HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6 PRESS CONFERENCE
Coach Mike Tomlin:Needless to say there is some excitement here as we push toward Friday night. We are excited about playing against somebody other than ourselves. We are excited about playing in front of our fans at Heinz Field. It is a necessary step that we need to take and I think we are ready to take that step. I think we will know more about our football team after Friday night and I look forward to doing that. The people that have pretty much been ruled out of the game at this point: Tight end Cody Boyd has been ruled out. Of course, Troy (Polamalu) is out, as is Anthony Smith and Hamp (Casey Hampton). I think that some of the other guys that are experiencing some aches and pains associated with camp are coming around at the appropriate time and we expect those guys to play; the William Gays, the Deshea Townsends and the like. We are getting to where we need to be, getting all hands on deck, if you will, as we push toward Friday night. Hopefully we will continue to do that. We still have some work to do between now and then. We'll go out and have a great afternoon this afternoon hopefully and continue to grow and develop as a football team. I think when you talk about what you look for in the first pre-season game, you are looking for some young guys not to be surprised by the speed of the game. We have to win the game in the trenches. We have to play up-tempo football. We have to play fast and hard. Hopefully we play to an acceptable standard in terms of assignment but you know the first time out there will be those issues. More than anything we are looking for the competitive; the guys who can step up when the lights are on inside stadiums, guys that can tackle. You know, we've had limited tackling in training camp, the way training camp is structured. You know we've had 13 or 14 snaps of goal line situational football. Other than that, we haven't taken people to the ground. I'm interested to see how our ball carriers respond to that in terms of ball security and finishing runs. And I will also be interested to see how our defense responds when they have to finish plays accordingly. Those are some of the things we are looking for. I will answer any questions.
How about the quarterback rotation? You've suggested that Ben will play briefly, but how about the other guys?
It will go just the way it's gone out here. It will go Ben (Roethlisberger), Charlie (Batch), Dennis (Dixon) and then Mike (Potts). All four guys are scheduled to play.
Will Ben play more than the others?
He will not. We will play it by ear; all four guys are scheduled to play.
The fans, are you worried about the atmosphere with the new fan code?
As far as I know, our fans are great. They cheer for us and cheer for us appropriately. It's a great atmosphere to play in. I think it's something when you walk into the stadium as a visitor that you know it is going to be a hostile crowd. But you know, we are looking for hostile in the right way and I think our fans provide that. I'm excited about making that drive across the bridge to the North Side on Friday evening. That feeling doesn't get old and I'm looking forward to doing it on Friday night.
*Do you know what you are going to do for the punt return and kick return?
We do, we are going to look at Mewelde Moore, we are going to look at Drumond, and we are going to look at Jeremy Bloom. All the guys that have been working will get an opportunity to work in those areas. And kick-off return we are looking at Mewlede, Rashard Mendenhall and Willie Reed. And you'll see some of those guys that are capable of doing both, that won't get a chance to do both Friday night, will get a chance to do it when we play Buffalo. The big thing that we want to do is at least give everyone the opportunity to at least show what they are capable of doing and we will harden this thing up as we continue on. But that rotation is just a basis to begin on Friday night.
Do you have Santonio Holmes in the punt return?
Not Friday night, no.
Coach, your offensive line is obviously trying to gel and Chris (Kemoeatu) came in late. How long do you expect them to go as a unit?
You know, roughly the first quarter is our intent. Again, the game changes though. I say the first quarter because I envision two twelve play drives. We will see how that turns out.
How is the battle in center between Sean (Mahan) and Justin (Hartwig) and how will you play those two guys?
I think it's been one of the more highly competitive battles. I think both guys have shown some good things thus far in camp. I think that as we push more into the pre-season games that will give us more of an indication of how this thing is going to go. Similar to the punt return situation, Sean will get to go with the first group and then Justin will play and we will probably swap it up the following week and then have a definitive direction in terms of which way we want to go after that.
Will Lawrence Timmons be the inside out guy?
For right now he is going to play inside. Of course, he will play in our substitution packages, which he has done a great job at.
Is Casey Hampton any closer to getting on the active roster? How is he progressing?
I think he is progressing pretty well. This process is running its course. He is closer to being ready to contribute and we will continue to monitor it, but that doesn't mean he will be participating on Friday night.
*On the same line, how close is Troy to getting back in the game?
Like Hamp, he is getting closer, but we will continue to monitor and hopefully he will be ready to go as early as next week. We'll see. I don't have a crystal ball in terms of that.
Has Daniel Sepulveda had his surgery yet?
He is scheduled to have it today. I don't know exactly what time. But I'm sure I will gain some information as I get it, but it is taking place today.
What do you expect from Rashard Mendenhall and how much action he will receive?
He is going to play and he is going to tote the football. We expect big things from him as I think he does himself. We will see what it looks like.
*Dan's not on the IR list yet, is he?
No he's not. He is not a vested veteran. So we have to carry him at least until we get to seventy-five. That is why he is still on the roster at this point.
What is your general theme of camp so far in your opinion? You seem to be really more into the goal line much more than you were last year. Was it mental processes?
It is. We are trying to develop the make up that is going to be us and the player personality which we desire to have which is a tough, hardened football team that is good at situation football. Goal line is one of the drills that has received a lot of attention, but if you really look at it, we've focused on a lot of theories of situational football that can define us. Our two-minute drills have been spirited and we've had some great competition. The third down drills have been very good. We are just working on all the situations that are involved in football that really define football teams. When you turn on highlight shows, you see highlight reels when they summarize games of situational football. Third-down plays, red zone plays, goal line plays, two minute; we are focused on those elements of our game because hopefully if we are good in those areas, it will give us a chance to be great.
Is there a guy in camp who maybe came in as a major long shot who has survived and shown that he can make the team?
I think we will know more about that after we play on Friday. There are some guys that have gotten our attention, but I think one thing that we all understand is that everybody out there in a helmet is capable of making it. You know, that's just the National Football League. There are so many examples of guys in that situation that very rarely are you thrown when you see guys that step up and deliver. Look as recently as last year. Gary Russell was an undrafted, rookie free agent that didn't play football the year before and made it. I don't think it gets any longer odds than that. I think there will be somebody who steps up and surprises us and shows that they are capable of playing and we will be ready for them.
How much are you going to use Willie Parker? And when you watch him on the practice field, are you seeing a guy who is fully recovered physically and mentally?
I don't know about physically, but mentally he is in great shape. Willie is a really tough guy. I think he is better equipped to answer where he feels at this point than I am. I know visually he looks like Willie Parker. Where he is is probably better indicated as where he is between practices and after practices and how he recovers from action. He has done a nice job of that. But on the practice field he is Willie Parker, he has been good and we intend to use him briefly at the beginning of the football game as well.
What does Ryan McBean have to show you and how big is this pre-season for him?
He has to show technique consistency. He has to be able to take the techniques that we preach and hang our hat on and take the drill work. At times he does it, but not enough, not consistently enough to be an acceptable level. He understands that and that's what this training camp is about. How big it is for him in that regard, what he does inside the stadium on Friday night is going to be a big part of that
When Dennis Dixon gets in*the game, would your rather see him stick in the pocket?*
He is a quarterback and we want the ball delivered in a timely manner. I'm sure there will be times when he has to improvise, as do all of our quarterbacks. We don't treat him any differently in terms of playing or play calling as we do anyone else.