We just put the finishing touches on what's been a very productive OTA sessions for us. Specifically, today we worked on some end-of-the-half, end-of-the-game sequences in preparation for training camp. And, really, what we did today kind of mirrors what we aspired to do the entire sessions – situational football, hits of teaching things. When we get to Latrobe, it won't be the first time that our men have heard these coaching points, these installations, and not only that we'll have tape of them doing that as part of the teaching. A lot of the times when you teach off of old tape or other people doing it, it isn't as meaningful as it is having a dry run presenting our football to our guys and getting them to do it and getting it on tape, even if it is in shorts. It'll be a useful tool to us as we install in Latrobe.
I thought we had a very successful offseason from a teaching standpoint; provided guys with ample opportunities to get reps and learn. Guys that needed rehabilitation got that. Uniquely, certain people's misery creates opportunity for others. Ryan Clark and Troy (Polamalu) and Hines (Ward) and guys not getting snaps provided opportunities for young guys at those positions, who, quite frankly, we're going to be counting on in some form or fashion. It allowed them an opportunity to get added work. So, very productive from that standpoint. No new injuries through it all, which is good. With that we'll kind of ooze our offseason to an end. Of course, next week we have a review week, an emphasis will be for the young guys. A lot of our veteran players won't be in the building. It'll be an opportunity to rehash some things, re-teach some things, look at some problem areas that young players might have.
A: Day to day watching those guys move around the building being comfortable in their shoes, I like where they are. They have an understanding of how we do business here. I think they're developing an understanding of how they fit into the big picture, but ultimately the quality of their play will determine what their roles are. No question we held those guys in high regard when we drafted them, but they're going through a process to become the player they aspire and we aspire them to be. Of course Lawrence is a year closer than Rashard, so we're excited about what he can do for us. We have visible tangible evidence of what he's capable of doing for us. He played quite a bit for us last year and made critical plays at critical times. We expect that to increase and continue. Rashard, I'm just simply asking him to have the savvy and the awareness of a second-year player, even though his rookie year was cut short due to injury. He's been around here, been around his teammates, knows what this culture is, so I expect him to display that in his actions as we push forward. How he plays is how he plays and that will determine his role.
Q: Considering the past, how do you ward off complacency?
A: I'm not concerned about what happened in 05 or 06 – or 07 or 08 for that matter. I'm a singularly focused guy. My focus and energy is about developing a world championship caliber football team for 09. O-eight was great. That was an awesome football team, but where we're headed is my focus.
Q: How will you improve in your third year?
A: I better get better. That's the nature of this thing. And getting better doesn't necessarily mean a better outcome; I understand that. But I'm always trying to be the very best I can be. I'm as critical of myself as I am of anyone. I think that's appropriate from a leadership standpoint. Some of the things that I'm in the process of doing right now is rehashing and reviewing some of the things that happened with me personally as I lead this group of men. Hopefully I'll do a cleaner, more efficient job of that here in 09.
Q: Do you feel good about where you stand right now?
A: I've never not felt good this time of year. We're undefeated, as is everyone else. I'm one of those personalities that I could convince myself about feeling good about it. We'll see how it shakes out.
Q: What will the team be like without Larry Foote?
A: It was great to see Foote the other night at the ring ceremony. It'll be a little bit more dull around here from a personality standpoint because he has that personality. In terms of the play and the quality of play, I don't anticipate any drop-off. The standard is the standard. Lawrence is a quality, quality football player. We expect him to play great, to be quite frank with you.
Q: How's Ryan Mundy looking at free safety?
A: From an evaluation standpoint at this point, he's verbal, which is a good sign. It's a requirement that comes with that position. He communicates pre-snap very well. That displays understanding to me. He's generally in the right place at the right time after the ball is snapped, and of course that's a prerequisite for that position. Whether he finishes plays will ultimately determine what type of player he is and what he can do for us. That'll unfold in August.
Q: How important is it to avoid distractions, particularly for a Super Bowl team? And specifically, is it important to get Santonio Holmes's matter behind him?
A: My mentality in regard to distractions is really changing. That's probably how I'm growing with the job, if you want me to evaluate myself. If you're going to be good, distractions are a part of it. I'm more concerned with embracing that and dealing with it and performing in the midst of it, as opposed to being resistant to it. We have the desire to be a good team, the desire to be a consistently good team, a world championship caliber team. You've got to acknowledge that some potential distractions come with that. I'm not running away from that. I want to make sure we're very good at dealing with it and staying singularly focused on what's important, and that of course is our performances, winning performances to be specific. In regards to Santonio's case, it's over and it's behind us and that's one less thing you've got to concern yourself with.
Q: What camp battles do you look forward to seeing?
A: I'm one that tries to maintain an open mind. When I start identifying camp battles, I might miss another one. One thing I'm certain of is nothing stays the same in this business. Somebody's going to surprise us and be on the rise; somebody's going to surprise us and be on the decline. I make a conscious effort to remain open to those possibilities. I'm looking forward to watching our team report to training camp individually and collectively, and I'm going to let the dust settle where it settles.
Q: Does Limas Sweed go into camp with a leg up on the No. 3 receiver spot?
Q: Who else is in the mix for that job?
A: All the guys other than Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes.
Q: What does it mean to be No. 3? Does it mean Hines moves to the slot and a split end enters the game? Or does a slot receiver enter the game?
A: Thankfully, as I sit here today, we can cast a big net in that regard because of the versatility of a Hines Ward, and, really, the growth and maturity of Santonio as a player. He has position flexibility at this point. So we're not going to be a slave to what somebody's capable of doing from an assignment standpoint in determining who the No. 3 receiver is. We have some flexibility with the other two, so we have an opportunity to pick the guy who will help us win in that spot. It's not a guy who's capable of playing the slot who'll have a leg up; it's not a guy who's going to play split end opposite the tight end on the backside of trips who'll have a leg up. We'll legitimately look at all these guys and determine who has the most complete, well-rounded game and consistently can provide winning performance and play for us.
Q: Does Dennis Dixon have a chance to pass up Charlie Bath and become the No. 2 quarterback?
A: I'd like to think that he does, but what he's capable of doing above the neck will ultimately determine that. We all acknowledge that this quarterback position is different than other positions in this game. Does he have the talent to be competitive in this game? Absolutely. But all of the things you can't measure will ultimately determine if it's a possibility or not. And, really, at that position, he's got a big summer ahead of him, and I'm not talking about when we report to Latrobe. I'm talking about between now and then, and I know that he's gearing himself up for that.
Q: On Ben Roethlisberger, he slumped in the stats last year. What do you see for him this year?
A: I measure Ben on whether or not we win or lose. That comes with the quarterback position in this league. The great ones lead their team to victory. The guys that you think about when you think about the quarterback position – Peyton Manning, Tom Brady – they are who they are because they win. Ben is a very talented guy who's put up impressive numbers and is capable of doing all the individual things, but ultimately he'll be defined – and I'll be defined, quite honestly – by how much we win.
Q: What was your general message to the players?
A: I don't say a lot, but what I said to the football team is physical conditioning precedes anything else. So between now and July 31, they need to do whatever's required for them to be in great physical condition. If they do that and that alone and nothing else, we're headed in the right direction. In order to begin the journey, we need to be in great spirits, great physical condition, that's where it's going to start for us.
Q: Casey Hampton has been here most of the spring, as opposed to last year. Do you think he's embracing that message?
A: You have ask Casey. I'm always in a wait-and-see mentality. I know he's about to go back to Houston.
Q: What are your impressions of Ziggy Hood?
A: The one thing that stood out about him is he's willing to and capable of running to the football. He covers a lot of ground for a big man. Other than that, there's not much of an evaluation you can make on a defensive lineman at this point, but his ability to run to the ball and his willingness to run to the ball and chase the football is unique for his position.
Q: How's Stefan Logan doing at wide receiver?
A: That's one of the guys we're kind of surprised by what he's been able to do at wide receiver. He's running back-capable, of course that's his background. He's not a fish out of water at wide receiver. He's worked as a punt returner and kick returner. Position flexibility is his ally and we're going to help him in that. Hopefully, for him and us, it's going to be a productive move.
Q: Are there any depth issues you'll address in the next six weeks?
A: More than anything we're trying to focus on how to get our number down to 80, which is the training camp number. We're over that at this point, so it's more of a subtraction mentality than an addition mentality.