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Hearing from Coach Mike Tomlin

Posted May 12, 2010


On three-way QB competition, minicamp, rookies

As the Steelers enter the final phase of their offseason on the road to training camp, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.

Q. When it comes to the concept of a three-man competition for the starting quarterback job, do you believe that can be conducted at a training camp?

A. It’s too many people. And really, it’s not a three-man quarterback competition at this point. We know what all three men (Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon) are capable of doing. All three men, at different points in time, have benefited us and helped us win football games or played winning football. We know what we’re working with. We’re going to spend the rest of this offseason teaching, re-acclimating in some cases – as with Byron Leftwich – and then we’re going to make decisions and move forward.

Q. So are you saying that you will know what the pecking order is at quarterback going into training camp?

A. Certainly.

Q. Will you announce the starting quarterback when camp opens?

A. In all likelihood, I won’t say it, but the decision will be made.

Q. You choose to have the Steelers’ one minicamp on the weekend after the draft. Why do you like to have it at that point of the offseason?

A. I don’t want to go head-to-head with Mother’s Day weekend. Like a lot of people, I have a mother and a wife. I’d just as soon get it started.

Q. Some teams actually end their offseason programs with their minicamps. Why do you prefer having it earlier in the process?

A. For me, it’s a measuring stick as to where the players are at this point in the offseason. We get a sense of where they are from a conditioning standpoint, from a detail-football standpoint. As individuals, they get a sense of where they are personally, and it provides a barometer as we move forward through the rest of the offseason. I’ve been involved with programs where you have minicamp at the end. It’s too little, too late when you get that information at the end of the offseason. There’s very little time to adjust. If a young man needs to adjust the level of his conditioning, if a young man needs to get on the screws in terms of some of the detail elements of his assignments, the summer has come to a close at that point. That’s another reason why I have minicamp on the front end of the offseason. It’s a barometer of where we are, and guides us as we push through the remainder of the offseason.

Q. Will you then use the OTAs scheduled between now and the end of the offseason program to fine-tune what you learned at minicamp?

A. Absolutely.

Q. What do you want to get accomplished between now and the end of the offseason program?

A. Simply to teach. That every man who is a part of this program is conditioned and ready for football, but also they’re better intellectually. They’re better above the neck, they have an understanding of the minute details of their jobs and how that’s going to make them good players as individuals and us better as a team.

Q. You’re going to have to make some cuts between now and the start of training camp, or once the draft picks start to sign, in order to get down to the 80-man roster limit. Is that done strictly based on numbers at positions, or do you keep the best guys regardless?

A. There is a number situation at each position, but also overall, we want to have the very best football team at camp that we can have. There are guys positioned within their group, but also there are guys positioned within the larger group. If we have to go heavy at a position because of talent level, we’ll do so. That’s very similar to how we approach things when we talk about a 53-man roster. Ideally, I have numbers in my head in terms of guys I want at each position, but also I’m looking for the best 53 as well. That’s the same approach I’ll use at training camp in getting the roster down to 80.

Q. The process that a rookie has to go through to get playing time early in his career – is that more about what he shows you or more about the rest of the depth chart at his position?

A. More times than not, it’s about what’s going on around the rookie. One thing you can know about a rookie is that he’s going to make mistakes, but that’s everybody because that’s how you learn to play the game at this level. Most of the time rookies’ opportunities are born by what’s going on around them.

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