HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN PRESS CONFERENCE TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2008
Coach Mike Tomlin: *It's a big week for us, bringing our preseason to a close, finishing up Thursday night versus the Panthers here in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field. It is a big week for a lot of reasons. We have short week here. It is the last opportunity for a lot of men to make an impression. Readying ourselves for September football at the same time, we've got some critical decisions to make as a football team. That being said we have all hands on deck this week and guys really wired in on working to take advantage of that opportunity. Carolina is a good team of course. They are coming off of a high performance. They got after the Redskins pretty good in all three phases. Those two running backs that they have over there are playing good ball. (DeAngelo) Williams, (Jonathan) Stewart and defensively their guys up front are playing very well. So it is a big challenge for us, one that we are excited about meeting and all that comes with it, when you talk about the four preseason games. I'll take any questions.
Will you play the offensive line longer to facilitate cohesion?
We are going to play our starters roughly a quarter on both sides of the ball and again we stick to that plan.
Who won't play Thursday?
Due to injury of course, I mentioned yesterday that Larry Foote will not play. Ryan Mundy is a question mark as he tries to march back. Mike Humpal will not play. Just your usual cast of characters that have been dealing with injuries.
How will you use Troy?
Troy is going to play with the first unit defense.
How do you assess your pass rush?
We've got roughly 10 sacks in three games. We've got some guys individually that are rushing well and haven't played complete games. You envision those guys putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. I think LaMarr Woodley has created a lot of pressure in the time that he has played. James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons and Aaron Smith has two sacks. I like where our pass rush is. When you look at the performance of those men, if you project the performance of those men over the course of four quarters I like where it is.
Do you project increased game planning?
I don't want to make more out of what is going on from a lack of game planning than anything else. The same can be said for the people that we are playing against. That's just the state of August football. It's about building to a point where you are able to put some complete packages and plans together for the season. Lack of a game plan will not be an excuse based on our performance for the preseason. It is what it is.
Could game planning be better?
Hopefully it will be.
Any updates on Limas Sweed's knee and Ben Roethlisberger's ankle?
No. They are day to day. Nothing major, minor injuries. Hopefully we will get those guys back out. We may hold Limas Sweed a little bit today. He may be limited and we will see how he feels after lunch. Definitely nothing long term for those two men.
Will you keep four quarterbacks?
We will cross that bridge after this performance. Like I have said all along, that is a decision that we have to make at an appropriate time. I think that we have to gather all of the information based on the quality of play and the health of Charlie (Batch) in terms of what direction we will go in. We will hold our cards until necessary in regards to that.
How is Charlie's progress going?
It is too early to tell to be quite honest with you. We will see.
How did Sean Mahan take the news that Justin Hartwig had won the starting center position?
He took it how you would expect a professional competitor to take it. He wasn't necessarily pleased with it. I would be disappointed if he took it any other way. But he is a professional and he understands what team football is all about. Sean is a guy who has battled the entire time that he has been in this league. He has started a bunch in this league and he has always had to compete for jobs. Some of those battles he has lost and then found his way back onto the field during the time that we spent together in the past. That is what this league is all about; it is about competing and answering the bell when your number is called and so forth. He fits the bill in that regard and he is like everyone else in that he wants to play; he is a competitor. He wants to play to win.
What is Mahan's role from here on out?
He is a guy who has position flexibility as a center and as a guard. We are going to explore him playing some guard. More than anything, he is a guy who we are capable of winning with if we have to call on him. We have comfort in that.
Will Dennis Dixon get more playing time this week?
Yes, he will. We are going to play him and Byron (Leftwich) a bunch.
Was Cody Boyd waived/injured to possibly bring him back?
Potentially. That is what you do when you waive somebody injured; you leave the door open for that.
Did he have surgery yesterday?
He did and the condition of his shoulder is better than anticipated. That would be a little bit of speculation at this point.
Do you have a good sense of the final 53-man roster?
Most of the time it comes down to about three-to-five decisions that are made at the 11th hour if you will. I think that will be the case this time around.
Are you still a three tight end team?
We have some schematic flexibility to fit what we believe are our personnel's strengths. Ideally you would like to have a solid third tight end. We have some candidates and we will be watching those guys closely. But that is a situation that is still in development.
Could Max Starks play some at tight end again?
Yes, and you know that he did that some for us last year.
Are you comfortable with where Leftwich is?
I think that based upon what he has done to this point, there is comfort. Every day is so important for him because there have been very few days and opportunities. Thus far he has taken advantage of that and been better and gotten better. He needs to continue to do that. Thursday night will be a big part of that.
Who is battling for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots?
The known cast of characters: Limas Sweed, Dallas Baker and Willie Reid. Those guys have had good moments and they have had moments that have not been as good. They are fighting. They are young guys who make mistakes; hopefully they do not make too many. Their talent and pedigree shows up from time-to-time. That is a hotly contested battle and one that may be waged on Thursday night and might ultimately decide how those spots unfold.
How is Rashard Mendenhall doing with the kangaroo court treatment?
You know I haven't asked him, and I really don't care. I just want him to hold onto the football.
Who will return kicks and punts on Thursday night?
You will see quite a bit of Eddie Drummond and Willie Reid in both areas.
Can Eddie Drummond make the team strictly as a return guy?
There is the potential for that. That was our intention when we gave him the opportunity when we signed him a couple of weeks back. His opportunities to impress are dwindling. Thursday night is a big night for him.
Will Santonio Holmes return some kicks at all?
No, not this game. We came in with a plan that we were going to let him get some situational work in that third preseason game, which we did. We will move forward. I am comfortable with where he is from an ability to field the ball and from a decision-making standpoint. We will get him ready to roll for the regular-season.
Any plans to split Ben out wide again?
I don't know. Come to practice today because we might take a look at a few things. That is a just an element that we have been working on. More than anything it is to spice things up and make people work to defend it. We have a few wrinkles out of that look. We might have Willie throw the ball, we will see.