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Tomlin on Ben, ruling AB out early

Posted Jan 17, 2016

Coach Mike Tomlin addressed a variety of issues leading up to the playoff game in Denver.

Q. There have been times this season when you either ruled Ben Roethlisberger out of an upcoming game early in the week, or in effect did that by saying publicly that you were preparing Landry Jones or Mike Vick as the starting quarterback. On the Friday before the Broncos game, you ruled out Antonio Brown instead of waiting until the pregame inactive announcements. Why rule Brown out on Friday?

A. Because often I’m not worried about outside perspective or information that’s provided to the outside. I’m more worried about providing a focus and a clarity for the inside. I think it’s important that our group understands the tools they have at their disposal to do the job this week, and what they don’t have at their disposal so  to make the necessary adjustments and set their mentality to do the job. When I can provide that clarity for them, I’ll do it, even if it’s at the expense of maybe providing helpful information to those we play.

Q. Is the early announcement something you do with star players?

A. I don’t call it a star player, but instead he’s a significant component of our efforts. When that significant component is potentially not available, you need to provide that information for the group, so that they can adjust because I believe they’re professionals. And I think if you give professionals significant enough time to adjust, then you can hold them accountable in terms of the standard of expectation.

Q. With no Antonio Brown, who takes his place – Martavis Bryant or Markus Wheaton?

A. I don’t know if that’s a fair question, because I don’t know if that’s a job for one man. We’re going to spread those responsibilities around, much like we do when we’re missing other significant people. You’re playing without DeAngelo Williams, and so it became Fitz Toussaint and Jordan Todman. In a similar way, we’re going to spread those Antonio Brown responsibilities around. We’re going to expect Markus Wheaton to step up and have a big day, expect Martavis Bryant to step up and have a big day. But it also could include Darrius Heyward-Bey and Sammie Coates.

Q. How much has Sammie Coates progressed and is he an option for you?

A. He’s a hard-working guy. I’m not going to pretend like Coates is going to be the reason why we’re going to have a good day. If he gets an opportunity to contribute, good for him and we’ll expect him to do it in a positive way.

Q. How do you handle your quarterbacks, what with Ben Roethlisberger nursing a right shoulder injury and with Landry Jones as the backup?

A. If Ben feels well enough to play and is functional and capable of doing it, then he’s going to play. If he’s not, Landry has had a good, physical week of preparation, and in-helmet perspective on the preparation, which is different from a week ago when Ben took all of the snaps leading up to the game in Cincinnati. So we can expect Landry to play better than he did a week ago in Cincinnati, and I believe that’s a reasonable expectation for us and for Landry. We’ll see how it goes with Ben’s health and his functionality, and we’ll go from there.

Q. Playing in Denver, that’s going to be a hostile environment, which necessitates a silent count. When using a silent count, you’ll see Ramon Foster turn his head back toward the quarterback, and then slap the hip of the center. How is that different from movement in the interior of the offensive line that would draw a penalty flag for a false start?

A. It’s abrupt or done with the intent to deceive the defense. I’m using that language because that’s the language the NFL uses. They’re very specific about the language. False starts are always quick and abrupt and done in an attempt to deceive the defense. If you notice, Ramon is very deliberate when we’re utilizing that. They put that provision in there to help offenses, to help guys who have jobs to do like Ramon.

Q. Did the team have a good week?

A. I always convince myself that the team had a good week.

Q. With so few teams left now – just eight this weekend, four in each conference – do you pay more attention to what’s going on with the other games?

A. I probably pay attention less, particularly because I find a great deal of comfort in knowing that we’ve seen quite a bit of the remaining teams in stadiums already. I think that allows me to pay less attention. You get singularly focused on the one in front of you, and you know that you’ll have a resource or a frame of reference as you move forward.

Q. You have been in this situation before – getting to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Do you do more coaching or less coaching at this stage of a season?

A. Less. Because I believe your goals are very vivid and tangible. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and from a human nature standpoint, that allows those guys to wire in. What I would love is if we could have that type of focus and detail in Week 6, from a preparation standpoint. I always take this time of the year to make the point to our young guys: look how wired in our meetings are, look how detailed our practices are, listen to the communication both formal and informal. Why can’t we have that at every step of the journey? Because we as humans seek comfort, we fall short of perfection, we’re not mentally tough. So I take opportunities like this – because they are wired in, they are maximizing preparation – to point out what we could be over the course of the journey with evidence and knowledge of what we are right now.

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