Q&A: Mike Tomlin

The Steelers' head coach talked to the media after practice. Here's the transcript:

MIKE TOMLIN, Head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: When will Sean Mahan work at center?

A: There's going to be some position flexibility with him. That's part of what attracted us to him. But right now we're just getting him locked in at one spot, getting him going in that area, and at some point we'll cross-train him.

Q: How much experimenting will go on with the offensive line?

A: We're going to leave no stone unturned in terms of finding the best combination of men to put on the field, and really not just with the offensive line. I know that's an area that's focused on right now, but really we're interested in doing that at all positions – trying to find the best combinations, leaving no stone unturned in that regard, having an open mind about position flexibility.

Q: What's with the Nerf ball that's being used?

A: In special teams? I have no idea. You know special-teams coaches are a little weird, or can be, and we fit the mold in that regard. But, no, they're very good at what they do. I think it's to prevent injury in terms of balls flying around, or maybe someone stepping on a ball if it's mishandled.

Q: Speaking of special teams, why is Chris Gardocki here but not working?

A: He's experienced a little physical trouble and we're getting it looked at. We're just being cautious. We know what Dock's capable of. He's been there and done that and seen about everything you can see from a punting standpoint. It gives us an opportunity to give (Mike) Barr some work, but he's been here, been very helpful, been here in a mentorship mentality for Barr and things are going well. We're just being cautious more than anything. It's a little back trouble.

Q: Will what you see here affect your draft next week?

A: No, not really. It's really more information gathering and getting to know the guys that we have. Like I said yesterday, you like to do it before the draft but at the same time it doesn't dictate your thought process in terms of the draft. It really doesn't. I think we have a philosophy here that's time-tested. We'll stick to it.

Q: Do you sense any coming together of this team yet?

A: You'd like to. You can talk yourself into it. I think it's extremely early for that. I know the guys have a great attitude. It's upbeat. There's some camaraderie. That takes time. You can't rush that process. It's something that happens, that's done because guys respect the work that others put in and they see it and they continue to come to work on a day-to-day basis. But, yeah, I can talk myself into feeling good about that. We had a good weekend.

Q: Do you sense it's not coming together?

A: No, not at all. I just don't know if that's something that can be developed in two days.

Q: Is it hard to tell what you have at outside linebacker?

A: No, not really. Just getting extra opportunities for guys like (Marcello) Church and Rian Wallace to get work I think is good. We kind of know what Clark (Haggans) is capable of. James Harrison has been around. It's just more opportunities for young, emerging guys to get snaps and show what they're capable of and to get better from an assignment standpoint. Before you can compete for a spot, you've got to know what you're doing. So this is valuable work for them. Misfortune for other people always creates opportunities for some. They're taking that approach and we're taking that approach and we're excited about watching those guys grow.

Q: Will you re-sign Verron Haynes?

A: He's rehabbing but he's not allowed to be around based on the rules that we have. He's not a member of the team. He is rehabbing. That's something to be discussed at a later date. At some point, when Verron is healthy, he'll be capable of signing with any football team.

Q: Aren't you thin at that spot?

A: Yes.

Q: Is the draft all that you have left to fill that position?

A: Yes, and there'll be guys out there like Verron that may be healthy and ready to go at a later date.

Q: What made you give Ben Roethlisberger the responsibility of calling pass protections?

A: We feel comfortable the way he's emerging at that position. He's a sharp guy. He's a competitor. He's a quarterback. He's a leader in position alone, but he has some leadership characteristics from a personality standpoint. We felt like it was the right thing to do. He's accepted that challenge and we knew that he would. We just need to continue to grow day-to-day with that.

Q: Do you still wish to have two complementary type backs?

A: Absolutely. That's just today's NFL. It's a long season. You need two capable ballcarriers. The teams that were playing late in January showed that last year. That's our mentality. But at the same time I'm not willing to say those two backs aren't here. We've got some capable men who are working on a day-to-day basis. Najeh Davenport has played good ball in this league for a long time. He was part of a rotation in Green Bay. When I first broke into the league down there in Tampa and we were playing Green Bay twice a year, he was a guy that we were always concerned about when Ahman Green wasn't in there. We've got some guys here working in that regard, and time will tell.

Q: Would you have any interest in Ricky Williams at all?

A: No, I hadn't thought about it to be honest with you.

Dick LeBeau said the discussion about whether to go 4-3 or 3-4 is overblown. He said when Bill Cowher came here he was a 4-3 guy who changed to a 3-4 guy. Have you talked with Dick about that? And what are your thoughts on the subject?

A: We really hadn't talked about changing whatsoever. We agree that it's overblown. It really is. Guys play football. Football players play and we have some guys that are football players. We're a 3-4 team. We might experiment with some 4-3. We might talk about experimenting with some 4-3 if it makes our preparation for our opponents more difficult. But it's funny to us. We're just concerned about the business of putting a good defense on the field, getting guys that are fundamentally sound, that win their one-on-one battles and will run to the football.

Q: He's not trying to convert you?

A: Oh, I'm sure he is. I'm sure he is. And he's probably got a pretty good shot at it.

Q: Dick will be 70 in September. You're 35. What's it like dealing with him?

A: It's a comfort zone for me actually. It's not unlike what I'm used to. I've always valued veteran coaches. I'm kind of an old soul in that regard. I spent five years down in Tampa with Monte (Kiffin), who's probably a couple days younger than Dick. It's no big deal to me. I value that. I respect the experience they have, the snaps they've seen. I come to work every day ready to learn a little something and that's great.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\nMIKE TOMLIN, Head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers\r\n\r\n

Q: When will Sean Mahan work at center?\r\n\r\n

A: There's going to be some position flexibility with him. That's part of what attracted us to him. But right now we're just getting him locked in at one spot, getting him going in that area, and at some point we'll cross-train him.\r\n\r\n

Q: How much experimenting will go on with the offensive line?\r\n\r\n

A: We're going to leave no stone unturned in terms of finding the best combination of men to put on the field, and really not just with the offensive line. I know that's an area that's focused on right now, but really we're interested in doing that at all positions – trying to find the best combinations, leaving no stone unturned in that regard, having an open mind about position flexibility.\r\n\r\n

Q: What's with the Nerf ball that's being used?\r\n\r\n

A: In special teams? I have no idea. You know special-teams coaches are a little weird, or can be, and we fit the mold in that regard. But, no, they're very good at what they do. I think it's to prevent injury in terms of balls flying around, or maybe someone stepping on a ball if it's mishandled.\r\n\r\n

Q: Speaking of special teams, why is Chris Gardocki here but not working?\r\n\r\n

A: He's experienced a little physical trouble and we're getting it looked at. We're just being cautious. We know what Dock's capable of. He's been there and done that and seen about everything you can see from a punting standpoint. It gives us an opportunity to give (Mike) Barr some work, but he's been here, been very helpful, been here in a mentorship mentality for Barr and things are going well. We're just being cautious more than anything. It's a little back trouble.\r\n\r\n

Q: Will what you see here affect your draft next week?\r\n\r\n

A: No, not really. It's really more information gathering and getting to know the guys that we have. Like I said yesterday, you like to do it before the draft but at the same time it doesn't dictate your thought process in terms of the draft. It really doesn't. I think we have a philosophy here that's time-tested. We'll stick to it.\r\n\r\n

Q: Do you sense any coming together of this team yet?\r\n\r\n

A: You'd like to. You can talk yourself into it. I think it's extremely early for that. I know the guys have a great attitude. It's upbeat. There's some camaraderie. That takes time. You can't rush that process. It's something that happens, that's done because guys respect the work that others put in and they see it and they continue to come to work on a day-to-day basis. But, yeah, I can talk myself into feeling good about that. We had a good weekend.\r\n\r\n

Q: Do you sense it's not coming together?\r\n\r\n

A: No, not at all. I just don't know if that's something that can be developed in two days. \r\n\r\n

Q: Is it hard to tell what you have at outside linebacker?\r\n\r\n

A: No, not really. Just getting extra opportunities for guys like (Marcello) Church and Rian Wallace to get work I think is good. We kind of know what Clark (Haggans) is capable of. James Harrison has been around. It's just more opportunities for young, emerging guys to get snaps and show what they're capable of and to get better from an assignment standpoint. Before you can compete for a spot, you've got to know what you're doing. So this is valuable work for them. Misfortune for other people always creates opportunities for some. They're taking that approach and we're taking that approach and we're excited about watching those guys grow.\r\n\r\n

Q: Will you re-sign Verron Haynes?\r\n\r\n

A: He's rehabbing but he's not allowed to be around based on the rules that we have. He's not a member of the team. He is rehabbing. That's something to be discussed at a later date. At some point, when Verron is healthy, he'll be capable of signing with any football team.\r\n\r\n

Q: Aren't you thin at that spot?\r\n\r\n

A: Yes.\r\n\r\n

Q: Is the draft all that you have left to fill that position?\r\n\r\n

A: Yes, and there'll be guys out there like Verron that may be healthy and ready to go at a later date.\r\n\r\n

Q: What made you give Ben Roethlisberger the responsibility of calling pass protections?\r\n\r\n

A: We feel comfortable the way he's emerging at that position. He's a sharp guy. He's a competitor. He's a quarterback. He's a leader in position alone, but he has some leadership characteristics from a personality standpoint. We felt like it was the right thing to do. He's accepted that challenge and we knew that he would. We just need to continue to grow day-to-day with that.\r\n\r\n

Q: Do you still wish to have two complementary type backs?\r\n\r\n

A: Absolutely. That's just today's NFL. It's a long season. You need two capable ballcarriers. The teams that were playing late in January showed that last year. That's our mentality. But at the same time I'm not willing to say those two backs aren't here. We've got some capable men who are working on a day-to-day basis. Najeh Davenport has played good ball in this league for a long time. He was part of a rotation in Green Bay. When I first broke into the league down there in Tampa and we were playing Green Bay twice a year, he was a guy that we were always concerned about when Ahman Green wasn't in there. We've got some guys here working in that regard, and time will tell.\r\n\r\n

Q: Would you have any interest in Ricky Williams at all?\r\n\r\n

A: No, I hadn't thought about it to be honest with you.\r\n\r\n

Dick LeBeau said the discussion about whether to go 4-3 or 3-4 is overblown. He said when Bill Cowher came here he was a 4-3 guy who changed to a 3-4 guy. Have you talked with Dick about that? And what are your thoughts on the subject?\r\n\r\n

A: We really hadn't talked about changing whatsoever. We agree that it's overblown. It really is. Guys play football. Football players play and we have some guys that are football players. We're a 3-4 team. We might experiment with some 4-3. We might talk about experimenting with some 4-3 if it makes our preparation for our opponents more difficult. But it's funny to us. We're just concerned about the business of putting a good defense on the field, getting guys that are fundamentally sound, that win their one-on-one battles and will run to the football.\r\n\r\n

Q: He's not trying to convert you?\r\n\r\n

A: Oh, I'm sure he is. I'm sure he is. And he's probably got a pretty good shot at it.\r\n\r\n

Q: Dick will be 70 in September. You're 35. What's it like dealing with him?\r\n\r\n

A: It's a comfort zone for me actually. It's not unlike what I'm used to. I've always valued veteran coaches. I'm kind of an old soul in that regard. I spent five years down in Tampa with Monte (Kiffin), who's probably a couple days younger than Dick. It's no big deal to me. I value that. I respect the experience they have, the snaps they've seen. 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