Mike Tomlin met with the media Tuesday. Here's what the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers had to say about the game at Washington, Ben Roethlisberger's injury and the upcoming game against Indianapolis.
Opening statement: Things happen fast around here on a short week. We had a chance to get in here this morning and watch the tape. It's great to go into a hostile environment like that and get a win for our football team. I think that's the prevailing thought after watching the tape. Equally, I think it's important the fan support we had in D.C. was exceptional. It was awesome. We've got to quickly put that behind us and part of doing that is assessing where we are from an injury standpoint. I know you've got some questions regarding that. No news in regards to Ben. He has a 12 (noon) appointment to get scanned today. We will have news at some point, just not as I sit here right now. Heath Miller has an ankle sprain. He's doubtful for this week. A couple of guys that are coming back from injury are working with some things and appear to be favorable at this point but may require a day or two here at the top of the week. That would be Willie Parker and Casey Hampton. Some other guys nursing some bumps and bruises from last night: Mitch Berger has a hamstring. We'll see where he is when he comes in today. Tyrone Carter has an ankle sprain. He may require a day. Najeh Davenport has an hamstring strain. And Hines Ward has a shoulder and he could be day-to-day. A couple of guys we'll have returning for this week, which is big for us, are Ryan Clark, which is big for us, and Keyaron Fox, which is good.
We play Indianapolis. They're a 4-4 football team, but I don't think the 4-4 speaks to who they are. No question they're a veteran-laden team. They're well-coached. As they sit here at 4-4 at the turn, they're capable of putting together a tremendous run and letting their rocky start be a distant memory. We respect that element of it and we've got to be at our best when we play these guys on Sunday evening. It starts with Peyton Manning, of course, at the quarterback position. He makes them go offensively. He's got a supporting cast that's exception at all positions, whether we're talking about Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark or (Anthony) Gonzalez. Joseph Addai is back in action. This offensive unit is capable of ringing up the scoreboard. Defensively, they fly around and play with a lot of enthusiasm. We've got a tough challenge to match that, particularly on a short week. We've got to be conscious of that as we prepare. They're led by (Dwight) Freeney and (Raheem) Brock and (Robert) Mathis up front. At linebacker, of course, (Gary) Brackett is very active, as is (Tyjuan) Hagler. In the secondary, of course, they've got a guy who runs around at strong safety, who's the best or one of the best, by the name of Bob Sanders, regardless of who you ask. His mate back there is (Antoine) Bethea is very good as well. On special teams, they've got a kicker by the name of Adam Vinatieri, who won't blink, I'm sure, at Heinz Field.
We've got our work cut out for us. The coaches are putting together the game plans. Players are just starting to trickle into the building to get some treatment and so forth. But we've got a quick turnaround.
What's Marvel's (Smith) status?
I won't know until Marvel gets in the building today. I didn't mention him and I didn't mention Bryant McFadden either. I hadn't seen or heard from those guys at this point as we sit here.
Is Marvel's injury lingering longer than anticipated?
You could say that. That's how it is when you deal with backs. They're somewhat unpredictable. We acknowledge and accept that. The big thing is that we get him back healthy and proceed on.
What was the difference offensively in the second half compared to the first half?
I don't know if it was the tale of two halfs exactly. I think we needed something to ignite us. I think that both teams were playing very good defense. We put ourselves in a hole there early. We tried an onside kick and they got the ball and we were able to hold them to three. We had a freakish interception on a third down that gave them other field position. I think when Andre Frazier blocked that kick is when the pendulum started to swing in our favor. We made some plays. We overcame a holding penalty, got a first down, got a touchdown prior to the half. I think that was the swing and not necessarily the halftime intermission.
Did you do different things than in the first half with Ben?
No we did not.
Can you talk about the execution of the defense in holding Washington to only field goals?
We've kind of got a philosophy that if you give us a blade of grass to defend, we'll defend it. They embrace that. It's not the first time they've taken the field under those circumstances and it probably won't be the last. I think we have the kind of defensive unit that responds to those challenges. That's why you're comfortable taking some of the risks that you take at times, because of what they're capable of doing.
Do anticipate having something to release on Ben's status today?
I will if and when I get it. At this point, I'm speculating. He has a (noon) appointment. At what time that information will come back over here and my level of availability are in question.
You said he could have gone back into the game last night.
I said he potentially could have gone back into the game, yes.
Did he hurt it on the quarterback sneak or did he hurt it on the play where his arm got hit when he threw?
I found out this morning that it was the quarterback sneak.
Was it the shoulder pads or did somebody wrench it?
The explicit details … I know he hurt it on the sneak. I don't have any juicy information in regards to how it happened.
Would you say it's a reaggravation (there's no such thing) of the thing that's been bothering him?
That'd be a safe assessment, yes.
What would it take for you to rest him a game and go with Byron (Leftwich) to rest that shoulder?
Quite simply, the information that I get from our medical personnel and how he's feeling.
Can you assess where you are at the midway point as opposed to where you had hoped to be?
I'd prefer to be 8-0, no doubt. But 6-2 is what it is. We're not going to be deep thinkers at this point. We appreciate where we are. We recognize that we could be in a better position. But it's not bad. We're just going to continue to live one week at a time. And as we get into the second half of the season, I think we're just starting to write our stories like a lot of people are just starting to write their stories. So much of this thing is going to turn out how people play as they get on runs, how they respond when they have injuries. How they respond when they get people back from injuries. That's why this Indianapolis Colts team is so dangerous. They're 4-4 at the turn, but that means very little. This team could very easily be 12-4 in two months if you blink. Those are some of the things that teams like that are capable. Hopefully, we're capable of being one of the teams like that. I know that's what we've been working for on a daily basis.
Is there anything you can point to that hasn't elevated them to 6-2? (Yeah, they didn't outscore their opponents in four of their games)
Bob Sanders has missed some time. When he plays, they're usually pretty good. But they're probably better equipped to answer that question than I am. What I look at is a team that has some weapons and is capable of getting after some people. I just finished watching some tape of the Ravens game. That was a decisive victory. Who knows some of the reasons we go through some of the things we go through at different points in the season? Really, it tests us. I measures our mettle. That's a team and coaching staff that I know is mentally tough. They won't blink at 4-4 and they're looking to get on a run.
Re: On emotion:
We dropped some interceptions as well in the first half. That's football. That's just the nature of it. I try not to ride the emotional roller coaster, or at least try to manage it and try to understand in games like that, Monday night football when you're playing a very good team, that emotions can work against you. The big thing is that we used it for good and we tried to manage it early as the ebb and flow of the game got started and unfolded and we put ourselves in position to control the game. We did that with a splash play from Andre Frazier. But it was a sequence of events. You cringe when you don't scoop and score on that blocked punt, particularly the way that game was going. Those sequence of plays, where you hit Santonio (Holmes) then you come back and hit Hines on third down. Then you come back and you punch it in and score is equally significant because it could have been a 6-6 game as opposed to a 10-6 game at the half. I really think those sequence of events, as opposed to solely the block, led to what transpired in the second half.
What did you see on the roughing the passer play?
I didn't. That's why I responded the way I responded. I'm going to defend our players because they play hard and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. When I err, I'm going to err on the side of defending that. I don't apologize. I understand those guys have a tough job to do. We all do. Emotions are a part of it. That was a critical play in the game that could potentially close the door on the game. It was a fourth down play. I didn't agree with it at the time.
Do you think his teammates were fine with Byron from an attention to detail standpoint and what do you think about moving forward with him if he does have to start?
I don't know about the increased attention to detail because Byron was in the game. I just think we weathered an early storm in the football game and then had a play that ignited us. We followed up that play with significant plays leading into the half. I think we came out of the locker room in the second half very energized, having weathered their best shot, if you will. That's my assessment of those sequence of events. In terms of his experience and exposure playing against Indy, I'm sure it will help us as we prepare. Byron's a great communicator in terms of those things. How it unfolds in terms of play or preparation to play, we'll let that unfold as we get more information in terms of Ben's health.
Did the Redskins play the two quarterbacks differently?
They really did not, no. Some of the things we saw in the second half were the same things we saw in the first half.
What makes it so different when Sanders is in the game?
He's the lead dog. He's a bell cow, all the clichés' you can think of. The way he plays the game with energy and enthusiasm - and production, let's not forget that - people feed off of those kind of performances and those kind of performers. There's no question that they feed off of him. He's got tremendous talent. He's got great football character and he delivered big plays in his first game back. That's just the kind of player that he is. That's why he's received the accolades that he has received. I think the measure of great players like him is that people play better when they're with him.
Re: James Farrior.
James doesn't like to talk about his age, but I do. He's the captain of our defense and that's not something that we say or take lightly. He does a lot of things for us. He plays in all situations. We speak directly to him through the coach to quarterback communication. He makes adjustments. He makes calls and gets people lined up. He's the man in the middle. He plays with a great deal of passion and I think we feed off of him as a defense and as a team. We've got nothing but respect for what he brings to the table and we appreciate it.
Did Byron do a better job of getting the ball out than Ben did and did that surprise you given the fact he hasn't played?
He probably did do a better job of getting the ball out. No it did not surprise me. That's one of the characteristics of Byron. He got the ball out pretty quick in Jacksonville and different places he's been. That's who he is. He's a quick decision maker. He's an anticipatory thrower. That's Byron. That's what makes him who he is.
Peyton Manning does that well too …
Eli does to. It must be genetic.
Do you have to change a little bit of what you do?
All you can do is get after and beat people as quickly as you can and get after the quarterback. The essence of rushing the passer is to apply pressure. It's not necessarily sacks, even though when you do get sacks it kind of measures your performance. The key is pressure. That's always our intent. Whether or not we get home, there are a lot of factors. Coverage is a factor in that, the quarterback's willingness to hold the ball or not hold the ball is part of that. When we played Eli the other week, I thought we had great pressure. He got the ball out of his hands so we didn't get sacks. It could be a similar environment on Sunday with Peyton.
How did Willie look to you?
I thought he looked surprisingly sharp given the fact he hadn't played in roughly a month. Where he's at in terms of being Willie Parker, I think he's better equipped to answer that. But definitely a winning-caliber performance and we were glad to have him back.
Do you think Ben's shoulder has affected him this year and maybe an accumulation of bumps and bruises has affected him?
I'm sure his shoulder has affected him. How much it has affected him I do not know. It really is kind of irrelevant. We really don't look for or seek excuses. We don't make them, whether we're talking about Ben or anybody else. Things like bumps and bruises and injuries are part of this game. When we deem people healthy enough to play, then their play speaks for itself. That's how we approach it.
Is there a scenario where Ben could be cleared medically to play and you could give Ben just a week off to rest it?
I don't want to speculate at this point. We could speculate for the rest of today. I'd just as soon wait until we get more vital information in terms of where he is.
It seemed like the defense took a lot of the field away from Washington, can you talk about the impact that had?
That was a big concern of ours going into the game because they did have big-play threats. Santana Moss is a guy who's capable of taking the top off the coverage. (Antwaan) Randle El is great after the catch. Clinton (Portis) is Clinton. If we were to play well last night, we felt we had to limit big plays as much as we could. For the most part, I thought we were successful doing that. Clinton bounced out for 22 yards one time and that's what he's capable of. Other than that, I thought we did a good job of managing that and making them earn it as they went down the field.
On the linebackers.
I think I'd give them an incomplete at this point. We're eight games into this thing. How you rush the quarterback in November and December is what they remember. That will be the message that I deliver to those guys. It's not a bad body of work at the turn. But we need to heat up and heat up at the right time. The great rushers and rush units define themselves late in the season and in the playoffs. I like where we are right now. We've got to stay on the ground.
What have you gotten to know about Dick LeBeau since you took this job?
Dick is an unbelievable guy. He's an unbelievable coach, but he's an unbelievable guy. He's what this game is about. He's totally selfless. This guy has been doing it in this league in some form or fashion for 50 years. Every day he comes in here asking the critical questions, trying to learn, trying to get better. If you can't learn from that, you've got a problem. I enjoy it. It's a pleasure to be associated with a guy like Dick LeBeau.
On Tony Dungy.
You know, I really haven't had a great deal of time to think about it. I'm sure I will over the course of the week and in pregame. One thing I do know about coach and have a great deal of respect for him, his track record speaks for itself. This is a guy that's won over 70 percent of his games on the road since he's been in Indy. That's what has motivated me this morning in regards to coach.
Were you pleased with the safety play last night?
Those guys did a nice job. We didn't skip a beat. We kept the ball in front of us. We made the tackles when we had to make them when the runs broke out. And of course Tyrone had the play to seal the game at the end. Those guys get a passing grade.
On Ike Taylor shutting down big-play threats.
He loves that. Ike is a guy that embraces those kind of challenges. The last two weeks we've had him on Plaxico (Burress) and Santana Moss. It brings out the best in him. He's done a nice job on some top-caliber guys. You like to consider doing it this week, but who do you put him on? We'll see.