Mike Tomlin met with the media Tuesday afternoon. Here is what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say about the team's injury situation heading into its bye week.
Opening Statement: Good afternoon. Making pretty good use of the bye week as an opportunity to get out there and get a little bit of work done particularly with some young guys and the opportunity for a lot of guys to get healthy. We have a laundry list of guys who did not practice for one reason or another. Dallas Baker, his shoulder. Keyaron Fox, his hamstring. Santonio Holmes has some soreness in the rib area. Jeff Reed, although he is a lot better, does have a calf strain. Ben (Roethlisberger) just needs a day or two. Marvel Smith has a groin strain. Hines Ward, he gets a day off for being Hines. LaMarr Woodley and Carey Davis continue to get better as with Nick Eason and (Casey) Hampton. Deshea Townsend is resting his heel. Troy Polamalu, his quad. James Farrior is in the Hines Ward category. Some guys with limited participation included Willie Parker; he is marching back and got a little work done at the running back spot. Chris Hoke participated some, as did Aaron Smith. Travis Kirschke and Bryant McFadden, those guys of course took a bunch of reps so we just wanted to rest those guys up a bit. It was great to get Brett Keisel back today as a full participant. I guess that is the only legitimate news on the injury front. I'll answer any questions.
What was Reed's status at the end of the game?
He was willing to kick. I don't know how far and thankfully we didn't have to find out. Mitch Berger kicked off quite a bit. Over 12 years of his career he was the kick-off man. We were in the situation where we were going to go for two so it never unfolded. He had a kick in him if we needed it. The outer limits of his range remain to be a question.
Do you think he will be ready for Cincinnati after the bye?
It is exactly what he needs. He is going to be fine I think.
When did he get hurt?
Some point in the first half of the football game.
Did he do it when he made the tackle?
He kicked off for the second half and it was deep.
He did. It was a touchback.
Would there be a possibility of having him handle kicks and having somebody else kick off?
Yes. We will take a look at how he looks at the beginning of next week and then make a determination of what direction we will go in regards to that. (Mitch) Berger is capable. He did it for 12 years in the league, but it is premature at this point. We are just going to let him rest up and see what he looks like at the top of next week.
Do you think your guys will be ready for the Cincinnati game?
Don't know at this point. It is encouraged because we have an opportunity to get well, which is good. I know that no one is playing for us this weekend and I like that.
Well Starks is our third tackle and that has been obvious. Essex had an opportunity to dress because we were down a man with Kendall (Simmons). Due to the game circumstances and the situation we were in from a match up standpoint, we thought that Essex had the tools to fight that battle. They had Quentin Groves over there an edge rusher, speed guy kind of undersized. We thought that Essex gave us a legitimate matchup and we were in the situation that we were going to throw the ball a bunch. They knew it and we had to go the length of the field. That is why we went in that direction.
Can you talk about the guys who had to step up?
They have done what they were called to do and I think that is just the standard that this football team has; not to underscore it by any stretch. The guys have stepped up and delivered for us in a big way. That is what is required because we desire to play winning football week in and week out. We acknowledge that injuries are a part of this thing and we are like every other team in this league. I made a point to the men when we met; I went over all of the inactive lists from all 32 teams from this past weekend just to make a point to them that every team in the National Football League is experiencing injuries; people have to step up and play. The teams that are the good teams, they find a way; there are many ways to stand up and deliver. Those guys did a nice job and they will be called on to do it again; some guys that haven't probably will be. That is the nature of this thing.
Does your probability of reaching expectation change?
We don't live in that probability world. There is just one standard that is black-and-white; it is winning football and that is what we desire and work to do. We wouldn't hand the ball to Najeh (Davenport) if we didn't think that he could get us a first down. That particular play he ran, he ran five times and was five-for-five a year ago. He delivered for us again.
You threw some guys out on coverage and they did well too.
They did but some usual suspects also carried the torch in that regard. Anthony Madison I think had three or four tackles; Keyaron Fox, before he got hurt, was very active; not only on coverage units but also with some outstanding blocks in the return game. We are starting to get some continuity in that phase of the game and I think that it is showing up; I think that is why the performance has been consistent. Some guys that we have asked to step in have done a nice job. We have surrounded them with some consistent performers on that phase of our team.
Would you choose to play this weekend – are you glad you have off?
The great thing about that is that I don't; I don't have too. You know that I don't speculate. They make the schedule and we play it. We have no control over when we play and we have no control over when we don't play. It just so happens that this thing has come at an opportune time for us. If it wasn't this weekend then we would find a way to muster it up and play; that is just the nature of this thing.
Can you put into perspective where this team is right now?
It is really quite simple – we are 4-1. We have had four winning performances and one where we came up short. Thankfully we are 4-0 versus AFC teams; of course that is significant. We are not trying to tell a story or over-evaluate at this point; we like to live in a tunnel and keep it black-and-white. We have an off-week and we are sitting at 4-1; we have a division opponent waiting for us on the other side. As coaches we are going to start turning our attention schematically to those guys. We are going to get as well as we are going to get as a football team and be ready to attack the challenge that awaits us next week.
Brett Keisel just talked about the message you gave the defensive line before the game – "Can we win with you guys?" – can you talk about that?
My intention in regards to that was to put the focus where it needed to be. A lot of times when you get injuries people ask questions like "Can you win without Casey Hampton; can you win without Brett Keisel?" That is not a question that needs to be asked; it is a question of "Can you win with Hokie (Chris Hoke); can you win with Travis Kirschke?" I wanted to make sure that those guys took that perspective in regards to some of the things that we were facing; not only on the defensive line but on the entire football team. It is not about whether we can win without Willie Parker; it is about whether we can win with Mewelde Moore. I did pose some of those rhetorical questions to the team because I wanted them to understand where we are, what is expected and what needs to be done. It wasn't about the men that weren't playing; it was about the men that were going to play and were going to be on the field.
What were your feelings on the James Harrison penalty?
I have no comment in regards to the officiating.
What is the schedule like for you guys this week?
The players are off until Monday but we as coaches will start to turn our attention to preparing ourselves for the Cincinnati Bengals. Of course the coaches are going to need some down time too; they are going to get that. First and foremost our main concern is the players.
Do you expect Roethlisberger to be healthy after the break?
I am hopeful. I know that he will be healthy enough to play winning football; I think he is there right now even though he is not comfortable all of the time from a standpoint of preparation, at least from where I see it. But yes, he is going to be closer to 100% healthy. We will see where he is at the end of this thing.
Is Aaron Smith OK?
Yes, he is fine.
Byron Leftwich had helmet on – was he going to go in?
Byron is learning how to back up Ben. What that means is that you have to have your helmet nearby. This guy plays on the edge; he takes some hits and things of that nature; he is a competitor. Byron and I had a funny conversation going to the plane after the game in regards to that. He was like "it is fire drill sometimes just watching." I said "don't watch; just be ready." He did and he was. We have a great deal of confidence in him if we have to call on him.
Can you comment on Darnell Stapleton – how did he look with this first start?
He really did well; he did some nice things. We know what kind of guys that they had inside in John Henderson and (Rob) Meier; some big-powerful men. Darnell is not small; he is short. He played with great leverage and did a nice job for us. We put together a winning performance in the second half of a Monday Night game and we were on a short week so we stuck with who we were playing in that regard. He had an opportunity and he delivered, which is encouraging. We will continue to move forward in that regard.
Did Keisel look good today?
He did. I know one thing; he is appreciative of having the opportunity to practice. He was the liveliest set of legs that we had out there today.