That's a Wrap

The Steelers wrapped up their on-field portion of spring workouts on Thursday. Mike Tomlin spoke to the media and took questions on all facets of the team. Here's the transcript:

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Good afternoon. We have brought a close to what we consider a productive session of organized team activities. I stop short of characterizing it as a success because ultimately you measure offseason and offseason programs by the production they provide in the fall and the winter. But I do feel good about the work we were able to get done.

The themes for the OTAs: detail in our work and the development of great physical football conditioning. I believe that our football team was growing in those areas, which is an important part – but it's just a part. These next six weeks is another stretch of the journey that I think is significant. A lot of guys will be getting into the individual regimens that prepare them for the season. We'll be closely monitoring those things as we continue to move forward. Today was just the day that brought the end of the OTAs; of course we still have another official week next week of our offseason program. Guys will be conditioning and lifting and so forth, really wrapping a nice bow around some of the technical things from a football standpoint that we worked on. There'll be a lot of classroom work next week. That will be great work for us.

But (I'm) generally pleased. Attendance of course is big. The first step to getting better is showing up. Largely been really impressed by the attendance. I thought they were well-attended and I liked the energy and enthusiasm when they got there. Questions.

Are those workouts next week mandatory?

Again the offseason program itself is not mandatory. It's encouraged.

Do you have a good idea of what you have in the young guys? Or will it take a training camp?

Definitely need to see more of them in pads. That is the game of football. I think you can be too high or too low on a guy this time of year based on football in shorts. I'm always cautions in that regard. Encouraged by some of the things that I see, but I temper that encouragement because I understand the physical nature of football is a big element of it.

What's your blueprint for training four quarterbacks at training camp?

It's been good the last couple of weeks. I like the way we've done it. We've simply focused on what we're doing in regard to the reps. We gave Ben close to the bulk of the reps because he missed a significant amount of time. Wanted to make this a productive offseason for him. I think we got some work done with him in the last two weeks. Didn't reduce Dennis Dixon's reps at all because he's a young guy. Respectable snaps are a big part of his growth and development. So that may change when we get to training camp.

Does Charlie Batch still have a chance to win the starting job?

Yes, but again there will not be equal reps or equal opportunity to prove what you're capable of. It's just not feasible.

Coach, is Byron Leftwich the No. 1 going into camp?

Again, I'm not going to name a number one. Don't need to. But I think how we distribute the reps is an indication of our mindset at this juncture.

Mike, are you concerned at all about the effect on Ben's game if he doesn't get the reps he normally would get in camp with the games he's going to miss?

Not overly. It's something we have to deal with. We have no control over it. If there was something we could do to adjust it, we would. Those are the cards that we've been dealt. He's a pro. When the opportunity and time for him to play (comes), I'm sure he's going to be excited about doing that.

Is there a blueprint for this type of thing?

We're writing it.

Do you know of anyone in any business that's gone through something similar? Or are you kind of making it up as you go along?

We're kind of making it up as we go along. There's no blueprint for these situations or circumstances, and even if there were you wouldn't necessarily follow it. You'd try to do what's appropriate for this specific instance and situation and the men involved and what's best for this football team. So even if there was a similar or like situation in another city in another time, it doesn't necessarily provide a blueprint for you because every situation and circumstance is different when you're dealing with people.

How beneficial could training camp be for Ben when he realizes he'll miss at least four games?

I think it can be very beneficial. I think he's going to have a mentality like he always has when he reports to training camp, and that's to put himself in position to be the very best he can be and be what we need him to be and prepare himself for the season. He's still going to have an opportunity to do all of those things.

How would he keep that up during the month he can't come here?

That's to be determined. Those are some of the questions that you can't answer at this juncture.

Have you noticed Ben to be a better person or player than what you've seen in the past?

Not that I've noticed and not that I've been looking for it. I think I said that last time I visited with you guys. Change is good in this instance. I'm not necessarily concerned about short-term change, or what we say about the change. I'm more largely interested in our ability to move forward from a long-haul standpoint.

What has the league communicated to you about making sure Ben is on the proper path these next six weeks and will be able to knock that suspension down to four weeks?

There hasn't been any communication directly with me in terms of what's expected in that interim that you mentioned.

Mike, Troy Polamalu went half speed again yesterday. Are you concerned at all about his recovery?

No, not overly. I expect him to be ready to go at the start of training camp.

Not overly, but is there some concern? Is there a chance he might not return with the skills he had last opening day?

Well, I'm always concerned about players that are coming off of injury. I would have the same level concern for an Aaron Smith or a Charlie Batch for that matter. Anyone that's coming off of an injury into an offseason and preparing for the next season, there's a level of concern from a head-coaching standpoint.

Will you approach training camp any differently coming off a 9-7 season in which you didn't make the playoffs as opposed to coming off a Super Bowl?

No. Training camp is for one reason and one reason only: to prepare for the season and bring the football team together. That will always be my approach in regards to training camp. Very rarely do I have a reactionary approach to that element of our core beliefs relative to what happened in the past. Usually it's all eyes forward in providing this team what it needs to prepare for the 2010 season, so from that standpoint I'm not approaching this training camp any differently than I approached the one before that or the one before that or the one before that, for that matter. I've been here a few years now. It's pretty good.

How important is it to find a short-yardage back in training camp?

We're looking for people to distinguish themselves in situational football, that being one of them. We've got some young guys in the backfield that might have a degree of pedigree that's geared to those things. Of course, Isaac Redman is a guy who had a little attention last year in the preseason in that area. Jonathan Dwyer of course is a guy who should maybe have a skill set in that area. But I'm open to the development of all those men, specifically in that area of situational football and others.

Is there a young guy who might step into the position Mike Wallace played last year?

We drafted two wide receivers that have had good offseasons. But, again, they did it in shorts. We'll know more about those guys as we get into training camp. And, really, as excited as we are about the growth and development of those young guys, they're just that, they're young guys. That's why it was important to acquire guys like Arnaz Battle and Antwaan Randle El, veteran guys that are starter-capable that have played football in this league at a high level. They're quality guys who are going to be able to help us.

Do you need a pure speed guy at that position? Or was that just a luxury you had last year with Wallace?

We've always had a guy that's capable of getting behind people at that spot, whether it was Mike Wallace or Nate Washington before him. Someone will emerge, no doubt.

How versatile were Randle El, Wallace and Battle this spring?

They've actually done a nice job of it. Not only those guys, but we challenged the group to be position-flexible. Really, other than the young guys, the rookies, the group would include Tyler Grisham. All of the guys that have been here and been in this league really bounced around positionally this offseason.

How is Sean McHugh and could he get that (H-back) job back?

He's doing a nice job. Again, if he's capable of getting the job back, that'll be determined in Latrobe, but I like where he is from a health standpoint.

Mike, it's been a much different offseason around here than anyone can remember. Any affect on the team?

That'll be determined by how we play. I'm a results-oriented guy. You measure offseasons and what you do and the decisions that you make based on the outcome of football games. That being said, I'm extremely optimistic about what this team's capable of.

How is Maurkice Pouncey doing? And is he a legitimate candidate to start at guard this year?

I think that he is. I think that he's proven to be mature beyond his years. His level of football maturity probably exceeds that of some 20-year-old first-round picks that we've had in recent years, like Lawrence Timmons and Rashard Mendenhall. He's got good football maturity for a 20-year-old. It's been a pleasant surprise. He's been comfortable at guard and center. Again, the big element of what he's capable of doing for us will be determined in Latrobe.

Is it out of the question that he could start at center, Mike?

Not out of the question, no.

How many surprises in years past have you had at training camp?

Every year, I think. That's why you go with great optimism and an open mind. That's the great thing about this game. People ascend; people descend. Plans change. I'm open to that element of it; you have to be. We don't run into a guy like Stefan Logan a year ago unless you have that mentality. I'm always open to guys emerging and surprising us and being a guy that's capable of contributing.

Are you concerned about the age of the defense?

No, I'm not. When you look at the talent we've infused into that group in the last several years, I think we're doing a nice job of infusing young guys to go along with some veteran guys. That's been ongoing since I've been here, going back to Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley and as recent of course as Thaddeus Gibson and Jason Worilds – Ziggy Hood, the young corners. We've done a nice job of adding young guys to the mix at virtually every level, not only on our defense but our offense as well.

How is Worilds adjusting to the change to outside linebacker?

There's very little hesitation in his movement. He's decisive and that shows a level of understanding. I'm excited about what he's done from that standpoint at this juncture, the movement things, the awareness things. It's not pad-related, of course, but some of the things that slow the development of a guy that played with his hand on the ground that now has to stand up were not contact or pad-related. He's shown an aptitude for some of those things, which is encouraging.


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