Mike Tomlin held his press conference on Tuesday to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. Here's what the head coach of the Steelers had to say:
Opening statement: We're excited about taking the next step in our team development, which of course is in Toronto versus the Buffalo Bills. Our goals this week are very similar to our goals last week. We want to be a tough team to beat. Part of being a tough team to beat is not beating ourselves. We're really focused on the things that are not talent oriented. They're more cohesion oriented and technique oriented. We're going to focus on our technique, communication and playing within the rules. I didn't think we were highly penalized the last time out, but a lot of our penalties were technical in nature. It was a good sign that we didn't have pre-snap and post-snap penalties. Those things are, of course, make you easy to beat. But we did have some technical issues that we need to clean up. We're looking for perfection from an assignment standpoint and really focusing on the things that require no talent. Buffalo is a good team. They have a great running back. They've got some talented receivers. They've got a hot young quarterback. Defensively, they've got a front four that are relentless in their pursuit of the football and the quarterback. They've got some special teams people that are dynamic return man, Roscoe Parrish and (Terrance) McGee. It's just what the doctor ordered. It's a challenge I hope that we're up to and look forward to meeting as we go to Toronto.
Quickly on the injury front, we have some men that won't be participating, most of which you know. Charlie Batch is recovering from his surgery. Kyle Clement will not play with a right knee sprain. Mike Humpal will not play; he's still experiencing the effects of a stinger. Ryan Mundy will not play with a high ankle sprain. Troy (Polamalu) will not play with a hamstring. (Daniel) Sepulveda is recovering from his surgery. And we're going to hold Deshea Townsend, who's experiencing a sore groin that he's dealt with for a week or so. We feel that we need to deal with a little short-term misery and put that behind us. Any questions?
Was there anybody who stood out to you in the last game?
More than anything, I was pleased with the start. I'm always cautious about making snap judgments at this point. I like the way we played from a speed of the game standpoint. I thought the guys played with some great energy. I thought some young guys stepped up, particularly on special teams. It was a good start, but that's all that it is. We'll know more as we proceed and Thursday night is going to be a big part of it.
What are your plans for the quarterbacks?
Ben (Roethlisberger) is going to play with the first unit. We're going to play them a little more than we played in the last game. Byron (Leftwich) is scheduled to play and Dennis (Dixon) is scheduled to play. If we have enough snaps, we'll play (Mike) Potts, but that is kind of up in the air and we'll see how things unfold.
How is the competition on the line playing out and when do you think you'll have a starting five?
It's running its course. Justin Hartwig is going to get an opportunity to start and play with the first group at center this week. We had scheduled him to do that. He experienced some knee discomfort. He came back and played with really no limitations yesterday, so it will be a big game for him. Of course Sean (Mahan) is going to play with the second group. We're going to continue to sort those things out and hopefully the answers become clearer to us because they will. That's what we're going into the game looking at, the quality of the play, the cohesion of the unit. The sooner we get the starting five together, the better.
Would you like to be able to make that decision after seeing Hartwig with the first team or are you content to let that go?
I'd like to have it solved yesterday, but you don't always get what you want. I think when we have clarity and certainty in what's best for this football team then we'll make the decision.
What were your impressions of Rashard Mendenhall and what would you like to see him do better?
I thought he was very productive. I thought he showed flashes of his pedigree his first time out. Every step he takes is a learning experience like all of the guys. I look for him to be better in this game and I think that he will. We focused on things like what he does when the ball is not in his hands and ball security. He's embraced those opportunities and we've heaped more on him.
What will you do with your return guys and will you give Santonio (Holmes) a shot?
We won't give Santonio a shot in this game. We'll have a similar rotation to what we had the last time, but we'll swap some people out. Willie Reid will an opportunity to return a punt or two. Eddie Drummond will get an opportunity to return a kick or two. It was flip-flopped the first week. We're still looking at Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall, Mewelde as a punt returner, Rashard as a kick returner. Of course Jeremy Bloom will get an opportunity at both, depending on how many snaps we get. Hopefully we don't get that many opportunities at kickoff return.
Will Willie Parker get more playing time this week or are you still trying to get Mendenhall as much work as possible?
He will. He'll get more looks this week as will everybody on our first units, offensively and defensively.
You made a point last year of emphasizing that sacks aren't just the fault of the offensive line, everybody is involved. What are you doing to rectify that?
That is my opinion and that will always be my opinion. Protection of a quarterback is a unit thing from pass protection with the offensive line, blitz pickup with the running backs, sight adjustments with the receivers and quarterback being on the same page. It's just the evolution of all the men in our offense. There's a maturation process. I think that's what we're going through. We're going to better in year two than we were in year one. We better be because protection of our quarterback is critical to us being successful. I think we're taking steps in the right direction in that regard. I've been pleased with the pocket for the most part here in training camp, particularly on our play-action passes as I've stated several times. It's going to need some clarity. Decisions have to be made quicker because familiarity has increased. That's our intentions. That's what we're working toward.
How did Roy Lewis look at safety?
I think more than anything, what he's done is cast a bigger net. He's shown that he's capable of doing multiple things and bettering his chances of being a part of this thing. He's very deliberate for a guy who's moving from corner to safety. He didn't shy away from any contact. I thought he played the game very physical. He took advantage of an opportunity that wasn't expected by me or by him. That's always a good sign. But there's a long way to go and guys like him fight uphill battles. How he handles the emotional roller coaster will ultimately determines if he makes it.
What are your thoughts on playing an international game?
Truth be known, really none. I don't care where we play. I'm going to get off the plane, go to the hotel, leave the hotel and play. Then I'll get on the plane and get out. That's just me. Hopefully the guys enjoy it. Hopefully we provide some entertainment to the people Toronto, but game location is kind of irrelevant to me.
How has the coaching staff reacted to some of Anthony Smith's hits here in camp?
We want to practice with great practice etiquette. I think that is important. Sometimes the reactions to some of those things is overblown. He's very sensitive to it and our guys are very sensitive to it. At one point he was referred to as a thug and his actions thuggery. We take offense to that. These are young professional people that are very good at what they do. They're sensitive to how they are portrayed in a public light. I was offended by that reference in reference to him. He's not a thug. He's a young professional football player who's trying to be his best who happens to play very physically.
Was that something in print you saw?
How do you handle that with your guys?
We talk about it and we understand the perception is not all the time reality. This is what we do and not who we are. We try to keep the lines clear in that regard, but sometimes things are said or written that are hurtful and he was hurt by that.
(Tyrone) Carter had a knockdown of Parker yesterday. Is that just one of those things that happens?
It's football. That's why we wear helmets and shoulder pads.
You weren't wearing them yesterday, though?
Yes we were in that instance. That was in the afternoon. We always wear helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon.
That was in a non-contact drill in the morning.
That was contact. We were suited. It was 11-on-11, run emphasis.
How did Bruce Davis do and what kind of things do you expect from him from the first game to the second game?
He was active, not to be confused with productive. He's a young guy with a lot of energy. He's got a desire to be great. He's playing catch-up. He's got to catch up in a hurry this week. I'm pleased with his approach to getting after it, but we need to see some results.
How has Larry Foote responded to being pushed by (Lawrence) Timmons?
These guys are competitors. He's responded the way I expected him to, which is to punch the clock and get after it and try to get after it and give us an honest day's work, which he's done. There are very little complaints from him, if any. They understand the nature of this thing and this competition and I think he's embraced that.
How has Anthony progressed as a defensive back in his third year?
I'd like to think he's moving in the right direction, but Thursday night will be telling, truth be known. He's missed quite a bit of time with his injury. It's tough to evaluate him from a consistency standpoint because he hasn't had a lot of opportunities in training camp. We intend to rep him out quite a bit on Thursday night and hopefully he shows growth. I know from a day-to-day standpoint, how he approaches his business has been improved, but ultimately, it's based on what you do between the white lines.
Did you have a problem with him hitting Hines (Ward) last week?
Absolutely. We desire to be professional and practice with great professional etiquette. We fall short of that sometimes. That happens. This is a physical and emotional game played by those kind of people, but it doesn't necessarily make him a thug.
Will he get a look at strong safety?
Yes. We intend on playing him at both safety positions Thursday night. That's what he's practiced at since he's been here. He's shown the ability to play both strong and free.
What are your thoughts of this year's camp now that there's only a week left?
I think it's been very productive, but ultimately camps are measured by how you perform over the long haul of a football season. I'll get a better feel for how this camp was months from now, like I was able to evaluate last year's camp in hindsight. That's always going to be the case. It's not necessarily the feelings that I have right now. It's about the production that a camp produces.
Will (Mitch) Berger do all of the punting?
We're going to set up a rotation between those guys. We're going to punt those guys for the next three weeks and pit one versus the other and see who comes out on top. It is our intent to punt both of those guys in all three of these remaining games.
Will the holding be the same way?
That's up for discussion. A lot of that has to do with Jeff (Reed) and his comfort, of course. We're still in the process of sorting that out.