Tomlin Transcript

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin met with the media Tuesday to discuss the AFC Championship Game. The injury list should leave Steelers fans optimistic.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. Excited of course to be here at this point this week, the week of the AFC Championship Game. Oftentimes when you get to this point in the journey, you say you're ‘in the AFC Championship Game.' I wanted to make that point clear to our team yesterday, I told them, ‘The game is Sunday at 6:30. This is the week of the game for us.' We need to take an opportunity to really make good use of this time, this preparation time and prepare ourselves for what's going to be an exciting football game versus the Jets.

If you look at the Jets, it's really nothing short of remarkable what they've done to get to this point. They went to Indianapolis and beat those guys. They went to New England and beat those guys. They deserve to be here, as do we. We're familiar with them. Of course they've been in Heinz Field pretty recently and whacked us. They beat us at our place. We're going to have to play better than what we did the last time. The major components of their personality are still very similar to what it was several weeks ago, much like we are.

If you look at these guys offensively, they've got a two-headed running back attack with (LaDainian) Tomlinson and (Shonn) Greene. They complement one another very well. They utilize both guys. I think I heard it said under ideal conditions coach (Rex) Ryan would like to see both guys getting 20 totes. I know that's kind of been their personality since they've been there. They led the league in rushing a year ago. I'm sure they were pretty high in that category as well this year. (Mark) Sanchez of course is a growing, developing franchise quarterback. He's got some nice weapons. He utilizes all of them, really. Braylon Edwards is playing really good. It kind of harkens back to that year he had with (Derek) Anderson, I think maybe my first year in the North. He was a Pro Bowler. He made about every difficult catch that came his way. He's a big guy. He played to his personality. He made plays down the field. He's doing the same thing with the New York Jets this year. Santonio (Holmes) is Santonio. He's a great red-zone threat. He's got great hands. He's extremely difficult after the catch because of his vision and broken-field running ability. (Dustin) Keller, their tight end, is a difficult matchup. (Jerricho) Cotchery – spent a lot of time the last 24, 48 hours looking at him and what he brings to them. He played a pivotal role in securing the victory last week. He's a top quality football player and very adept at working in the slot. Their line, they've got top-quality guys up front -- of course a first-rounder in (D'Brickashaw) Ferguson, and (Nick) Mangold is the standard in terms of center play in football.

Defensively, a myriad of looks, a bunch of people. Boy, they suited 11 defensive backs last weekend versus the New England Patriots, and they probably used all of them. But that's a signature of coach Ryan's football – different personnel groups capable of blitzing you, capable of dropping eight or nine. And you're going to see just about all of that and everything in between from these guys. I thought (Shaun) Ellis played great last week for them, provided a big spark. But they're getting quality play from a lot of people. I think it starts inside and up front with them. Bart Scott and David Harris are two top quality turnaround linebackers. They're 9-on-7 kind of guys. They're going to turn your ballcarrier around and both of them are really pretty good in coverage as well, running games, adding to the pressure that they provide quarterbacks; two very well-rounded players. Of course the play of their corners, (Darrelle) Revis and (Antonio) Cromartie, allow many of these things to happen. They're capable of locking down the football field, both men. Both men are considered some of the best at what they do. Needless to say, yards, first downs, points are going to be hard to come by. That's going to be the case once you get to this leg of the journey no matter who you're playing.

We're excited about it. We're not so excited about it that we're going to miss an opportunity to prepare ourselves. We're going to do that. It started yesterday and it'll continue today and so forth as the week goes on.

From an injury standpoint, we're in great shape. Hmph. Jonathan Scott's going to be all right. Will Allen's got a knee sprain. He's probably going to be limited at the early portions of the week. We'll see where that takes us. Bryant McFadden has an abdominal strain. He's going to be limited as well. We'll limit Troy (Polamalu) like we always do. If we're going to err, we're going to err on the side of caution. We'll make sure that Troy's in Heinz Field on Sunday at 6. And Flozell (Adams) is doing better with his illness. Aaron Smith is going to practice this week. We'll see where that practice participation takes us.

Santonio Holmes has said he's going to use his knowledge of your defense to help the Jets. Do you think that's credible?

I do think that's credible, and I would imagine that he used that knowledge last time, so I don't think that this time will be any different.

Was Aaron close to playing last week?

He was listed as doubtful.

Could you talk about the Jets' commitment to the running game and how it reflects who they are?

That's what I was referring to earlier when I talked about coach Ryan would like to see each guy running it 20 times. Do the math. … That's a philosophy that I have an appreciation for.

What do you need to do differently from the last game?

We need to stop Brad Smith from going 97 yards. It'd be a good start. (laughs) But they're a very good group. It doesn't matter whether Brad Smith's back there or Cromartie's back there. You saw what he did to Indianapolis at a critical time. He's a very capable and dangerous return man, but they have a team of potentially capable return me, whether you're talking about Cromartie, Smith, Cotchery, (Joe) McKnight. That's been a signature of coach (Mike) Westhoff's special teams units since I've been in the league. This guy's going to have several options from a return-game standpoint. They're a good group. We've got to play better than we did last time.

Do you expect them to put Revis on Mike Wallace or any other receiver? As you look at their tape, have they done that consistently?

I don't know who they're going to put him on. But I imagine they're going to put him on somebody and whoever they do put him on is going to have a long day. That's what the tape tells me. His reputation is legitimate. He's a really, really good football player, and we've got to be conscious of him at all times.

Has the tape shown that he locks down on one guy no matter what side?

It changes. I don't know how they intend to employ him versus us. I know they put Cromartie on Mike Wallace a lot the last time we played them, but we're not going to try to predict their moves. Only they know their moves. We need to prepare and be at our best regardless of who they put on who or how they try to employ their corners.

Hines Ward said he wanted more passes against Revis. Do you think he could challenge him more?

I've been in the league 10 years and I haven't been around a receiver who doesn't think he's open.

If Aaron is ready, will you start him?

No, a snap count is probably going to be a part of that discussion if he's deemed well enough to go, and that's going to be a limited number of snaps. The guys that have replaced him, like Ziggy Hood, have more than met the standard. They deserve to continue to play, but it'd be nice to add that tool to the toolbox.

Was that Ziggy's best game?

Hopefully his best games lie ahead. It was a good game.

How were you limited against the Jets last time without Polamalu?

We weren't. We're not going to use his presence or lack of presence for an excuse for anything. We have one standard; that standard is winning. Last time we played the Jets they beat us.

What about Flozell Adams trying to go back into the last game while sick?

That was an ugly scene, wasn't it? But a beautiful one at the same time. We appreciate Flozell. We appreciate his intentions. His intentions are very pure. This guy wants to win. He wants to be part of a winner. He's put his hand in the pile and been a great contributor to our journey thus far and we look forward to continuing that this weekend.

Did the Jets beat you straight up? Or were there tricks?

They beat us.

Have they in recent weeks played a little more coverage and less blitzing?

Yeah they have. But they're just balancing out the self-scout I would imagine. They're capable of locking you down and playing man-to-man. I'm sure Peyton Manning and Tom Brady were well aware of that. I'm sure they had a great plan for that and for pressure, and I'm sure the Jets chose to play more coverage in response to that. I think the prudent approach is to understand and anticipate that this team is capable of providing a wide variety of attacks for you and chances are you're going to see a little bit of everything, and probably more of what works. So we're going to try to do a diligent job of preparing for all of the things that they're capable of, with an understanding that the variance could be pretty big.

On the fourth down sneak, you said that's Ben's call. What is he looking for there?

A first down. And if he doesn't, he'd better get it like he did.

Rex Ryan called you one of his favorite coaches. Is the feeling mutual?

It is. I love Rex. Rex has a lot of fun with you guys, but when you see past all of those things, man, this is a great football coach. He has a pulse of his football team. He does a great job of motivating them. He's very sound schematically in all three phases. And his glass is always half full. I appreciate that.

You have a different style. Can you say too much as a head coach?

No, I'll tell you, our styles are probably more similar than you would imagine. Rex just has more fun with you guys.

What does it mean to play like a Steeler?


Do you think Rex is good for the NFL?

I think he's great for the Jets and I think that's all he's concerned about being great for. He's got them in the AFC Championship Game. I'm sure that he's not concerned about the National Football League.

You only sacked Sanchez once last time. How important is it to get to him?

Rushing the quarterback is always an important element in the game, but it's also something we don't have a great deal of control of. The playcaller's play selection has a certain level of control over the amount of opportunities that you have to get to him. So I'm not going to act like that is the lynchpin to this football game. If they're throwing the ball a bunch, if he's dropping back and he's throwing the ball vertically down the field, we'd better be getting to him. If he's not, then it's less of an issue.

Was it max-protect? Quick release?

No, I think it was coach (Brian) Schottenheimer more than anything else. He moved the pocket, he booted him, he had some quick game, and then he took his shots or spots when he was throwing the ball vertically. But it wasn't anything special that he did in response to playing the Pittsburgh Steeler defense. It's what they quite frankly do every weekend. It's what they did in New England. It's what they did in Indy.

It's a veteran team. Could you talk about the contribution you're getting from your rookie class?

They're doing OK.

The Jets haven't been getting out of the gates early in games. Do you see that as an opportunity to seize momentum?

Neither have we, to be quite honest. The great thing about football, particularly playoff football, is you guys can do all you want to try to write the script on how this game could potentially unfold all week, but the reality is nobody knows. That's why it's going to be awesome to be in the stadium at 6:30 on Sunday. Probably a week ago no one anticipated our score being 31-24 against the Ravens but it was. That's why we play the game and that's why we're excited about the opportunity we have in front of us.

Does being at home change your mentality going into the game?

When you're at home you appreciate the fact you're at home, sleeping in your own bed if that's an option, driving to the stadium, being home 20 minutes after you walk out of the stadium. Those are things that I enjoy about being at home. We enjoy the support of our crowd, but in terms of what goes on inside the white lines the team that makes the critical plays at the critical moments is going to win. Home or away is a factor. It's not the ultimate or deciding factor. I think the Jets have proven that emphatically over the last several weeks. We appreciate being at home. If given the choice, we'd rather play at Heinz Field in front of our fans. They're a homefield advantage-worthy kind of a crowd, whether we are or not, so we're going to give them what they've got coming to them.

Were you happy with how your offensive line played in the first game against the Jets?

Man, I'm trying to remember. I've looked at so much tape this morning. Um, we lost the game. We could've been better of course. I've jumped around so much on tape this morning I'm drawing a blank.

You allowed three sacks and had 150 yards rushing.

Yeah, we lost the game.

Have you learned a lot since that first playoff loss against Jacksonville?

If you're not getting better – I don't care what business you're in – you're a dead man. I try to look critically at the mistakes that I make. I try to learn from them, like our team does. I'd like to think that I am, but of course the proof is in the pudding.

Did you really let up on Rex in that one game against Baltimore?

Rex is probably playing with you guys.

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