Mike Tomlin press conference

We're back with the full transcripts of the Mike Tomlin weekly press conference.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. Got a big challenge for us as a football team this week. Our first opportunity to go into a hostile environment to play a very good football team in the Chicago Bears. Location Soldier Field, it hadn't been historically good to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think we're 1-10 in our last 11 opportunities at Soldier Field. We're excited about this one. We've got a great deal of respect for those guys -- front office, players, coaches.

Let's start offensively talking about these guys. (Matt) Forte, their feature runner, has got great patience, vision. He's a picking, dodging runner, if you will. He does a nice job always finishing off runs, a positive gain guy. He also led them in receptions a year ago. Jay Cutler is a very talented, strong-armed quarterback. He's capable of putting balls in tight places. Actually just finished looking at the Denver game we played against him a few years ago. He made some incredible plays against us in that game. He's their signal-caller. Of course, Devin Hester is a dangerous receiving threat. They get the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. Also, their tight end of course is a vertical threat, a unique matchup if you will from the tight end standpoint because he's so big and so athletic, like a lot of tight ends from the University of Miami. Up front, they're led by Olin Kreutz, their man in the middle, a savvy veteran center similar to Kevin Mawae, who we faced a week ago, which makes them a tough unit to beat. He makes all their declarations and so forth, and very rarely do you fool Olin Kreutz.

Defensively, like last week, they're a 4-3 front. They play a bunch of people. Their front four wreaks havoc. They've got quality players at all positions across the front, whether it's Adewale (Ogunleye), Alex Brown, Tommie Harris. They run very deep and they play a lot of folks and they're a vertical-attacking, gap-elimination, disrupting front. On the second level, of course Lance Briggs will be their guy that makes the plays for them, and their secondary is tied together by two solid corners, (Nathan) Vasher and (Charles) Tillman.

In their return game, of course, they have the most explosive return guy probably the opposite side of Cleveland in Devin Hester. Of course, Danny Manning has distinguished himself also as a kickoff returner. (Robbie) Gould is a great specialist. They're rock-solid across the board. What else is new for us?

We're excited about getting better this week and going to face those challenges. Hopefully we'll be able to put enough things together to win in a hostile environment. Questions?

Q: What do you see in Hunter Hillenmeyer as a replacement for Brian Urlacher?

A: Well, Hillenmeyer started before for those guys. He's not new to the Bears. He's not new to starting for the Bears. He's a 7-year player who's started a bunch of games for them. Injuries are a part of football. I'm sure they'd prefer to play with Urlacher. They're going to have to find ways to be successful without him; similarly, we'd prefer to play with Troy (Polamalu). We're going to have to find ways to play without him. That's the story of the National Football League. I'm sure they'll uphold the standard like we intend to. It comes with the territory. When you lose a quality player like that, it's more than just plays. But they also have some quality veterans who have been a part of their program for a long time and I'm sure they'll be prepared to pick up the slack in other areas as well.

Q: Do you game-plan to attack replacements?

A: No, we're just going to play our game and look at what they're providing us schematically. A lot of those guys grew up in the same football school I grew up in. I'm talking about their coaches over there – Lovie Smith, Rod Marinelli and others. They're going to ask their guys to play up to a standard as well. They're going to play and I'm sure they're going to play well and we've got to be prepared to play better.

Q: Have you seen changes in the Bears?

A: No, I think they're very similar. There are a few differences but there aren't any more differences than would normally occur from year to year. They're very sound; they don't beat themselves; they're very thoughtful in how they apply pressure; they make sure that they bring a variety of people; they do a nice job of watching their tendencies from that standpoint – just a very sound, well-coached group.

Q: Knowing them, does that help you prepare?

A: Not necessarily. I know the style with which they will play. They will pursue the ball relentlessly. They will rush Ben (Roethlisberger) relentlessly. They'll chase. They'll do the things that you can't coach, the detail things. But in terms of how the game's going to unfold, that'll be determined by those who play.

Q: Is Urlacher a variable to them in the same way that Troy's a versatile piece in your defense?

A: There's no question that Brian Urlacher has a unique skill set that others don't have. He brings a personality to the position that all great players bring to the positions that they play. He's able to do things that maybe other mike linebackers in that scheme can't or aren't able to. There's no question. But I doubt that will affect the bottom line in terms of their ability to get production out of the position.

Q: Could you give an update on Troy and any other injuries?

A: Very similar to the update that I gave following the contest the other night. Troy's knee injury will not require surgery. It's really a week-to-week thing as we progress from here on out. He's definitely out of action this week. Then of course the only other injury of note is Lawrence Timmons and we're hopeful he's capable of getting some work here and pushing toward game-readiness as we move throughout the week.

Q: Some offensive linemen said after the Tennessee game that unfamiliarity with the 4-3 may have been an issue. With another 4-3 team this week, should that be an issue at all?

A: You know, it's a factor. I'm not going to allow it to be an excuse. We have to execute and play winning football, and we're capable of doing that. Those will be our intentions as we work this week. We understand what we face schematically this week from these guys and how they play, but at the same time understanding and being able to function against it are two different things. We've got to put ourselves in position to execute.

Q: A DB said the Cutler they saw the other night was not the Cutler they saw in the past. Can your defense force that or was it an off night?

A: I'd characterize that as an off night. This guy's a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. We've seen it firsthand. The things he pulled off against us in Denver a couple years ago was special stuff. His ability to create when the pocket breaks down, throw on the move, to put the ball in tight spaces, to attack the field vertically, he has a special talent, a special skill set, one that we respect.

Q: Should the DBs be looking forward to playing him?

A: I would've preferred that we be having this discussion next week. Usually, when you're talking about a player of his caliber, you're not going to see those things two weeks in a row – and that's just being quite frank with you.

Q: Could you talk about their WRs and how they do or don't matchup with what he brings?

A: They've got some talented guys. (Earl) Bennett's a guy they've been getting the ball to, possession routes and so forth. It looks like he's got a great deal of rapport with Jay Cutler. Johnny Knox, a rookie from Abilene-Christian a lot of people don't know a great deal about, but we looked at that young man very closely in the weeks preceding the draft, and really evaluated him and compared him against a Mike Wallace, a speed guy, a very fast guy. He was able to get behind Charles Woodson there on Sunday. He can take the top off the coverage. And of course you know what Devin Hester's capable of doing once he gets the ball in his hands, and really he appears to have developed as a route runner, ran a variety of routes. Of course, they still get the ball in his hands in specialty plays, gadget plays, as they've done in the past, but no question he's matured as a wide receiver.

Q: What was your take after watching your running game on tape? Back? Line? Other problems?

A: All of the above. We've got to get better in that area as a football team. For one reason and one reason only, that increases our chances of winning. That's what we're about, putting ourselves in position to win. We acknowledge that if we continue along those lines from a run-game standpoint that that doesn't help us in that regard, so that's why we're focusing on it.

Q: What did you think of your pass protection that night?

A: I thought it was solid. We got hit a couple times in some blitz-game things and some no-huddle things, but all in all I thought from a matchup standpoint I thought they did a nice job up front.

Q: From your roots as a defensive coach, would it be your assessment that it's harder than ever to run the ball?

A: I believe, particularly in September football, people make a commitment to stopping the run, and it's easier to make the commitment in September when everybody feels good and you've got all the horses in the stable. I think over the course of the long haul, you see who's good at it week in and week out. It's usually tough sledding early in the football season. That's been my experience. That was my intent when I was a defensive play-caller, that in order to be a good defense it starts there – making people one-dimensional, making people struggle if they're committed to running the football.

Q: Do opposing teams line up to stop the run against you guys?

A: I'm not going to say that. They do what they deem necessary to win. In a lot of instances, that may be the case. But I think each week unfolds differently and we've got to be prepared for that. We've got to play to our strengths within matchups. We're willing and able to do that and that may mean throwing the football around some. Hopefully that means we're capable of running it, but at the end of the day the W is what we seek.

Q: How might special teams be a feature in the upcoming game?

A: It's a legitimate phase of a football game, hopefully a winning edge for us. I felt that it was the case on Thursday night. Jeff (Reed) banged the game-winner; we had four punts downed inside the 20; we were solid in returns. I liked the efforts of our coverage units. We're just going to continue to grow in that area and hopefully it continues to be a winning edge for us. No question it's a winning edge for the Chicago Bears in how they play, and we're going to have to be on our Ps and Qs in that area of our football team if we want to stack up on Sunday in Chicago.

Q: Are you a proponent, in general, of giving up yardage and kicking away from a great kick returner?

A: It depends on the circumstance and game situation. At times, you're capable of doing that. In other game situations, even if you want to you can't. So we'd better be prepared to kick and cover and also understand that we have a weapon in Daniel Sepulveda who can directional kick if necessary.

Q: Is it more important with hang time or direction when punting?

A: It's both. The location of the football is going to be important. You can't put the ball in the middle of the field versus a dangerous return man. At the same time, you can't put it on the sideline with lack of flight time because he's going to get it back in the middle of the field. Direction, hang time, ball placement, all will be critical when you're talking about cutting the field off on a dangerous return man.

Q: What went into giving Wallace so much playing time Thursday?

A: More than anything, he didn't look like a fish out of water with the time we gave him initially. So we continued on, but we also played Limas (Sweed) as well. We're going to continue to do that with both guys until we get clarity in terms of who is distinguishing themselves as a potential "third wideout" if you will. Right now we like the work of both of those men and we'll continue with what we're doing in regards to that.

Q: What do you appreciate most in Hines Ward and what do you want young players like Wallace to take from him?

A: That he's a competitor. He doesn't run away from competition. He doesn't run away from moments. He wants to be the reason that we win. Not only inside stadiums, but also around this building, when no one's watching, he's committed to doing the things that put him in position to win. That's something that not only young guys but old guys can follow.

Q: How will you use Ryan Mundy? Will you use less dime?

A: No. No. We've got to be prepared and capable of doing that, particularly when they get in their pass and personnel groups. (Greg) Olsen, 82, is a unique tight end. He's a tough, physical matchup for most linebackers. We'll be capable and willing to use dime, and that may include Ryan Mundy, who proved last week that it wasn't too big for him when he went in and actually did some nice things for him.

Q: If an offensive tackle goes down, would Ramon Foster be the first guy up?

A: Yes.

Q: What's his story as an undrafted guy?

A: His story's not unlike a lot of other guys. He came in and did a nice job, made a nice account of himself in different circumstances and situations that we put him in. Is he a finished product? Not by any stretch he's not, but we like where he is and he's improving every week and that's the position that he holds at this time.

Q: So you wouldn't use Trai Essex at tackle?

A: It depends on where we are in the football game. We're capable of doing that, yes, but it depends on where we are in the game, and actually it would depend on which tackle goes down.

Q: Randy Moss said September football is below its normal quality. Did you see that?

A: I really don't care what other teams are doing. Believe it or not I didn't watch much football this weekend. I focus on the Pittsburgh Steelers and who we're playing and who we're preparing to play and all that other stuff is kind of window dressing when you're taking care of your business. I tend to focus on ours.

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