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Age of defense doesn't bother Tomlin

Posted Sep 6, 2011

To some age is just a number, but in football while it can translate into experience, it can also carry many negative thoughts – from slowing down, being injury prone, losing an edge.

The Steelers defense has 10 players age 30 and over, including four of them on the defensive line where Aaron Smith and Chris Hoke are both 35, Casey Hampton is 34 and Brett Keisel is 32.

In addition there are three linebackers who are 30 or more, including James Farrior, 36, James Harrison, 33 and Larry Foote, 31, and three defensive backs, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor, both 31 and Troy Polamalu, 30.

When you look at those names you don’t think of the negative connotations age brings with it. You have two former NFL defensive players of the year winners in Polamalu and Harrison. You have Pro Bowl players. You have eight starters. You have the heart and soul of the defense.

There are some that can’t see beyond the numbers in the age column on the roster; that focus on nothing but the age.

The one person that matters the most, doesn’t. That would be Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin was asked in his weekly press conference on Tuesday to characterize the age of his defense. He answer delivered his message loud and clear.

“I wouldn’t because I don’t care,” said Tomlin.  “I just want 11 guys representing us defensively.  I know that the age has been something noteworthy, something to talk about.  But when I look at them I don’t see age and I don’t see dollar signs. 

“I look at guys that put their head in the pile and are committed to doing their job to the standards we hold them to.  For the most part that group does and has for an extended period of time and we respect and honor that.”

The one thing that Tomlin does acknowledge as far as age goes is he manages playing time, making sure he rotates players in as he feels it is needed.

“I do, but I also do it for guys in their 30’s on the other side of the ball,” said Tomlin. “That’s what coaches do.  We try to provide our team with what it is they need to perform and perform at a high level.  It is different for some guys than it is for others for a variety of factors.  Age just happens to one of them.  We feel very comfortable not only with our first wave defensively but some of the young interesting guys that back them up that will get the opportunity to contribute.  So we are who we are. 

“We are not fighting any stereotypes or darts being thrown our way, usually they provide a positive energy for us.  So keep talking about how old they are.  I appreciate that.  You make my job easy.”

* * *

The Steelers go in to the Ravens game in good shape from the health standpoint.

“The only real injury to speak of is Chris Carter, a young outside linebacker battling a hamstring injury,” said Tomlin. “We mentioned earlier that Ike Taylor is getting his pin removed today. We don’t anticipate that inhibiting his play in any form or fashion.”

Tomlin feels that cornerback Bryant McFadden should be ready to go, coming off a hamstring injury that sidelined him during most of the preseason.

“Under regular season-like circumstances he probably would have played a week ago in Carolina,” said Tomlin.  “We want to exercise and take advantage of that opportunity to make sure that is behind us, we expect it to be.  He had some good work on Sunday and Monday and we expect that to continue as we push forward toward game time and we don’t expect him to be limited in any form or fashion.”

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