Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference Tuesday. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say about the team's disaster in Philadelphia and its upcoming game against Baltimore:
Opening statement: Some 48 hours after Sunday's performance, my perception of it hasn't changed. It was below the line in some critical areas, particularly the protection of our quarterback, and it produced a loss for us. One of the things I did fail to mention after the game, there were some positive things. Our defensive performance was excellent. I thought our kickers performed very well, Mitch Berger and Jeff Reed. Of course Jeff Reed's been extremely consistent. But collectively as a football team, it was not good enough to win. We've got some work to do this week. What better motivation to have than to play a division opponent like the Ravens on Monday night football in front of your home crowd to do that.
Let's talk about the Ravens here for a moment. They're a 2-0 football team, a very solid football team. They're 2-0 for a lot of reasons. Their defense is obvious. They've run the ball 90 times in two games, 45 carries per ball game. They're dominating the time of possession, 37 minutes to 23 minutes of football game. They're known what they've got on defense and they're solid on all levels; Trevor Pryce and (Haolti) Ngata up front; (Terrell) Suggs, of course, is a dangerous and dynamic player at linebacker; the man in the middle is still the man in the middle, Ray Lewis; Bart Scott is very good. Chris McAlister is playing at a high level. He's got two picks. Ed Reed picked one off and ran it back this past week. Offensively, I mentioned the 90 carries. They hand it off to whoever is back there, (Le'Ron) McClain, they've got (Willis) McGahee back, we all know what he's capable of. They've got a rookie, Ray Rice, who's doing a nice job of running the football for them. (Joe) Flacco is managing the game. He's doing what they ask him to do. When he's throwing it, he's throwing it to the right people. He's throwing it to Derrick Mason, who's a veteran player who's capable of moving the chains and dominating a football game, and he's also throwing it to Todd Heap, who's a very good tight end that we're all aware of. In the special teams game, they're rock-solid. They've got a veteran kicker. Their punter, (Sam) Koch, is doing an awesome job, another reason they're 2-0. This guy is averaging 48 yards a kick, 44-yard net. When you dominate the time of possession, you've got a punter that's punting like this, and you've got the No. 1 defense in football, chances are you've got a chance of being undefeated, which they are. We've got a lot to motivate us this week. We've got a lot in front of us and work that we need to do. Hopefully, I'm sure that we will be motivated tomorrow when we start that process.
Part of us doing that is for me to address some injury situations and we do have some. Casey Hampton has a groin strain, he'll be week to week and out this week. Brett Keisel is still week to week with a calf strain, he'll be out this week. Willie Parker has a sprained left knee, he'll be out this week. Donovan Woods has a hamstring injury, he's still characterized as week to week, he'll be out this week. We've got some other bumps and bruises that may limit players early in the week, but other than those people, we're a healthy football team.
When did Willie get hurt?
Toward the end of the football game. He came out and we knew that he was uncomfortable, but we didn't get the information until yesterday when we were able to run some tests.
That's why (Rashard) Mendenhall played?
Yes, at the end of the game.
Did you say he's week-to-week?
Yes. But this week, he can be characterized as out.
But you're not saying he could miss the next game yet?
Not, I'm not ready to say that yet.
Is Rashard ready?
Ready or not. No, Rashard is ready. He's a talented guy. He's been practicing well and he gets his opportunity. That's what team football is about. You look at a lot of his peers around the league and they've been getting opportunities, partly because they don't have Willie Parker playing in front of them. He gets his opportunity. I'm sure he's excited about it. I know our team is excited to see what he's capable of doing. What better way to start than on Monday night football playing against the Baltimore Ravens.
Why did he not get any carries the last two games?
It was purely situational. The other night, we had trouble getting any rhythm offensively at all. I think Willie only had 12, 13 carries himself. That's just how the game unfolded.
Do you expect Rashard to get all of the carries or will you mix in Mewelde Moore a little more?
He will be the primary ballcarrier.
Parker has struggled running against them, a lot of teams do. Why are they so effective against the run?
It's all the people, really. They have very few holes defensively. Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Suggs, Ngata, Trevor Pryce, (Jarrett) Johnson, those are the reasons people have a tough time running the football against them. And it's not only because they're quality players, but they've got a great deal of continuity. Those guys have been playing together for quite a while.
How limited will Ben (Roethlisberger) be in practice this week if at all?
At this point, I don't think he's going to be limited at all. We'll see how he feels coming in tomorrow. Of course he's got some bumps and bruises, but we don't think at this point that it will limit him in terms of practice tomorrow.
Could he have gone back into that game?
I don't think so. We just wanted to run some tests to make sure that he was fine. I think the process of running those tests would have made it difficult to come back into the football game.
Who has the ultimate authority at the line of scrimmage to recognize where the pressure is coming from and adjust the blocking schemes?
It's really multiple responsibilities. The center identifies who we determine is the mike linebacker and a lot of the protections spin off of that. Who's hot, who generates the hot, then quarterback identifies along with the wide receivers, who will be the guys who break off patterns as hot. Every protection is different, every defensive front is different. The center identifies what we determine who we feel is the mike. The quarterback and receivers identify who we determine is the hot. The backs have to identify who we pick up. It's a collection of people doing their specific job that generates that.
Can a quarterback be the final say if he recognizes something right before the play? Can he change everything with one or two calls?
Absolutely. But a lot of times the potential for that is limited by the play clock.
Is it fair to say that Ben had a rough day recognizing that?
It's fair to say we had a rough day.
After looking at the tape, is it more of a matter of personnel getting beat one-on-one? Is it a matter of not recognizing what the Eagles were doing? Did the coaching staff put the players in position to avert some of that?
The reality is, when we have a performance like that, it's all of the above. As coaches, we could have done a better job of adjusting and putting these guys in a position to be successful. We could have done a better job of identifying on all levels, wide receivers, running backs, offensive line and quarterback. We could have done a better hob of physically blocking them. Football is not without its ups and downs, particularly in the course of a season. One of the things that's important as we move forward is that we accept responsibility for the tape that we put out there. We put that tape out there Sunday night and there are repercussions of that. We've got to make the corrections, we've got to accept responsibility for what we did collectively. I think we'll do that. That's as critical a part of moving forward as anything else. And that's were we are right now. Sitting around talking about it doesn't solve the issues. We've got to meet, we've got to practice and ultimately, we've got to go out and perform. Our next opportunity is Monday night and that's where our focus is at this point.
Did anybody grab Gary Russell and will you re-sign him?
They did not and at this point, he's back on our practice squad.
Did they show you something differently in the pass rush?
Not anything different if you studied them this season, the preseason and last year. It's still early in the season, so there were some things that they ran against us that they hadn't run in the first two ball games. But it was not uncharacteristic of a Jimmy Johnson defense.
Who will back up Chris Hoke?
You're not going to think of signing somebody, (Scott) Paxson?
At this point, no. Those things are possibilities as we move forward in the week, but at this point, Chris will be backed up by Travis.
Last year, when Aaron (Smith) got hurt, you struggled against the run. Now, he's healthy, but you've got two other guys out. Are you worried or is it a different replacement?
For us, we acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game. The standard of expectation won't change for us. It's an opportunity for some people to step up. Brett Keisel got hurt and didn't play last week, Orpheus Roye stepped up and did a good job. As a matter of fact, him hustling caused the first turnover of the game. That's where we are. in regards to that. Anything else is not good, winning football. We expect those guys to step up and deliver for us and we know that they will.
How easy is it to replicate what Philadelphia did against you for other teams?
That's probably not a question for me to answer. That's probably a question for Baltimore to answer. They are capable of getting after you much like Philly. It's probably easier for them than another team based on their defensive makeup. We expect the Baltimore Ravens to be the Baltimore Ravens. They don't have to be the Philadelphia Eagles. They're good enough in their own right. They're the No. 1 defense in football. People are averaging 160 yards of total offense against them, 23 minutes of possession. The work they've put in so far dictates that they're pretty good. They don't have to worry about being the Philadelphia Eagles. You look at the quarterbacks that have played against them, their quarterback rating for the season is 26. We've got a tall order playing the Baltimore Ravens. Forget about playing the Philadelphia Eagles from that standpoint.
Does Rashard catch the ball better than Willie Parker?
He catches the ball well. I'm not ready to say what he is in comparison to Willie. Willie has a more complete body of work, wouldn't you agree?
Who's his backup?
It will be Mewelde and Carey Davis. We have some options there.
When you said the coaches could have done a better job of adjusting, what could you have done?
Preferably not get sacked as much. We need to make adjustment. We do make adjustments. The quality of which they are executed ultimately measures us. When I say we could have done a better job, that's what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the end result. It's obvious the adjustments we made were not sufficient. They continued to sack us and we did not win the football game.
When you expect more of the same because of what you showed, do you change what you do and how you do it or just try to improve what you've been doing?
Ultimately, you need to improve the quality of work. The way that you do that, there's a reduction in what you do to make sure that everybody is sharp and on the same page. There is going to be a little bit of that. From a long-term standpoint, that's not the answer, because you do need to be multiple to have long-term success in this thing. Ultimately, you reduce, you sharpen and you get everybody on the same page and you continue to march.
Did Philadelphia take away the screens, draws and three-step drops?
We did run a draw or two. We executed a couple of screens, not very successfully. Ultimately, that's the case. If you're not successful, you're not successful. We called a wide receiver screen on third down and six and they did a nice job defending it. Ben had to run the football. We called another screen and Ben lost the football and had to throw it over there late. It happens. All in all, it was a sub-standard performance, there's no way around that. We make no excuses for it. We accept it. We're ready to move on.
Will you make any changes on the offensive line this week?
Is Deshea (Townsend) back this week?
He's scheduled to run tomorrow. That doesn't mean he's scheduled to practice. He's going to begin the process and we'll begin to evaluate where he is in regards to the game as we move on in the week.
Is Willie's injury an MCL?
It's a knee sprain.
Were there plays there to be made or was there no time to consider that?
Absolutely there were plays to be made. At the same time, you don't want to take away from what they did defensively. They did a nice job. I talked last week about their acquisition of Asante Samuel and what he gave them from a corner standpoint, a veteran presence from at corner to back what they do from a blitz standpoint. They executed it better than we did, so you've got to give them credit. Potentially, absolutely there were plays there, but we didn't capitalize on them.
What did you think of Flacco coming out of school?
I thought he was worthy of where they took him. He appeared to be one of the best in the draft and that was obvious. He's confirmed that to this point because he's the quarterback of a 2-0 football team.
Skill set-wise what do you like about him?
He's big, he's got a strong arm. He can put the ball into tight places. He plays, basically, mistake-free football. He did at Delaware. He has so far. He's 2-0.
Should you be able to make it tough on a rookie quarterback with the things you do?
I'm not going to make any Joey Porter comments in regards to that. They're a good football team. They're dominating the time of possession. They've run the ball 90 times in two football games. We've run the ball 89 times in three football games and we run the ball more than most. So that let's you know how they're playing, 37 minutes a football game. They're a tough team to beat and they're playing to their strengths and doing a nice job of it.
Do you think Casey's injury related to the shape he reported in?
I do not, no.
What type of relationship do you have with (John) Harbaugh?
We've known each other socially in coaching circles for a long time. We both have a University of Cincinnati background. John is a very good football coach. The great thing about it and they're off to a good start because it mirrors his personality from a football standpoint. They're rock-solid in special teams. They're playing to their strengths and they're winning.
Do you expect your next couple of opponents to blitz even more than usual until you show you can stop it?
I truly believe that Baltimore is going to be Baltimore. They play great defense down there for a long time. A lot of the key components are the same, including the coaching staff, with coach (Rex) Ryan leading the charge. In terms of what lies ahead after the Ravens, I could care less. It's all eyes right now here on Monday night.
Are you surprised at all by what the Ravens have done and were they overlooked in the division?
Again, I don't worry about overall perception. No, what they're doing is not surprising to me. They've got great defensive personnel. They're solid in the kicking game. They've got a stable of backs. They're big up front on the offensive line. They're playing their football and they're 2-0 because of it.
Bryant (McFadden) had another week of making plays, can you talk about his play?
When you mentioned injuries earlier and people having to step up, that's what I was talking about. Bryant has had an opportunity to step up because of the injury to Deshea and, quite honestly, he's answered the bell. The standard of expectation has been met. He's played great football for us, not that we're surprised by that.
Is there a concern about the cumulative effects of Ben getting hit so much that it will make him skittish in the pocket?
There's a concern about the cumulative effect of getting hit. I'm not willing to use the terms skittish.
re: being at home Monday night against Baltimore?
We look forward to playing in front our fans on Monday night, especially after what happened to us on the road versus a good football team last week. We're going to need our fans to be at their best. We know they will be. We'd better be ready to deliver for them.
Does it make it more difficult to pass protect on the road with the crowd screaming?
Absolutely it does. But by no means is that an excuse for the performance that we had on Sunday.
Is it possible you could put Russell back on the active roster?
It is a possibility, yes.
How did Patrick Bailey do on special teams?
I thought he did a nice job. He was a four-phase guy and was active in all four phases. He showed the personality that we expected from him, he was high-energy and was where he was supposed to be.
This has been more of a home-away rivalry, can the defense kind of feed off of the home crowd's energy?
Hopefully it's something we can capitalize on. I'm not ready to speak to the rivalry being home and away and things of that nature. We just need to focus on what we need to do Monday night in this one being an important one. They're 2-0, leading the division and we've got a home game. We're excited about that. Hopefully, our defense does feed off of the home crowd. I'm sure they will.
Is there a big drop-off from Casey to Chris Hoke?
Chris Hoke is not Casey, but we don't anticipate a drop-off in terms of production. We expect him to go in and perform at a winning level and we know that he will.
How much has Travis played nose tackle?
In the past he's played some. He has position flexibility. We mentioned Bryant McFadden before, but I thought Travis Kirschke came in really did a nice job of starting in place of Brett Keisel. He'll potentially get some nose work again this week. We'll see how that goes.