Q&A: Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin met with the press Tuesday for his first pre-game briefing heading into the season opener at Cleveland. Here's what the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach had to say.

MIKE TOMLIN, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Opening statement: Good afternoon. Finally the regular season is here. Of course we're excited like all of our fans and supporters are. We had a great day yesterday, a bonus day, if you will. We're getting ourselves acclimated. I thought it was a very positive day. We're a fairly healthy team on the injury front. Brian St. Pierre, we had him out yesterday. We're anticipating him practicing tomorrow. Other than that, we're just moving forward. Heath (Miller) was slowed a little bit last week, but it was more based on precaution than anything else. He's going to go full speed. From that standpoint, we're a healthy team. We're excited about meeting the challenge that awaits us this week starting with the Cleveland Browns. At this time I will answer any questions.

On his feelings going into his first regular season game?

A: It's a non-issue for me. I'm not going to focus on the things that are going on for me from that standpoint. I intend to focus myself on readying this football team and preparing ourselves to play the Cleveland Browns.

Coach, you traded for Allen Rossum over the weekend. What does he bring to the table, does he jump to the top of the depth chart?

A: His resume speaks for itself. He is a dangerous dual threat as a punt and kickoff guy. He's a been there, done that guy, if you will. I'm very familiar with him back to when he was in Green Bay and then in Atlanta. I've got a great deal of respect for what he's capable of. He's done it for a long time. I like what he brings to us. He provides a veteran presence in that area of our football team. Willie Reid has been growing in big ways in that area, but he's an emerging football player. We're going to continue to work with Willie in that area. But we're glad to add Allen to that mix and we're going to go down the road.

Will Allen start this week?

A: We're going to let those guys compete and watch them. That will be the common theme with everything we do. I've said repeatedly that we are a developing world championship- caliber football team. And the only way that we are going to continue on that path is if we are going to continue to compete. That was the gist of my message to the team yesterday. Yes, we do have a 53-man roster. Yes, we are moving into the regular season. But we have to continue to develop. We have to continue to compete at the facility on a day-to-day basis. I'm going to call on guys to continue to improve while we're preparing to play football games. We have to continue to grow. I challenged Willie to continue to grow. I expect Allen to show what he's capable of and I'll make that decision closer to game time.

Is putting (Santonio) Holmes back there and option for you?

A: It was. But Santonio is an emerging football player as a wide receiver and a player we think can be a great player in this league at that position. We want him to focus on that right now. We think acquiring Allen allows him to do that right now.

Did Rossum jump out at you in that Steelers-Atlanta game last year?

A: I've looked at Allen Rossum for a long time. My first year in the league in '01, we're at Lambeau and we're up four points with a minute left to go and he runs a punt back on us and knocks us out of the divisional championshiip race. I'm down in the Tampa and we're in the NFC South because of the division change and he shows up in Atlanta. He's somebody to be reckoned with as a punt returner and a kick returner.

On Kendall Simmons.

A: If you asked Kendall, he probably wasn't competing for a job. If anything, that whole thing was probably overblown to a degree. I just wanted to make a statement that we were open to guys improving and getting the opportunity to acquire positions. Kendall has been a starter since his rookie year. We know what he is capable of. He's a very good football player. He's a very good teammate. A detailed, hard worker who is competitive. There's a lot that we like about Kendall. We're glad to get that done.

On Chukky Okobi and Darnell Stapleton's development.

A: Specifically regarding Chukky and Sean Mahan. We felt that Sean Mahan distinguished himself the more we watched it. He was probably the beneficiary of Chukky's unfortunate injury. But that's football. He made the most of those extra opportunities that he got. We're very comfortable with where he is. It's no secret that we were excited about Stapleton as a young guy, particularly coming out of the offseason. He continued that into training camp. He also dealt with an injury and it was really impressive the way he came back from his injury in terms of the quality of his play. He showed maturity there beyond his years from that standpoint. He was better the second game than he was his first game back. I am very optimistic about what he is capable of being. The fact is the decision was made regarding those guys are really two different scenarios. One scenario is that we felt Sean was our best option as a starting center. The second decision in terms of us having Stapleton was really about being excited about what he can be, particularly because of how rapidly he improved with a limited number of opportunities.

How do you show maturity coming back from an injury?

A: He showed that he didn't fall behind mentally. That's what I mean when I saw he showed maturity. When you don't have a bunch of snaps to fall back on, a lot of times you learn from trial and error. He had very little error for a guy who hadn't played a bunch. That's encouraging. That's exciting. He's not a finished product. Like I talked about with the football team, he has to continue to grow and develop as a player.

On Willie Parker as a third-down back and short-yardage guy?

A: I think he's been very impressive as a guy who is capable of competing for us on third down. I think some of the running back versus linebacker drills that we had in camp were very beneficial to him. I know personally, he's asked that those continue a little bit throughout the regular season. I love that about Willie. He's got desire to be a complete football player and every-down back. We're open to that because of that. Whether or not he's the third-down back or short-yardage guy really depends on what we're trying to do week to week from a gameplan standpoint. We're open to it, but we'll let those things sort themselves out as we progress.

Who's the backup center on game day?

A: Again, we'll make those decisions as we move forward in the week. We have options, of course. If we dress eight offensive linemen, it will be Stapleton. If we don't, it will potentially be Kendall Simmons. On Tuesday, I'm not ready to determine who's dressing and who's not because, like I told the football team yesterday, we're not anointing anyone. We're going to continue to grow and develop as a football team. I want to see guys compete throughout the work week and let that be the determining factor on who dresses and who doesn't.

Stop, Ellis time: How have they come to accept that theme?

A: That's just what I'm guarding against. I think comfort is dangerous in this business. Yes, you've got to be comfortable in what you're being asked to do. Yes, you've got to be comfortable in terms of understanding assignments. But we cannot be comfortable with the establishments of positions within the group. We've got to keep this thing moving forward. The reality is that people don't stay the same, they're either getting better or getting worse. We've got to provide the atmosphere for them to get better. That's what it's about. It might not be a benefit to a small minority, but it's a definite benefit to the vast majority of young men we're working with.

Will the competition at right tackle and free safety be ongoing throughout the season?

A: At every position, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're going to have a revolving door at every position. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that we're going to be open to the development of men even though we've moved into the month of September.

(Shumway digging deep) Talk about the satisfaction of finally getting into the regular grind.

A: Players and coaches, I'll speak for myself at least, I'd coach it year-round if I could. I just like the challenges of a week-to-week and day-to-day basis that this league gives us all. I'm excited about and looking forward to it. The offseason are long sometimes, preseasons and training camps and things. I enjoy those elements of it, but we're all competitors by nature. I'm excited about having the opportunity to compete this week.

On resting Willie Parker for a series here and there?

A: It really depends on the circumstances of the game. What I mean is, how he's doing from a conditioning standpoint. I would imagine that he's going to be better in October than he is in September. We have an understanding about that. That's just getting your legs under you and getting in football condition, particularly for a guy who totes the football. We're going to keep and eye on that and we'll deal with that along the way.

On the Browns.

A: Cleveland is a very interesting team. They've got some young talent and it's well- documented. There's some guys we respect and some emerging young players, whether it's Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow, Kamerion Wimbley, the two safeties, Brodney) Pool and (Sean) Jones, they're solid young guys on the rise. I think that Josh Cribbs, their return man is a dual-threat return man, is a very exciting player, a player to be reckoned with. They blend that with some veteran leadership, some been-there, done-that guys, whether you're talking about (Orpheus) Roye, Ted Washington, Joe Jurevicius, I've got a great deal of respect for him. I worked with Joe in the past. He's a game-changing guy. He's a guy who's always ready when his number's called, regardless of how many times you call it. I know that Joe is ready to deliver. Of course in free agency, they got some guys who are capable of adding to the mix. We all know what Jamal Lewis is about. He's a dangerous back. He appears to be in great shape. He's familiar with this division. As a football team, we respect him, as we do Antwaan Peek, who's playing left outside linebacker for them. They're a good football team. We respect them. But more importantly than anything else, we want to handle the things we can control, that's the quality of our play, our execution and the readiness of our men.

On starting off on the road.

A: I don't care where we play. I don't care what time we play. I don't care what time we play. We don't make the schedule. We'll be there and hopefully, we'll put ourselves in position to put our best effort out.

Will Ike Taylor follow Edwards around or will different guys match up on him?

A: (Laughing) You mean once we get to the stadium? That's a possibility. We're going to cover him at the hotel on Saturday. That's a possibility. We're early in the process of game week, particularly when you talk about things like that, you consider those things situational football, third down, red zone, etc. It's a possibility. We're not closing the door to it, but it's not set in stone, either.

Philosophy on that?

A: It depends on the week-to-week circumstances, I really mean that. It's less about who you're matched up against, whether it's a Braylon Edwards or a Chad Johnson or someone else. It's more about the comfort of the men that you have doing the job. Left corner is different from right corner as left tackle is different from right tackle. I think a lot of times, people underestimate the differences in those positions. It's well documented and understandable when you're talking about offensive linemen. But it is also very different from a cornerback standpoint. Those are things you have to weigh and consider when making those decisions, not only for the guy matching up on the primary guy, but for the guy who's playing off him as well.

On Lawrence Timmons inside.

A: Lawrence is just trying to get in where he can fit in. Thankfully, he's a sharp guy and he's capable of cross training positionally. He seems to be picking it up pretty well. We just expect him to be a good teammate and to compete for a helmet this week. If he gets one, go out and make plays regardless of what phase he's playing in, whether he gets a chance to play in the base defense, the sub-package defense or kicking game. Specifically, if he gets the hat on, you'll see him contribute in the kicking game quicker than defense because that's just the nature of it. We would expect him to play in a high level in that area.

(Shumway with another hard-driving question) On Tomlin's sense of the Cleveland- Pittsburgh rivalry.

A: A lot of things are important in this town in regards to the Steelers. I'm starting to understand that. We'll say the same thing next week when we play Buffalo. I'm aware of it. I think that's one of the things that's been exciting about being part of the AFC North for me, how close and special these rivalries are. Bus trips, short flights, it creates and interesting element. I'm enjoying it. I'm starting to get an understanding what it's about. I'm sure I'll get a better understanding of it the longer I'm here because we're all products of our shared experiences. But I've got a great deal of respect for it and look forward to being a part of it.

Ever made a bus trip to an away game?

A: No I haven't, that's what's interesting. No I haven't.

Did you ask for a plane?

A: It's probably quicker to go by bus, wouldn't you think, than to get to the airport and get screened and all those things.

Stop, Ellis time: On Romeo Crennel.

A: On a personal note, I've got a great deal of respect for Romeo Crennel. He really provided the first window to me into this league. I was a secondary coach in Cincinnati and Chris Palmer was the head coach in Cleveland and I got a minority internship up there and spent a little over a month on a day-to-day basis with Romeo. He was very good to me. He's a very bright, intelligent coach, specifically defensively. Based on my experience with him, I was thoroughly impressed. I'm in awe of the way he went about his job. It made me want to be a part of this league. I've got a a great deal of respect for him, he's been very good to me since that time.

On final cuts at running back?

A: All of the cuts are tough. They are. If not from a professional standpoint, then from a personal standpoint. That's when you know you've got the makings of a good team. If your cuts are easy, you've got a problem. The cuts were difficult, but it makes me optimistic because they were.

On Gary Russell.

A: For a guy that's been out of football for a year, a guy that's a rookie, the stage wasn't too big for him. It really wasn't. He's a smart football player. A very smart, mature runner in terms of pacing his tracks and when to bounce the ball out to the perimeter, when to cut the ball back. He had a good understanding of situational football as a runner, when to take what's there and fall forward. And he always falls forward. There were a lot of things that were attractive about him. He's got a very small strike surface. He's a very powerful runner. We like where he is. Again, like I said earlier, he must continue to develop, like we all must continue to develop.

On watching last year's Browns games.

A: The first game is always interesting. You look at last year's tape, you look at preseason tape. You look at preseason tape for schematics with the understanding that people have different approaches to the preseason. They either show what they are or they show nothing. You look at it from schematics, but you don't look at it from personnel. Guys that you'll be competing against on Sunday, don't play that much or play in a limited capacity in the preseason. You look for personnel issues or look for situational packages. When you look at last year's tape, it's really kind of a grab bag, if you will, not only in the first week, but as you move into the second and third weeks. Until you can start establishing trends for '07 and strategies for '07, you're kind of multi-tasking in that area. Really, it's not a big deal. Every team is going through it. I'm sure they're going through it in Cleveland as well.

On the defense.

A: The most exciting thing about our first defense from the preseason is that as a football team, we put them in some less-than-favorable circumstances and they responded. When we turned the ball over, they got off the field. When we hit a 20-yard punt, or a 14-yard punt on the 20-yard line, they forced them to kick a field goal. Regardless of what negative situation we put them in - and that's football, you play off of each other – I was impressed by the way they responded to negative situations that we put them in the preseason. Really, that kind of defines us all, whether you're talking about offense, defense or special teams or us as a football team. How you respond as a football team, how you respond to less-than-ideal situations. I thought they were impressive in that area.

On special teams.

A: I don't get enamored based on the amount of time we put in on something. We're going to put in what we feel is necessary for us to be successful. I don't base my judgment on the special teams based on how much time we put in. We're going to put in what we see fit. We're not a finished product from a special teams unit standpoint. I do think we did some things well. Even with that 14-yard punt, we finished the preseason with a 40-yard net average. That's winning football. We averaged 45 yards a punt. I thought our coverage units were very respectable. We tackled people inside the 20. I talked about our net punting. We're doing some things and emerging in the return game. The actions of the organization reflect that, going and getting a guy like Allen Rossum I think is going to help us. We make no bones about where we are. We're trying to get better. We need to be great in that area. We need to be great on offense. We need to be great on defense if we're going to get where we need to be.

On Charlie Frye.

A: Charlie Frye is kind of a known commodity for them. I'm sure that weighed into their decision to name him the starter. He has intangibles. He has things that you can't measure. My first exposure to him, I was coaching the South in the Senior Bowl. He came in the second half and was 10 of 11 and won the game MVP and beat us. That's my history with Charlie Frye. I've got a great deal of respect for him. I know he's a competitor. I know he has great intangibles, great leadership qualities based on the things I've heard. Again, I'm not concerned with their plan in terms of quarterback. I know they named him the starter. We've got to be prepared to play them all.

On the difference between the preseason and regular season.

A: Hopefully, it won't be different at all. I took the preseason very seriously and put myself in game situations and decision-making situations. If it is different, it will be because of the natural emotions of playing the game. I'm going to try to keep a thumb on that as much as I possibly can. I approach August the way I intend to approach September in terms of being a head coach, from a game-management standpoint. We'll be a little different, but the process will hopefully be the same.

On the staff on game day.

A: We were open to change as a staff just as we were open to change from a position flexibility standpoint with our players. We went through situations where we had Kirby Wilson, our running backs coach, in the booth, Kirby Wilson on the field, James Daniels in the booth and on the field. That's what preseason is about, trying to logistically sound so that we get good communication, the proper people on the field, the best way to communicate with the men and make adjustments. We went through a similar development that the team did. I feel very good about it. I think the communication is clean. I think everybody understands the direction that we're trying to go and logistically how we're going to get that done.

(Shummy running amuck) What's normal at home now?

A: Normalcy hasn't set in yet, it won't set in until Monday of next week when you're on a legitimate six-day work week in preparation for a game. We played last Thursday. We've been working to get ready for this game since Friday officially. You don't feel the crunch of preparing for this game like you will two or three weeks from now as you get into the regular season. We have a leisurely 12 or 14-hour work day at this point.

Stop, Ellis time: I don't even know what he's trying to ask here.

A: I'm not enamored about breaking a season down into quarters. I try to be a small picture guy as much as I possibly can. This is Cleveland week. I'd like to keep all eyes here and worry about next week next week. That's how I approach it. A lot of people break the season down into quarters for various reasons. They try to package the mentality of what your record is going to be that quarter, self-scouting for looking back, we were such and such as a football team in that quarter. I like to feel the urgency now, to be where we are and put all of our energies toward playing the Cleveland Browns.

On Ben Roethlisbeger.

A: I think he's responded well. I can't speak about giving him more because this is the nature of our relationship. I wasn't here in the past so I don't know what he was given in the past. I know that he's a capable quarterback. He's a franchise-caliber quarterback and that's what those quarterbacks have, they have a lot of responsibility. I know that he welcomes that. I definitely think he's capable. I just got out of an offensive staff meeting with Ben. He's been in there all morning. That's whata franchises do. Tuesday's an off day, but not for franchise quarterbacks. He understands that. He came in with a smile on his face. He's anxious to see what's in store for him.

On James Harrison.

A: Was that in Cleveland where he slammed that spectator? Let's hope he doesn't have to do that this weekend. I like where James is. James is a very capable guy. We're very comfortable with him as a starting linebacker, have been based on the things that I've seen from him, even prior to us getting on in the offseason program. This isn't his first rodeo. He's played a bunch of football. He's started some games. He's like a returning starter. I think he has that kind of respect from his peers. I don't think there's any kind of fear of the unknown as far as what we expect from him from a quality of play standpoint. He's a veteran player. The thing that I respect about him is that maybe his role is changing a bit in terms of being an acknowledged starter, but he is still putting the attention to detail and effort into the special teams. That's illustrated by his teammates naming him captain of that unit as well. Like we talked about from day 1, no role is too small. Starters are capable of being players on the team game. He's the poster boy for that. He's a starter at outside linebacker, but selected special teams captain by his peers.

(Shummy still running amuck) On the Tomlin family heading to Cleveland.

A: Very small actually. My wife is going to watch it from the house. She wants to have the option of turning the channel if it's not going well. It's just going to be me. I don't know if my mother can stomach it yet. She'll be pacing somewhere in Virginia.

On managing particular plays offensively and defensively.

A: I'm more interested in game management. Of course situational football, I'll be very involved in, I'm going to be part of the process. More importantly than being part of the process, is not necessarily game day, it's days like today, Tuesday, when we're developing plans. I've been going back and forth from offense to defense to special teams. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, but together we put together plans, we trust those plans, we execute them at the stadiums. Once I get to the stadium, I'm more concerned with dealing with the ebb and flow of the game itself, coaching all the guys who are suited up and possibly being involved with certain calls that are critical. I'm not interested in being a play-in, play-out playcaller in any phase. I'm interested in being a part of the process of developing the game plan. I'm comfortable with that and that's what we've been doing.

On Willie Colon.

A: He was extremely consistent. You know his calling card is run blocking. I thought he did well in that area. I also thought he was very consistent as a pass blocker. Willie's kind of a mature guy. I know he's a second-year guy, but he has a been-there, done-that attitude about his play. I think that's critical in terms of his play. But just in general, we were happy with his play.

On growing up as a Cowboys fan.

A: They were America's team at the time. I bought into that.

On Marquis Cooper's health.

A: Marquis is out this week. He has a hamstring injury. I thought he did a very nice job on standing out as a special teams performer in the preseason. Of course, he's aggressively pursuing the rehab on the hamstring, but in all liklihood, he's out this week.


Steel City Insider Top Stories

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

\r\n\r\nOpening statement: Good afternoon. Finally the regular season is here. Of course we're excited like all of our fans and supporters are. We had a great day yesterday, a bonus day, if you will. We're getting ourselves acclimated. I thought it was a very positive day. We're a fairly healthy team on the injury front. Brian St. Pierre, we had him out yesterday. We're anticipating him practicing tomorrow. Other than that, we're just\r\nmoving forward. Heath (Miller) was slowed a little bit last week, but it was more based on precaution than anything else. He's going to go full speed. From that standpoint, we're a healthy team.\r\nWe're excited about meeting the challenge that awaits us this week starting with the Cleveland Browns. At this time I will answer any questions.\r\n

\r\nOn his feelings going into his first regular season game?\r\n

\r\nA: It's a non-issue for me. I'm not going to focus on the things that\r\nare going on for me\r\nfrom that standpoint. I intend to focus myself on readying this\r\nfootball team and\r\npreparing ourselves to play the Cleveland Browns.\r\n

\r\nCoach, you traded for Allen Rossum over the weekend. What does he\r\nbring to the table,\r\ndoes he jump to the top of the depth chart?\r\n

\r\nA: His resume speaks for itself. He is a dangerous dual threat as a\r\npunt and kickoff guy.\r\nHe's a been there, done that guy, if you will. I'm very familiar with\r\nhim back to when he\r\nwas in Green Bay and then in Atlanta. I've got a great deal of\r\nrespect for what he's capable\r\nof. He's done it for a long time. I like what he brings to us. He\r\nprovides a veteran presence\r\nin that area of our football team. Willie Reid has been growing in\r\nbig ways in that area, but\r\nhe's an emerging football player. We're going to continue to work\r\nwith Willie in that area.\r\nBut we're glad to add Allen to that mix and we're going to go down\r\nthe road.\r\n

\r\nWill Allen start this week?

\r\nA: We're going to let those guys compete and watch them. That will be\r\nthe common theme\r\nwith everything we do. I've said repeatedly that we are a developing\r\nworld championship-\r\ncaliber football team. And the only way that we are going to continue\r\non that path is if we\r\nare going to continue to compete. That was the gist of my message to\r\nthe team yesterday.\r\nYes, we do have a 53-man roster. Yes, we are moving into the regular\r\nseason. But we have\r\nto continue to develop. We have to continue to compete at the\r\nfacility on a day-to-day\r\nbasis. I'm going to call on guys to continue to improve while we're\r\npreparing to play\r\nfootball games. We have to continue to grow. I challenged Willie to\r\ncontinue to grow. I\r\nexpect Allen to show what he's capable of and I'll make that decision\r\ncloser to game time.\r\n

\r\nIs putting (Santonio) Holmes back there and option for you?

\r\nA: It was. But Santonio is an emerging football player as a wide\r\nreceiver and a player we\r\nthink can be a great player in this league at that position. We want\r\nhim to focus on that\r\nright now. We think acquiring Allen allows him to do that right now.\r\n

\r\nDid Rossum jump out at you in that Steelers-Atlanta game last year?

\r\nA: I've looked at Allen Rossum for a long time. My first year in the\r\nleague in '01, we're at\r\nLambeau and we're up four points with a minute left to go and he runs\r\na punt back on us\r\nand knocks us out of the divisional championshiip race. I'm down in\r\nthe Tampa and we're\r\nin the NFC South because of the division change and he shows up in\r\nAtlanta. He's\r\nsomebody to be reckoned with as a punt returner and a kick returner.\r\n

\r\nOn Kendall Simmons.

\r\nA: If you asked Kendall, he probably wasn't competing for a job. If\r\nanything, that whole\r\nthing was probably overblown to a degree. I just wanted to make a\r\nstatement that we were\r\nopen to guys improving and getting the opportunity to acquire\r\npositions. Kendall has been\r\na starter since his rookie year. We know what he is capable of. He's\r\na very good football\r\nplayer. He's a very good teammate. A detailed, hard worker who is\r\ncompetitive. There's a\r\nlot that we like about Kendall. We're glad to get that done.\r\n

\r\nOn Chukky Okobi and Darnell Stapleton's development.

\r\nA: Specifically regarding Chukky and Sean Mahan. We felt that Sean\r\nMahan distinguished\r\nhimself the more we watched it. He was probably the beneficiary of\r\nChukky's unfortunate\r\ninjury. But that's football. He made the most of those extra\r\nopportunities that he got.\r\nWe're very comfortable with where he is. It's no secret that we were\r\nexcited about\r\nStapleton as a young guy, particularly coming out of the offseason.\r\nHe continued that into\r\ntraining camp. He also dealt with an injury and it was really\r\nimpressive the way he came\r\nback from his injury in terms of the quality of his play. He showed\r\nmaturity there beyond\r\nhis years from that standpoint. He was better the second game than he\r\nwas his first game\r\nback. I am very optimistic about what he is capable of being. The\r\nfact is the decision was\r\nmade regarding those guys are really two different scenarios. One\r\nscenario is that we felt\r\nSean was our best option as a starting center. The second decision in\r\nterms of us having\r\nStapleton was really about being excited about what he can be,\r\nparticularly because of how\r\nrapidly he improved with a limited number of opportunities.\r\n

\r\nHow do you show maturity coming back from an injury?

\r\nA: He showed that he didn't fall behind mentally. That's what I mean\r\nwhen I saw he\r\nshowed maturity. When you don't have a bunch of snaps to fall back\r\non, a lot of times you\r\nlearn from trial and error. He had very little error for a guy who\r\nhadn't played a bunch.\r\nThat's encouraging. That's exciting. He's not a finished product.\r\nLike I talked about with\r\nthe football team, he has to continue to grow and develop as a\r\nplayer.\r\n

\r\nOn Willie Parker as a third-down back and short-yardage guy?

\r\nA: I think he's been very impressive as a guy who is capable of\r\ncompeting for us on third\r\ndown. I think some of the running back versus linebacker drills that\r\nwe had in camp were\r\nvery beneficial to him. I know personally, he's asked that those\r\ncontinue a little bit\r\nthroughout the regular season. I love that about Willie. He's got\r\ndesire to be a complete\r\nfootball player and every-down back. We're open to that because of\r\nthat. Whether or not\r\nhe's the third-down back or short-yardage guy really depends on what\r\nwe're trying to do\r\nweek to week from a gameplan standpoint. We're open to it, but we'll\r\nlet those things sort\r\nthemselves out as we progress.\r\n

\r\nWho's the backup center on game day?

\r\nA: Again, we'll make those decisions as we move forward in the week.\r\nWe have options, of\r\ncourse. If we dress eight offensive linemen, it will be Stapleton. If\r\nwe don't, it will\r\npotentially be Kendall Simmons. On Tuesday, I'm not ready to\r\ndetermine who's dressing\r\nand who's not because, like I told the football team yesterday, we're\r\nnot anointing\r\nanyone. We're going to continue to grow and develop as a football\r\nteam. I want to see\r\nguys compete throughout the work week and let that be the determining\r\nfactor on who\r\ndresses and who doesn't.\r\n

\r\nStop, Ellis time: How have they come to accept that theme?

\r\nA: That's just what I'm guarding against. I think comfort is\r\ndangerous in this business.\r\nYes, you've got to be comfortable in what you're being asked to do.\r\nYes, you've got to be\r\ncomfortable in terms of understanding assignments. But we cannot be\r\ncomfortable with\r\nthe establishments of positions within the group. We've got to keep\r\nthis thing moving\r\nforward. The reality is that people don't stay the same, they're\r\neither getting better or\r\ngetting worse. We've got to provide the atmosphere for them to get\r\nbetter. That's what it's\r\nabout. It might not be a benefit to a small minority, but it's a\r\ndefinite benefit to the vast\r\nmajority of young men we're working with.\r\n

\r\nWill the competition at right tackle and free safety be ongoing\r\nthroughout the season?

\r\nA: At every position, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're going\r\nto have a revolving\r\ndoor at every position. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that\r\nwe're going to be open\r\nto the development of men even though we've moved into the month of\r\nSeptember.\r\n

\r\n(Shumway digging deep) Talk about the satisfaction of finally getting\r\ninto the regular\r\ngrind.

\r\nA: Players and coaches, I'll speak for myself at least, I'd coach it\r\nyear-round if I could. I\r\njust like the challenges of a week-to-week and day-to-day basis that\r\nthis league gives us\r\nall. I'm excited about and looking forward to it. The offseason are\r\nlong sometimes,\r\npreseasons and training camps and things. I enjoy those elements of\r\nit, but we're all\r\ncompetitors by nature. I'm excited about having the opportunity to\r\ncompete this week.\r\n

\r\nOn resting Willie Parker for a series here and there?

\r\nA: It really depends on the circumstances of the game. What I mean\r\nis, how he's doing\r\nfrom a conditioning standpoint. I would imagine that he's going to be\r\nbetter in October\r\nthan he is in September. We have an understanding about that. That's\r\njust getting your\r\nlegs under you and getting in football condition, particularly for a\r\nguy who totes the\r\nfootball. We're going to keep and eye on that and we'll deal with\r\nthat along the way.\r\n

\r\nOn the Browns.

\r\nA: Cleveland is a very interesting team. They've got some young\r\ntalent and it's well-\r\ndocumented. There's some guys we respect and some emerging young\r\nplayers, whether\r\nit's Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow, Kamerion Wimbley, the two\r\nsafeties, Brodney)\r\nPool and (Sean) Jones, they're solid young guys on the rise. I think\r\nthat Josh Cribbs, their\r\nreturn man is a dual-threat return man, is a very exciting player, a\r\nplayer to be reckoned\r\nwith. They blend that with some veteran leadership, some been-there,\r\ndone-that guys,\r\nwhether you're talking about (Orpheus) Roye, Ted Washington, Joe\r\nJurevicius, I've got a\r\ngreat deal of respect for him. I worked with Joe in the past. He's a\r\ngame-changing guy.\r\nHe's a guy who's always ready when his number's called, regardless of\r\nhow many times\r\nyou call it. I know that Joe is ready to deliver. Of course in free\r\nagency, they got some guys\r\nwho are capable of adding to the mix. We all know what Jamal Lewis is\r\nabout. He's a\r\ndangerous back. He appears to be in great shape. He's familiar with\r\nthis division. As a\r\nfootball team, we respect him, as we do Antwaan Peek, who's playing\r\nleft outside\r\nlinebacker for them. They're a good football team. We respect them.\r\nBut more importantly\r\nthan anything else, we want to handle the things we can control,\r\nthat's the quality of our\r\nplay, our execution and the readiness of our men.\r\n

\r\nOn starting off on the road.

\r\nA: I don't care where we play. I don't care what time we play. I\r\ndon't care what time we\r\nplay. We don't make the schedule. We'll be there and hopefully, we'll\r\nput ourselves in\r\nposition to put our best effort out.\r\n

\r\nWill Ike Taylor follow Edwards around or will different guys match up\r\non him?

\r\nA: (Laughing) You mean once we get to the stadium? That's a\r\npossibility. We're going to\r\ncover him at the hotel on Saturday. That's a possibility. We're early\r\nin the process of game\r\nweek, particularly when you talk about things like that, you consider\r\nthose things\r\nsituational football, third down, red zone, etc. It's a possibility.\r\nWe're not closing the door\r\nto it, but it's not set in stone, either.\r\n

\r\nPhilosophy on that?

\r\nA: It depends on the week-to-week circumstances, I really mean that.\r\nIt's less about who\r\nyou're matched up against, whether it's a Braylon Edwards or a Chad Johnson or someone\r\nelse. It's more about the comfort of the men that you have doing the\r\njob. Left corner is\r\ndifferent from right corner as left tackle is different from right\r\ntackle. I think a lot of times,\r\npeople underestimate the differences in those positions. It's well\r\ndocumented and\r\nunderstandable when you're talking about offensive linemen. But it is\r\nalso very different\r\nfrom a cornerback standpoint. Those are things you have to weigh and\r\nconsider when\r\nmaking those decisions, not only for the guy matching up on the\r\nprimary guy, but for the\r\nguy who's playing off him as well.\r\n

\r\nOn Lawrence Timmons inside.

\r\nA: Lawrence is just trying to get in where he can fit in. Thankfully,\r\nhe's a sharp guy and\r\nhe's capable of cross training positionally. He seems to be picking\r\nit up pretty well. We\r\njust expect him to be a good teammate and to compete for a helmet\r\nthis week. If he gets\r\none, go out and make plays regardless of what phase he's playing in,\r\nwhether he gets a\r\nchance to play in the base defense, the sub-package defense or\r\nkicking game. Specifically,\r\nif he gets the hat on, you'll see him contribute in the kicking game\r\nquicker than defense\r\nbecause that's just the nature of it. We would expect him to play in\r\na high level in that\r\narea.\r\n

\r\n(Shumway with another hard-driving question) On Tomlin's sense of the\r\nCleveland-\r\nPittsburgh rivalry.

\r\nA: A lot of things are important in this town in regards to the\r\nSteelers. I'm starting to\r\nunderstand that. We'll say the same thing next week when we play\r\nBuffalo. I'm aware of it.\r\nI think that's one of the things that's been exciting about being\r\npart of the AFC North for\r\nme, how close and special these rivalries are. Bus trips, short\r\nflights, it creates and\r\ninteresting element. I'm enjoying it. I'm starting to get an\r\nunderstanding what it's about.\r\nI'm sure I'll get a better understanding of it the longer I'm here\r\nbecause we're all products\r\nof our shared experiences. But I've got a great deal of respect for\r\nit and look forward to\r\nbeing a part of it.\r\n

\r\nEver made a bus trip to an away game?

\r\nA: No I haven't, that's what's interesting. No I haven't.\r\n

\r\nDid you ask for a plane?

\r\nA: It's probably quicker to go by bus, wouldn't you think, than to\r\nget to the airport and get\r\nscreened and all those things.\r\n

\r\nStop, Ellis time: On Romeo Crennel.

\r\nA: On a personal note, I've got a great deal of respect for Romeo\r\nCrennel. He really\r\nprovided the first window to me into this league. I was a secondary\r\ncoach in Cincinnati and\r\nChris Palmer was the head coach in Cleveland and I got a minority\r\ninternship up there and\r\nspent a little over a month on a day-to-day basis with Romeo. He was\r\nvery good to me.\r\nHe's a very bright, intelligent coach, specifically defensively.\r\nBased on my experience with\r\nhim, I was thoroughly impressed. I'm in awe of the way he went about\r\nhis job. It made\r\nme want to be a part of this league. I've got a a great deal of\r\nrespect for him, he's been\r\nvery good to me since that time.\r\n

\r\nOn final cuts at running back?

\r\nA: All of the cuts are tough. They are. If not from a professional\r\nstandpoint, then from a\r\npersonal standpoint. That's when you know you've got the makings of a\r\ngood team. If\r\nyour cuts are easy, you've got a problem. The cuts were difficult,\r\nbut it makes me\r\noptimistic because they were.\r\n

\r\nOn Gary Russell.

\r\nA: For a guy that's been out of football for a year, a guy that's a\r\nrookie, the stage wasn't\r\ntoo big for him. It really wasn't. He's a smart football player. A\r\nvery smart, mature runner\r\nin terms of pacing his tracks and when to bounce the ball out to the\r\nperimeter, when to\r\ncut the ball back. He had a good understanding of situational\r\nfootball as a runner, when to\r\ntake what's there and fall forward. And he always falls forward.\r\nThere were a lot of things\r\nthat were attractive about him. He's got a very small strike surface.\r\nHe's a very powerful\r\nrunner. We like where he is. Again, like I said earlier, he must\r\ncontinue to develop, like we\r\nall must continue to develop.\r\n

\r\nOn watching last year's Browns games.

\r\nA: The first game is always interesting. You look at last year's\r\ntape, you look at preseason\r\ntape. You look at preseason tape for schematics with the\r\nunderstanding that people have\r\ndifferent approaches to the preseason. They either show what they are\r\nor they show\r\nnothing. You look at it from schematics, but you don't look at it\r\nfrom personnel. Guys that\r\nyou'll be competing against on Sunday, don't play that much or play\r\nin a limited capacity\r\nin the preseason. You look for personnel issues or look for\r\nsituational packages. When you\r\nlook at last year's tape, it's really kind of a grab bag, if you\r\nwill, not only in the first week,\r\nbut as you move into the second and third weeks. Until you can start\r\nestablishing trends\r\nfor '07 and strategies for '07, you're kind of multi-tasking in that\r\narea. Really, it's not a\r\nbig deal. Every team is going through it. I'm sure they're going\r\nthrough it in Cleveland as\r\nwell.\r\n

\r\nOn the defense.

\r\nA: The most exciting thing about our first defense from the preseason\r\nis that as a football\r\nteam, we put them in some less-than-favorable circumstances and they\r\nresponded. When\r\nwe turned the ball over, they got off the field. When we hit a\r\n20-yard punt, or a 14-yard\r\npunt on the 20-yard line, they forced them to kick a field goal.\r\nRegardless of what\r\nnegative situation we put them in - and that's football, you play off\r\nof each other – I was\r\nimpressed by the way they responded to negative situations that we\r\nput them in the\r\npreseason. Really, that kind of defines us all, whether you're\r\ntalking about offense,\r\ndefense or special teams or us as a football team. How you respond as\r\na football team,\r\nhow you respond to less-than-ideal situations. I thought they were\r\nimpressive in that\r\narea.\r\n

\r\nOn special teams.

\r\nA: I don't get enamored based on the amount of time we put in on\r\nsomething. We're\r\ngoing to put in what we feel is necessary for us to be successful. I\r\ndon't base my\r\njudgment on the special teams based on how much time we put in.\r\nWe're going to put in\r\nwhat we see fit. We're not a finished product from a special teams\r\nunit standpoint. I do\r\nthink we did some things well. Even with that 14-yard punt, we\r\nfinished the preseason\r\nwith a 40-yard net average. That's winning football. We averaged 45\r\nyards a punt. I\r\nthought our coverage units were very respectable. We tackled people\r\ninside the 20. I\r\ntalked about our net punting. We're doing some things and emerging in\r\nthe return game.\r\nThe actions of the organization reflect that, going and getting a guy\r\nlike Allen Rossum I\r\nthink is going to help us. We make no bones about where we are. We're\r\ntrying to get\r\nbetter. We need to be great in that area. We need to be great on\r\noffense. We need to be\r\ngreat on defense if we're going to get where we need to be.\r\n

\r\nOn Charlie Frye.

\r\nA: Charlie Frye is kind of a known commodity for them. I'm sure that\r\nweighed into their\r\ndecision to name him the starter. He has intangibles. He has things\r\nthat you can't\r\nmeasure. My first exposure to him, I was coaching the South in the\r\nSenior Bowl. He came\r\nin the second half and was 10 of 11 and won the game MVP and beat us.\r\nThat's my history\r\nwith Charlie Frye. I've got a great deal of respect for him. I know\r\nhe's a competitor. I know\r\nhe has great intangibles, great leadership qualities based on the\r\nthings I've heard. Again,\r\nI'm not concerned with their plan in terms of quarterback. I know\r\nthey named him the\r\nstarter. We've got to be prepared to play them all.\r\n

\r\nOn the difference between the preseason and regular season.

\r\nA: Hopefully, it won't be different at all. I took the preseason very\r\nseriously and put myself\r\nin game situations and decision-making situations. If it is\r\ndifferent, it will be because of\r\nthe natural emotions of playing the game. I'm going to try to keep a\r\nthumb on that as\r\nmuch as I possibly can. I approach August the way I intend to\r\napproach September in\r\nterms of being a head coach, from a game-management standpoint. We'll\r\nbe a little\r\ndifferent, but the process will hopefully be the same.\r\n

\r\nOn the staff on game day.

\r\nA: We were open to change as a staff just as we were open to change\r\nfrom a position\r\nflexibility standpoint with our players. We went through situations\r\nwhere we had Kirby\r\nWilson, our running backs coach, in the booth, Kirby Wilson on the\r\nfield, James Daniels in\r\nthe booth and on the field. That's what preseason is about, trying to\r\nlogistically sound so\r\nthat we get good communication, the proper people on the field, the\r\nbest way to\r\ncommunicate with the men and make adjustments. We went through a\r\nsimilar\r\ndevelopment that the team did. I feel very good about it. I think the\r\ncommunication is\r\nclean. I think everybody understands the direction that we're trying\r\nto go and logistically\r\nhow we're going to get that done.\r\n

\r\n(Shummy running amuck) What's normal at home now?

\r\nA: Normalcy hasn't set in yet, it won't set in until Monday of next\r\nweek when you're on a\r\nlegitimate six-day work week in preparation for a game. We played\r\nlast Thursday. We've\r\nbeen working to get ready for this game since Friday officially. You\r\ndon't feel the crunch of\r\npreparing for this game like you will two or three weeks from now as\r\nyou get into the\r\nregular season. We have a leisurely 12 or 14-hour work day at this\r\npoint.\r\n

\r\nStop, Ellis time: I don't even know what he's trying to ask here.

\r\nA: I'm not enamored about breaking a season down into quarters. I\r\ntry to be a small\r\npicture guy as much as I possibly can. This is Cleveland week. I'd\r\nlike to keep all eyes here\r\nand worry about next week next week. That's how I approach it. A lot\r\nof people break the\r\nseason down into quarters for various reasons. They try to package\r\nthe mentality of what\r\nyour record is going to be that quarter, self-scouting for looking\r\nback, we were such and\r\nsuch as a football team in that quarter. I like to feel the urgency\r\nnow, to be where we are\r\nand put all of our energies toward playing the Cleveland Browns.\r\n

\r\nOn Ben Roethlisbeger.

\r\nA: I think he's responded well. I can't speak about giving him more\r\nbecause this is the\r\nnature of our relationship. I wasn't here in the past so I don't know\r\nwhat he was given in\r\nthe past. I know that he's a capable quarterback. He's a\r\nfranchise-caliber quarterback and\r\nthat's what those quarterbacks have, they have a lot of\r\nresponsibility. I know that he\r\nwelcomes that. I definitely think he's capable. I just got out of an\r\noffensive staff meeting\r\nwith Ben. He's been in there all morning. That's whata franchises do.\r\nTuesday's an off day,\r\nbut not for franchise quarterbacks. He understands that. He came in\r\nwith a smile on his\r\nface. He's anxious to see what's in store for him.\r\n

\r\nOn James Harrison.

\r\nA: Was that in Cleveland where he slammed that spectator? Let's hope\r\nhe doesn't have to\r\ndo that this weekend. I like where James is. James is a very capable\r\nguy. We're very\r\ncomfortable with him as a starting linebacker, have been based on the\r\nthings that I've seen\r\nfrom him, even prior to us getting on in the offseason program. This\r\nisn't his first rodeo.\r\nHe's played a bunch of football. He's started some games. He's like a\r\nreturning starter. I\r\nthink he has that kind of respect from his peers. I don't think\r\nthere's any kind of fear of\r\nthe unknown as far as what we expect from him from a quality of play\r\nstandpoint. He's a\r\nveteran player. The thing that I respect about him is that maybe his\r\nrole is changing a bit\r\nin terms of being an acknowledged starter, but he is still putting\r\nthe attention to detail\r\nand effort into the special teams. That's illustrated by his\r\nteammates naming him captain\r\nof that unit as well. Like we talked about from day 1, no role is too\r\nsmall. Starters are\r\ncapable of being players on the team game. He's the poster boy for\r\nthat. He's a starter at\r\noutside linebacker, but selected special teams captain by his peers.\r\n

\r\n(Shummy still running amuck) On the Tomlin family heading to\r\nCleveland.

\r\nA: Very small actually. My wife is going to watch it from the house.\r\nShe wants to have the\r\noption of turning the channel if it's not going well. It's just going\r\nto be me. I don't know if\r\nmy mother can stomach it yet. She'll be pacing somewhere in Virginia.\r\n

\r\nOn managing particular plays offensively and defensively.

\r\nA: I'm more interested in game management. Of course situational\r\nfootball, I'll be very\r\ninvolved in, I'm going to be part of the process. More importantly\r\nthan being part of the\r\nprocess, is not necessarily game day, it's days like today, Tuesday,\r\nwhen we're developing\r\nplans. I've been going back and forth from offense to defense to\r\nspecial teams. I'm\r\nthoroughly enjoying it, but together we put together plans, we trust\r\nthose plans, we\r\nexecute them at the stadiums. Once I get to the stadium, I'm more\r\nconcerned with dealing\r\nwith the ebb and flow of the game itself, coaching all the guys who\r\nare suited up and\r\npossibly being involved with certain calls that are critical. I'm not\r\ninterested in being a\r\nplay-in, play-out playcaller in any phase. I'm interested in being a\r\npart of the process of\r\ndeveloping the game plan. I'm comfortable with that and that's what\r\nwe've been doing.\r\n

\r\nOn Willie Colon.

\r\nA: He was extremely consistent. You know his calling card is run\r\nblocking. I thought he did\r\nwell in that area. I also thought he was very consistent as a pass\r\nblocker. Willie's kind of a\r\nmature guy. I know he's a second-year guy, but he has a been-there,\r\ndone-that attitude\r\nabout his play. I think that's critical in terms of his play. But\r\njust in general, we were happy\r\nwith his play.\r\n

\r\nOn growing up as a Cowboys fan.

\r\nA: They were America's team at the time. I bought into that.\r\n

\r\nOn Marquis Cooper's health.

\r\nA: Marquis is out this week. He has a hamstring injury. I thought he\r\ndid a very nice job on\r\nstanding out as a special teams performer in the preseason. Of\r\ncourse, he's aggressively\r\npursuing the rehab on the hamstring, but in all liklihood, he's out\r\nthis week.","mobileBody":"

Opening statement: Good afternoon. Finally the regular season is here. Of course we're excited like all of our fans and supporters are. We had a great day yesterday, a bonus day, if you will. We're getting ourselves acclimated. I thought it was a very positive day. We're a fairly healthy team on the injury front. Brian St. Pierre, we had him out yesterday. We're anticipating him practicing tomorrow. Other than that, we're just moving forward. Heath (Miller) was slowed a little bit last week, but it was more based on precaution than anything else. He's going to go full speed. From that standpoint, we're a healthy team. We're excited about meeting the challenge that awaits us this week starting with the Cleveland Browns. At this time I will answer any questions.

A: It's a non-issue for me. I'm not going to focus on the things that are going on for me from that standpoint. I intend to focus myself on readying this football team and preparing ourselves to play the Cleveland Browns.

A: His resume speaks for itself. He is a dangerous dual threat as a punt and kickoff guy. He's a been there, done that guy, if you will. I'm very familiar with him back to when he was in Green Bay and then in Atlanta. I've got a great deal of respect for what he's capable of. He's done it for a long time. I like what he brings to us. He provides a veteran presence in that area of our football team. Willie Reid has been growing in big ways in that area, but he's an emerging football player. We're going to continue to work with Willie in that area. But we're glad to add Allen to that mix and we're going to go down the road.

A: We're going to let those guys compete and watch them. That will be the common theme with everything we do. I've said repeatedly that we are a developing world championship- caliber football team. And the only way that we are going to continue on that path is if we are going to continue to compete. That was the gist of my message to the team yesterday. Yes, we do have a 53-man roster. Yes, we are moving into the regular season. But we have to continue to develop. We have to continue to compete at the facility on a day-to-day basis. I'm going to call on guys to continue to improve while we're preparing to play football games. We have to continue to grow. I challenged Willie to continue to grow. I expect Allen to show what he's capable of and I'll make that decision closer to game time.

A: It was. But Santonio is an emerging football player as a wide receiver and a player we think can be a great player in this league at that position. We want him to focus on that right now. We think acquiring Allen allows him to do that right now.

A: I've looked at Allen Rossum for a long time. My first year in the league in '01, we're at Lambeau and we're up four points with a minute left to go and he runs a punt back on us and knocks us out of the divisional championshiip race. I'm down in the Tampa and we're in the NFC South because of the division change and he shows up in Atlanta. He's somebody to be reckoned with as a punt returner and a kick returner.

A: If you asked Kendall, he probably wasn't competing for a job. If anything, that whole thing was probably overblown to a degree. I just wanted to make a statement that we were open to guys improving and getting the opportunity to acquire positions. Kendall has been a starter since his rookie year. We know what he is capable of. He's a very good football player. He's a very good teammate. A detailed, hard worker who is competitive. There's a lot that we like about Kendall. We're glad to get that done.

A: Specifically regarding Chukky and Sean Mahan. We felt that Sean Mahan distinguished himself the more we watched it. He was probably the beneficiary of Chukky's unfortunate injury. But that's football. He made the most of those extra opportunities that he got. We're very comfortable with where he is. It's no secret that we were excited about Stapleton as a young guy, particularly coming out of the offseason. He continued that into training camp. He also dealt with an injury and it was really impressive the way he came back from his injury in terms of the quality of his play. He showed maturity there beyond his years from that standpoint. He was better the second game than he was his first game back. I am very optimistic about what he is capable of being. The fact is the decision was made regarding those guys are really two different scenarios. One scenario is that we felt Sean was our best option as a starting center. The second decision in terms of us having Stapleton was really about being excited about what he can be, particularly because of how rapidly he improved with a limited number of opportunities.

A: He showed that he didn't fall behind mentally. That's what I mean when I saw he showed maturity. When you don't have a bunch of snaps to fall back on, a lot of times you learn from trial and error. He had very little error for a guy who hadn't played a bunch. That's encouraging. That's exciting. He's not a finished product. Like I talked about with the football team, he has to continue to grow and develop as a player.

A: I think he's been very impressive as a guy who is capable of competing for us on third down. I think some of the running back versus linebacker drills that we had in camp were very beneficial to him. I know personally, he's asked that those continue a little bit throughout the regular season. I love that about Willie. He's got desire to be a complete football player and every-down back. We're open to that because of that. Whether or not he's the third-down back or short-yardage guy really depends on what we're trying to do week to week from a gameplan standpoint. We're open to it, but we'll let those things sort themselves out as we progress.

A: Again, we'll make those decisions as we move forward in the week. We have options, of course. If we dress eight offensive linemen, it will be Stapleton. If we don't, it will potentially be Kendall Simmons. On Tuesday, I'm not ready to determine who's dressing and who's not because, like I told the football team yesterday, we're not anointing anyone. We're going to continue to grow and develop as a football team. I want to see guys compete throughout the work week and let that be the determining factor on who dresses and who doesn't.

A: That's just what I'm guarding against. I think comfort is dangerous in this business. Yes, you've got to be comfortable in what you're being asked to do. Yes, you've got to be comfortable in terms of understanding assignments. But we cannot be comfortable with the establishments of positions within the group. We've got to keep this thing moving forward. The reality is that people don't stay the same, they're either getting better or getting worse. We've got to provide the atmosphere for them to get better. That's what it's about. It might not be a benefit to a small minority, but it's a definite benefit to the vast majority of young men we're working with.

A: At every position, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're going to have a revolving door at every position. I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that we're going to be open to the development of men even though we've moved into the month of September.

A: Players and coaches, I'll speak for myself at least, I'd coach it year-round if I could. I just like the challenges of a week-to-week and day-to-day basis that this league gives us all. I'm excited about and looking forward to it. The offseason are long sometimes, preseasons and training camps and things. I enjoy those elements of it, but we're all competitors by nature. I'm excited about having the opportunity to compete this week.

A: It really depends on the circumstances of the game. What I mean is, how he's doing from a conditioning standpoint. I would imagine that he's going to be better in October than he is in September. We have an understanding about that. That's just getting your legs under you and getting in football condition, particularly for a guy who totes the football. We're going to keep and eye on that and we'll deal with that along the way.

A: Cleveland is a very interesting team. They've got some young talent and it's well- documented. There's some guys we respect and some emerging young players, whether it's Braylon Edwards or Kellen Winslow, Kamerion Wimbley, the two safeties, Brodney) Pool and (Sean) Jones, they're solid young guys on the rise. I think that Josh Cribbs, their return man is a dual-threat return man, is a very exciting player, a player to be reckoned with. They blend that with some veteran leadership, some been-there, done-that guys, whether you're talking about (Orpheus) Roye, Ted Washington, Joe Jurevicius, I've got a great deal of respect for him. I worked with Joe in the past. He's a game-changing guy. He's a guy who's always ready when his number's called, regardless of how many times you call it. I know that Joe is ready to deliver. Of course in free agency, they got some guys who are capable of adding to the mix. We all know what Jamal Lewis is about. He's a dangerous back. He appears to be in great shape. He's familiar with this division. As a football team, we respect him, as we do Antwaan Peek, who's playing left outside linebacker for them. They're a good football team. We respect them. But more importantly than anything else, we want to handle the things we can control, that's the quality of our play, our execution and the readiness of our men.

A: I don't care where we play. I don't care what time we play. I don't care what time we play. We don't make the schedule. We'll be there and hopefully, we'll put ourselves in position to put our best effort out.

A: (Laughing) You mean once we get to the stadium? That's a possibility. We're going to cover him at the hotel on Saturday. That's a possibility. We're early in the process of game week, particularly when you talk about things like that, you consider those things situational football, third down, red zone, etc. It's a possibility. We're not closing the door to it, but it's not set in stone, either.

A: It depends on the week-to-week circumstances, I really mean that. It's less about who you're matched up against, whether it's a Braylon Edwards or a Chad Johnson or someone else. It's more about the comfort of the men that you have doing the job. Left corner is different from right corner as left tackle is different from right tackle. I think a lot of times, people underestimate the differences in those positions. It's well documented and understandable when you're talking about offensive linemen. But it is also very different from a cornerback standpoint. Those are things you have to weigh and consider when making those decisions, not only for the guy matching up on the primary guy, but for the guy who's playing off him as well.

A: Lawrence is just trying to get in where he can fit in. Thankfully, he's a sharp guy and he's capable of cross training positionally. He seems to be picking it up pretty well. We just expect him to be a good teammate and to compete for a helmet this week. If he gets one, go out and make plays regardless of what phase he's playing in, whether he gets a chance to play in the base defense, the sub-package defense or kicking game. Specifically, if he gets the hat on, you'll see him contribute in the kicking game quicker than defense because that's just the nature of it. We would expect him to play in a high level in that area.

A: A lot of things are important in this town in regards to the Steelers. I'm starting to understand that. We'll say the same thing next week when we play Buffalo. I'm aware of it. I think that's one of the things that's been exciting about being part of the AFC North for me, how close and special these rivalries are. Bus trips, short flights, it creates and interesting element. I'm enjoying it. I'm starting to get an understanding what it's about. I'm sure I'll get a better understanding of it the longer I'm here because we're all products of our shared experiences. But I've got a great deal of respect for it and look forward to being a part of it.

A: No I haven't, that's what's interesting. No I haven't.

A: It's probably quicker to go by bus, wouldn't you think, than to get to the airport and get screened and all those things.

A: On a personal note, I've got a great deal of respect for Romeo Crennel. He really provided the first window to me into this league. I was a secondary coach in Cincinnati and Chris Palmer was the head coach in Cleveland and I got a minority internship up there and spent a little over a month on a day-to-day basis with Romeo. He was very good to me. He's a very bright, intelligent coach, specifically defensively. Based on my experience with him, I was thoroughly impressed. I'm in awe of the way he went about his job. It made me want to be a part of this league. I've got a a great deal of respect for him, he's been very good to me since that time.

A: All of the cuts are tough. They are. If not from a professional standpoint, then from a personal standpoint. That's when you know you've got the makings of a good team. If your cuts are easy, you've got a problem. The cuts were difficult, but it makes me optimistic because they were.

A: For a guy that's been out of football for a year, a guy that's a rookie, the stage wasn't too big for him. It really wasn't. He's a smart football player. A very smart, mature runner in terms of pacing his tracks and when to bounce the ball out to the perimeter, when to cut the ball back. He had a good understanding of situational football as a runner, when to take what's there and fall forward. And he always falls forward. There were a lot of things that were attractive about him. He's got a very small strike surface. He's a very powerful runner. We like where he is. Again, like I said earlier, he must continue to develop, like we all must continue to develop.

A: The first game is always interesting. You look at last year's tape, you look at preseason tape. You look at preseason tape for schematics with the understanding that people have different approaches to the preseason. They either show what they are or they show nothing. You look at it from schematics, but you don't look at it from personnel. Guys that you'll be competing against on Sunday, don't play that much or play in a limited capacity in the preseason. You look for personnel issues or look for situational packages. When you look at last year's tape, it's really kind of a grab bag, if you will, not only in the first week, but as you move into the second and third weeks. Until you can start establishing trends for '07 and strategies for '07, you're kind of multi-tasking in that area. Really, it's not a big deal. Every team is going through it. I'm sure they're going through it in Cleveland as well.

A: The most exciting thing about our first defense from the preseason is that as a football team, we put them in some less-than-favorable circumstances and they responded. When we turned the ball over, they got off the field. When we hit a 20-yard punt, or a 14-yard punt on the 20-yard line, they forced them to kick a field goal. Regardless of what negative situation we put them in - and that's football, you play off of each other – I was impressed by the way they responded to negative situations that we put them in the preseason. Really, that kind of defines us all, whether you're talking about offense, defense or special teams or us as a football team. How you respond as a football team, how you respond to less-than-ideal situations. I thought they were impressive in that area.

A: I don't get enamored based on the amount of time we put in on something. We're going to put in what we feel is necessary for us to be successful. I don't base my judgment on the special teams based on how much time we put in. We're going to put in what we see fit. We're not a finished product from a special teams unit standpoint. I do think we did some things well. Even with that 14-yard punt, we finished the preseason with a 40-yard net average. That's winning football. We averaged 45 yards a punt. I thought our coverage units were very respectable. We tackled people inside the 20. I talked about our net punting. We're doing some things and emerging in the return game. The actions of the organization reflect that, going and getting a guy like Allen Rossum I think is going to help us. We make no bones about where we are. We're trying to get better. We need to be great in that area. We need to be great on offense. We need to be great on defense if we're going to get where we need to be.

A: Charlie Frye is kind of a known commodity for them. I'm sure that weighed into their decision to name him the starter. He has intangibles. He has things that you can't measure. My first exposure to him, I was coaching the South in the Senior Bowl. He came in the second half and was 10 of 11 and won the game MVP and beat us. That's my history with Charlie Frye. I've got a great deal of respect for him. I know he's a competitor. I know he has great intangibles, great leadership qualities based on the things I've heard. Again, I'm not concerned with their plan in terms of quarterback. I know they named him the starter. We've got to be prepared to play them all.

A: Hopefully, it won't be different at all. I took the preseason very seriously and put myself in game situations and decision-making situations. If it is different, it will be because of the natural emotions of playing the game. I'm going to try to keep a thumb on that as much as I possibly can. I approach August the way I intend to approach September in terms of being a head coach, from a game-management standpoint. We'll be a little different, but the process will hopefully be the same.

A: We were open to change as a staff just as we were open to change from a position flexibility standpoint with our players. We went through situations where we had Kirby Wilson, our running backs coach, in the booth, Kirby Wilson on the field, James Daniels in the booth and on the field. That's what preseason is about, trying to logistically sound so that we get good communication, the proper people on the field, the best way to communicate with the men and make adjustments. We went through a similar development that the team did. I feel very good about it. I think the communication is clean. I think everybody understands the direction that we're trying to go and logistically how we're going to get that done.

A: Normalcy hasn't set in yet, it won't set in until Monday of next week when you're on a legitimate six-day work week in preparation for a game. We played last Thursday. We've been working to get ready for this game since Friday officially. You don't feel the crunch of preparing for this game like you will two or three weeks from now as you get into the regular season. We have a leisurely 12 or 14-hour work day at this point.

A: I'm not enamored about breaking a season down into quarters. I try to be a small picture guy as much as I possibly can. This is Cleveland week. I'd like to keep all eyes here and worry about next week next week. That's how I approach it. A lot of people break the season down into quarters for various reasons. They try to package the mentality of what your record is going to be that quarter, self-scouting for looking back, we were such and such as a football team in that quarter. I like to feel the urgency now, to be where we are and put all of our energies toward playing the Cleveland Browns.

A: I think he's responded well. I can't speak about giving him more because this is the nature of our relationship. I wasn't here in the past so I don't know what he was given in the past. I know that he's a capable quarterback. He's a franchise-caliber quarterback and that's what those quarterbacks have, they have a lot of responsibility. I know that he welcomes that. I definitely think he's capable. I just got out of an offensive staff meeting with Ben. He's been in there all morning. That's whata franchises do. Tuesday's an off day, but not for franchise quarterbacks. He understands that. He came in with a smile on his face. He's anxious to see what's in store for him.

A: Was that in Cleveland where he slammed that spectator? Let's hope he doesn't have to do that this weekend. I like where James is. James is a very capable guy. We're very comfortable with him as a starting linebacker, have been based on the things that I've seen from him, even prior to us getting on in the offseason program. This isn't his first rodeo. He's played a bunch of football. He's started some games. He's like a returning starter. I think he has that kind of respect from his peers. I don't think there's any kind of fear of the unknown as far as what we expect from him from a quality of play standpoint. He's a veteran player. The thing that I respect about him is that maybe his role is changing a bit in terms of being an acknowledged starter, but he is still putting the attention to detail and effort into the special teams. That's illustrated by his teammates naming him captain of that unit as well. Like we talked about from day 1, no role is too small. Starters are capable of being players on the team game. He's the poster boy for that. He's a starter at outside linebacker, but selected special teams captain by his peers.

A: Very small actually. My wife is going to watch it from the house. She wants to have the option of turning the channel if it's not going well. It's just going to be me. I don't know if my mother can stomach it yet. She'll be pacing somewhere in Virginia.

A: I'm more interested in game management. Of course situational football, I'll be very involved in, I'm going to be part of the process. More importantly than being part of the process, is not necessarily game day, it's days like today, Tuesday, when we're developing plans. I've been going back and forth from offense to defense to special teams. I'm thoroughly enjoying it, but together we put together plans, we trust those plans, we execute them at the stadiums. Once I get to the stadium, I'm more concerned with dealing with the ebb and flow of the game itself, coaching all the guys who are suited up and possibly being involved with certain calls that are critical. I'm not interested in being a play-in, play-out playcaller in any phase. I'm interested in being a part of the process of developing the game plan. I'm comfortable with that and that's what we've been doing.

A: He was extremely consistent. You know his calling card is run blocking. I thought he did well in that area. I also thought he was very consistent as a pass blocker. Willie's kind of a mature guy. I know he's a second-year guy, but he has a been-there, done-that attitude about his play. I think that's critical in terms of his play. But just in general, we were happy with his play.

A: They were America's team at the time. I bought into that.

A: Marquis is out this week. He has a hamstring injury. I thought he did a very nice job on standing out as a special teams performer in the preseason. 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