Mike Tomlin held his press conference Tuesday to talk about what went wrong against the Giants and the upcoming game against the Redskins. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say:
It's kind of a big day for us around here, big week, coming back from Sunday's disappointing loss versus the Giants. As a football team we must turn the page because we're facing a stiff challenge in the Washington Redskins. They're a 6-2 team. And they're a 6-2 team for legitimate reasons. I'll talk about the Redskins here a little bit. At quarterback, they have (Jason) Campbell. He's making great decisions. He's spreading the ball around. He's taking very good care of the football, he hasn't thrown an interception. When you've got a quarterback that hasn't thrown an interception, you've got a great chance of being 6-2. At tailback, of course they have Clinton Portis, who's run for 944 yards and is really on top of his game, physically and mentally. He's doing a really nice job of running and reading the zone schemes. When you come up short in the gap, he exploits you. He's putting together big plays, but aside from that, he's very consistent. He's finishing off runs, driving with his legs through contact. He is a premier runner in this game. Campbell's targets are many. Santana Moss is the lead dog in that category. He's a big-play guy, he's good after the catch. (Chris) Cooley the tight end is very gifted as a tight end and the way they use him validates that. He catches screens. He's a third-down target and he's capable of stretching the field vertically. Antwaan Randle El, of course, is a very talented jack-of-all-trades kind of guy. They do a nice job of using his gifts to make their thing go. The veterans up front do a nice job of working together, highlighted by (Chris) Samuels at left tackle. We expect him to be back this week. Defensively, they've got a tough crew. They've experienced some injuries. Shawn Springs has missed some time. Jason Taylor has missed some time. But they're very consistent in terms of how they play and how they pursue the football. Up front, Cornelius Griffin is a very good football player, very stout player. The guys around him make a formidable front four. Their linebackers are very good. London Fletcher in the middle is still a sideline-to-sideline capable guy. Marcus Washington is a thumper. He's an emotional sparkplug for that unit; it appears that he is, anyway. In the secondary, of course, they have (LeRon) Landry back there and he's becoming a better football player and he's a young guy that not a lot of people know a lot about. And (Chris) Horton, a rookie from UCLA, make them an exciting young safety tandem. This guy has been playing very good football for them. At corner, they have Fred Smoot and Carlos Rogers and another solid cast. If you put Shawn Springs in there, it's an elite unit. Good thing we have an extra day this week, we're going to need it and take advantage of it.
Quickly, going through some injury things and some things that accompany that, Greg Warren had successful knee left knee surgery yesterday. Of course, he'll be placed on IR. Today, we worked out four very credible long snapper candidates. We'll continue to take in information to regards to those guys and visit with those guys and make a decision about one of those men here by the end of the business day. The rest of the injuries as far as our team is concerned: Ryan Clark had a shoulder dislocation, he's doubtful at this point for the game, but he is better than we anticipated at this point. Keyaron (Fox) is still got a question about his ability with a hamstring strain. Casey Hampton is day-to-day with a turf toe he sustained during the game. He might miss Wednesday or so as we proceed. We don't expect that to keep him out. Bryant McFadden is healing nicely with his arm. Ben (Roethlisberger) may be day-to-day here at the front part of the week. Marvel Smith is still day-to-day working with his back spasms. We'll see where he is, if not Wednesday, definitely Thursday. Deshea (Townsend) should be fine. He's continuing to progress. Really, last week was his best week in terms of practice and that matter should be behind us. And Willie (Parker), I just watched him work out. He had a very good workout today. We'll see how he feels in the morning and see if he's capable of practicing tomorrow after today's workout. All in all, the list is gaining some clarity. We'll continue to make adjustments to be able to put a winning caliber unit out there on the field and that's what we intend to do.
What's the status of Santonio (Holmes) and have you heard from the league that they're not going to suspend him?
This is where we are with Santonio's situation. Santonio came in to visit with me yesterday morning. It was a very productive meeting from my standpoint. And really, as a football team and organization, in terms of our view of the situation, we've laid it to bed. Satisfactory action has taken place from our standpoint. We had a team meeting yesterday at 2 p.m. and he addressed his peers about the issue. He released a statement that expressed his feelings about the issue. For us, we're moving forward. All in all, the whole way we approached this thing was to minimize the distractions for our football team. I thought we did that. We came in and dealt with it yesterday. We're putting it behind us. We've got a big preparation day today for the Redskins and tomorrow we move forward as a team and he'll be included in that. In terms of what action the league will take, it really depends on the outcome of the criminal case. We'll let that process run its course. From our standpoint, we dealt with it sufficiently and we're ready to move forward and address the Redskins. I think that kind of outlines all the steps that we took, outlines all the steps that he took and we'll move forward.
Was he fined?
I'll leave that between he and I. That will be in-house business with the emphasis of making it as less of a distraction as we can.
From here on out, how big is it to minimize distractions?
That's always going to be our goal. That's just the story of the National Football League. Distractions come with being a good team. We don't run away from it. We hope we've got some distractions. We hope we've got some interest in what's going on here. Our ability to deal with it will ultimately determine our level of success. We don't shy away from that. It's part of the football business. We embrace it and we've got to deal with it and deal with it well.
Is the player's union unhappy with him not being active?
I'm not concerned about their view about whether we chose to activate him. We've got 53 men on the team. We choose to activate 45 for a particular game. That's what we chose to do and we move forward.
Has your confidence in Nate Washington gone up and will he be a bigger part of the offense?
It really hasn't gone up. It's been pretty good. Nate has been very consistent, not only over the last few week, but for us, since training camp. It probably didn't manifest itself early on, but he's been a very consistent practice player and very focused. He's been doing a nice job and we're not surprised at what he's capable of doing.
What's Ben's injury and how is your punter?
Same thing, right shoulder. That's going to continue to be week to week. It was better last week because he rarely got hit versus the Bengals. He got hit a few times on Sunday. We'll see how he feels when he comes in here on Wednesday. In terms of the punter, he had a hamstring strain. We'll see where he is when he comes in tomorrow. He was in yesterday and today getting treatment. We feel like he's going to be OK, but we'll see how he responds to the work that the practice week gives him.
What's been the problem with your return game, both of which are at the bottom of the league?
More than anything, we haven't cracked a big one. That's what averages are all about. There's not much difference between an average return team and a poor return team. An average return team has popped a big one. We have yet to do that. We've had some 10 and 12-yard returns in our punt game, but we haven't had a 50 or 60-yarder that makes your average immediately respectable. Same thing in the kickoff return game. We've been consistent at about 20, 21 yards a return. We've been consistent at getting the ball out around 30. But we haven't popped a big one. Nothing is wrong with what we're doing schematically or how the guys are executing. We've got to continue to pay attention to detail. The cast of characters has changed due to circumstances. So be it. I think as we continue to get comfortable with the men who are returning and continue to work with our schemes, then we'll get what we're looking for in that regard, they'll deliver field position play or a big splash play for us that helps you in that area.
Is Najeh (Davenport) capable of delivering in that area and have you explored other options than him?
He's our only option at this point, given the circumstances. He's doing a solid job for us. He's playing to his strength. He's good at catching the ball and getting vertical. He's good at creating yards after contact. He's not going to get out of his personality. I appreciate that element of what he brings to the table. At this point, he's the best that we have and we appreciate his efforts.
On Jason Campbell.
He's a very talented guy physically. He has escapability. He has an extremely strong arm. He's a smart guy. I've been exposed to him. I was on the Senior Bowl staff that coached him coming out. He was a very mature young man in terms of how he handled himself at that time. He's the son of a coach so he keeps football in a good perspective. He's an even-keel kind of guy. He's comfortable in his shoes. He's getting better with experience. He's making great decisions. He's moving the offense and his team is winning.
Would Ty Carter start for Ryan if he can't play?
At this point, yes. Ty Carter is a candidate. He's the lead candidate. But Anthony Smith is capable. We're going to watch and let those guys work this week and we'll make that decision as we move on later in the week.
If Marvel is healthy, does he go right back in to starting.
Yes he does. If he's given the green light and he's healthy enough to play, he'll start for us at left tackle.
Do you expect to have Aaron Smith all week?
At this point. Again, we'll play it by ear. Of course he's got some personal issues that he's dealing with at this point that require his attention. We respect the heck out of that. We respect him. We are very much in full support of him and what he's going through. When he's here, he's here.
Would you like to see Ben throw the ball away more?
When he holds the ball and we beat people like we did in Jacksonville, then we sit in press conferences and we cheer him. When we lose like we did the other night, we question him. He's a competitor. He's a great player. He's our quarterback. We'll ride into stadiums and we'll play with him.
Coach, you went through last year as a first-year coach. What do you appreciate about what Jim Zorn is doing following a legend in Joe Gibbs?
My hats off to him. This coaching thing is a fraternity. I'm one of the ones who likes to root for people unless I'm playing them. He's doing well. They've got a good football team. They appear to be very focused. They dropped their opener to the defending champions in the Giants and have really been kind of on a roll since then. They had a letdown against St. Louis, but that's football. They're playing well. They're playing together. They're finding ways to win games. That's what it's about. They're 6-2 at the turn. For them, it's a pretty good position to be in and one that we hope to be in after this weekend.
Do they remind you of anyone defensively?
They have their personality and coach (Greg) Blanche is a veteran defensive coordinator. He was in Chicago years ago when I was in Tampa and we played those guys twice a year. One thing you know about those guys, they're going to take on his personality. They're going to be fundamentally sound. They're going to attack you. They're going to run to the football. That's what they're doing. They play behind some ringleaders, some emotional sparkplugs, guys like Marcus Washington and London Fletcher and Cornelius Griffin and Landry. They're a formidable unit and they've been able to play at a high level through injury. I think that's an indication of what they're capable of being.
What's wrong with (Berger) and why's it been so hard for him to shake it off? He seems to be wincing after kicks the last couple of weeks.
I can't speak to the wincing, but he's been nursing a hamstring strain.
At camp did you spend any time with backup snappers? If you didn't, might that change?
We have and we do. Since I've been here, James Harrison and James Farrior have been the backup candidates. James snaps at least once a week, every week since I've been here. In practice and at training camp is one thing. Inside stadiums and in the fourth quarter of a football game versus the defending world champions is another thing. I appreciate him. The comments that I said after the game about him were sincere. He does a lot for this football team. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it the same. I'd hope for a different outcome, but I'd do it again.
Would your new snapper handle all of the snaps or might (Darnell) Stapleton handle the place kicks?
Ideally, we'd like for him to handle them all. Of course Darnell is the guy right now who handles that's short-snap capable.
What makes it so difficult for a center to do that?
This is a legitimate question. A center in shotgun, snaps with one hand. When you're a long snapper in a punt situation, you're a two-handed snapper. Velocity is very important. Operation time, snap to kick defines you. Velocity and accuracy are less important from a center standpoint because you cut down on distance. Really, it's a significant distance. Anybody is capable of delivering a shotgun snap. I can take a tackle and put him at center and he's got a better chance of executing a shotgun snap than he does executing a regular center to quarterback exchange. The distance is so short and the degree of accuracy that is required is not very high. When you're talking about snapping a punt, from a protection standpoint, velocity is important, accuracy is important, total time of execution is important. It's something that is very different in terms of expectations. It is not realistic at all to expect a center to be capable of snapping a punt. If he's a center that has worked as a punt snapper, that's a different thing. But just because someone is a capable center and capable of snapping in the shotgun, does not make them an automatic candidate for punt snapping.
Does it make them more instinctively ready as opposed to a linebacker?
Absolutely not. Two totally different skills sets.
When Ryan Clark went down last year, what was the effect? How did the guys do filling in for him?
I guess my answer to that, and hindsight is 20-20, we value what Ryan is to our football team. He's been playing at a high level. He's a communicator. He's a leader among leaders out there. We didn't respond to it well in the long haul because we didn't play as good as when we had him in there. That's the reality of it. Will that unfold the same way this year? We don't intend on it to. We're going to work toward playing at a high level. But the injury he's dealing with right now is a little different than the injury he dealt with a year ago. I think a year ago we were more concerned about his health than dealing with a short-term misery of dealing with an injury. Hopefully, it's a week and then we move forward. In the meantime, guys will need to step up and deliver a winning performance for us, one of which I know they're capable of delivering.
What's the backup plan at punter if Berger is unable to go?
We worked out a young man again today that we worked out several weeks back. We've got a level of comfort in terms of what he's capable of giving us. We've got a plan in place if Mitch should be unavailable.
Who would the holder be?
Again, Charlie Batch was the backup holder. When he went down, Hines Ward has done it every week, twice a week since Charlie went down. If we get into a situation where we are looking at a new punter, and that's a big if, but if we are, who we replace him with would be a candidate. But also Hines has a little comfort and continuity with Jeff (Reed) because he's done it every week since Charlie Batch went down.
Are you less likely to make a move with Berger being less than 100 percent because he is the holder?
There is some thought along those lines. But more than anything, we're going to put healthy people on the field. We'll listen to the advice of the experts. If he's healthy enough to play, he'll play. If he's not, we've got a decision to make. We'll make the appropriate decision.
Can Jeff Reed punt at all? Does he do that in practice?
He is the emergency - we're talking a lot about emergency plans. If I go down, John Mitchell is the guy. Jeff Reed is the emergency punter.
Have you ever dealt with a situation like this, though, with so many specialists?
Every day I walk through this door, I expect the unexpected. It's one of the exciting things about this job at this level in this league. If you don't like it, you've got a problem. I embrace it. I love it. It's awesome. You've got to be alive this week. We've got Monday night football in the nation's capital. All eyes on the nation's capital this week. Probably not because we're playing the Redskins, but it's exciting for us nonetheless. The things that go with it, dealing with situations and making adjustments and keeping the team focused, all of those things drive us and we're excited about them.
How did Santonio handle talking to his teammates and how was that received?
Again I'd like to leave those matters in house because I think that minimizes the distraction. He released a statement in regards to his feelings about what happened. I'd like to thank you guys in advance for cooperating with his statement and letting it go to bed on Wednesday.
Does he return to the starting lineup?
Yes he does.
Are you concerned with any historical ramifications about the Redskins playing at home before election day?
I could care less.