Mike Tomlin was not scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday because the Pittsburgh Steelers are on a bye week. But with Ben Roethlisberger suffering a concussion on Sunday, Tomlin met with the media. Here's what he had to say:
Opening statement: We just finished what has been a productive day for us with our team. I met with them this morning and talked about what we're trying to get done with this bye week and that's quite simply to get better individually and collectively. We identified some areas where we were deficient in from a technical standpoint. Individually, we met with our position coaches and had a great deal of individual time to work on their development. I'm a true believer that we need to sharpen our swords for the battles that await us and that we're capable getting better for the battles that await us. We had an opportunity to compete, Steelers against Steelers, pass under pressure, third downs, an opportunity to get some work in those areas. I thought it was very productive. With that, we'll come in here and do a similar thing tomorrow.
How do you fight losing the edge with a week off?
Just that way. Just kind of the program we prescribed for the team this week, minute details that we can improve specifically the things that we do, and positionally, technically. That's why we structure the practices the way we have done it where defensive linemen spend a lot of time with John Mitchell working on their skills, etc. And then you get an opportunity to bring it all together and compete. Quarterbacks get a chance to work with receivers on their timing. Coverages are working together defensively. That's the only way to do and that's how we're approaching it.
Can you give us an update on Ben?
He's doing better. He's starting the process of taking the battery of tests that come after one sustains a concussion. I don't know where we are in regards to those tests. We have less urgency this time around because we don't play on Sunday, quite honestly. We held him out today like we did a lot of veteran players, guys like James Farrior and so forth. We will proceed slowly with him because we have that luxury. But we feel comfortable with where he is relative to Sunday and where he's capable of being next week in preparation for our game.
Are you saying he won't practice this week?
I'm not ready to say that just yet.
Hindsight being 20-20, do you wish you had taken him out earlier?
Does it really matter? We don't have that luxury. We don't live in that world. I never second-guess the decisions that we make. We're thoughtful in the process of coming to those decisions and when we make them, we live with them. That's what we're doing in this instance.
Have you ever had a concussion?
Anything like what he's going through?
I don't know what he's going through because I'm not him. I've several concussions playing the game of football. I know that it's something that's initially scary and then uncomfortable and then you get back to being yourself and you move on. I can't speak to what he's feeling.
What degree was it?
I have no idea.
Does that matter?
I'm a football coach. I'm not going to pretend to be a medical expert. I rely on the expertise of our medical staff in regards to that. They dumb it down pretty good for me.
If they give him the go ahead, do you still have to talk to him and be convinced yourself that he's fine?
Usually my feelings are one and the same with theirs. They're going to err on the side of caution. There's never been a circumstance in the two years that I've been here where they've given the green light on somebody, I'm comfortable with it.
Has your experience last year going into the playoffs helped you this year?
I'll let you know after next weekend. Experience is only good if you get better. We were one-and-done a year ago and we're trying not to be that this year.
Did you like what you saw of (Sean) McHugh last week and will you use more of the I formation?
It really depends on who we're playing and how the chips stack up. We're unable to develop a game plan at this point because we don't know who our opponent is. He's shown us some skill sets that lend itself to that style of football and that's why we went out and acquired him when we did. He's been a good component for us. The extent of which we use that will be determined by a lot of things. Some of them are a question mark at this point.
Will you use these three days to do a little bit of practice against your possible opponents?
We won't. We have a luxury that we've pretty much seen everybody we would play anyway, whether it's this season or late in the year last season, whether it's Denver (?) and of course, we haven't seen Miami. We played those teams a year ago later in the year. We're familiar with them. There will be very few surprises from that standpoint when we find out who we play.
From your first year to your second year, what are the areas you feel you have improved the most?
I'm not in the evaluation mode. I'm just trying to play to win today. That's where I'm at. Maybe when it's all said and done - and hopefully that's a month from now - I can sit back and look at those things. I'm a doer, not an evaluator.
Your experience last year, does it go without saying that's helped you?
You would think so. Hopefully I'm better again next year and the year after and the year after. I know Dick LeBeau has that mentality and he's 50 years in. I think it goes without saying that hopefully we're getting better. If we're not, we're not real smart.
On having Byron Leftwich as a backup?
Byron has been a blessing for us, he really has. That's one of the things you do think about when you look around and see that guy who has franchise quarterback experience, playoff starting quarterback experience. He's been the guy. Those shoes are comfortable to him. He's one of the guys when things happen and you look around and you're going to send him into the game, he doesn't have that far away look. He's been there and done that. He loves that opportunity to do that for this team. I think this team has been very comfortable with him when he gets called upon. It's been a tremendous blessing to have him on this football team. Aside from what he does inside the white lines when he's called upon, he's very good as a teammate. He's very good at practice. He's very good in the locker room.
It looked like you enjoyed his touchdown run.
That was pretty funny, you've got to admit.
When you've referenced Byron, you've talked about him as a franchise-type quarterback. What does that mean?
It's walk a mile in a quarterback's shoes. It's a lot that goes with that job; too much credit, too much blame. there's no substitute for having experience in that area. He's been that guy. He's getting an opportunity where he's at a juncture in his career where he can take a step back and just appreciate being on a team and being a football player. I think he's done that, not that he doesn't want what comes with being a franchise guy, because he's a competitor. But I think it's a unique opportunity for him to step back a little bit and enjoy being on a football team and being a good teammate. When the situation arises, that burning fire within him is always ready to deliver.
How's Ryan Clark?
He's progressing nicely. He's a little sore today because he got a good lift in yesterday, which is a good sign that he was ready to lift weights. He was a little sore today. It kind of comes with that. If we are going to err, we'll err on the side of caution with him as well. This bye is a blessing in a lot of ways and guys like Ben and Ryan Clark and James Harrison are benefiting from that.
Is there a worse feeling than seeing one of your players carted off?
Sure, seeing multiple guys carted off or losing.
Will you watch the games this weekend?
I'm going to watch. I am. I think watching televised games gives you a different perspective from time to time, one that I like. You don't get much opportunity to do that in this business. We're going to watch, not only me, but everybody, and see how this thing unfolds for us.
What's different about it?
I probably don't watch it in ways that a fan watches it. Some of the line of scrimmage communication with the audio is significant and interesting to me. Some of the commentary in the game that comes out of the production meetings from hearing coaches and players speak is interesting to me. I'll watch it, but I'll watch it in different ways than most people do.
During the game Sunday, Ben said he re-injured his shoulder at Tennessee. Is that the case?
I have no idea. Not everything that is said in those games is true. It's just interesting to me.
Do you actually gain some insight watching on TV?
I like to think that I do. I probably don't, but I can convince myself that I do.
That being the case, do you guard what you say in those meetings with those guys?
Believe it or not, I'm always very guarded about what I say.