Q. Why do you look at them that way?
A. They were solid contributors a year ago to our efforts defensively. They’ve been around this program and understand the level of expectation and what’s expected. It’s their time. They’re continually ascending, or they need to be, and we’ll give them that benefit of the doubt as we go into training camp. Obviously, things are subject to change, but what they’ve done here in Pittsburgh to this point in their careers I think merits that.
A. He needs to be what his teammates need him to be, formally and informally, on the field and off. Not only is he a capable player, but he’s a veteran one. He understands the drill, what we’re doing here and what we aspire to do. He needs to be a shining example of all of those things for our young players.
Q. When you say “he needs to be what his teammates need him to be,” is that one thing or is it something different for each of his teammates?
A. It’s a multitude of things. It’s a very complex answer, probably, to a simple question. That’s what comes with leadership, and that’s what comes with being where he is in his career and the position that he plays.
Different people need different things from him. He’s got to provide them what it is they need. Maybe it’s a pat on the back, maybe it’s a kick in the butt, maybe it’s individually, maybe it’s collectively. He and I spent a lot of time talking about those things, and he understands it. It’s a very complex balancing act, but one that I think is done naturally for those that play that position. The men who play that position, particularly as long as he has, understand what comes with it.
Q. When you talked to the media after minicamp, you said that you learned where the buttons on the young guys are. What are you going to do with those buttons at training camp?
A. We’ll push them. (Laughs)
Q. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
A. The training camp process – the team-building process – is one where you’re not only evaluating who stays and who goes, but just getting an understanding of the people you’re potentially working with. What makes them tick? What motivates them. Strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. That’s what all of this is about. That information can be gathered during the OTAs and minicamp.
I talk a lot about “football in shorts” and the perception of that, and I mean it. I don’t want to make too many judgments in regards to somebody’s playing ability during an offseason program, but you can make some judgments about how they learn, how they process information, how they take in information, how they work, how they respond to positive things, how they respond to negative things, etc.
Q. When the pads go on for the first time, are you looking for anything in particular from these new people?
A. More than anything, I’m looking for who stands out positively or negatively. When you infuse pads into a drill, there are some who are going to stand out or rise up, and there are some who are going to shrink. I’m always interested in what happens in regards to that.
Q. Does your impression of a player in that regard change over the course of camp, or is your experience that if the guy shrunk the first time, that’s pretty much it?
A. I acknowledge that it’s capable of changing, but my experience also tells me that usually what you’re seeing is what you’re seeing in regards to that. Guys understand the gravity of the moment the first time you put the pads on. Those who shy away from it, I think that’s a pretty good indication of where they are.