Mike Tomlin held his weekly Tuesday press conference Tuesday. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say about the team's win over Cincinnati, injuries and the upcoming game against the New York Giants.
Opening statement: It's a big week for the Steelers this week. The New York football Giants come to town, defending Super Bowl champions to play us at Heinz Field, so we're excited about that. There's a lot to be concerned about as you prepare to play this football team. I'll start offensively, they're second in the league in offense. They have a guy whose last name is (Eli) Manning who plays quarterback. That's always cause for concern. He's always good with the football. He's completed 61 percent of his passes. He's only thrown four picks. And probably the most critical thing is that he does not get sacked. He's only been sacked six times this season. He spreads the ball around, they've got three guys with 20-plus catches. Of course that group is led by Plaxico Burress, who is a physical matchup problem. The guy is 6-5, 230 pounds. He can catch the football; he plays big; he can run after the catch. We've got to do the best we can to contain him. Of course guys in Pittsburgh are familiar with that guy. They run the football extremely well. They're the No. 1 rushing team in football. They've got a stable of backs that do that. That group is led by Brandon Jacobs, who is bigger than Plaxico. He's 265 pounds. He's got over 500 yards on the season. He's plus-five yards a carry. He's got a nose for the goal line when he's intent on scoring. He's got six rushing touchdowns this season. The most impressive thing about their offense is their offensive line, led by Chris Snee. The most impressive thing about these guys is that they get hats on hats. They block all looks. They sustain blocks. They all can get out and pull and get out on the second level. They play very well together. It's obvious why they're very successful, aside from the perimeter people. This group is spectacular. It's fun to watch. It would be more fun to watch if we weren't playing them this week. Defensively, they're fourth in the league in defense. They generate pressure with their front four and the guys feed off of those guys. It's (Justin) Tuck and (Fred) Robbins and (Barry) Coefield and company. They get after your passer relentlessly. They have 21 sacks on the season. The linebackers shoot gaps extremely well. They make these guys tough to block and double team because they run through gaps pretty doggone good. In the secondary, they've got a young secondary with guys like (Corey) Webster and (Aaron) Ross and (Michael) Johnson and (James) Butler. They're all playing extremely well. And the unique thing about this bunch is that they have unique depth, they're backed up by some veteran football players who can play good football and don't require a lot of reps to be ready to play – Sam Madison, R.W. McQuarters and Sammy Knight. Those guys have done big things in this league. In the special teams, they're rock solid. They've got a veteran group in (Jeff) Feagles and (John) Carney. This is a rock-solid football team, very talented, very disciplined. Like I said, they don't turn the football over, they've only got four turnovers all season. They dominate the time of possession at pluis 32 minutes. We've got a lot of work to do. It's an exciting challenge and we look forward to getting about that business tomorrow.
From an injury standpoint, Willie Parker continues to progress, he'll practice in a limited capacity or maybe not a limited capacity tomorrow. But he is slated to practice. We'll continue to push him toward game day. Troy (Polamalu) had a concussion in the game. Tests are favorable at this point. He's slated to practice tomorrow. We'll see how he goes. Keyaron Fox is probably not close enough to playing. He could be listed as doubtful with his hamstring strain. Bryant McFadden had surgery yesterday. Of course he has a broken arm. He had a plate inserted, had that thing fixed. He'll be in a sling here for a couple of weeks and then we'll progress from there. After that, we'll take it week by week and see where he is in terms of casting him and his potential play. Marvel Smith is recovering nicely from his back spasms. We'll see where he is not only tomorrow, but as the week goes on. Dallas Baker with his shoulder sprain will start practicing tomorrow. Carey Davis will practice tomorrow. I anticipate him playing, as will Casey Hampton, who practiced in the latter part of last week. He's going to practice tomorrow and we anticipate him playing. That's the injury report. We've got a variety of bumps and bruises that come with playing football. But there will never be an excuse. We'll field 11 guys on the field and compete against the defending world champs.
Do you take extra care with Troy with all the concussions he's had in the past?
That decision's very easy. We do what the doctors tell us to do. The tests are favorable and we'll continue to test him throughout the week like we did Andre Frazier, who had a more significant concussion the other week. Those decisions are easy because we leave it up to the professionals.
Do you talk to him about leading with his head on some tackles?
He's not any more reckless than anybody else who plays the safety position. This is a guy that runs to the football and sometimes violent collisions happen. He has his share of them. But it's not any negligence on his part in terms of technique.
Does William Gay become the nickel back. Who plays in the dime?
Deshea (Townsend) is going to have to play more and he hadn't played a bunch of snaps. He's been nursing that heel contusion and has been limited in terms of how he practices. And maybe he'll be limited again this week in terms of how he practices. He has to step up his performance. William Gay, of course, has to step up his performance. We've got a great deal of confidence in him and really kind of champing at the bit to prove that he's worthy of being in the group. He's in that second-year player group that we've placed a lot of pressure on to make the jump. Some of those other guys have had opportunities to make the jump, Matt Spaeth, (Lawrence) Timmons and (LaMarr) Woodley. He's ready to jump in that group. We feel comfortable with where he is in terms of being able to do that. And, of course, Anthony Madision, who's been a special teams stalwart for us, is going to be ready if called upon.
(Stop, Ellis time) The question is about five minutes long, but it deals with depth.
Ultimately, your quality of depth is the determining factor in the quality of your football team because we all acknowledge that injuries are a big part of this game. People's ability to adjust and plug people in and keep the train moving, ultimately, those are the teams that are going to be successful. Probably a lot has been made of our story because of guys like Mewelde (Moore) stepping up and Darnell (Stapleton) stepping up. But really, that's just football. Those stories can be told about anyone's that's winning. Anybody that's winning has people stepping up and making plays for them. We take it all in stride. That's why training camp and offseason is so important for us. That's why practicing is so important for us. Not only the guys you hear about that are headline performers, like Hines Ward, need to prepare, guys like Limas Sweed need to prepare to play. Dallas Baker and so forth, you could pick names across any position. Sometimes the star players dominate so much of our thought as people who appreciate this game, that you fail to realize that there are young and developing guys who are trying to master their craft because they know that their opporunity is going to await. That's what it's about for us.
(More Ellis time) What's the value of having veterans reinforce that?
Veterans reinforce a lot of things for the young guys. That's part of being a veteran football player. But there is a value to having veteran quality backups. It's one of the reasons why we went out and acquired a guy like Orpheus Roye later in the process and were glad to do it. A guy like Byron Leftwich, those are been there done that guys. They know what games like Sunday at 4 p.m. are about. They're ready to make the charge if we should call on them.
If Parker's ready to play, does he start and how will you use Mewelde Moore?
If he's ready to play, he'll definitely start and we'll give Mewelde his looks. But a lot of that is going to be determined on Willie's level of conditioning in the flow of the football game.
Will it be series or just third downs for Mewelde?
Really, he's our third-down back. Nothing has changed in that regard. The series, that will be determined by the flow of the game. If we've got long sustained drives, and I hope we do, he may be intermingled throughout a series. We'll play that by ear depending on how we're moving the football. But Mewelde is going to play, if Willie Parker should come back, Willie Parker will start.