Mike Tomlin press conference

Coming off a close loss to the Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin looks ahead to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. I'll start with a quick synopsis of Sunday's performance. Really, I still feel the same way about it today as I did a few days ago. I thought our guys played extremely hard. I thought they played a physical brand of football, and they made some plays. I just think that Chicago made more significant plays at significant moments, if you will, that area that we call situational football. They were able to put together a drive at the end of the first half, convert some third downs – hadn't converted many to that point. They put a drive together and put seven points on the board at the end of the first half. We were able to move the ball offensively there in the fourth quarter but we weren't able to convert third downs when we got in the scoring area, so the drive stalled. Of course, we missed two field goals. They were able to put two drives together late in the second half. They made plays at the end of the halves that we weren't able to make, particularly get-off down, third-down football, and they were able to gain victory because of it.

We're looking forward to the new challenges that this week holds for us and playing a divisional opponent, the Cincinnati Bengals, on the road. We're excited about that actually. They've got a very good football team. I think they're playing at a high level defensively, playing behind their front. Antwan Odom has seven sacks at this point in the season. It's an amazing number, but they've got other guys playing at a high level. Tank Johnson is an addition that's a force on the interior for them along with (Domata) Peko. (Pat) Sims is in that rotation. They've got a four-man front. They play a lot of people, six to seven people. They get after you in a lot of ways some of the teams we've been playing recently with a disruptive front four get after you. On the second level, they've got some exciting young linebackers in Keith Rivers and Rey Maualuga. In the middle they've got a savvy veteran in Dhani Jones. In the secondary, they've brought in Roy Williams who's a veteran, top-notch playmaker who has some experience in Coach (Mike) Zimmer's system. He seems to be meshing nicely with the corner tandem of (Johnathan) Joseph and (Leon) Hall, and (Chris) Crocker, who they have at the other safety position.

On offense, it starts with Carson Palmer. They got him back up and running. He's a Pro Bowl-caliber player. He's got a top-notch arm in terms of accuracy and strength. He's an extremely smart player and he's got some great receivers in (Chad) Ochocinco and Laveranues Coles. Cedric Benson's been running the ball extremely well. He's doing a nice job of that, as he was last year once they acquired him.

Of course, Coach (Marvin) Lewis is familiar with us. We're familiar with them. It's going to be an old-fashioned AFC North battle, one we've got to prepare for, one that we will and we look forward to ultimately playing.

Q: Coach, could you talk about the value of players being familiar with a coach's system?

A: I think continuity's big, whether you talk about offensive systems or defensive systems. That's something they're establishing there. Coach Zimmer's getting comfortable working with the people he's working with. He's added to that along the line by adding players like a Roy Williams that have experience with him and how he does business in their system. Their play is kind of indicative of what happens when you get a little stability and put some pieces in place. When you look at it, they've acquired guys on every level of that defense in the last year or so that are playing really well for them: Odom, Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers, Roy Williams, Crocker. They got a nice unit.

Q: Odom had five sacks last Sunday. Was he just beating guys one on one?

A: It actually happened in a variety of ways. A couple of his sacks have been in sub-package football when he's an interior rusher; very athletic to play inside. He's got a relentless rush. Some of them have been created simply by hustle, some of his edge stuff he's got a nice combination of rush moves. I think Green Bay was playing with a backup left tackle there in the second half and it showed. He went to work on that guy. He's an effort guy; he plays inside and outside; they run some games. It's been happening in a variety of ways, but regardless seven is a pretty amazing total two weeks into the season.

Q: You have two sacks. Is that indicative of the pass rush you've been getting? And are you unhappy with that?

A: I don't necessarily think it's indicative of the kind of rush we've been getting. We never use sacks to measure the quality of our rush. We want pressure applied to the quarterback, and ultimately it's how the quarterback plays. Obviously we didn't do a good enough job last week because Jay Cutler was very effective, so we need to do better.

Q: Injuries?

A: The only one significantly of note is Tyrone Carter. He's got a thigh contusion that may limit him early in the week. He should be fine by Thursday or so at the latest. Limas Sweed ran today and looked relatively well. He's going to go (Wednesday), maybe limited in some form or fashion, but he's going to practice (Wednesday). All other things considered, we're in pretty good shape.

Q: Is Lawrence Timmons fine now?

A: Yes, he is.

Q: What would be the contingency plan with Carter if he can't go?

A: If he can't go, Ryan Mundy steps up and he's been playing some for us in sub-package football. We also have some veteran corners who have position flexibility in Deshea Townsend and Keiwan Ratliff.

Q: Were you easing Lawrence back into things? And how do you see it this week?

A: We were worried about his pitch count, if you will. We wanted to keep a snap total on him. The way that we chose to monitor that is we let Keyaron Fox play in base and him work in nickel to a certain degree, and then we balanced it out by having Lawrence play base to get more work. I thought it went relatively well. He played a decent number of snaps. Both contributed on special teams. I think with another week of work he's going to be ready to go and proceed there without worrying about snap total.

Q: The Bears didn't have a first down in the first quarter. Did they make adjustments? Or was it the way you played?

A: I really think they were able to make some critical plays on third down: subtle movements in the pocket; Jay buying time, drifting, putting balls in difficult locations; and let's face it they had some receivers make some nice catches. The rookie (Johnny) Knox played rock-solid for them. The tight end, 87, stepped up and played well for them. They had some guys respond and make plays. That's how we desire to play and win. We weren't able to do it and they were.

Q: Why did you put Carter back in the game when he was dinged up?

A: Really, it's no decision. When he gets medical clearance and he's ready to go, we put him back in the game. That's what we did. We won't second-guess that decision or use hindsight in any regard. We trust our medical staff. We trust Ty. He's a professional, and maybe any comments he made after the fact maybe was some hindsight.

Q: Were you pleased with the improvement of the running game?

A: I wasn't pleased because we didn't win. Ultimately, that's always going to be the approach that I take. I think the longer that I have this job, I'm less concerned with storylines or personas, if you will. I'm only concerned simply about winning. I think the great teams are capable of winning in many forms or fashion and playing to their strengths on a week to week basis based on a matchup. I thought a great deal about that, frankly, this offseason. You study a team like New England and they walk into a stadium offensively, and week to week they can be whatever they choose to be. They can beat you in three wides, four wides, three tight ends, and it makes them very difficult to prepare for and ultimately beat. We've got a desire to win a bunch of games. We've got a bunch of guys capable of making plays. We've got three and four wideouts that we're comfortable with, two and three tight ends that we're comfortable with, two or three backs that we're comfortable with. We want to create that same persona.

Q: What does Cincinnati want to do, particularly with those young guys on the line?

A: They're using Cedric Benson and using him well, controlling the clock if you will. They won the time of possession in both games. And when the rubber meets the road they've got a good quarterback in Carson Palmer.

Q: Is balance still a goal?

A: Ultimately, absolutely. You can't truly be successful unless you have some form of balance. Ultimately, though, we're interested in winning football games.

Q: Is the running game still as important in the league as it once seemed to be? Is it a passing league now?

A: No, I truly believe that teams that are capable in running and stopping the run are going to be consistent winners in this game. I think that's timeless.

Q: You've thrown maybe 40-some passes more than you've run. Would you like more balance?

A: I think two weeks in is too early to place a persona on anyone. I think over time it will become obvious what we are and we're not interested in giving anybody a heads up.

Q: Any concerns with Jeff Reed's psyche?

A: No.

Q: Did you talk to him?

A: I chit-chat with Jeff, but kicking is not in my area of expertise. I'll leave that to him. I'm extremely confident that he's capable of doing the job and doing it at a high level. I think that we carried him off the field the week before, but that's the story of the National Football League, isn't it? If he's a professional, and I know he is, he'll bounce back and deliver winning performances for us again.

Q: Santonio Holmes has been by far Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target. Is there anything to that?

A: Nothing. He's open. Ben's throwing him the ball.

Q: On the pass to Mike Wallace on the last drive, the defender fell but he went out of bounds. What happened there?

A: I remember the play, but I didn't ask him what he was thinking. The footing was somewhat questionable over in that area. The defender slipped; Mike slipped. And I think a function of him not getting up the field was more of the fact he was probably trying to regain his balance and get his bearings after catching the football. By the time he did that the guy was closing on him and he got what he could get.

Q: James Harrison gets under the tackles, but it seems like they're falling on top of him. What can he do to combat that?

A: I'm not ready to consider that being a trend. We've played two games, he's applied some pressure, and he hasn't gotten home and gotten a sack yet. Maybe that'll change that this weekend.

Q: Cutler took short drops. How do you combat that?

A: We've got to play good, short defense, underneath defense. That rhythm quick passing at times is a run-game alternative. I thought we did a nice job of shutting down their running game and really it became a run-game alternative. Of course, the minute you don't complete one of those short passes, you're behind the chains and ultimately that's what it's all about. They did a nice job of completing those short passes, and even when they didn't they did a nice job of converting those third-down situations.

Q: Rashard Mendenhall made some nice plays. Do those things give confidence and make a difference?

A: I really don't believe he was lacking confidence at this point. He got an opportunity to play and he delivered, which is what we expected him to do and really what he expected to do. As we go on, he's going to get more of those opportunities and he better produce more of those plays.


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