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Tomlin talks run defense, Landry, Keisel

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Coach Mike Tomlin addresses a variety of topics in advance of tonight's preseason finale vs. Carolina

Q. Some specific statistics from the Eagles game: Philadelphia rushed for 182 yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Was that as bad as it looked on a sheet of paper?

A. If you go back and look at the video, it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. It was bad, but it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. A lot of times, a lot of the things are self-inflicted wounds, and while that hacks you off, there’s a certain deal of comfort when you know that a lot of your own issues you are creating. If you are creating it, you also have the power to solve it.

Q. It seems as though teams have had success running against the Steelers’ nickel defense. Is it a matter of “pick your poison” there because you have to be mindful of defending the pass when the opponent sends out multiple wide receivers?

A. We’re trying to get a lot of things done in the preseason. We have different agendas, particularly when it comes to certain packages. To be quite honest, we haven’t developed a lot of work in terms of schematics in that area. Sometimes our failures in that area are obvious to us and thoughtful to us. We’re not overly concerned about it. Our defensive staff has been down the road and back. We’ll make the necessary adjustments to fortify that area, but we’re not overly concerned about it. Often times we know the situations that we put the guys in going into it, but we want to see what they’re made of. That was the situation in that regard. You want to give guys an opportunity to succeed or fail, and then you want to make the necessary decisions accordingly.

Q. Following the performance against the Eagles, how do you resist playing the starters longer than normal for a preseason finale?

A. That’s easy. The opener is soon. We have to be ready for that, and I understand the ramifications of that. Really, an opportunity is going to be provided tonight to fill out the ranks of our football team, and I think that’s appropriate as well. There is going to be many a day when we’re going to call on the men who are going to be playing significant roles for us tonight to deliver for us in the regular season as well.

Q. Is tonight’s game all about the bottom of the roster?

A. It certainly is. Maybe a lot of people take that the wrong way, but there’s a lot of significant work being done in the stadium tonight. If you look at our history, there have been guys who dominated this game, who stood out in this game in years past and gone on to be standout players in regular season football. It’s a star search, if you will, of opportunity.

Q. During the Eagles game, there were a couple of eruptions on the sideline, most notably the one by Troy Polamalu. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

A. Probably an appropriate thing given how we were performing on the field. I like to create an environment where guys don’t need to apologize for caring. That’s what Troy does. He cares. They don’t have to apologize for that. That’s a very natural thing, and to deny that I believe is naïve. Football is a very emotional game, played by aggressive, emotional men, and when you’re below the line, you’re below the line, and oftentimes emotions erupt.

Q. You have said you like the work of punter Brad Wing. What do you like about him?

A. He’s been consistently above the line, and when he hasn’t been he has responded appropriately. To me, that shows not only growth but also the mentality that’s geared toward growth that you need to excel in our business.

Q. What is your plan for the quarterbacks in this game vs. the Panthers?

A. We want to see a significant amount of play from Landry Jones to give him an opportunity to show what he’s capable of. We gave him a similar opportunity a year ago when he came out and started against these guys in this very game. I’m looking forward to him performing tonight in a big way.

Q. Will Brett Keisel define his role with this team?

A. Like always, I’m open to his role growing. I have a mentality of what he can provide us, but I’m not going to box myself in. If he ascends beyond that, great. If the guys around him dictate otherwise, we’ll simply be ready to roll with the punches. And I believe that is what’s great about a veteran team player like Brett Keisel – he understands that his role is ever-changing, and he’s a shining example of what the professional approach needs to be for young people.

Q. You have said there always are five roster spots available for guys who contribute on special teams. Is Darrius Heyward-Bey in that mix?

A. I tell you, he’s putting himself in the argument. This is a guy who has been in this league for a number of years who has made a name for himself primarily as a wideout, and a speed wideout at that. He showed us some things here in terms of his willingness to mix it up and block and defeat blocks and cover kicks. It has really been refreshing.