Pre-Game Q&A: Mike Tomlin

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin met with the media Friday for his weekly press conference. He talked about the Steelers' eight o'clock game Sunday night at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, and of interest to most: the starting offensive line.

Mike Tomlin, head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. We had a good morning this morning, put some finishing touches on our game plan for this weekend, specifically some situational ball: red zone, short yardage, goal line. Thought it was a very productive morning. On the injury front, Jerame Tuman (back) is not going to play this weekend. We think it's the right thing to do. (We're) bringing him back. He's getting close, but not close enough. Derrick Jones had a setback with his calf injury. He won't play this weekend. But other than that, we're moving forward from a health standpoint. (Darnell) Stapleton is back and he's going to play this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. Other than that I'll answer any questions at this time.

Q: Coach, how much more – talking about game-planning and situational, red zone – how much (more) of that do you do for this game than the earlier games and perhaps even the final game?

A: Quite a bit more. Not a complete body of work like we'll do here in a couple weeks when we're getting ready for the opener, but quite a bit more than we've done for the preseason. You've got to make decisions along those lines when you're talking about the preseason. And when you're installing and zeroing in on an opponent, you're not giving those guys an opportunity to compete and play Steelers versus Steelers as we like to say in training camp. To me, that's what training camp's about. It's about seeing who can compete, giving guys things that they know, things that they've been working on all offseason, and seeing who's capable of making plays and who's not. Little different this week. We've broken camp. We've got a simulated game week here. We're game-planning for an opponent to a degree. So there are some subtle differences.

Q: Is this a telltale game for the right tackle position?

A: It's a telltale game for a lot of positions, but yes right tackle is one of them.

Q: Who'll start on the offensive line?

A: Tentatively, we're ready to go with Marvel (Smith), of course, at left tackle; Alan (Faneca) at left guard; (Sean) Mahan at center; Kendall Simmons at guard; and Willie Colon at right tackle. But as you'll see there will be guys rolling in and competing and playing. We want to make sure that all of those men -- that have been talked about quite a bit -- have an opportunity to show what they're capable of.

Q: What are you looking for from the bubble boys before the first cut?

A: Really, I'm looking for, from them, what I'm looking for from everybody, and that's that they continue to grow in terms of their game, technically, levels of execution. We have to continue to grow. We're a developing football team and they're developing men. Whether they're been-there-done-that guys or whether they're guys on the bubble. It really doesn't matter. Every time we go out and play in the stadiums on weekends, we're looking to keep it moving forward, in terms of being a finished product.

Q: How long will you use Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker?

A: Our tentative schedule is to play them a half.

Q: After Ben, how's your quarterback rotation planned?

A: We're going to play it by ear. We're probably going to play Charlie (Batch) a little bit, but we're going to get an opportunity to see some of the other guys, but that is our plan at this time. As you guys know, in the preseason, based on how things shake out, plans do change. But that is our tentative plan.

Q: Do you like what you see from Lawrence Timmons? How do you plan to use him?

A: We are seeing him catch up, but that's pretty much what we expected. He's a sharp guy, he's a very talented guy. All he needed to do was get back out there on the field. He's made a lot of progress, but that's been required. And he's done a good job with that. Last week we played him in packages. We played him in sub-package ball. We wanted him just to get out there and play and not worry too much about situational things, assignment things. We wanted to cut some of those things down so he can turn it loose and play. So we just played him in sub-package football. This week we're going to take the training wheels off of him and he's going to play in all phases of the defense with the second group.

Q: Individual competition at a position such as right tackle, is that more important to you than, say, the cohesion that so many coaches say is necessary in line play?

A: I think it all happens together. And I mean that. Competition is big. Guys need to know that we judge them based on what they do, and that guys have an opportunity to evolve just like this team must evolve. I acknowledge that cohesion is part of it and you hope that that occurs along the way. But the reality is -- like I've said several times -- things happen during the season and guys have to be able to work together and have an understanding. We need to have more than five linemen that know how to work together if we're going to be effective. And, really, a lot's been written and said about the rotations and stuff along the offensive line this preseason. A lot of it has been because of some of the circumstances that I just referred to: Marvel has missed some time due to injury; Alan has missed some time due to injury; Sean Mahan missed some time due to family/personal reasons; Chukky (Okobi) missed some time due to injury. That's just a microcosm of what the season could potentially be about, and the standard of expectation won't change when those things occur. So we do have guys competing, but the reason we have guys competing has kind of been illustrated by some of the things that's happened in training camp with injuries and such. It's part of football. We're not going to make excuses for that. We're going to deal with it and we're going to move on.

Q: Has Chukky been feisty or frustrated this week?

A: Chukky's always feisty. I don't know if this week is anything different. My experience with him is he's a wired-in, feisty competitor.

Q: So those guys have handled competition pretty well across the board?

A: Yeah, they're professional. We've been straightforward with the men about what we intend to do in that regard. They've accepted it and they understand that decisions are going to be made based on performance. Hopefully somewhere along those lines they appreciate that, and I'm sure that they do.

Q: Backup left tackle has been a problem this preseason. Is Jason Capizzi going to get a chance there?

A: Jason's been working well and he's been progressing. Of course, the speed of the game and things of that nature for him, not only because he's a rookie but the level of competition that he competed against, have been a factor. I think he's made a good representation of what he's capable of. We'll continue to evaluate him. He's a prospect, but it's some distance between him and some of the names we've been mentioning in terms of the quality of their execution at this point. But we acknowledge he's a young guy. We like the way he works.

Q: What's your sense, as you do this for the first time, of how a decision like that gets made, say, at right tackle? Will you wait and will you call it?

A: Absolutely. I'll call that. And really I have no problem. I welcome that. Those decisions are easy – I really believe it – if you're patient. And I think we've been patient and I think they're becoming clear and we'll make it at the appropriate time.

Q: Any running back in game four that you want to take a long look at?

A: Willie Parker.

Q: Beyond him?

A: Beyond Willie we're going to continue to watch some guys compete. We have stiff competition, of course, at that position. There is a plan, but again we're going to let this thing play out a little bit and see how the game goes. Of course, continuing to watch Dan (Kreider) at fullback; continuing to watch Carey Davis at fullback; John Kuhn at fullback; some ballcarriers, of course. You guys know the names, and we're just going to continue to do what we've done with those guys and watch them compete and watch them sort themselves out.

Q: Are you expecting more out of the fullback position than what Kreider has shown in previous years?

A: I try to not make any judgments based on what happened here in the past because I wasn't a part of it. I'm just focused on where we are and where we're going.

Q: Coach, you said you loved being at training camp, as a coach going through his first season as a head coach – you have a young family – how have they handled it, and back home, the extended family, what are you hearing from everyone as it gets closer to that first official kickoff?

A: To be bluntly honest, I try to remove myself from that as much as I can. I have some family close to me that takes care of some of that stuff – tickets and things of that nature. You know, I've got a job to do. I'm glad that they are enjoying it. They should enjoy it. I'm here because I've been blessed with a great family that supported me and encouraged me and raised me. I want them to enjoy it, but I can't spend a bunch of time dwelling on whether or not they're having a great time or not. I'm sure that they are. My wife is the hostess with the mostest.

Q: Have they given you any suggestions on who to play?

A: I'm sure they have but I don't remember it because I'm not listening.

Q: Any excitement for the Sunday prime-time game?

A: I'm excited every weekend. I'm sure that from a player's standpoint, when you're playing in front of a national audience in prime time and you've got John Madden and so forth, it's icing on the cake, but the cake's still good. I like the excitement that every Sunday brings.

Q: Will Philadelphia be a good test for the final dress rehearsal?

A: Absolutely. Their body of work over the last six, seven years speaks for itself. They've been in four NFC championships, a Super Bowl. They are one of the legendary giants of this era of the NFC, so those are the kind of opponents you like to play against this time of year when you're trying to find out who and what you are. Welcome that challenge.

Q: Earlier in camp, you had said Jon Gruden runs a particularly "miserable camp." And you had a wicked smile like you were envious. Has this hot weather pushed your camp across that threshold of misery?

A: Like a lot of things, we don't worry much about stuff that we can't control. I hope that some unfortunate things happen so we have to deal with it, like we've dealt with weather conditions, and having to get in buses and come to Pittsburgh , riding buses and practice and go back. I like some of the surprises that Mother Nature brings. It's part of football. You know, had a hot week this week. Great. Told guys we weren't going to complain about it, we were going to deal with it and be productive and understand what we need to do when we're not on the field to prepare ourselves to do our best the next day, and that's get off your feet, rehydrate yourself, and get ready to go. It may be a little hot in Arizona here in a little while when we go to Arizona .

Q: Don't they play in a dome?

A: Ha ha. I think they're going to have the roof open for that one. (Laughs) Be a good bet.

Q: For the first cuts, do you have to get to 75 minus the NFL Europe exemptions? And how many of those exemptions do you have?

A: The NFL Europe exemptions aren't what they used to be. We have 85 guys. We have to get down to 75 ( 4 p.m. Tuesday) and that's that.

Q: Will you advise the guys on what cleats to wear at Heinz Field?

A: No. No, I don't micromanage and that would be micromanaging to me. These guys are professional athletes. They know what they can do from a standpoint of footing. I expect them to put shoes on that work for them. In terms of the surface at Heinz Field, I thought it was great. I know it has a reputation, of what its reputation is, but I'm not concerned about it. Both teams play on the same surface. As long as we deal with it better than our opponent than it's an advantage for us. And we should deal with it better than our opponent because we're familiar to it. That's my approach to it, but again, my first experience with it was great.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

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

Good afternoon. We had a good morning this morning, put some finishing touches on our game plan for this weekend, specifically some situational ball: red zone, short yardage, goal line. Thought it was a very productive morning. On the injury front, Jerame Tuman (back) is not going to play this weekend. We think it's the right thing to do. (We're) bringing him back. He's getting close, but not close enough. Derrick Jones had a setback with his calf injury. He won't play this weekend. But other than that, we're moving forward from a health standpoint. (Darnell) Stapleton is back and he's going to play this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. Other than that I'll answer any questions at this time.\r\n \r\n

Q: Coach, how much more – talking about game-planning and situational, red zone – how much (more) of that do you do for this game than the earlier games and perhaps even the final game?\r\n \r\n

A: Quite a bit more. Not a complete body of work like we'll do here in a couple weeks when we're getting ready for the opener, but quite a bit more than we've done for the preseason. You've got to make decisions along those lines when you're talking about the preseason. And when you're installing and zeroing in on an opponent, you're not giving those guys an opportunity to compete and play Steelers versus Steelers as we like to say in training camp. To me, that's what training camp's about. It's about seeing who can compete, giving guys things that they know, things that they've been working on all offseason, and seeing who's capable of making plays and who's not. Little different this week. We've broken camp. We've got a simulated game week here. We're game-planning for an opponent to a degree. So there are some subtle differences.\r\n

Q: Is this a telltale game for the right tackle position?\r\n \r\n

A: It's a telltale game for a lot of positions, but yes right tackle is one of them.\r\n \r\n

Q: Who'll start on the offensive line?\r\n \r\n

A: Tentatively, we're ready to go with Marvel (Smith), of course, at left tackle; Alan (Faneca) at left guard; (Sean) Mahan at center; Kendall Simmons at guard; and Willie Colon at right tackle. But as you'll see there will be guys rolling in and competing and playing. We want to make sure that all of those men -- that have been talked about quite a bit -- have an opportunity to show what they're capable of.\r\n \r\n

Q: What are you looking for from the bubble boys before the first cut?\r\n \r\n

A: Really, I'm looking for, from them, what I'm looking for from everybody, and that's that they continue to grow in terms of their game, technically, levels of execution. We have to continue to grow. We're a developing football team and they're developing men. Whether they're been-there-done-that guys or whether they're guys on the bubble. It really doesn't matter. Every time we go out and play in the stadiums on weekends, we're looking to keep it moving forward, in terms of being a finished product.\r\n \r\n

Q: How long will you use Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker?\r\n \r\n

A: Our tentative schedule is to play them a half.\r\n \r\n

Q: After Ben, how's your quarterback rotation planned?\r\n \r\n

A: We're going to play it by ear. We're probably going to play Charlie (Batch) a little bit, but we're going to get an opportunity to see some of the other guys, but that is our plan at this time. As you guys know, in the preseason, based on how things shake out, plans do change. But that is our tentative plan.\r\n \r\n

Q: Do you like what you see from Lawrence Timmons? How do you plan to use him?\r\n \r\n

A: We are seeing him catch up, but that's pretty much what we expected. He's a sharp guy, he's a very talented guy. All he needed to do was get back out there on the field. He's made a lot of progress, but that's been required. And he's done a good job with that. Last week we played him in packages. We played him in sub-package ball. We wanted him just to get out there and play and not worry too much about situational things, assignment things. We wanted to cut some of those things down so he can turn it loose and play. So we just played him in sub-package football. This week we're going to take the training wheels off of him and he's going to play in all phases of the defense with the second group.\r\n\r\n

Q: Individual competition at a position such as right tackle, is that more important to you than, say, the cohesion that so many coaches say is necessary in line play?\r\n \r\n

A: I think it all happens together. And I mean that. Competition is big. Guys need to know that we judge them based on what they do, and that guys have an opportunity to evolve just like this team must evolve. I acknowledge that cohesion is part of it and you hope that that occurs along the way. But the reality is -- like I've said several times -- things happen during the season and guys have to be able to work together and have an understanding. We need to have more than five linemen that know how to work together if we're going to be effective. And, really, a lot's been written and said about the rotations and stuff along the offensive line this preseason. A lot of it has been because of some of the circumstances that I just referred to: Marvel has missed some time due to injury; Alan has missed some time due to injury; Sean Mahan missed some time due to family/personal reasons; Chukky (Okobi) missed some time due to injury. That's just a microcosm of what the season could potentially be about, and the standard of expectation won't change when those things occur. So we do have guys competing, but the reason we have guys competing has kind of been illustrated by some of the things that's happened in training camp with injuries and such. It's part of football. We're not going to make excuses for that. We're going to deal with it and we're going to move on.\r\n \r\n

Q: Has Chukky been feisty or frustrated this week?\r\n \r\n

A: Chukky's always feisty. I don't know if this week is anything different. My experience with him is he's a wired-in, feisty competitor.\r\n \r\n

Q: So those guys have handled competition pretty well across the board?\r\n \r\n

A: Yeah, they're professional. We've been straightforward with the men about what we intend to do in that regard. They've accepted it and they understand that decisions are going to be made based on performance. Hopefully somewhere along those lines they appreciate that, and I'm sure that they do.\r\n \r\n

Q: Backup left tackle has been a problem this preseason. Is Jason Capizzi going to get a chance there?\r\n \r\n

A: Jason's been working well and he's been progressing. Of course, the speed of the game and things of that nature for him, not only because he's a rookie but the level of competition that he competed against, have been a factor. I think he's made a good representation of what he's capable of. We'll continue to evaluate him. He's a prospect, but it's some distance between him and some of the names we've been mentioning in terms of the quality of their execution at this point. But we acknowledge he's a young guy. We like the way he works.\r\n \r\n

Q: What's your sense, as you do this for the first time, of how a decision like that gets made, say, at right tackle? Will you wait and will you call it?\r\n \r\n

A: Absolutely. I'll call that. And really I have no problem. I welcome that. Those decisions are easy – I really believe it – if you're patient. And I think we've been patient and I think they're becoming clear and we'll make it at the appropriate time.\r\n \r\n

Q: Any running back in game four that you want to take a long look at?\r\n \r\n

A: Willie Parker.\r\n \r\n

Q: Beyond him?\r\n \r\n

A: Beyond Willie we're going to continue to watch some guys compete. We have stiff competition, of course, at that position. There is a plan, but again we're going to let this thing play out a little bit and see how the game goes. Of course, continuing to watch Dan (Kreider) at fullback; continuing to watch Carey Davis at fullback; John Kuhn at fullback; some ballcarriers, of course. You guys know the names, and we're just going to continue to do what we've done with those guys and watch them compete and watch them sort themselves out.\r\n \r\n

Q: Are you expecting more out of the fullback position than what Kreider has shown in previous years?\r\n \r\n

A: I try to not make any judgments based on what happened here in the past because I wasn't a part of it. I'm just focused on where we are and where we're going.\r\n \r\n

Q: Coach, you said you loved being at training camp, as a coach going through his first season as a head coach – you have a young family – how have they handled it, and back home, the extended family, what are you hearing from everyone as it gets closer to that first official kickoff?\r\n \r\n

A: To be bluntly honest, I try to remove myself from that as much as I can. I have some family close to me that takes care of some of that stuff – tickets and things of that nature. You know, I've got a job to do. I'm glad that they are enjoying it. They should enjoy it. I'm here because I've been blessed with a great family that supported me and encouraged me and raised me. I want them to enjoy it, but I can't spend a bunch of time dwelling on whether or not they're having a great time or not. I'm sure that they are. My wife is the hostess with the mostest.\r\n \r\n

Q: Have they given you any suggestions on who to play?\r\n \r\n

A: I'm sure they have but I don't remember it because I'm not listening.\r\n \r\n

Q: Any excitement for the Sunday prime-time game?\r\n \r\n

A: I'm excited every weekend. I'm sure that from a player's standpoint, when you're playing in front of a national audience in prime time and you've got John Madden and so forth, it's icing on the cake, but the cake's still good. I like the excitement that every Sunday brings.\r\n \r\n

Q: Will Philadelphia be a good test for the final dress rehearsal?\r\n \r\n

A: Absolutely. Their body of work over the last six, seven years speaks for itself. They've been in four NFC championships, a Super Bowl. They are one of the legendary giants of this era of the NFC, so those are the kind of opponents you like to play against this time of year when you're trying to find out who and what you are. Welcome that challenge.\r\n \r\n

Q: Earlier in camp, you had said Jon Gruden runs a particularly \"miserable camp.\" And you had a wicked smile like you were envious. Has this hot weather pushed your camp across that threshold of misery?\r\n \r\n

A: Like a lot of things, we don't worry much about stuff that we can't control. I hope that some unfortunate things happen so we have to deal with it, like we've dealt with weather conditions, and having to get in buses and come to Pittsburgh , riding buses and practice and go back. I like some of the surprises that Mother Nature brings. It's part of football. You know, had a hot week this week. Great. Told guys we weren't going to complain about it, we were going to deal with it and be productive and understand what we need to do when we're not on the field to prepare ourselves to do our best the next day, and that's get off your feet, rehydrate yourself, and get ready to go. It may be a little hot in Arizona here in a little while when we go to Arizona .\r\n \r\n

Q: Don't they play in a dome?\r\n \r\n

A: Ha ha. I think they're going to have the roof open for that one. (Laughs) Be a good bet.\r\n \r\n

Q: For the first cuts, do you have to get to 75 minus the NFL Europe exemptions? And how many of those exemptions do you have?\r\n \r\n

A: The NFL Europe exemptions aren't what they used to be. We have 85 guys. We have to get down to 75 ( 4 p.m. Tuesday) and that's that.\r\n \r\n

Q: Will you advise the guys on what cleats to wear at Heinz Field?\r\n \r\n

A: No. No, I don't micromanage and that would be micromanaging to me. These guys are professional athletes. They know what they can do from a standpoint of footing. I expect them to put shoes on that work for them. In terms of the surface at Heinz Field, I thought it was great. I know it has a reputation, of what its reputation is, but I'm not concerned about it. Both teams play on the same surface. As long as we deal with it better than our opponent than it's an advantage for us. And we should deal with it better than our opponent because we're familiar to it. That's my approach to it, but again, my first experience with it was great. ","mobileBody":" Mike Tomlin, head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. We had a good morning this morning, put some finishing touches on our game plan for this weekend, specifically some situational ball: red zone, short yardage, goal line. Thought it was a very productive morning. On the injury front, Jerame Tuman (back) is not going to play this weekend. We think it's the right thing to do. (We're) bringing him back. He's getting close, but not close enough. Derrick Jones had a setback with his calf injury. He won't play this weekend. But other than that, we're moving forward from a health standpoint. (Darnell) Stapleton is back and he's going to play this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do. Other than that I'll answer any questions at this time.

Q: Coach, how much more – talking about game-planning and situational, red zone – how much (more) of that do you do for this game than the earlier games and perhaps even the final game?

A: Quite a bit more. Not a complete body of work like we'll do here in a couple weeks when we're getting ready for the opener, but quite a bit more than we've done for the preseason. You've got to make decisions along those lines when you're talking about the preseason. And when you're installing and zeroing in on an opponent, you're not giving those guys an opportunity to compete and play Steelers versus Steelers as we like to say in training camp. To me, that's what training camp's about. It's about seeing who can compete, giving guys things that they know, things that they've been working on all offseason, and seeing who's capable of making plays and who's not. Little different this week. We've broken camp. We've got a simulated game week here. We're game-planning for an opponent to a degree. So there are some subtle differences.

Q: Is this a telltale game for the right tackle position?

A: It's a telltale game for a lot of positions, but yes right tackle is one of them.

Q: Who'll start on the offensive line?

A: Tentatively, we're ready to go with Marvel (Smith), of course, at left tackle; Alan (Faneca) at left guard; (Sean) Mahan at center; Kendall Simmons at guard; and Willie Colon at right tackle. But as you'll see there will be guys rolling in and competing and playing. We want to make sure that all of those men -- that have been talked about quite a bit -- have an opportunity to show what they're capable of.

Q: What are you looking for from the bubble boys before the first cut?

A: Really, I'm looking for, from them, what I'm looking for from everybody, and that's that they continue to grow in terms of their game, technically, levels of execution. We have to continue to grow. We're a developing football team and they're developing men. Whether they're been-there-done-that guys or whether they're guys on the bubble. It really doesn't matter. Every time we go out and play in the stadiums on weekends, we're looking to keep it moving forward, in terms of being a finished product.

Q: How long will you use Ben Roethlisberger and Willie Parker?

A: Our tentative schedule is to play them a half.

Q: After Ben, how's your quarterback rotation planned?

A: We're going to play it by ear. We're probably going to play Charlie (Batch) a little bit, but we're going to get an opportunity to see some of the other guys, but that is our plan at this time. As you guys know, in the preseason, based on how things shake out, plans do change. But that is our tentative plan.

Q: Do you like what you see from Lawrence Timmons? How do you plan to use him?

A: We are seeing him catch up, but that's pretty much what we expected. He's a sharp guy, he's a very talented guy. All he needed to do was get back out there on the field. He's made a lot of progress, but that's been required. And he's done a good job with that. Last week we played him in packages. We played him in sub-package ball. We wanted him just to get out there and play and not worry too much about situational things, assignment things. We wanted to cut some of those things down so he can turn it loose and play. So we just played him in sub-package football. This week we're going to take the training wheels off of him and he's going to play in all phases of the defense with the second group.

Q: Individual competition at a position such as right tackle, is that more important to you than, say, the cohesion that so many coaches say is necessary in line play?

A: I think it all happens together. And I mean that. Competition is big. Guys need to know that we judge them based on what they do, and that guys have an opportunity to evolve just like this team must evolve. I acknowledge that cohesion is part of it and you hope that that occurs along the way. But the reality is -- like I've said several times -- things happen during the season and guys have to be able to work together and have an understanding. We need to have more than five linemen that know how to work together if we're going to be effective. And, really, a lot's been written and said about the rotations and stuff along the offensive line this preseason. A lot of it has been because of some of the circumstances that I just referred to: Marvel has missed some time due to injury; Alan has missed some time due to injury; Sean Mahan missed some time due to family/personal reasons; Chukky (Okobi) missed some time due to injury. That's just a microcosm of what the season could potentially be about, and the standard of expectation won't change when those things occur. So we do have guys competing, but the reason we have guys competing has kind of been illustrated by some of the things that's happened in training camp with injuries and such. It's part of football. We're not going to make excuses for that. We're going to deal with it and we're going to move on.

Q: Has Chukky been feisty or frustrated this week?

A: Chukky's always feisty. I don't know if this week is anything different. My experience with him is he's a wired-in, feisty competitor.

Q: So those guys have handled competition pretty well across the board?

A: Yeah, they're professional. We've been straightforward with the men about what we intend to do in that regard. They've accepted it and they understand that decisions are going to be made based on performance. Hopefully somewhere along those lines they appreciate that, and I'm sure that they do.

Q: Backup left tackle has been a problem this preseason. Is Jason Capizzi going to get a chance there?

A: Jason's been working well and he's been progressing. Of course, the speed of the game and things of that nature for him, not only because he's a rookie but the level of competition that he competed against, have been a factor. I think he's made a good representation of what he's capable of. We'll continue to evaluate him. He's a prospect, but it's some distance between him and some of the names we've been mentioning in terms of the quality of their execution at this point. But we acknowledge he's a young guy. We like the way he works.

Q: What's your sense, as you do this for the first time, of how a decision like that gets made, say, at right tackle? Will you wait and will you call it?

A: Absolutely. I'll call that. And really I have no problem. I welcome that. Those decisions are easy – I really believe it – if you're patient. And I think we've been patient and I think they're becoming clear and we'll make it at the appropriate time.

Q: Any running back in game four that you want to take a long look at?

A: Willie Parker.

Q: Beyond him?

A: Beyond Willie we're going to continue to watch some guys compete. We have stiff competition, of course, at that position. There is a plan, but again we're going to let this thing play out a little bit and see how the game goes. Of course, continuing to watch Dan (Kreider) at fullback; continuing to watch Carey Davis at fullback; John Kuhn at fullback; some ballcarriers, of course. You guys know the names, and we're just going to continue to do what we've done with those guys and watch them compete and watch them sort themselves out.

Q: Are you expecting more out of the fullback position than what Kreider has shown in previous years?

A: I try to not make any judgments based on what happened here in the past because I wasn't a part of it. I'm just focused on where we are and where we're going.

Q: Coach, you said you loved being at training camp, as a coach going through his first season as a head coach – you have a young family – how have they handled it, and back home, the extended family, what are you hearing from everyone as it gets closer to that first official kickoff?

A: To be bluntly honest, I try to remove myself from that as much as I can. I have some family close to me that takes care of some of that stuff – tickets and things of that nature. You know, I've got a job to do. I'm glad that they are enjoying it. They should enjoy it. I'm here because I've been blessed with a great family that supported me and encouraged me and raised me. I want them to enjoy it, but I can't spend a bunch of time dwelling on whether or not they're having a great time or not. I'm sure that they are. My wife is the hostess with the mostest.

Q: Have they given you any suggestions on who to play?

A: I'm sure they have but I don't remember it because I'm not listening.

Q: Any excitement for the Sunday prime-time game?

A: I'm excited every weekend. I'm sure that from a player's standpoint, when you're playing in front of a national audience in prime time and you've got John Madden and so forth, it's icing on the cake, but the cake's still good. I like the excitement that every Sunday brings.

Q: Will Philadelphia be a good test for the final dress rehearsal?

A: Absolutely. Their body of work over the last six, seven years speaks for itself. They've been in four NFC championships, a Super Bowl. They are one of the legendary giants of this era of the NFC, so those are the kind of opponents you like to play against this time of year when you're trying to find out who and what you are. Welcome that challenge.

Q: Earlier in camp, you had said Jon Gruden runs a particularly \"miserable camp.\" And you had a wicked smile like you were envious. Has this hot weather pushed your camp across that threshold of misery?

A: Like a lot of things, we don't worry much about stuff that we can't control. I hope that some unfortunate things happen so we have to deal with it, like we've dealt with weather conditions, and having to get in buses and come to Pittsburgh , riding buses and practice and go back. I like some of the surprises that Mother Nature brings. It's part of football. You know, had a hot week this week. Great. Told guys we weren't going to complain about it, we were going to deal with it and be productive and understand what we need to do when we're not on the field to prepare ourselves to do our best the next day, and that's get off your feet, rehydrate yourself, and get ready to go. It may be a little hot in Arizona here in a little while when we go to Arizona .

Q: Don't they play in a dome?

A: Ha ha. I think they're going to have the roof open for that one. (Laughs) Be a good bet.

Q: For the first cuts, do you have to get to 75 minus the NFL Europe exemptions? And how many of those exemptions do you have?

A: The NFL Europe exemptions aren't what they used to be. We have 85 guys. We have to get down to 75 ( 4 p.m. Tuesday) and that's that.

Q: Will you advise the guys on what cleats to wear at Heinz Field?

A: No. No, I don't micromanage and that would be micromanaging to me. These guys are professional athletes. They know what they can do from a standpoint of footing. I expect them to put shoes on that work for them. In terms of the surface at Heinz Field, I thought it was great. I know it has a reputation, of what its reputation is, but I'm not concerned about it. Both teams play on the same surface. As long as we deal with it better than our opponent than it's an advantage for us. And we should deal with it better than our opponent because we're familiar to it. That's my approach to it, but again, my first experience with it was great. 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