Q&A: Mike Tomlin

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin answered questions at his weekly press conference, prior to Saturday's game at Washington. Here's the transcript:

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. Of course it's a busy time for us, bringing our camp to a close the last week here. It's been great. Been good work, been great competition, been a good atmosphere, and we're looking forward to our third opportunity to build our football team as we go to Washington this weekend to play the Redskins. I'll take any questions.

Q: Coach, where have you seen the biggest jump on your team?

A: I don't know if there have been big jumps. I think there has just been gradual growth of the football team at all positions. There haven't been any real shockers in terms of growth and development, but it's been consistent. It's been consistently on the upswing and that's the way it should be.

Q: What's the status of Marvel Smith, Anthony Smith and Lawrence Timmons?

A: Tentatively they are all in. Of course, Marvel is dealing with a day-to-day issue so we'll know more as we get close. We anticipate playing Lawrence some. How much will kind of be determined on conditioning and what he's capable of handling from an assignment standpoint. But thus far he's shown that he's getting pretty sharp from an assignment standpoint. Of course, he is a rookie and he hasn't played a bunch of snaps, but it's obvious that he's taken advantage of the mental reps and the classroom work.

Q: Coach, how do you feel about special teams, considering the added emphasis this week?

A: Like we always do. And really there is no special emphasis on it this week. We just saw an issue that we needed to address and we worked at it. It's a legitimate phase of the game, a legitimate phase of our football team and we give it its just due just like offense and defense.

Q: What kind of reaction did you get this camp when you took the players out of their comfort zone?

A: Mixed. But that's usually the case. We've got to be prepared to step out of our comfort zone…

Q: Was there something you learned about this group of guys?

A: They resisted the change, like we all are. But ideally I think they did a nice job of dealing with it and not letting it affect their quality of play.

Q: What did they resist?

A: Everything. It's funny, we're all creatures of habit, particularly the guys that have been here a long time. Guys who were drafted here, they know one way. When you know what's going on, you never have to look at the schedule. You can kind of get on auto-pilot. That's what we crave. We like to be on auto-pilot and know what lies ahead. But sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and have to read an itinerary, have to keep up with the schedule, and don't really know what's going on next. That's how this process has been for some people.

Q: What are your plans for Saturday's game concerning your players?

A: Tentatively we're going to play our first groups a lot longer than what we've done at this point, but like always we're going to be prepared to play it by ear. But it's our intention to play guys more in this game.

Q: Will you have a game in the preseason where they play beyond halftime?

A: Certainly. Philadelphia.

Q: Any changes in your starting lineup?

A: Yeah, but we'll keep you guessing.

Q: Coach, I have some questions sent in from another slapnut. He wants to know how you feel about playing against the Redskins? And what do you think about Fred Smoot?

A: In terms of playing the Redskins, it's just an opponent for me. It's our next opponent so it's important. You learn to get over those sentimental things. Put my brother in charge of tickets and I took myself out of it, try to make it as normal a weekend as I possibly can. On a personal note, it'd be great to see Fred. I like Fred. He's a heck of a guy. We went through our ups and downs professionally, but I think on a personal note that we've got respect for one another's people.

Q: On Bryant McFadden moving to first team:

A: I don't know that there was a response in his play. I think that he's had a solid camp, whether we run him with the first group or the second group. He's just continuing to grow. He's a young guy who has some talent, has made some plays for this football team, it's not like he's green. There's really probably no ground-breaking event for him to be in that first huddle.

Q: Impressions of Ryan Clark:

A: Ryan has been awesome. He's very professional. He's always up. He has a passion for playing this game, and he plays it above the neck. His floor, if you will, is extremely high. He's very consistent on a day-to-day basis; you know what you're going to get from him.

Q: On Anthony Smith's status:

A: Yeah, he may play. Hopefully he can go this afternoon. We'll see.

Q: Rule out Chris Hoke?

A: Hoke is going to be out, yes, I'm sorry. I don't remember that name being mentioned. But Hoke is one, if you're zeroing in on that, that's not going to play for us this week.

Q: On Darnell Stapleton's status:

Q: Well Stapleton just got his knee done. You know he's not playing. Nah, I'm giving you guys a hard time. No, Hoke is out, Stapleton of course coming off the knee surgery, he's out. All the other names are potentials.

Q: On plans for Gary Russell:

A: He's kind of shown what he's capable of from a ball-carrier's standpoint. We want to see if he can show what he's capable of in some other areas – pass protection and so forth, see if he can participate in the passing game a little bit. He's a sharp young guy, a competitor, but the job description is you have to be a complete back. We want to see what he can do when the ball is not in his hands.

Q: Against first-teamers?

A: No, we're not going to do that. We have to get Willie P going.

Q: Will you look at Trai Essex more at left tackle?

A: Yes, that is our intentions, to see Trai play over there, particularly with Marvel's situation, not knowing how much he can handle this weekend. That is the plan, yes.

Q: How's Trai done at guard?

A: He's done an admirable job. I really think that he's gotten better, consistently better. I think he's improving technically. He's a developing player. And really, he's at this point in his career where he needs to be a developing player. And we've had frank discussions about that, he and I, and I think he's answering the call.

Q: Coach, what are you trying to see from your players in the third game?

A: Really the same things that we've been looking for throughout this entire process. We have to take another step toward game readiness as a football team. We have to become a hardened unit. We have to try to master the things that require no talent. We talk about those things. Everybody's capable of knowing what to do, we have to play better from an assignment standpoint than we've played. Everybody's capable of playing at maximum speed, playing hard and finishing. We've done that pretty well. But by no means have we reached the ceiling in that regard. We just need to continue to turn the volume up on the things that are not talent related. We think that will determine how good we are as a football team.

Q: Your reaction to fans here?

A: It's exciting, it's humbling, it's all those things. It's special to be a part of. I'm blessed to be a part of it. I try to keep it in perspective. They come to watch us work and I have a job to do, and that's getting this football team ready to play.

Q: On finishing strong, when do you find that out?

A: It's a little bit of both. I think the game always defines us, we're always defined by how we perform inside stadiums on weekends. But to this point in the week, I like the way we've finished. We've had some spirited practices, we've had some competitive practices this week. These guys compete. You look back two days ago and those running backs vs. linebackers going on, defensive ends vs. tight ends going on, wideouts vs. DBs – no matter what situation we put these guys in, they respond and they compete with great passion. I like that about this football team. We had a very good practice yesterday. We'll continue to put one foot in front of the other. We need to stay focused and have a great day today and really finish this thing strong. I think from the standpoint of accepting that challenge, thus far they've done a good job. But of course, what we do today, tomorrow morning and really ultimately in Washington on Saturday is going to define how they answer that challenge.

Q: On Marvin Phillip:

A: Marvin has done some good things. Marvin has got to do a little better from an assignment standpoint. As we talked about earlier, part of us growing as a team but also individually, is handling the things that aren't talent-related. Knowing what to do is first and foremost. He's got to play at a higher level from that standpoint if he wants to get into that conversation with the other two. He's a young guy who's growing. He's a hard worker and he's coming in here every day.

Q: On Walter Young:

A: He's on the brink, as are a lot of other guys. That's a good problem to have. You love the competition. You love guys that are fighting, particularly a guy like him who has been close a couple of times, played a little ball in this league and is looking for a breakthrough. I was joking with Carey Davis this morning. He said this is his fourth training camp. You've got to have respect for men who've been denied multiple time and they still come back. They still have that fire in their eye trying to get it done. I like those guys. You root for those guys from a humanistic standpoint. But the reality is that we have to keep the best 53. But Walter is on the brink.

Q: On paying special attention to Nate Washington after the drops:

A: I think that's a to-be-continued answer to that. I like the way he comes to work. He's got to do better from a concentration standpoint. He understands that. He's a very capable guy, a talented guy. But time will tell. His cumulative body of work will tell how he responds to that. That's a small bump in the road. The guy dropped two footballs in the first preseason game. I hope he's not losing sleep over that. If he is, then we probably have got a problem. But he doesn't lack confidence, no.

Q: On whether or not there's a particular number of players to keep at each position:

A: I think as coaches, we're all planners. In your mind, you'd like to go into it from that standpoint. But I think ultimately, when it comes down to those last three or four guys, position is not a factor. It's team guys, guys that make your football team better. Whether that makes it five wideouts or six wideouts, or five backs or six backs, you've got to be willing to step outside the box and look at what makes your team strong. We will do that. We have a general idea about numbers, but we're not married to it by any stretch.

Q: On Brian St. Pierre:

A: I really think it's too early to talk about making the team out. We've got three preseason games left. Brian has done some good things. Some teams keep two quarterbacks, some keep three. It really boils down to that same discussion we were just having and what you feel makes your team strong. We're monitoring that, of course. We're considering all of the options. Personally, what Brian has done to this point has not been disappointing. I think he's done some good things.

Q: How much playing time for Willie (Parker) and Ben (Roethlisberger) Saturday?

A: We'll see. We intend to play those guys, the first unit, more on Saturday, but we'll play it by ear.

Q: On off-duty female police officers working the Steelers' hotel:

A: I was just brought up to speed on that article. Dave (Lockett) just let me read it. I'm not a micromanager. I just want the floor secure. I don't care who does it. It's really a non-issue for me.

Q: On what to look forward to about getting home:

A: Sleeping with kids in the bed, that kind of thing, just normal stuff. I do miss my family. I can't wait to get back to normalcy from that standpoint. But you've got to be careful what normalcy is in this business. I'll see them sleep in the morning, I'll see them sleep in the evening. And maybe they get up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with me. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Q: How many tickets in Washington?

A: I haven't placed that call yet. I would imagine it's double digits for sure.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

\r\n\r\nMike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers\r\n\r\n

Good afternoon. Of course it's a busy time for us, bringing our camp to a close the last week here. It's been great. Been good work, been great competition, been a good atmosphere, and we're looking forward to our third opportunity to build our football team as we go to Washington this weekend to play the Redskins. I'll take any questions.\r\n\r\n

Q: Coach, where have you seen the biggest jump on your team?\r\n\r\n

A: I don't know if there have been big jumps. I think there has just been gradual growth of the football team at all positions. There haven't been any real shockers in terms of growth and development, but it's been consistent. It's been consistently on the upswing and that's the way it should be.\r\n\r\n

Q: What's the status of Marvel Smith, Anthony Smith and Lawrence Timmons?\r\n\r\n

A: Tentatively they are all in. Of course, Marvel is dealing with a day-to-day issue so we'll know more as we get close. We anticipate playing Lawrence some. How much will kind of be determined on conditioning and what he's capable of handling from an assignment standpoint. But thus far he's shown that he's getting pretty sharp from an assignment standpoint. Of course, he is a rookie and he hasn't played a bunch of snaps, but it's obvious that he's taken advantage of the mental reps and the classroom work.\r\n\r\n

Q: Coach, how do you feel about special teams, considering the added emphasis this week?\r\n\r\n

A: Like we always do. And really there is no special emphasis on it this week. We just saw an issue that we needed to address and we worked at it. It's a legitimate phase of the game, a legitimate phase of our football team and we give it its just due just like offense and defense.\r\n\r\n

Q: What kind of reaction did you get this camp when you took the players out of their comfort zone?\r\n\r\n

A: Mixed. But that's usually the case. We've got to be prepared to step out of our comfort zone…\r\n\r\n

Q: Was there something you learned about this group of guys?\r\n\r\n

A: They resisted the change, like we all are. But ideally I think they did a nice job of dealing with it and not letting it affect their quality of play.\r\n\r\n

Q: What did they resist?\r\n\r\n

A: Everything. It's funny, we're all creatures of habit, particularly the guys that have been here a long time. Guys who were drafted here, they know one way. When you know what's going on, you never have to look at the schedule. You can kind of get on auto-pilot. That's what we crave. We like to be on auto-pilot and know what lies ahead. But sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and have to read an itinerary, have to keep up with the schedule, and don't really know what's going on next. That's how this process has been for some people.\r\n\r\n

Q: What are your plans for Saturday's game concerning your players?\r\n\r\n

A: Tentatively we're going to play our first groups a lot longer than what we've done at this point, but like always we're going to be prepared to play it by ear. But it's our intention to play guys more in this game.\r\n\r\n

Q: Will you have a game in the preseason where they play beyond halftime?\r\n\r\n

A: Certainly. Philadelphia.\r\n\r\n

Q: Any changes in your starting lineup?\r\n\r\n

A: Yeah, but we'll keep you guessing.\r\n\r\n

Q: Coach, I have some questions sent in from another slapnut. He wants to know how you feel about playing against the Redskins? And what do you think about Fred Smoot?\r\n\r\n

A: In terms of playing the Redskins, it's just an opponent for me. It's our next opponent so it's important. You learn to get over those sentimental things. Put my brother in charge of tickets and I took myself out of it, try to make it as normal a weekend as I possibly can. On a personal note, it'd be great to see Fred. I like Fred. He's a heck of a guy. We went through our ups and downs professionally, but I think on a personal note that we've got respect for one another's people.\r\n\r\n

Q: On Bryant McFadden moving to first team:\r\n\r\n

A: I don't know that there was a response in his play. I think that he's had a solid camp, whether we run him with the first group or the second group. He's just continuing to grow. He's a young guy who has some talent, has made some plays for this football team, it's not like he's green. There's really probably no ground-breaking event for him to be in that first huddle. \r\n \r\n

Q: Impressions of Ryan Clark:\r\n\r\n

A: Ryan has been awesome. He's very professional. He's always up. He has a passion for playing this game, and he plays it above the neck. His floor, if you will, is extremely high. He's very consistent on a day-to-day basis; you know what you're going to get from him. \r\n \r\n

Q: On Anthony Smith's status:\r\n \r\n

A: Yeah, he may play. Hopefully he can go this afternoon. We'll see.\r\n \r\n

Q: Rule out Chris Hoke?\r\n \r\n

A: Hoke is going to be out, yes, I'm sorry. I don't remember that name being mentioned. But Hoke is one, if you're zeroing in on that, that's not going to play for us this week.\r\n \r\n

Q: On Darnell Stapleton's status:\r\n \r\n

Q: Well Stapleton just got his knee done. You know he's not playing. Nah, I'm giving you guys a hard time. No, Hoke is out, Stapleton of course coming off the knee surgery, he's out. All the other names are potentials.\r\n \r\n

Q: On plans for Gary Russell:\r\n \r\n

A: He's kind of shown what he's capable of from a ball-carrier's standpoint. We want to see if he can show what he's capable of in some other areas – pass protection and so forth, see if he can participate in the passing game a little bit. He's a sharp young guy, a competitor, but the job description is you have to be a complete back. We want to see what he can do when the ball is not in his hands.\r\n \r\n

Q: Against first-teamers?\r\n \r\n

A: No, we're not going to do that. We have to get Willie P going. \r\n \r\n

Q: Will you look at Trai Essex more at left tackle?\r\n \r\n

A: Yes, that is our intentions, to see Trai play over there, particularly with Marvel's situation, not knowing how much he can handle this weekend. That is the plan, yes.\r\n \r\n

Q: How's Trai done at guard?\r\n \r\n

A: He's done an admirable job. I really think that he's gotten better, consistently better. I think he's improving technically. He's a developing player. And really, he's at this point in his career where he needs to be a developing player. And we've had frank discussions about that, he and I, and I think he's answering the call.\r\n \r\n

Q: Coach, what are you trying to see from your players in the third game?\r\n \r\n

A: Really the same things that we've been looking for throughout this entire process. We have to take another step toward game readiness as a football team. We have to become a hardened unit. We have to try to master the things that require no talent. We talk about those things. Everybody's capable of knowing what to do, we have to play better from an assignment standpoint than we've played. Everybody's capable of playing at maximum speed, playing hard and finishing. We've done that pretty well. But by no means have we reached the ceiling in that regard. We just need to continue to turn the volume up on the things that are not talent related. We think that will determine how good we are as a football team. \r\n \r\n

Q: Your reaction to fans here?\r\n \r\n

A: It's exciting, it's humbling, it's all those things. It's special to be a part of. I'm blessed to be a part of it. I try to keep it in perspective. They come to watch us work and I have a job to do, and that's getting this football team ready to play. \r\n \r\n

Q: On finishing strong, when do you find that out?\r\n \r\n

A: It's a little bit of both. I think the game always defines us, we're always defined by how we perform inside stadiums on weekends. But to this point in the week, I like the way we've finished. We've had some spirited practices, we've had some competitive practices this week. These guys compete. You look back two days ago and those running backs vs. linebackers going on, defensive ends vs. tight ends going on, wideouts vs. DBs – no matter what situation we put these guys in, they respond and they compete with great passion. I like that about this football team. We had a very good practice yesterday. We'll continue to put one foot in front of the other. We need to stay focused and have a great day today and really finish this thing strong. I think from the standpoint of accepting that challenge, thus far they've done a good job. But of course, what we do today, tomorrow morning and really ultimately in Washington on Saturday is going to define how they answer that challenge. \r\n\r\n

Q: On Marvin Phillip:\r\n\r\n

A: Marvin has done some good things. Marvin has got to do a little better from an assignment standpoint. As we talked about earlier, part of us growing as a team but also individually, is handling the things that aren't talent-related. Knowing what to do is first and foremost. He's got to play at a higher level from that standpoint if he wants to get into that conversation with the other two. He's a young guy who's growing. He's a hard worker and he's coming in here every day.\r\n\r\n

Q: On Walter Young: \r\n\r\n

A: He's on the brink, as are a lot of other guys. That's a good problem to have. You love the competition. You love guys that are fighting, particularly a guy like him who has been close a couple of times, played a little ball in this league and is looking for a breakthrough. I was joking with Carey Davis this morning. He said this is his fourth training camp. You've got to have respect for men who've been denied multiple time and they still come back. They still have that fire in their eye trying to get it done. I like those guys. You root for those guys from a humanistic standpoint. But the reality is that we have to keep the best 53. But Walter is on the brink.\r\n\r\n

Q: On paying special attention to Nate Washington after the drops:\r\n\r\n

A: I think that's a to-be-continued answer to that. I like the way he comes to work. He's got to do better from a concentration standpoint. He understands that. He's a very capable guy, a talented guy. But time will tell. His cumulative body of work will tell how he responds to that. That's a small bump in the road. The guy dropped two footballs in the first preseason game. I hope he's not losing sleep over that. If he is, then we probably have got a problem. But he doesn't lack confidence, no.\r\n\r\n

Q: On whether or not there's a particular number of players to keep at each position:\r\n\r\n

A: I think as coaches, we're all planners. In your mind, you'd like to go into it from that standpoint. But I think ultimately, when it comes down to those last three or four guys, position is not a factor. It's team guys, guys that make your football team better. Whether that makes it five wideouts or six wideouts, or five backs or six backs, you've got to be willing to step outside the box and look at what makes your team strong. We will do that. We have a general idea about numbers, but we're not married to it by any stretch.\r\n\r\n

Q: On Brian St. Pierre:\r\n\r\n

A: I really think it's too early to talk about making the team out. We've got three preseason games left. Brian has done some good things. Some teams keep two quarterbacks, some keep three. It really boils down to that same discussion we were just having and what you feel makes your team strong. We're monitoring that, of course. We're considering all of the options. Personally, what Brian has done to this point has not been disappointing. I think he's done some good things.\r\n\r\n

Q: How much playing time for Willie (Parker) and Ben (Roethlisberger) Saturday?\r\n\r\n

A: We'll see. We intend to play those guys, the first unit, more on Saturday, but we'll play it by ear.\r\n\r\n

Q: On off-duty female police officers working the Steelers' hotel:\r\n\r\n

A: I was just brought up to speed on that article. Dave (Lockett) just let me read it. I'm not a micromanager. I just want the floor secure. I don't care who does it. It's really a non-issue for me.\r\n\r\n

Q: On what to look forward to about getting home: \r\n\r\n

A: Sleeping with kids in the bed, that kind of thing, just normal stuff. I do miss my family. I can't wait to get back to normalcy from that standpoint. But you've got to be careful what normalcy is in this business. I'll see them sleep in the morning, I'll see them sleep in the evening. And maybe they get up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with me. That's what I'm looking forward to.\r\n\r\n

Q: How many tickets in Washington?\r\n\r\n

A: I haven't placed that call yet. I would imagine it's double digits for sure.\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":"

Good afternoon. Of course it's a busy time for us, bringing our camp to a close the last week here. It's been great. Been good work, been great competition, been a good atmosphere, and we're looking forward to our third opportunity to build our football team as we go to Washington this weekend to play the Redskins. I'll take any questions.

Q: Coach, where have you seen the biggest jump on your team?

A: I don't know if there have been big jumps. I think there has just been gradual growth of the football team at all positions. There haven't been any real shockers in terms of growth and development, but it's been consistent. It's been consistently on the upswing and that's the way it should be.

Q: What's the status of Marvel Smith, Anthony Smith and Lawrence Timmons?

A: Tentatively they are all in. Of course, Marvel is dealing with a day-to-day issue so we'll know more as we get close. We anticipate playing Lawrence some. How much will kind of be determined on conditioning and what he's capable of handling from an assignment standpoint. But thus far he's shown that he's getting pretty sharp from an assignment standpoint. Of course, he is a rookie and he hasn't played a bunch of snaps, but it's obvious that he's taken advantage of the mental reps and the classroom work.

Q: Coach, how do you feel about special teams, considering the added emphasis this week?

A: Like we always do. And really there is no special emphasis on it this week. We just saw an issue that we needed to address and we worked at it. It's a legitimate phase of the game, a legitimate phase of our football team and we give it its just due just like offense and defense.

Q: What kind of reaction did you get this camp when you took the players out of their comfort zone?

A: Mixed. But that's usually the case. We've got to be prepared to step out of our comfort zone…

Q: Was there something you learned about this group of guys?

A: They resisted the change, like we all are. But ideally I think they did a nice job of dealing with it and not letting it affect their quality of play.

Q: What did they resist?

A: Everything. It's funny, we're all creatures of habit, particularly the guys that have been here a long time. Guys who were drafted here, they know one way. When you know what's going on, you never have to look at the schedule. You can kind of get on auto-pilot. That's what we crave. We like to be on auto-pilot and know what lies ahead. But sometimes it's good to get out of your comfort zone a little bit and have to read an itinerary, have to keep up with the schedule, and don't really know what's going on next. That's how this process has been for some people.

Q: What are your plans for Saturday's game concerning your players?

A: Tentatively we're going to play our first groups a lot longer than what we've done at this point, but like always we're going to be prepared to play it by ear. But it's our intention to play guys more in this game.

Q: Will you have a game in the preseason where they play beyond halftime?

A: Certainly. Philadelphia.

Q: Any changes in your starting lineup?

A: Yeah, but we'll keep you guessing.

Q: Coach, I have some questions sent in from another slapnut. He wants to know how you feel about playing against the Redskins? And what do you think about Fred Smoot?

A: In terms of playing the Redskins, it's just an opponent for me. It's our next opponent so it's important. You learn to get over those sentimental things. Put my brother in charge of tickets and I took myself out of it, try to make it as normal a weekend as I possibly can. On a personal note, it'd be great to see Fred. I like Fred. He's a heck of a guy. We went through our ups and downs professionally, but I think on a personal note that we've got respect for one another's people.

Q: On Bryant McFadden moving to first team:

A: I don't know that there was a response in his play. I think that he's had a solid camp, whether we run him with the first group or the second group. He's just continuing to grow. He's a young guy who has some talent, has made some plays for this football team, it's not like he's green. There's really probably no ground-breaking event for him to be in that first huddle.

Q: Impressions of Ryan Clark:

A: Ryan has been awesome. He's very professional. He's always up. He has a passion for playing this game, and he plays it above the neck. His floor, if you will, is extremely high. He's very consistent on a day-to-day basis; you know what you're going to get from him.

Q: On Anthony Smith's status:

A: Yeah, he may play. Hopefully he can go this afternoon. We'll see.

Q: Rule out Chris Hoke?

A: Hoke is going to be out, yes, I'm sorry. I don't remember that name being mentioned. But Hoke is one, if you're zeroing in on that, that's not going to play for us this week.

Q: On Darnell Stapleton's status:

Q: Well Stapleton just got his knee done. You know he's not playing. Nah, I'm giving you guys a hard time. No, Hoke is out, Stapleton of course coming off the knee surgery, he's out. All the other names are potentials.

Q: On plans for Gary Russell:

A: He's kind of shown what he's capable of from a ball-carrier's standpoint. We want to see if he can show what he's capable of in some other areas – pass protection and so forth, see if he can participate in the passing game a little bit. He's a sharp young guy, a competitor, but the job description is you have to be a complete back. We want to see what he can do when the ball is not in his hands.

Q: Against first-teamers?

A: No, we're not going to do that. We have to get Willie P going.

Q: Will you look at Trai Essex more at left tackle?

A: Yes, that is our intentions, to see Trai play over there, particularly with Marvel's situation, not knowing how much he can handle this weekend. That is the plan, yes.

Q: How's Trai done at guard?

A: He's done an admirable job. I really think that he's gotten better, consistently better. I think he's improving technically. He's a developing player. And really, he's at this point in his career where he needs to be a developing player. And we've had frank discussions about that, he and I, and I think he's answering the call.

Q: Coach, what are you trying to see from your players in the third game?

A: Really the same things that we've been looking for throughout this entire process. We have to take another step toward game readiness as a football team. We have to become a hardened unit. We have to try to master the things that require no talent. We talk about those things. Everybody's capable of knowing what to do, we have to play better from an assignment standpoint than we've played. Everybody's capable of playing at maximum speed, playing hard and finishing. We've done that pretty well. But by no means have we reached the ceiling in that regard. We just need to continue to turn the volume up on the things that are not talent related. We think that will determine how good we are as a football team.

Q: Your reaction to fans here?

A: It's exciting, it's humbling, it's all those things. It's special to be a part of. I'm blessed to be a part of it. I try to keep it in perspective. They come to watch us work and I have a job to do, and that's getting this football team ready to play.

Q: On finishing strong, when do you find that out?

A: It's a little bit of both. I think the game always defines us, we're always defined by how we perform inside stadiums on weekends. But to this point in the week, I like the way we've finished. We've had some spirited practices, we've had some competitive practices this week. These guys compete. You look back two days ago and those running backs vs. linebackers going on, defensive ends vs. tight ends going on, wideouts vs. DBs – no matter what situation we put these guys in, they respond and they compete with great passion. I like that about this football team. We had a very good practice yesterday. We'll continue to put one foot in front of the other. We need to stay focused and have a great day today and really finish this thing strong. I think from the standpoint of accepting that challenge, thus far they've done a good job. But of course, what we do today, tomorrow morning and really ultimately in Washington on Saturday is going to define how they answer that challenge.

Q: On Marvin Phillip:

A: Marvin has done some good things. Marvin has got to do a little better from an assignment standpoint. As we talked about earlier, part of us growing as a team but also individually, is handling the things that aren't talent-related. Knowing what to do is first and foremost. He's got to play at a higher level from that standpoint if he wants to get into that conversation with the other two. He's a young guy who's growing. He's a hard worker and he's coming in here every day.

Q: On Walter Young:

A: He's on the brink, as are a lot of other guys. That's a good problem to have. You love the competition. You love guys that are fighting, particularly a guy like him who has been close a couple of times, played a little ball in this league and is looking for a breakthrough. I was joking with Carey Davis this morning. He said this is his fourth training camp. You've got to have respect for men who've been denied multiple time and they still come back. They still have that fire in their eye trying to get it done. I like those guys. You root for those guys from a humanistic standpoint. But the reality is that we have to keep the best 53. But Walter is on the brink.

Q: On paying special attention to Nate Washington after the drops:

A: I think that's a to-be-continued answer to that. I like the way he comes to work. He's got to do better from a concentration standpoint. He understands that. He's a very capable guy, a talented guy. But time will tell. His cumulative body of work will tell how he responds to that. That's a small bump in the road. The guy dropped two footballs in the first preseason game. I hope he's not losing sleep over that. If he is, then we probably have got a problem. But he doesn't lack confidence, no.

Q: On whether or not there's a particular number of players to keep at each position:

A: I think as coaches, we're all planners. In your mind, you'd like to go into it from that standpoint. But I think ultimately, when it comes down to those last three or four guys, position is not a factor. It's team guys, guys that make your football team better. Whether that makes it five wideouts or six wideouts, or five backs or six backs, you've got to be willing to step outside the box and look at what makes your team strong. We will do that. We have a general idea about numbers, but we're not married to it by any stretch.

Q: On Brian St. Pierre:

A: I really think it's too early to talk about making the team out. We've got three preseason games left. Brian has done some good things. Some teams keep two quarterbacks, some keep three. It really boils down to that same discussion we were just having and what you feel makes your team strong. We're monitoring that, of course. We're considering all of the options. Personally, what Brian has done to this point has not been disappointing. I think he's done some good things.

Q: How much playing time for Willie (Parker) and Ben (Roethlisberger) Saturday?

A: We'll see. We intend to play those guys, the first unit, more on Saturday, but we'll play it by ear.

Q: On off-duty female police officers working the Steelers' hotel:

A: I was just brought up to speed on that article. Dave (Lockett) just let me read it. I'm not a micromanager. I just want the floor secure. I don't care who does it. It's really a non-issue for me.

Q: On what to look forward to about getting home:

A: Sleeping with kids in the bed, that kind of thing, just normal stuff. I do miss my family. I can't wait to get back to normalcy from that standpoint. But you've got to be careful what normalcy is in this business. I'll see them sleep in the morning, I'll see them sleep in the evening. And maybe they get up in the middle of the night and crawl into bed with me. That's what I'm looking forward to.

Q: How many tickets in Washington?

A: I haven't placed that call yet. I would imagine it's double digits for sure. 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