Q. During interviews since the end of the 2009 season, Steelers President Art Rooney II has said that perhaps the younger players aren’t being developed quickly enough. Do you agree with that?
A. You always want to see the young players have their opportunities. It varies when they get those opportunities, and it’s up to the player to force the coaches’ hands.
Q. Do you buy into the notion that teams need to spend some high draft picks on offensive linemen?
A. It depends on the draft. Every draft is different. You never go into a draft saying you have to pick a player at a certain position. Our left tackle is a third-round pick, the left guard is a No. 6, the center was an undrafted rookie, the right guard a No. 3 pick and the right tackle a fourth-round pick. And we won (Super Bowl XLIII) with that group. You want high picks in every group, but that’s not going to happen, especially when you’re picking later as we have in the recent past.
Q. Mike Tomlin has been the coach during a good year, during a great season and a most recently during disappointing season. Has he changed as a coach at all during that time?
A. I haven’t seen any change. We’re going to have these (disappointing) seasons, and we all have to respond. It’s how the organization is going to respond after finishing 9-7. Coach Tomlin, in my opinion has been the same throughout. It’s the players who change, the team that changes.
Q. Are there any specific depth areas that concern you? Cornerback?
A. No. Not one more than others. When you look at your team, 9-7, you can add depth anywhere, add competition anywhere. It might be competition for the starting spot, backup spot or practice squad.
Q. You want to be better everywhere on the roster, but are there any areas you can identify as not being good enough?
A. No. What I can identify is that 9-7 is not good enough, and that’s a collective. Offense, defense, coaching, personnel, everything. To sit here and say a certain position or a certain group, no. You have to look at it collectively, because one area intertwines with another.
Q. Did you sign
A. That’s a nice quality to have, because when you’re getting down to 80 players for camp, sometimes those versatilities and extra abilities might save you a roster spot.
Q. This team has been willing to devote a roster spot for a return specialist, but it never has done so for a kickoff specialist. Do you not believe in a guy for kickoffs?
A. I would think we would be open to anything that would improve the team, but at what cost? If you’re talking about a kickoff specialist vs. a return specialist vs. a fourth receiver vs. a fifth cornerback, you have to figure out what the best formula is for a winning team.
Q. Does a player’s ability on special teams become more important in your free agency evaluations based on the performance of the coverage units last season?
A. Anybody who can do something beyond their play on offense or defense certainly would enhance their chance to help you. Sometimes the better kids in college don’t play a lot of special teams, but that doesn’t mean they can’t.
Q. Is it harder to identify them as potential contributors on special teams then?
A. You try to get their history, and you try to know what they have done in the past. Then you have to find out their willingness to do it in the future. Sometimes when kids become better players, they don’t see themselves as special teams contributors, while others see their chance to play comes through special teams. You hope to get players with that latter mind-set.
Q. How would you rate the quality of the 2010 draft?
A. Excellent. It’s very deep defensively. Offensively, there might not be as many big name skill position players, but there are a lot of good players.
Q. Is it another good year for offensive tackles?
A. Yes. It all goes back to the evolution of the passing game in college football, which trickles into the NFL. If you’re to ask me why (it’s another good year for offensive tackles in the draft), I’d say colleges are developing more offensive linemen, particularly pass protectors, which are usually the left tackle types.
Q. Has that trickled down to defense yet? Have colleges started turning out better coverage guys because they have to defend all of those passing offenses?
A. There need to be more cover players, and there are more pass-rushers – those “undersized” pass rushers, who probably are linebacker types for us. It’s also un unusually deep draft for defensive linemen as well. It was unusually deep (with defensive linemen) before the underclassmen declared, and then that just enhanced it.
Q. There have been suggestions over the years that
A. That’s a coaching decision. Sometimes it’s easy to say he could move inside and be a great player, but you don’t know that until you actually do it. With Jeff Hartings, we always talked about him being a good center, but he never played center in Detroit. When he came here he went to center and played pretty well. You may think a guy has certain abilities, but until you see him do it nobody knows for sure. And when a guy is pretty good at one position, it’s hard to move a guy, because then you’re making two moves.
Q. At one point of 2009, the Steelers were 6-2, and then they also won their last three games of the season. That’s 9-2. How did the season get away during that five-game losing streak?
A. You’re 6-2 at the halfway point, and you feel pretty good. You lose a game, and then you lose another game, and it seemed like it was hard to stop that trend. To Coach Tomlin’s credit, and the team’s credit, after that disappointing spell they were able to come back and we finished on a high note. I think that’s very important as a springboard going into the next season. Again, collectively we weren’t good enough to win games during that five-game stretch. We’re a 9-7 team, and part of that 9-7 was losing five. The five-game losing streak was disappointing, but you have to look at how we finished. How we finished wasn’t good enough to get us into the tournament, but at least we finished on a high not. We’ll see if we carry it over.
Q. Are you in the last year of your contract, and where are you on that?
A. My personal status, I’m not going to talk about that. It’s not for me to discuss.
Q. Do you want to stay here?
A. I’m totally happy in my position at this point.
Q. The Steelers have the 18th overall pick in the 2010 draft. If you stay in that spot, are you confident you’ll get a quality player?
A. Yes. Absolutely. Not yet knowing the medical and character information we’ll find out over the next two months, it looks like we can get deep into this thing and find players who can help improve a 9-7 team.