MIKE TOMLIN, coach,Pittsburgh Steelers
Opening Statement: I'll start with a quick review of Sunday's performance again touching on some things that maybe we didn't touch on after the game. Of course we fell short in a lot of areas. When you don't play close to what you are capable of playing you've got a chance to lose and that was the story and the case for us on Sunday. Offensively, starting to see a trend that we need to address in terms of not being able to execute a five-minute offense inside the last five minutes of the game, being able to get significant first downs. We had the situation in Cleveland we had the situation also on Sunday. We are addressing that with the football team and searching for answers in that regard. But if we are going to be a good offensive team we've got to be able to get first down in critical junctures of the game, in the last five minutes of the game, in definitely one of them. Also, red zone offense and this has come up several times over the course of the year.
There have been instances and times and pockets of the season where we have been very good in the red zone. Of course it is comforting and great to have a kicker like Jeff Reed that can put it through when you need him too, but offensively if we are going to be a great offense we've got to score touchdowns as opposed to field goals in red zone situation. That was the focal point of some of our discussions with the football team yesterday and is going to be the focal point as we move forward this week.
Defensively, we've got to cash in on turnover opportunities. We've got to do that. I think that that is going to allow us to search for greatness in that portion of our football team. When we touch balls we've got to catch them. Etc, etc. We've got to be opportunistic. Tackling was an issue for us on Sunday. It hadn't been but it defiantly was on Sunday. We can't let those kinds of days happen again. Another trend is defensively in two-minute situation we have to do a better job of protecting our sidelines. Specifically we've got to tackle people inbounds. Those guys are doing a nice job of fighting to get out of bounds; we were getting defenders on them but there were finding ways to get out of bounds. And as you guys know that is very significant in two minute situations. They were able to stop the clock, huddle, get plays they wanted to get called called as apposed to when you make inbound tackles a long the sideline. Running under the gun if you will in terms of the clock, usually that means they work on a smaller menu in terms other selection etc, etc.. You change the face of two minute football when you tackle people inbounds. And we didn't do a good enough job of that toward the end of regulation on Sunday.
In special teams I thought the adjustment we made in terms of our kickoff coverage was successful for Sunday, but it made a point to the football team that that's just a bandaid. It was a Band-Aid that thankfully we were bale to use successfully to get us out of that game facing Leon Washington because we know what kind of returner he is. But the reality is that if we are going to be a good football team we need to kick the ball away, we've got be able to run down, cover it and tackle people, on or inside the 20. That's what good teams do. So yes, it was successful, Jeff was great at locating the ball exactly where we wanted him to put it, but by now means is that a long term solution. We are going to get back to business this week in terms of getting that area of our football team sured up.
As a team, we were highly penalized. We had eight penalties for 100 yards. That's not winning football. That hadn't been our personality, it was on Sunday, we accept that. We've got to get that area of our game corrected. Some of those things, when you are talking about things such as that, that can be characterize as beating yourself. If we are going to be a good team we can't beet ourselves. So those issues specifically have to disappear very quickly.
Moving forward, looking at our injuries. Existing injuries, Lamar Woodley, has a chance to practice so he has a chance to play. Well see where he is. Right now he is scheduled to practice tomorrow. If he can hold up through the week he'll have an opportunity to play for us. Again, a young guy like him, his ability to play on the weekends is solely based on his ability to practice during the week. He doesn't have enough experience to go out and play football without practicing and getting a significant amount of practice reps. So we'll see where he is tomorrow. Deshea (Townsend) may be limited in some way tomorrow. He has a little swelling in his ankle but it's definitely probably not going to keep him out of action this weekend. It's just probably going to slow him down here tomorrow.
We have two significant injuries, Santonio Holmes has a high ankle sprain and its going to make him doubtful for probably at best for this football game. Troy (Polamalu) has a knee sprain and is probably going to make him doubtful for this football game. But as we always say, the guys that we play with represent the Pittsburgh Steelers; the standard of expectation is not going to change. The men that play for us on Monday night are going to be held to the same standards as those who they are replacing. So we look forward to seeing those guys an opportunity to play. We'll formulate a plan as the week rolls on about how we are going to use the people we choose to use under certain situations. The reality is that when you're talking about Santonio (Holmes) and Troy (Polamalu), it's going to require multiple people to step up and fill the rolls that they provide for us. Which is great because this is a team, it's the ultimate team game and we look forward to seeing these guys step up a deliver for us on Monday night.
Looking at the Dolphins, of course their team is searching for a win. They are playing a young quarterback, John Beck, he's young in terms of experience but he is a 26-year old guy. I think that he shows maturity beyond what most rookies show, because of that, he's got some life experience. They've have some changes along the offensive course. Marty Booker has been a constant for them. He's a veteran Steelers who's a proven guy. Ted Ginn is an explosive player. High round draft pick, of course he's played good ball for them, not only offensively, he's coming on, but in the kicking game. I think the 87-yard return he had this past weekend shows you what he is capable of as a kick returner.
Jesse Chatman is running the ball very well for those guys. He has a nice combination of power and agility. He's deceptive in terms if his ability to slip potential tacklers. They are a good offense in a lot of ways and one thing I think they are doing a nice job of is they are protecting the football.
Defensively as a veteran group, Jason Taylor, Vonnie Holliday, lead the charts, those guys, up front, you've got to be ready to deal with the man in the middle, Keith Traylor. Of course we've had our issues with big people on the nose, he is as big as they come, and as powerful as they come. In the middle of that defense we've got to be ready to deal with those guys up front. Of course they have Joey Porter at linebacker who is still a very good player. May or may not have Zach Thomas, we've better prepare for him, because he's a special guy, not only as a tackler and as a blitzer, but as a coverage man.
But again, particularly when you are coming off of a performance like we had on Sunday, the issue is not about the opponent that you play, it's about getting yourself prepared to play. Writing our ship, getting ourselves in the position of doing what we are capable of doing. As always we feel like if we do those things we have a chance to win. If we don't, it's going to be tough. So, with that being said, we have to approach this week of work focusing on the things that we control, we can control and that's our preparation, our quality of play and our ability to put our plan to together and put it into action on Monday night.
Is protecting the quarterback high on your list?
It is. I did mention it after the game. That was one of the things I considered to be obvious, when I started. We have to do a better job of protecting the quarterback and the thing that we all have to understand as football team is that it is not a five man job, in terms of protecting our quarterback. It is a unit job. Our failures in that area on Sunday were shared by all. We have to do a better job of getting open at the wide receiver position. We have to do a better job of protecting up front. We have to do a better job of protecting at the running back position. We have to do a better job of deciphering what we are looking at and getting the ball out of our hands at the quarterback position. That is a collective body of work and we fell short on Sunday.
Is Ben Roethlisberger getting the ball out quick enough?
In most instances, yes. In some instances, no. Just like the wide receivers are getting open in most instances, but in some instances they aren't. The offensive line; most of the time they are blocking the correct people for an acceptable length of time, but sometimes they're not. We need a higher level of consistency in all area for us to function as an offense. Those are the points we made yesterday.
As the game went on, was Heath Miller kept in to block more?
No, not necessarily as the game went on. I think he is a viable receiving threat. He is showing that. You would like to get him out as much as you possibly can, but sometimes you have to understand that you have to do what you have to do to be successful. We are not opposed to those options, but you know our first option is to get Heath down the field.
Were the Jets more physical?
They were more physical. They took the game to us in a lot of ways. Most of the time, the most physical team has a chance to win. That is not a reality we shy away from. That is why being physical is on the top of our list, in terms of preparing to play football games. They took the game to us in a lot of ways. You don't like it, but you accept it. That is the reality of this business and that is why you step into stadiums prepared to play these games and plan to the best of your ability. They are capable of doing that and they showed it, just like everyone you play is. We don't take that element of the game for granted. We have to prepare ourselves to be that type of team again on Monday night because we weren't on Sunday.
Which trend from the Jets game troubles you more?
I would be hard pressed to say one specific element of the game troubled me more than another. We work together as a football team. We do what we need to do to win. The reality is that both elements let us down and that is probably why we lost. If we had one or the other we probably would have had a chance to win, but the reality is that we didn't. We have to work to get all of our issues corrected, because we all realize that we fall short of perfection. When you play games, things happen, but you better plan for all of your cylinders to be firing to give yourself the best possibility to win. We didn't and that is why we lost. We better be ready to right the ship in all those areas this week.
How has Sean Mahan played?
He has done a nice job of not getting pushed back, but sometimes those big people, when they play 0-noses and it is more a schematic thing and those guys are big people, there is really no real way to get significant double teams and movement, so what happens is those guys solidify the core of the defense and they are able to cut the field off and there are times you can't cut the ball back. If you do, they make tackles. That is probably what makes Casey (Hampton) such an effective player. It is part of football. We have to find ways to neutralize that element of their play, because like I said, (Keith) Traylor is one of the best.
How much does a sack affect the offense?
More than anything, a lot of our pressures have been happening on second down. It puts you behind the chains. It puts you in third down situations that are less than ideal to say the least. We have been good offensively and I think the number one third down offense in the league, up over 50 percent converting them, because we've been in manageable third downs. That was not the case on Sunday and a lot of it had to do with getting sacked on second down. When you get in third-and-14, third-and-eleven or third-and-17 and so forth, there is a chance for negative things to happen. That was the case on Sunday.
Is that what happened in overtime?
Absolutely. That is the nature of football and that is why it is important that you have a good, steady running game. That is why it is important that you don't get behind the chains, because when you do, the defense has a chance to make splash plays. We thrive under those circumstances. That is why defensively stopping the run is so big to us, because if you can snuff out the run, you can get people behind the chains and you can do some of the things you like to do in terms of getting after the quarterback.
Is Ben Roethlisberger holding onto the ball part of him also being able to make plays when things break down?
We don't call plays with the intent of them breaking down and him showing those skills. It is an added bonus that he has those skills. That is the case with football. Very rarely do plays unfold the way you diagram them. That is the reality of it. That is what separates some players from others. His ability to operate and make plays when plays break down is an added bonus for us, but it is not one we hang our hat on. We want to operate efficiently. We want to operate in a timely manor. Ideally, you would like the plays to unfold the way you diagram them.
Do teams try to box Ben Roethlisberger in the pocket?
Yes. The Jets did some of that, but it is not unusual to be quite honest with you. Cleveland used Willie McGinest in a similar way and Ben was able to escape him. Sometimes you are and sometimes you aren't. What the Jets did in that area, in terms of having someone along the line of scrimmage shadow him is nothing new. People know what he is capable of and we have seen that week in and week out.
You have seen the spy before?
That has been all year.
How much of the run game is on the line, blocking or Willie Parker?
It is all those things. That is part of football. We are a team. We have to be able to run the ball as a team. Najeh (Davenport) is a part of it. He is a legitimate playmaker. He was able to give us some runs. We weren't able to get Willie going. It is not just Willie. It is all of us, just like Najeh getting five yards a pop isn't necessarily Najeh. It is the type of runs we run, when we run him. We don't worry about the style points. We are just looking for results. We have to do a better job as a team of consistently running the football and that includes Willie Parker. That includes Najeh. That includes Carey Davis or whoever we choose to hand the ball to.
Do you expect your team to be prepared and focused to play every week?
As a coach, your level of expectation is that they are wired and ready to play on a weekly basis. That is what this business is about. The reality is that sometimes that is not the case and their play is usually an indication of that. What you expect and what you are willing to accept has to be nothing less than 100 percent of preparation and readiness to play.
You do know you can't get it every week?
I refuse to acknowledge that. We live week-to-week and we're preparing this week to be at our best.
How do you respond to guys saying the team was flat?
I don't want our level of preparation or focus to be in response to last weeks performance. I want it to be because we have a football game. That is the only way we are going to be great and that is if we understand that all these games are equally weighted. Every time you take the field you have to come to play. That is what great teams do and it is our desire to be a great team. That is the way we need to approach it. Sometimes people are not willing to acknowledge those things and sometimes they are. What do you do when you go out and have a great performance? You better be ready back it up and show it again the following week. I refuse to acknowledge that as a motivational tool. I understand it may be a motivational for some. It is our goal as a staff to develop a mentality with this football team that what happened last week is irrelevant. What is going to happen next week is irrelevant. We live in the moment. We prepare and we put ourselves in a position to be at our very best when we walk in stadiums to play.
Why is this team so different on the road than it is a home?
Some teams play well on the road and some teams don't. It is obvious right now that we aren't one of those teams. That is not an issue right now. We are at home this week. We have our eyes focused on the Miami Dolphins. As we move forward, on down the road, we will have the opportunity to address that issue, but it is not one that is dominating our thoughts or time right now.
Will Tyrone Carter go in at strong safety and do you have enough bodies at safety?
Yes he will. We have Tyrone Carter and Anthony Smith has been stepping up for us at the free safety position. We brought Grant Mason up to the 53 (man roster) last week. He will have an opportunity to show what his work has been about, but it is football. Deshea (Townsend) is safety capable. He has position flexibility. We spent some time in training camp working him at that position. Actually we spent quite a bit of time for instances such as these. We understand that people get hurt in football. We have to be prepared to close ranks and march on and that is what we intend to do.
Is every team dangerous in the NFL or do they become dangerous by the way you treat them?
Every team in this league is a dangerous football team. This is the ultimate parity league and that is the reality of it. The playing field is very level at this level and in this game. We acknowledge and accept that, but that is what makes it fun. That is what makes it fun for me. You always have to feel wired. You always have to feel the urgency now. I love that part of this game. I meant what I said when I said that and this team we play this week is a dangerous team.
Do you adjust for the sloppy field?
You do, but I think every team does. It is part of playing football in December and January, when you play where we play. I'm sure the teams that visit us make the same adjustments. In regards to the field, as long as we deal with it better than our opponent, I love our field.
How will you handle the Thanksgiving holiday?
We are going to come to work and we are going to be thankful that we have an opportunity to do so.
How do you get Ben Roethlisberger to understand the difference between aggressiveness and carelessness?
There is a fine line, but we walk a bunch of fine lines. I think when you play this game at this level, you have to be willing to do that. There is always a fine line between being brilliant and being an idiot. That is life. We live in our hopes and not our fears. He understands that. We understand that. He knows he has to protect the football. At the same time, at times he has to lead us to victory. He does more times than he doesn't. We still search for perfection and seek it. I know he does and we will continue to do that.
How does play-calling affect your offense in the last five minutes?
You always open yourself up for criticism and evaluation when you are unsuccessful. We don't worry about that element of it. We focus on winning, because when you win you don't have those questions.
Was Thomas Jones running against your nickel?
I think he was equally as successful in both, to be honest with you. He did a nice job of running the football. We didn't do a good enough job of tackling. A big portion of what they did offensively was in multiple wide receiver sets, because like I said on Sunday after the game, they didn't have a fullback in a helmet or suited. They played with the people they had available to play with and most of the time that dictates how you play football. It was more about us tackling or lack of tackling and Thomas Jones doing a nice job of running than it was about what personnel we had on the field.
How do you improve tackling?
I don't hope it is a one game thing. I expect it to be a one game thing. There is a standard we have here, in terms of playing great defense. It is centered around first and foremost getting to the football and playing violently. We didn't do that. We pointed those instances out to our football team. We watched the tape and we expect those things to change. You ask how you prepare to do it the next time. We go out and practice and we run to the football. We come to balance on the runner. No, you don't get an opportunity to tackle during the week. Being a good tackling team is more about how you get to the football and your approach to the ball, as much as it is about how you bring the ball carriers down. We have sleds and things like that where guys can get extra work before and after practice and they have. That is probably what made us a good tackling team. We are not going to change anything we do, in terms of how we prepare. We just have to get back on the screws in that element of our game.
Is poor tackling a byproduct of poor focus?
It is a byproduct of a lot of things. Some of it has to do with Thomas Jones running the ball extremely well. We will not accept that. Regardless of who the ball carrier is we have to take him down?
Do you expect to see Ricky Williams Monday?
If he does, he does. If he doesn't, he does not. We have no control over that, so we don't worry about it. Whoever is carrying the ball for the Dolphins needs to be tackled.
How tough is it for a running back to miss two years?
I am sure it is extremely tough. This is not a participation sport, but he is not your normal individual, in terms of talent either. He probably has a better chance of doing it than most.
Does Ted Ginn, Jr. require the same consideration as Leon Washington did?
He needs to be respected. We will formulate the plan as the week unfolds. We know he is capable of ringing up the scoreboard. We will formulate the plan with those thoughts in mind.
As you win, how do you expect the team go in versus a bad team expecting to beat them?
Reputation and resume mean very little in this business. You have to walk in and be ready to show and prove on a week in and week out basis. That is the reality of this league. I don't worry about some of those things. I try to keep a small picture approach. That is, we have to put ourselves in a position to play well and we have to do it on a daily and weekly basis.
Did you decide to practice on Thanksgiving before or after the Jets game?
Before. We don't make emotional responses based on the outcome of football games.
How much responsibility is on coaches to make sure the team is ready to play?
I am responsible for everything that goes on with this football team. I am not going to come in here on a weekly basis and state that. I expect that to be a given. I hope everybody in here understands that. I am responsible for everything that goes on with this football team and I accept it and wear it like a badge of honor.
Will Cedrick Wilson replace Santonio?