Q&A: Mike Tomlin

The Kevin Everett injury, the cheating New England Patriots -- and of course, his own team -- were among the topics discussed when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met with the press Tuesday.

Opening statement: Good afternoon. We feel like we had a good day yesterday. Guys got treatment. We met, they came in and we evaluated our performance, studied the tape, made some corrections in some areas we felt needed to be corrected. All in all, it was a very good day, we moved forward last night in preparation for the Bills. On an injury front, no news is good news in that area. We do have Deshea Townsend who is dealing with somewhat of a groin. But it doesn't appear to be serious. Maybe he'll miss a day or two here of preparation. But it won't prevent him from playing. Clint Kriewaldt has a minor AC (shoulder) injury that will create some minor discomfort for him. I don't that to limit him in any way in preparation, specifically, for the weekend. Other than that, we're a healthy football team, which is good news as we move forward to play the Buffalo Bills. Quickly in regards to the Bills. Studying these guys, they play football the way we play football in many ways, which should make for an interesting matchup. They have big-play capability offensively. Lee Evans is a dangerous man. J.P. Losman throws the deep ball very well. When they have had success here recently, particularly in the last year, it's because Lee has gotten behind somebody. We respect that element in what they do. They've got an exciting young rookie running back in (Marshawn) Lynch who did some good things, ran for 90 yards on 19 carries. They've got some nice players up front. We think that (Jason) Peters, their left tackle, has got a chance to be a special guy. He's somebody that has to be reckoned with. Defensively, they do what they do. They are fundamentally sound. They hustle and run to the football. I'm very familiar with those guys schematically. Perry Fewell, their defensive coordinator, is from the same school as I am, if you will. They do what they do. They run and they play with emotion. I like some of the guys defensively. (Terrence) McGee, the corner, has a chance to be a standout player. They have some young linebackers who are doing some things. But make no mistake about it, they are built around their rush and their ends. (Chad) Kelsay is a good player and (Aaron) Schobel is a great player. The tape tells that story. In the kicking game, they've got two exciting return men. Roscoe Parrish showed what he was capable of last week. But by no means was that an unknown heading into last week. He's a dangerous return man, as is Terrence McGee. He's been to Hawaii for what he does as a kickoff returner. We look forward to the challenges that await us this week. That being said, the focus is still on us this week and what we have to do to prepare ourselves. That's where we are trying to stack our chips in that area. I'll answer any questions at this time.

Q: On the situation with Kevin Everett?

I'm sure it's tough to deal with on a personal level. Things like that always are. But those guys are professionals. I expect those guys to get it together from a professionalism standpoint and be prepared to play on Sunday. It's a very unfortunate incident. Incidents like that are so much bigger than football, it's tough to deal with, I imagine. I'm sure that sent shock waves around this league, not just in Buffalo. I wish that young man the very best, of course. But we expect those guys to be professionals and be ready to play on Sunday.

(Hard-hitting John Shumway) Q: On teaching guys how to hit.

I don't know that you do things like that in light of what happened. I think we are constantly in a rebuilding mode. We've got to respect where we are on a week-to-week basis. We're a fundamentalist football team. We never stray too far away from that element of play. We introduce it every week. We introduce it every time we come together. We build it from ground zero from a fundamental standpoint because we believe that that's a winning edge for us.

(Stop Ellis time): Q: On their injuries (at least that's what I think what the question was about).

They are a factor. At this time in the week, we look at schematics and how we want to attack them schematically. Personnel is an issue. But some of those issues from an injury standpoint is uncertain at this time. We can spend a lot of time speculating and worrying about that. We know they have some guys down. Ko Simpson is down, but Jim Leonhard came in and proved that he is capable. He had an interception. He had 13 tackles, led them in tackles. He's a capable guy, this isn't his first rodeo. Jason Webster went down. Ashton Youboty is a young guy, who was highly regarded coming out of Ohio State. He did a nice job in the kicking game last week. I think he had something to do with the lack of success that Denver had from a kicking game standpoint, at least the two misses that they had with a very proven, reputable kicker. He should be ready to step up. We'll focus on the schematics. Some of the injury situations that they are going through will sort themselves out and become clearer to them and to us later in the week, but that's not our focus right now.

Q: On Paul Posluszny.

He was a highly regarded guy and rightfully so. His tape told that story. He's a very good football player. To be an opening day starter as a rookie speaks for itself. But particuarly at the Mike linebacker position. I know a little bit about what it takes to be a Mike in that system. The level of field awareness and leadership and ability to communicate. All of those things are him as a player. Besides that, he plays pretty well also. His best football is ahead of him. He's a pretty good football player right now and is somebody we have to deal with this weekend.

Q: On the accusations of spying on the Patriots.

You hear rumors of things of that nature. It's nothing new. In terms of confirming it, it's never been confirmed in any instance to my knowledge. But usually where there is smoke, there's fire. Those rumors are founded on something. So it's not totally shocking, no.

Q: Protecting signals.

We do. But we like to keep our methods private so we can continue to be successful.

Q: How difficult would it be to figure something out?

It depends on a lot of issues. It depends on the degree your opponents are willing to go to to protect themselves. It depends on who you have potentially doing something like that. We don't spend a lot of time worrying about things of that nature, but we are sharp enough to protect ourselves versus the potential of something like that happening against us. Really, it's nothing new. When you see offensive coordinators covering their mouth - and that's been going on a long time - that's one of the reasons why that's done.

Q: On radios in the defensive helmets.

That was voted down firmly at the owner's meeting. I'll support the outlook and decision that the league has on it as a whole.

Q: On his game management Sunday.

I grade myself on wins and losses, so I had a passing grade. Was I perfect? Absolutely not. But I'm my worst critic. I don't worry about things of that nature. The big thing was that we won the game. Style points at the end of the day don't matter. I'm glad that we won. We learn from what happened in that game and move forward.

Q: Was it as easy as it looked?

No. It was not. I think the big thing that we did was that we made plays together in all three phases. The phases of our football team played off of one another. We had a big play in the punt return game early and the offense came out and capitalized. The defense came back and got a turnover and gave the offense a short field again and we were able to put more points on the board. Whenever you can make plays consecutively in all three phases, you've got a chance to put points on the board and really run in spurts. I thought that's what we did. The offense responded and came out in the second half and went down the field and scored. They put a drive together and scored on us, the offense came out and scored again. We played off each other when things were positive. We played off each other when things weren't positive. It was a good day from that standpoint. We respect what it takes to win in this league and by no means was it easy.

Q: Where improvements are needed?

Technically, we're definitely not a finished product in a lot of areas. But that could be said of every team in this league. That's what September is about. We've got to continue to sharpen our swords in that area. We could play smarter in some areas. We've got to do a better job in that standpoint. Penalties that occur during plays are technically related. They are about fundamentals and skill developments. So we're going to focus on what we need to do in those areas. But pre-snap penalties and post-snap penalties are not a sign of a good football team and we've got to get better in that area in a hurry.

Q: On offensive problems in the second quarter.

They did a nice job defensively in the second quarter. You've got to give those guys credit. We had great field position. They found a way to get after our quarterback and disrupt what we were trying to do offensively. They got a turnover. We got the ball in to about the 25-yard line and they poked the ball out with the hit on Willie Parker. So you've got to give those guys credit. They stepped up and defended the short field for virtually the entire second quarter. We weren't able to capitalize on the field position. In the second half, we simply made some adjustments and identified what we were doing well and what we weren't. We focused on the things we were doing well and we simplified our playcall list and ran a minimal amount of plays - meat and potatos, if your will - particularly in the run game. We were able to start winning the battle of attrition in the line of scrimmage. That's always our goal. We believe that's the way we can win football games. I know a lot has been written and said about our spread offense, we're just trying to win football game.

Q: On Ben Roethlisberger.

I try not to focus too much on what happened here last year because I wasn't a part of it. I know that Ben has had a heck of an offseason. What he showed in the stadium on Sunday is what we expected. I know it was what he expected. He's a very good football player. He's going to get better.

Q: On the running game.

Just that. I thought it was attrition-oriented. We were able to get a few chunks. I thought as the game went on, we got better and better. Usually, that's the case. That's why we sell that element of the personality that we need to have as a football team. By no means are we a finished product. We had some play-side linebackers running free, particularly on the fumble. We had a play-side linebacker running free and hit him about a yard in the backfield. We can't turn loose play-side linebackers. But that's why we come to work. That's why tomorrow's workday is so important. We've got to get our eyes moving about what we need to do against Buffalo from an assignment standpoint to give ourselves a chance to win.

(Stop, Ellis time) Q: (I think this is about the offensive diversity).

It is. We're not always going to change the pace. Then it doesn't become change of pace, it becomes normal. We want to have the ability to do a lot of things and attack people in a lot of ways. We used a variety of personnel groups. The tight end packages were good to us, particuarly in the second half when we got on those long drives. We like what that group of men brings us, so it was good to see that come together. Our three-wide and four-wide stuff was good to us at times. We want to make people defend the field vertically and horizontally, then we're going to to what it is we do.

Q: On Roethlisberger calling blocking schemes.

It might be slightly overblown in terms of what Ben's doing at the line of scrimmage. Ben is becoming a veteran guy. We don't want to handcuff him so that when he's standing at the line of scrimmage and he's looking at something that's not good, we don't want to lock him into it. It's probably being overblown in terms of some of the things he's doing at the line of scrimmage. He is doing a good job with what we're asking him to do in that area. And he'll continue to grow in that area. But I think it might be more of a story than what it is at this point.

Q: On going for it on fourth down.

I don't worry about sending messages. Hopefully, there's enough clarity in the way I communicate with them that they know how I feel about them. There was no hesiation when it came to making that decision. We got a good front, it was six inches. We've got to be a tough football team. You've got to be able to move the chains in that situation if you want to be a winner. We play to win, so that call was easy. I've talked quite a bit about the importance of situational football, short-yardage, goal-line, etc., fourth-down and one at midfield needing six inches, we've got to be able to do that.

Q: On watching Monday night football.

It was on. But so was my viedo machine. I didn't see much other than a few celebrations by Chad Johnson and Ed Reed. Monday evening is a work day for us. We'll cross those bridges when we come to them. Our focus was getting ready to play the Buffalo Bills.

Q: On Carey Davis and the fullback position.

Specifically on Carey, he did exactly what we anticipated him doing. He's a very athletic guy from a fullback standpoint. He can get a hat on people in space. He's a great perimeter blocker. He showed up big time for us on special teams. He emerged in that area before he emerged as a runner and as a fullback specifically. He made a big play for us in the kicking game. What we do in terms of who starts, I think, at times, it can be overblown. It depends on what we want to do offensively, how we want to attack people. We can start in two tight ends; we can start in three wides; we can start out with Carey or we can start out with Dan (Kreider). Dan is still a great isolation, short-yardage blocker. When we had some long drives in the second half, it was because Dan was playing fullback. We just want to be multiple. We have what we believe to be a lot of weapons. We want to use them all. Of course we can't use them all at the same time. Last week's gameplan dictated that Carey got the start. Maybe next week's gameplan dictates that (Matt) Speath gets the start, or maybe Dan gets the start. We're not worried about who starts. Everybody has got to be ready to contribute and that's got to be our mentality in regards to those men.

(Shumway, apparently has a crush on Tomlin's wife or something) Q: What kind of review did you get when you got home?

The boys didn't care. They wanted to tell me about a soccer game they had Saturday where they scored two goals apiece. So I was excited about that. I tend to leave the job at the job. From a sanity standpoint I know my family doesn't care if I win or lose, so I try to leave the job at the job.

(Shumway, pressing on) Q: Did your wife watch the whole way through?

Yes she did. But I would imagine that was one of the easier ones for her to watch.

Q: (Savran) Getting back to the previous question (and what this press conference is supposed to be about), you will continue to dress two fullbacks?

That was our intent last week. There are a lot of things that factor into who we put a hat on: health of our football team; our plan by which we intend to attack. We're going to live week to week in terms of that. We're not a football team where the hats are going to be a given week to week. We've got 53 men who are capable of helping us win. We're going to make decisions week in and week out in terms of the 45 men we're going to choose to participate. It's done for a lot of reasons: what we want to do schematically; the performance of the men during the week; all the things we've said in the past, we mean in that regards. We're open-minded to all 53 participating.

Q: If the Patriots are proved to be cheating, should the punishment be harsh and should there be an asterisk next to their Super Bowl wins?

I'll let Roger Goodell deal with that. My job is to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers and get ready to play the Buffalo Bills. I'm a guy who gets single-minded this time of year. I can live in a box from time to time. I'll wait and see what comes out of New York in regards to that situation.

Q: In regards to the rumors before, were they limited to New England?

A lot has been said about the New England guys and New England family, if you will. You focus on the variables that you can control; the men that you work with, your preparation; your performance, at least I do. I don't worry about those things.


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