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Tomlin on the Browns

Posted Nov 24, 2013

Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at today’s opponent – the Cleveland Browns:

Q. What separates this year’s Browns teams from the ones we have seen in the recent past?

A. It’s a new regime. They’re different in so many ways, from a front office standpoint, from a coaching staff standpoint, from a significant player standpoint. They’ve got a new guy under center. Each year, you have an opportunity to be something new and different. That’s every team, but this team represents that in a big way in 2013.

Q. The Browns’ linebackers have combined for 13.5 of their 31 sacks. Is that a product of what happens along the defensive line with Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin?

A. Those defensive linemen are guys who require a great deal of attention from a blocking standpoint. They’re big, disruptive, powerful people, who provide one-on-one opportunities for others. Also, what they do schematically, they’re built defensively very much like we are now. There are a lot of one-on-one opportunities for linebackers vs. running backs and tight ends in our scheme.

Q. You have said Joe Haden is the best cornerback the Steelers have faced this season. What qualities make him that?

A. His feel for the game and his peripheral vision are not good but exceptional. He has the ability to feel the receiver and see the quarterback in zones. He has the ability to feel the quarterback and see the receiver himself in man. He sees more than most, and that allows him to get breaks on the ball, to catch the ball. He’s a very complete cornerback.

Q. Jason Campbell has taken over at quarterback, and his history in the league is that he likes to go down the field. How do you counteract that?

A. We have to break down his pocket. That’s the reality of it. Much like many Norv Turner offenses of the past, the Browns are going to stretch the field vertically, they’re going to throw the deep digs. Accuracy becomes an issue on those plays when you don’t have a clean pocket, when you can’t follow through, when there are bodies at your feet. We have to apply pressure to him, and while we want to get to him we need to make that pocket disintegrate so the downfield accuracy becomes an issue.

Q. Jordan Cameron is their tight end, and he has 56 catches and six touchdowns. Does he remind you of anyone?

A. An easy comparison for me is Antonio Gates, not because they’re physically similar but he’s doing the same things in the same offense. You see the skill-set that allows him to do it. They’re both big-bodied guys who are capable vertical route-runners, they have great hands and body control. They know how to use their bodies to shield smaller defenders. The Browns are utilizing Jordan very much like Norv Turner utilized Antonio Gates when he was in San Diego.

Q. Outside of the game-winning drive in Super Bowl XLIII, was last Sunday’s performance by Ben Roethlisberger the best you’ve seen from him?

A. I hadn’t looked at it in a historical perspective. He’s had so many good games over the years. If you would’ve asked me last Sunday, I would’ve said yes.

Q. Was the 97-yard drive against the Lions that followed their failed fake field goal the most significant element of that victory?

A. There are several things you could point to, with that being one of them. I’d also like to think our ability to stand up and make them kick a field goal at the end of the first half was significant. As miserable as our second quarter was for us, that preservation of four points at the end of the first half was significant. During that 97-yard drive, that third-and-9 completion to Antonio Brown was a significant play, but there were a lot of significant moments and there usually are in games like that.

Q. How was the defense able to hold Calvin Johnson to no catches in the second half?

A. I really think that we just played better. We felt comfortable with the plan we had going into the game in terms of trying to minimize him, but he’s a talented guy and he’s going to be able to overcome that plan from time to time. I really just think we settled in and got on the details and worked collectively. Obviously, the pass rush is a big part of that. The rush intensified in the second half with guys like Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones.

Q. Have Worilds and Jones earned more snaps down the stretch because of that performance against the Lions?

A. They’re going to get them, whether they’ve earned them or not, sometimes due to circumstance. We like the contributions of those young men, and we need more of it. We need it in a big way vs. the Browns today.

Q. The Lions had five offensive possessions in the second half, and those ended with two punts and three takeaways. Is that the kind of defense the Steelers need today in Cleveland?

A. It’s going to take a gritty performance. I hate to quantify it in terms of possessions or how those possessions might look. When you’re playing a team like this one, with the close proximity in location of the cities, with the history, and the significance for the two teams – even if it’s not significant to those on the outside – it’s going to take a gritty performance for us to get out of here today with a win.

Q. Is Antonio Brown having a Pro Bowl season in your view?

A. I believe he is, and not only from a numbers standpoint but also in the timeliness of the plays. Talented wide receivers are capable of putting up numbers, but they often aren’t the difference in a game in terms of whether their team wins or loses. He’s been that for us, and that’s what makes his performance Pro Bowl level.

Q. What are the keys today for the Steelers?

A. That we neutralize the environment, that we make the game location a variable that does not matter. The way to do that is we have to get off to a fast start to minimize the crowd, to take the crowd out of it so that we can communicate and do some of the things associated with that. And we have to be ready for this to be a gritty performance. Some of the things that you normally think about going into a game – unit goals, yards, things of that nature – are irrelevant. What is relevant is that we do what’s required to win the game.

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