Q: What did your guys accomplish to this point this off-season?
A: A lot of the things we're working on are really trying to get some of the older guys to hone their skills, technique-wise, concept-wise. Fortunately for me I've got a great group of veterans who are already experienced. But more importantly this off-season I'm trying to get the young guys caught up to speed on the playbook, how we like to handle our technique here, what we're looking for at their various positions, and I think they're coming along well. It's a process. We know it's a process. But I feel like we've come a lot further along this year than say we have the last two years.
Q: Do you put Cortez Allen in the young-guy category or the veteran category?
A: Cortez Allen is in that in-between category right now. The thing I like about Cortez is I can count on him. He's a seasoned guy. He's been in a lot of games already. He's started games at corner. He's started games inside at the nickel position. And he knows what he's doing. He's in self-correct mode, as I call it, where we look at it and he says ‘Yeah, I know coach. I know I need to be here; I need to be there.' And that's a good place to be.
Q: So is it an easy transition for him right into the starting lineup?
A: I think so. He'll take his lumps because he hasn't started at corner for 16 games, and he still has a lot of learning to do, but at this stage in the game, his third year in, I'm really excited about where he is.
Q: That flurry of turnovers at the end of last year, do you think that was a flurry or is he that kind of player?
A: I think he's capable obviously of making good plays, making big plays. The fact the two games he started he had good games, that means a lot. It shows he knows what he's doing, one, and he has the talent and ability to do it.
Q: What do you expect from Shamarko Thomas this camp?
A: Shamarko's coming along. Right now we're just trying to get him comfortable with the playbook so he can utilize the talents we saw on film when he was at Syracuse. Right now I'd say that Shamarko is at the point where he's not thinking as much as he did when he first got here. Hopefully by the first preseason game I think you'll see some flashes of his skill-sets.
Q: How good can your secondary be with three 10-year-plus guys? Ike Taylor said this could be the best he's ever been with.
A: Yeah, I like the fact Ike sees it that way. I'm excited about where we are. I think with Cortez and Curtis (Brown) coming along, with Will Gay coming back, I can plug in just about anywhere back there with three very seasoned, good football players in Ryan (Clark), Ike and Troy Polamalu. If we can stay healthy, that's the key. Last year we were able to play at a high level even though we had to bring in a lot of guys, even some guys off the street. I think that's where we'll be this year. If we can keep some of our veteran guys healthy, along with the more experienced guys right behind them, I think we'll be great.
Q: What do you like about Cortez inside?
A: Cortez, for a tall defensive back, does a very good job in man-to-man, especially in bump-and-run. He's got quick enough feet to handle the slot receivers. Some of the times we're getting two tight end sets, where they're using one of the more athletic tight ends as a receiver-type in the slot, and Cortez's size matches up well with that. So he's got a lot of versatility, a lot of range. He can play both outside, inside, press man, off-coverage, and he's smart enough to handle them all, and that's why I like him.
Q: What kept Cortez from starting last year?
A: I think the big thing, really, I thought he could've started. I thought that Ike and Keenan (Lewis) were playing very well. That's really what kept him from starting.
Q: Was Mike Tomlin waiting for Keenan to sit with that camp injury to start Cortez? Was that how it went?
A: (Chuckles) I'm not going to comment on that. He's the man. Coach Mike T can do whatever he wants.
Q: Does depth at safety concern you?
A: Well I felt definitely a lot more comfortable last year because I knew the guys knew what they were doing. It's just a matter of me getting these younger guys caught up. That'll be the excitement for me, kind of keeping me on my toes at training camp, but also seeing who's going to come out of this young group of safeties to shine going into the season.
Q: Will Gay help you out at safety if you need him?
A: I think so. I think William's done it before. He's played safety a little bit; he's played nickel; he's played dime; he's played corner. So, in a pinch, if all else fails, I can rely on him.