Tomlin Press Conference

Mike Tomlin held his weekly Tuesday press conference. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say about the team's game against Cincinnati and it's upcoming meeting with New England.

MIKE TOMLIN, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Opening Statement: Good afternoon, a quick review of Sunday night's performance again, it was great for us to get a win. As you go back and look at the tape, of course, we weren't perfect, but the guys were resilient and found ways to win the game. It is pretty uncommon, I guess, when you lose a turnover battle the way we did in that football game, 4-1 and still get a victory. It speaks to the mettle of our defense. We put them out there in some tough situations and they responded. I like the direction we are moving in. In our kicking game, we gained a possession in that phase of our football team. I think play by play, we are rebuilding our credibility in that area and we have to continue to work and keep that moving in the direction that it is moving. But all in all, individually I thought some performances that stood out after watching the tape, I thought Deshea Townsend did a heck of a job inside playing some man to man against T.J. (Houshmandzadeh), who of course is a very good receiver, tops in the league. Our ability to get off in some of those situations, third downs and fourth downs because of the coverage that he provided in that one-on-one featured matchup, if you will in some situational segments of the game, some critical junctures of the game. Again, as a team, it is a good win and we will move forward.

A bright note is that we came out of the game relatively healthy. I'll give you a quick update on the status of some men. Marvel Smith potentially can play for us this week. We'll see how he performs. He is scheduled to participate in a limited basis in practice tomorrow. We'll see where he is, as is Santonio Holmes and Troy Polamalu. All of those guys are potentially capable of playing this weekend but it will be based on how they perform in practice and we will get a better gauge on where they are tomorrow as we go out and play a little football. Najeh Davenport needs to get some tests run to see where he is. He could be listed as questionable at this point. He was involved in the funeral services for Sean Taylor so he is on his way back now and we will get some tests run on him this afternoon to see where he is. His injury is described at this point as an inflammation of his right foot. We will have more information for you later and see where he is and move forward with him. But all in all, we are a healthy football team moving into this weekend. I am sure you know we need all hands on deck.

The New England Patriots are a very good football team, to say the least. Tom Brady is an awesome football player and he is playing extremely well. He doesn't need any endorsement from me. His stat lines tell the story. He has 41 touchdowns and five interceptions, completing over 70 percent of his passes. He is throwing the ball to a variety of people. Randy Moss has 17 touchdowns. Wes Welker as caught as many balls as just about anybody in football. Donte Stallworth can take the top off the coverage. He has vertical speed. I am familiar with him. He is a dangerous player in his own right and probably doesn't get as much recognition as he deserves because of some of the accolades of the other men. (Jabar) Gaffney is a legitimate receiving threat and Ben Watson at tight end. They have an array of backs. Needless to say, they have a full metal jacket of weapons, if you will, offensively. But the story of the new England Patriots is not just about what they do offensively, even thought that is very impressive. If you look at them defensively, they have first rounders across the front, (Vince) Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Ty Warren are very tough men to deal with. They are immovable forces at the point of attack. They share blocks. They make tackles. They allow guys like (Tedy) Bruschi and (Junior) Seau and (Mike) Vrabel to run around and make plays. (Adalius) Thomas is a great addition for them in the secondary, they have great spirit with Rodney Harrison, he is a great football player. Asante Samuel and what he is doing right now not only this year but over the course of the last couple of years makes them arguably one of the best in the world at what he does. He has a resume to back that up. Ellis Hobbs is a solid corner but a great return man as well. The New England Patriots are a very good football team. Like I always say, as we approach weekends and opportunities to play, it is less about who we are playing and what their accolades are and what they are doing and more about how we prepare from a schematic standpoint, how we prepare from an execution standpoint, technical standpoint and ultimately how we perform, as is the case this week. We acknowledge that when you are playing people that are very good, that your margin for error is very tight but so goes it in this business. We are excited about the opportunity to play, to seek our tenth win regardless of our opponent. It is a big game because it is the next game for us and we are excited about moving forward. I'll answer any questions.

As good as the Patriots are and as they've almost lost two games in a row, what have you learned from what the Eagles did and what the Ravens did last night on how to beat the Patriots?

I think the key statement there is that they almost lost two games in a row. They are a great team because they find ways to win critical games at critical times. The fact that they almost lost really is irrelevant. They find ways to win. They're a dominant team. They've got a bunch of weapons and when the rubber meets the road they've got guys that can deliver, like Tom Brady. The fact that people almost beat them doesn't mean anything. They're finding ways to win, we've got to be prepared to play at a high level and if we do that we have a chance to win.

What did those teams do to put New England on the ropes? Is there something that each team did that is the same?

I don't think they played them any differently than anyone else. I would imagine that New England is focused on their execution and quality of and the reason why those games were close is because maybe they felt like they fell short in executing in some areas. The reality is that all these games unfold differently, you prepare, you formulate a plan, you go out there, and you put your best foot forward and play. They've done that. They've been in some close games. It's great to learn from those experiences when you win. They've had an opportunity to do that. I'm sure those close games have allowed them to get to know themselves a little better and provide a focus as they move forward. That's how I look at it, but again, that's their experience and what they are going through this season to this point. Our focus is more oriented around our experiences that we've been through to this point and how we are going to use that to propel us into this weekend.

You have said in the past that you generally do not watch Monday Night Football, did you make an exception last night?

I did. I watched a little ball, but for professional reasons. I didn't have the tape in to look at from this weekend. So I figured I might as well watch it. I did.

Is it encouraging New England has shown vulnerability?

I'm not concerned about that. I'm not concerned about how other people performed against them. I wouldn't view the Patriots any differently had they last night or lost the week before or if they lost to Indianapolis. The reality is that they are a very good football team. The fact that they are undefeated is their story, not our story. Whether or not they had close calls again, is their story not our story. Our story is that we play them this weekend. We acknowledge the weapons that they have, we acknowledge that they have great schemes in all three phases, they're well coached and we have to be on our Ps and Qs to have a chance to be successful.

How do you control frustration by your players during the game over officiating?

That's not a concern of ours whatsoever. We coach the game, we play the game, we don't officiate the game. Those guys have a tough job to do. We assume that they are doing it to the best of their ability. We focus on the things that we can control. You have to be careful when you take that approach because that can be misconstrued as excuse making. The quality of our execution is going to determine the outcome of this game.

What about the communication between players and officials?

There is always communication between players and officials and I think that is what makes this game unique. You can't deny the humanistic element of this game. As long as the communication is professional and focused on playing the game cleaner, playing the game better, playing the game where you can execute at a higher level. That's the basis of communication. In terms of complaining and so forth, that doesn't get you anywhere. You've got to focus on the things we can control, which is our play.

What are you seeing from your secondary?

Ultimately, it boils down to keeping the ball in front of you. I think when you don't give up big plays you've got a chance to play defense at a high level. We've done that for the most part regardless of who we've had in the game. The guys are playing well together. They are communicating both pre-snap and post-snap. But again anytime you talk about excellence in the secondary it also involves men up front, applying pressure to the quarterback. It goes hand in hand and we've got a lot of guys in that phase of our football team playing at a high level.

You mentioned Brady's numbers and spreading the ball around, how do you deal with the challenges that it presents defensively in New England's run game?

New England can attack you however they choose to attack you. If they want to run the football they can do that, they are capable of that. They picked up Kyle Brady, at tight end, who is as good an inline blocking tight end as you'll find. How they choose to attack you is their choice. They are capable of running the football and pounding you, they are capable of spreading you out, the vertical passing game, the quick passing game. We've got to be prepared for all of that and that's just the reality of it. That's the reality when you play good people, when you play good offenses. And it is a challenge that we look forward to getting ready for this week.

Is it proper etiquette, is it ever done in coaching circles, that you would contact a coach that you might have a relationship with, to ask them what they did versus an opponent?

You talk to friends and people that you have relationships with, but more than anything, those are personal calls. We are all professional. There's not much sharing trade secrets. I'm sure Coach (Tony) Dungy views us and New England and people he's got to deal with at some point. So he probably doesn't care who wins. That's just the nature of this game. All the answers to our issues are in this building and we've got to work together to formulate a plan that will make us successful.

Is Moss that much better than most receivers that he would require special attention, more so than anyone else?

Yes.

I know you can't reveal the gameplan, but how do you deal with him when they do have so much balance in other weapons?

We are going play our game. We don't let people dictate to us how we play defense. But we've got to play our game and play it well. We acknowledge that. This week is not unlike any other week. If we play at a high level we've got a chance to win, if we play poorly we've got a chance to lose.

Can you do anything versus New England that worked versus Cincinnati?

We've better be prepared to be quite honest with you, to do a lot of things. They're so good you can't do one thing and do it well and be successful over an extended period of time. They are going to find ways to neutralize what it is you throw at them. So you better have multiple things to throw at them and that's what we're doing right now. Thankfully we've got a great deal of continuity defensively. And so the guys will be able to handle a menu such as that, but it's going to boil down to how we play at critical junctions of the game, our ability to get off the field and play physical.

Some people have called Bill Belichick a genius, what are your thoughts on what he's done, his impact on that program and how you feel personally about coaching against him on Sunday?

About Coach Belichick, he doesn't need any endorsement from me. He's hoisted the Lombardi three times. That's the measuring stick of a lot of programs in this league and rightfully so. They've been very dominant. In terms of playing them this week, again I'm less concerned about who's on the other sideline. They can be nameless grey faces if you will, as far as I'm concerned. Our issue is, has been and always will be what we do. That's always the approach that I take.

Can you talk about your defense after the first series versus Cincinnati?

Like a lot a times and the things that you are hopeful for is that they play better as the game wears on and that's something that our defense has done and needs to continue to do. As you get looks, you get into the flow of the game, you get comfortable with some of the things that the offense is presenting and you should be able to and capable of executing at a high level. And I thought that was the case with our defense. As the game wore on they got better, they communicated better, they had an understanding of what we were trying to package and present to them and how to execute it. You go into a game with a game plan and once the game begins to unfold, the game plan itself shrinks. What's working, what's not, what do you throw out, what do you highlight, what do you call, more often do you call other things and that's been the case with our defense. As the game plan shrinks during the course of the game as it unfolds and we start to rep some things out and the plan starts to display itself, guys get a level of comfort with that, they play well.

John Madden talked about how the rubber sleeves get slick and may have caused Willie Parker to fumble?

I've heard that theory, but commentators need something to talk about throughout the course of the football game. The reality is that with that being excuse making, we aren't going to make them. We have to hold on to the ball. Willie has to hold on to the ball. Ball security is a big part of our program, in terms of how we try to win football games, with time of possession being one of them. You jeopardize those things; time of possession and field position when you don't hold on to the football, even if you do have a great defense, one that is capable of getting you out of tough spots. That standard is not going to change. You have to hold on to the football.

Would you discourage him from wearing those?

No. Willie (Parker) is a professional and I trust that he will do what is required for him to be successful. I will ask him to hold on to the football in the future.

Why does he wear those?

You would have to ask him. Those guys have a variety of supplemental equipment they use. Sometimes they feel like they need it. Sometimes it's a fashion statement. I was the same way when I was a young guy trying to play football.

Why hasn't Willie Parker been effective the last three weeks?

It has been a variety of things. I think people have played us well. Weather conditions have been a part of it. It has been a variety of things. We have been able to control the time of possession by running the football. Yes, we haven't had the splash plays; the 30-yard runs and the 40-yard runs in bunches like we were having earlier in the year that makes that average different. The way he is running the ball isn't much different than the way he was running the ball or we were running the ball during the early part of the year. It is just that we haven't had the breakout runs like we had earlier in the year. That can be attributed to people doing a nice job in the secondary and making sure that a breakout run is an eight-yard run as opposed to a 28-yard run. It could be attributed to the weather conditions and the footing. That is really irrelevant. The thing we have to do is continue to run the ball. We have to continue to control the ball and the time of possession and hopefully along the line get some breakout runs that will provide splash plays for us and change field position, because you know it is easier to ring the scoreboard up when you are getting yards in chucks, as oppose to when you have to operate over a 14 or 15 play drive.

How good did Ben Roethlisberger do with protection last week?

He did a nice job. He really did. This guy has a desire to be great. He wants to bet the field general, if you will, and understand the ins and outs and direct traffic. He has done that. Not only this week, but as we move forward into December football and hopefully January football, those things are critical. We are going to continue to hack away at it, he's a big part of that.

What is the psychology of going into a game as an underdog?

That is probably some of the games Hines (Ward) likes to play with himself to get himself ready to play. Most guys do that. Hines is better than most. Hines has a ‘me against the world' mentality. Hines still believes that a lot of people doubt his ability and that is the driving force for him. The reality is that they are a very good team and we think we are capable of being a very good team. This is not an Appalachian State at Michigan football game we are going into this weekend. They are good and we have to play well to have a chance to win. If we don't, we are probably going to lose.

Has the game plan at safety changed with Tyrone Carter playing in place of Troy Polamalu?

No. That is actually the great thing. That is part of having a team where 53 men are capable of being playmakers. Our approach to how we play defense hasn't changed one bit whatsoever when people go down. To me, that is the measuring stick of quality depth. You have to be able to stick to the plan and execute your defense; execute your offenses and be able to execute your special teams plays, regardless of who's in there. That speaks of the quality depth we have. Tyrone Carter has been a guy that we were able to plug in and not change very much. We did the same thing with Max Starks. We've done the same thing at wide receiver. It has been a good thing. Ty is playing well.

How and when did Najeh Davenport get hurt?

He's been getting some extra work, while trying to control his weight as the season wears on. To my knowledge, at this point, it might be a product of getting to much time on the elliptical cycle. Be careful as you get your workout in. The elliptical cycle will get you.

Why have you struggled so much on the road this season?

Everything is a learning experience; when you win, when you lose, whether it's at home or whether it's on the road, if you are a professional and I think we are. It is tough to try to frame it and pinpoint the reasons why. The reality is people like to play at home, because it is easier to play at home. We have to find ways to win close games, operate at critical junctures in a less than ideal environment, which is what you get when you're on the road. The only thing we can do is go out and prepare and get ready to play to the best of our ability. We opened up to Cleveland on the road and it was a non issue. We played at Cincinnati and it was a non issue. We'll see how it unfolds. I respect that element of it and I think we do understand that your senses get hyped a little bit. We expect it to be a hostile environment, which is great. When you have a desire to be great you have to play against good people. You have find ways to win and you have to find ways to win at their place. It will be a great measuring stick for us.

Do you get a sense that the NFL will be watching to see if you can beat them?

I am not concerned with their quest to go undefeated. I am concerned about it this week because we play them. I wouldn't have viewed this team any different as we prepare to play them had they lost last night. They are a good football team. We are trying to get our 10th win. That is their story. It is not ours. We are focused on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Is this more fun for you?

It is awesome. I get the feeling I used to get when we used to prepare for the Rams when they were "the Greatest Show on Turf" or when we had to prepare for Minnesota when I first broke in and they had Cris Carter and Randy Moss. You love those games. If you are a competitor you do. I believe we have a bunch of competitors here.

What has New England's offensive line done well?

They do offensively what we have talked about in here quite a bit. The protection of Tom Brady is an 11-man job. They do a nice job of protecting him. He does a nice job of deciphering what it is you're doing and defensively and getting the ball out of his hands. The receivers do a nice job of winning and winning quickly at the line of scrimmage, Wes Welker being one of those guys that finds ways inside and underneath to beat people. When you pressure him he knows where to go with the ball. He has guys that are capable of winning on the perimeter. The offensive line does a nice job of picking pressure up. But again, the protection of him, and he has only been sacked 16 times this year. We have probably been sacked 16 times this month. It's football. We will see what happens when we walk into the stadium this weekend, but they do a nice job as an offensive unit and protecting the quarterback.

Did Philadelphia and Baltimore fluster New England with coverage?

I wouldn't necessarily say they got flustered. At critical times they have found ways to keep him clean and march down the field and win football games.

Do you need to prevent Tom Brady from stepping up in the pocket?

They formulated a plan and they had a level of success with it, but not enough to win. We will formulate our plan. We will use some things people have done in the past potentially to formulate our plan, but ultimately, it has to be us and we will move forward and see what happens this weekend. I think the critical thing is that people have put together good plans to beat this team and they have found ways to get problems corrected, circle the wagons and win games at critical times. I'm sure Indianapolis felt good about their plan. I'm sure Philadelphia felt good about their plan. I'm sure Baltimore felt good about their plan. In all three instances, New England found a way to circle the wagons and operate at critical junctures and a lot of it has to do with the guy that plays quarterback for them, and they win football games.


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