback. They made a few very nice plays. It's kind of uncharacteristic of us, but I think giving up great plays is uncharacteristic of any great defense. And of course we have a desire to be a great defense, so hopefully we don't make a habit of it.

Isaac Redman seemed to indicate he wasn't supposed to be on the field for the touchdown pass. Could you take us through that?

Oh, gosh. No, no, he was possibly capable of being on the field. Those backs are interchangeable, particularly in that situation. All three of the backs that we employ are very reliable in our empty sets. We have a great deal of comfort, of course. Mewelde Moore is usually the lead dog in that regard because of his past experience. Isaac is quite capable. We delivered a hot pass to him. He was a determined guy. He came out of two or three tackles. We picked up a block or two on the other side, one of them by a young man, Emmanuel Sanders, that assured he was able to get into the end zone. It was just a timely play delivered by a young man who works extremely hard. It's good to see it pay off when given an opportunity to contribute.

Man, we're getting a lot of contributions from young guys. It's funny when you look at the stats sheet after the game and you see guys like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders and Isaac Redman and David Johnson catching multiple passes. It's encouraging – not necessarily comfortable – but encouraging.

(Coach, could you say the same things again, only different?)

… We liked the contributions of both guys, particularly the kickoff coverage tackle by Emmanuel Sanders at the end of the game. We hold those contributions in high regard. Yes, he is a wide receiver and kick return man, but that was as big a play as he's delivered for us, to run down there and tackle a guy inside the 20 in the latter part of that football game.

How's Ziggy Hood coming along this week?

Ziggy can be compared to the other ones. He's a young guy that's been given an opportunity and is taking advantage of it. He's playing really good football for us. He's doing the detail things. He's using his hands well. He's staying square. He's playing with good pad level. He's getting some production, but production comes with the things I mentioned earlier. I think he had a big sack early in the game. He's doing a nice job. He's still a guy in development, as those other ones are. We fully expect him to continue to grow.

Could you talk about the importance of winning games as you head into this last quarter of the season?

I'm not ready to have a quarter talk. It's Tuesday of the Cincinnati Bengals. They swept us a year ago. They celebrated pretty nicely on our field the second time they beat us. That's my focus.

(Coach, I must've missed the game so) How did Brett Keisel fare?

There's another guy that I'm sure is willing to volunteer to play tight end, and he'd probably be the first place I go. He's an awesome athlete. I liked his contributions. It's great to have him back, not only his play but his leadership and demeanor. He provided a nice interior rush for us. He disrupted some passing lanes with his length. I think he batted a pass or two, just a rock-solid Brett Keisel-type contribution.

Did you slide your protection to Terrell Suggs in the second half?

No, actually we didn't. Not more than what we had planned to do going into the game. I just thought we warmed up to the action a little bit. We got the crowd out of it a little bit as the game wore on, and that helps him of course with get-off and things of that nature. I just thought we stayed in the fight and didn't blink. Guys continued to compete. You can't always nail down where he's going to rush from, which makes helping against him increasingly difficult. Of course they've got a guy that complements him in [Haloti] Ngata as a rush-man, who they move around quite a bit as well.

Suisham kicked his 45-yarder into the wind. Did you have any qualms before sending him on? And has he been a lift since he's been here?

Yeah, he hit a 45-yarder into the wind but actually it was two yards outside of our agreed-upon range, based on what happened in pre-game. I think the ball was at the 27-yard line. I was really going to be comfortable when the ball was at the 25-yard line or in. I took a shot at it. I gave the man a competitor's opportunity and he made the play. That wind was significant at that end of the stadium, so it wasn't a surprise to me that Baltimore didn't attempt a field goal of 48, 49 yards in that same direction. Forty-five was pushing it.

Has he provided a lift?

He's six-for-six. We'll take it. We'll take it.

(I can't remember what happened two years ago in the same circumstance, so) Would Matt Spaeth replace everything Heath Miller does? Or will you lean on wide receivers more?

He does everything that Heath does and this won't be his first rodeo by any stretch in terms of replacing Heath. He's done it in stretches before. Matt Spaeth delivered 4 and 5-catch games back-to-back for us. This guy's a reliable guy. He's a Mackey Award winner. He doesn't get the notoriety because he plays behind Heath Miller. But he's not a backup; he's a starter-in-waiting as far as we're concerned. The standards for him will be Heath-like.

What happened the first time in Cincinnati?

They came back (chuckles).

Was there a specific breakdown?

One drive we were highly penalized and we gave them the ball on the 1-yard line. In another instance they put together a nice drive; of course, they're capable of that. They have two legendary wideouts and a rock-solid quarterback in Carson Palmer and some other young weapons, so they're capable of moving the ball on anyone, like they did against New Orleans and made that game close a couple days ago. It is what it is. It is the National Football League. Record or no, people are capable of competing and whupping you. That's what makes it exciting. I think that' s why our fans watch and that's why we're preparing with an edge.

Can you describe the season Terrell Owens is having at his age?

There's a bunch of examples of that in the AFC North: Hines Ward, [Derrick] Mason, T.O. There's a bunch of seasoned wide receivers that are very talented, but also are very smart and call on experience and know-how. He has all of those characteristics, like the other men I mentioned.

Does Keenan Lewis not know the (punt-gunner-running-out-of- bounds) rule? Or is he not aware of where he is?

Ask Keenan.

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