STEELERS at PANTHERS THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2009 KICKOFF 8:00 P.M. BANK OF AMERICA STADIUM
HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN'S PRESS CONFERENCE MONDAY, AUGUST 31
Coach Mike Tomlin:I will start with a few housekeeping things. We are pleased to announce we were able to sign Brett Keisel to an extension. It is no secret he is our kind of guy; not only is he a quality player, but he is a quality professional. He is always prepared and he is a great teammate. He has always provided quality play for us at the right end position. We are looking forward to him doing that into the future. Also on a day like today, we had to make five roster moves to get down to 75. We did those things. Guys we released were Alex Stepanovich, Martin Nance, Steven Black and Derrick Richardson. We placed Darnell Stapleton on the Reserve/Injured List. We continued to watch his progress coming off the surgery, but it wasn't moving in the direction we wanted it too, quite frankly. We didn't think he was going to be able to do it. Maybe he has another procedure in his future. We have slowed that down and put his health first and foremost, and we are no longer under the clock in terms of whether he is going to be a part of this '09 football season or not. That's unfortunate, but that's football. I talked to Darnell today and he is ready to move forward on getting well, while the other guys are focused on moving forward and filling that void. As far as this week, we are going to bring to a close our preseason by heading down to Carolina to play the Panthers. It is an annual event to close up the preseason by playing those guys. We like the way they play football. We know it is going to be fundamental here in this last week; guys focused on blocking, tackling, shedding and so forth. This is the last opportunity for some guys to state their case for their roles or potential presence on this football team. It is critical. We have a short week to prepare. We play on Thursday night, so we are going to do everything we can between now and then to prepare the men to make their case for themselves, and bring what has been a solid preseason to a close.
Do the veterans look ahead to the Tennessee game more than prepare for this game?
The big thing is that they are respectful of what some other guys are going through. There is no question there appearance is going to be a short one; that is the nature of it. They are going to have some teammates fighting until the bitter end to play well and make this football team. Those guys understand that process; a lot of them have been in those shoes. I think they are sensitive to that. They are going to be supportive of those guys. All of the other things are just the housekeeping that comes along with professional football at this time of year.
Do you have an update on Lawrence Timmons?
Lawrence is probably going to be held out of this game with an eye toward his readiness for September 10th. That hasn't been determined at this point, but it is pretty safe to say that his health on September 10th is paramount at this point.
Are you happy with how Limas Sweed and Rashard Mendenhall have stepped up to your challenge you issue second-year guys?
I don't necessarily say happy; there is a level of expectation. I expected those guys to take a step. I expected others to join them, quite frankly. Some of those other ones are running out of time. They need to state a case for their presence here this week. Those guys have upheld the standard and played to it. We are looking forward to those guys continuing the process and exceeding it.
How comfortable are you at backup center without Darnell?
We will see. I have been pleased with what Doug Legursky has done. He has taken advantage of an opportunity; he has shown position flexibility and played some center and guard. Really, if you look at where he is with his career, and what he is doing on our football team right now, he kind of mirrors the position Darnell was in a year ago. Darnell was a guy that was an undrafted second-year man in our program. He showed some interior offensive line flexibility, and that is how he stuck and made it. On down the line, he had an opportunity to get into the lineup. A year ago, Darnell Stapleton was Doug Legursky.
Who plays inside linebacker if Timmons can't go?
Keyaron Fox will start at mack linebacker if Lawrence can't go this week.
How is your pass defense limited if Timmons isn't there?
It is not limited in any way. We have guys like Troy (Polamalu) who are capable of coming down into the box and playing the dime position. I am quite excited about watching a guy like Ryan Mundy coming down this week and getting some snacks at that position. We embrace the concept of 'the more you can do.' We have guys who are capable of playing that spot and doing unique things rushing and covering. Really, quite honestly, we are excited about watching those guys do it. Like a lot of times, Lawrence misfortune this week provides opportunity for others.
Mundy will play Lawrence's position?
In sub-package football.
Can you provide us with an injury update?
We are going to take it how it comes with those guys. Willie (Parker) is going to try to go, and hopefully will go, along with Nick Eason and Jeff Reed. All of those guys are questionable at this point, with an arrow pointing up. Hopefully they will be able to participate. If they are healthy, they will.
With so many established veterans, and so many promising rookies, do you anticipate these final cuts being as tough as they've been for you since you've come here?
I prefer tough cuts. Easy cuts are not fun for a guy in my position. We talked about it at the onset of camp. We felt good about the 80 (players) that we took to training camp, that it was a competitive group. No one was in over their head or below the line physically, if you will. It's played out in that way, and that's part of being a good football team. Although it's not always pleasant, the day that you have to make those kinds of decisions, it's necessary and it's good issues and problems to have.
When you're weighing a veteran when you know what you have against a young guy that might have a rough side, how do you balance it? Does it depend on the situation that your team is in?
Every situation is different. At times, what you know might weigh heavily in the veteran's favor. At times, the potential upside of the continued growth of a young guy may weight heavily in his favor. You don't necessarily have a formula for it, you take it on a case-by-case basis. But no question that both sides of the equation help determine outcomes from time to time.
We know what Brett can do on the field. What are some of the intangibles that make him a solid teammate and a guy that you want to have around this facility for the next few years?
He's ridiculously competitive. He has a mean streak, if you will, something that's necessary, that comes with playing the position that he plays. He takes a great deal of pride in his work. He doesn't care who gets the credit. A lot of times, particularly when you play defensive end in our scheme, you know it's a lot of dirty work. Occupying blocks, playing with great pad level, creating opportunities for others such as James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, who benefit, quite frankly, from the work of our ends. He embraces all of that, and does it with a smile on his face, and walks in this building on a daily basis. He embodies the things that we value as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Can you talk about how Keisel's signing might affect Ziggy [Hood]'s long-term rotation?
That could go on endlessly. Let's just see how it pans out. I hadn't begun to think about that, I'm just glad they're on our team.
There was a play a couple of games ago, during the Washington game, where it looked like Mendenhall was pass blocking and it looked like he turned his back on a rusher. Is that what happened on that play, and how did it come across on film? How did you deal with it?
I can't recall the play you're referring to. I'm sorry.
Is there any more news on Sean McHugh? And part two of that question, what was your take on what David Johnson had been doing so far?
Sean's status is still his status, he's been declared out for a couple weeks coming off of that procedure that he had. All things at this point appear to be encouraging. David's the guy who is taking advantage of some extra snaps because of that situation, and he'll get some more snaps this week and we'll see how he sorts out. But no question, to this point, he's represented himself well and really has our attention going into this last week. But like a lot of people, he's a fence rider. And a lot of others are. I was just looking at our Carolina game from a year ago. Going into the game, there were guys that were fence riders, or really, quite frankly, on the outside looking in. A guy like Pat Bailey ran down and made three or four tackles on kickoff in that game a year ago, and not only made our football team but got a hat every week because of that kind of performance. Arnold Harrison goes down in the second play of the third quarter, and a guy name Donovan Woods goes in and plays mack linebacker and had never played mack linebacker before. He got a sack, got more pressure on the quarterback, leapt over a blocker to do it, and showed some things that we, quite frankly, we didn't know he had. And he was up and down on our roster a year ago because of that performance. So by no means do we take this game for granted. Some people are going to distinguish themselves positively and negatively. We're just going to do a great job of going in with an open mind and with the understanding that some people are going to take advantage of the situation and maybe some others aren't. And we're willing to call it how we see it.
Is there a certain number that you have in mind that you're willing to take who would be considered special teams only guy? A guy who's really good on teams but who doesn't really factor in? Is that case-by-case?
Case-by-case. Not necessarily a number or a limit, we're just trying to find the best 53 that will help us team. Special teams is a legitimate phase of our football team. Those that distinguish themselves in that area are going to have a leg up on some others who don't.
What makes you that good at special teams? What did you see in [Pat] Bailey, for example?
Like a lot of things, it's not what you're capable of, it's what you're willing to do. By no means is Pat Bailey the fastest guy on our kickoff team, but by some form or fashion, he tends to beat everybody down the field.
Did that last game carry more weight than others?
It's a complete body of work, but we like to do business with guys on the rise, guys that are showing improvement. I think that if it's weighted in any way, that's the issue. You like guys on the rise. Guys that are improving, guys that are taking coaching and eliminating mistakes, playing faster, if you will. Playing more violently, for some of the guys who are just getting their first exposure to professional football. If they're going to be a guy who makes a run or potentially makes this team for the first time, it'll usually be because they're improving, and they'll be a guy on the rise. And this fourth performance will probably be their best one.
Have you decided yet who's going to return kicks and punts this week?
It could be a myriad of guys this early in the week, but I guarantee you 41 [Stefan Logan] will be one of them.
Will you give Jeff a go? Or will he sit out?
We don't know at this point.
Starting offense and defense, any determination on how much they'll play?
We're going to play, I haven't determined how much.