HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN JULY 31, 2009
Coach Mike Tomlin:Good afternoon. It's great to get started here with training camp. All are present and accounted for in terms of registration and physicals. I was very pleased, quite frankly, with the running test. Everybody was above the line. With those things being said, we can get started. We do start with some minor injury issues. I want to give you some updates in regards to that. Stefan Logan will start training camp on the PUP List. He has a mid-foot sprain that happened as he was getting ready for training camp. We were aware of it last week and took a look at it when he got here today. He is capable of running straight ahead, but some of the things that are associated with playing football; unanticipated change of direction and things like that, he is not ready to go, so he will start camp on the PUP List. Some guys who will start in a limited capacity, meaning that they will be practicing in some form or fashion, are as follows: Justin Hartwig has a right, great toe injury that happened a month or so ago. He is going to be limited. We feel good about him quickly coming up to speed but we are going to crawl before we walk with him. Deshea (Townsend) has a mild hamstring that happened in training for camp. We are going to start him in a limited capacity. Troy (Polamalu) is in the same situation with a hamstring. Heath Miller has a sports hernia situation that he is recovering from. That was addressed very early in the summer. We are going to be guarded with him. We are going to crawl with him as we get started and make sure that he is fine as we move forward. Darnell Stapleton has some swelling in his knee. We are going to be cautious with him, particularly when we are talking about two practices a day, and things of that nature. We are going to keep an eye on him. Other than those, and Stefan being on PUP, it's all systems a go, which is a good thing. We are ready to start this '09 season.
Is Heath's injury related to his prior sports hernia injury?
He did have surgery. I don't know if it is directly related to what he has dealt with in the past. We were quickly able to address it because he is familiar with what it feels like. He didn't go to the last couple of OTAs. We had it looked at, acted pretty quickly and he should be ready to go. We are going to proceed with caution so that when fatigue sets in, and things of that nature, we don't take steps backwards as we move forward.
Is Ben Roethlisberger in camp and did he participate in the run test?
He is and he did. He did a nice job.
Who is your center right now?
Of course Darnell Stapleton has played some center. A.Q. Shipley, Doug Legursky and Hartwig on a limited fashion are going to as well. Those are the men who work at the position. A couple of the guys I mentioned are going to be limited in Hartwig and Stapleton, so it might mean added opportunities for young guys such as Doug Legursky and A.Q. Shipley.
How do the players avoid what happened during the 2006 season?
I am not concerned with avoiding anything that happened three years ago, or worry about letdowns and things of that nature. When you use the term letdown, you are proceeding with the assumption that this is a continuation of something that happened in the past. The '08 Steelers are the '08 Steelers. We are here team-building for '09. We are not assuming anything – that is a dangerous thing. We are going to guard against feelings of entitlement. We are simply going to be blue collar and humble, and start the process of building our football team.
Is it easier coming off the run test this year as opposed to last year?
That wasn't an indication of how the season turned out last year, so I am not going to let today's success be an indication of how the season is going to turn out this year. It is what it is. All it means is that we are going to proceed with guys ready to go in the morning.
Considering what happened to Ben a few weeks ago, this focus on his mindset right now, a lot of guys think he's going to do well here at camp.
Yeah, I have no question about Ben's (Roethlisberger) mindset or anybody else's mindset for that matter. That civil case is just that. It's civil. We'll assume that he's going to handle that business in his personal life, and we're going to proceed on professionally. And the standard of expectation with regards to Ben is the standard of expectation. I would imagine that he's not the only guy on our football team that has a civil proceeding of some kind going on in their life. We're just going to focus on football.
Rumors are flying all over the place that Michael Vick was in town today. Do you have any comment? Was he in Pittsburgh today with the Steelers?
I don't know whether he's in Pittsburgh or not; I'm in Latrobe. And everybody else in our organization is.
Until somebody's actually brought out here, you're say you're not even going to think about it?
Here's the thing, and I've watched some of my colleagues report to camp and understand that that's the question. I was laying in wait, but here's the thing. I'm not going to address directly any free agents. That would be fruitless. The list could go on and on, it'd be endless. I'll say this. We'll be prudent, and do our due diligence in terms of exploring people who can potentially help us win. Guys that can throw, run, catch, block and tackle on a professional level. That's what we do. Not excluding anybody in this room, if you can do it on a professional level.
A lot of people are playing connect the dots because of Michael being from your neck of the woods and also because of your relationship with Coach Dungy. Is any of that at all relevant?
It's relevant for conversation, but again, I'm just focused on the Steelers that are here and what we have going on, and I'm not interested in discussing potential free agents.
Were you curious to see how Casey Hampton would do today, and how did he do?
I was curious. You're always curious about the big men, and he's probably the biggest of the big men as far as inside and up front, and by the nature of his position, that's where he is. But he did a nice job, as did a lot of the other guys.
How did it feel to ride in that SmartCar?
Now that's an interesting vehicle. It doesn't surprise me that James (Harrison) was driving that thing. It's an interesting deal.
Did you drive?
What was it like?
It doesn't feel small, as you sit in the cabin, which was interesting. I expected it to feel maybe like a go-kart or something. But it's not, it's a nice little ride, and I imagine that he's only going to gas that thing up about once every six weeks or something.
*Did you feel smarter?
The car is smart.
*Is Troy's hamstring related at all to last year?
No, no. Not at all. You know, some of these guys, as they approach camp, they start to press it because you like to start camp in the best condition of your life. And at times, when you're pressing it, things like that happen, particularly with skilled athletes, with high maintenance body types like a Troy (Polamalu) and Deshea (Townsend) and things of that nature. It's not going to affect us in the long run. He's not probably going to start the way he would like, but it's not going to affect how we play ball here.
Should Heath be okay for the regular season?
Oh certainly. But again, like all those guys I mentioned, I would rather air on the side of caution if we are going to air. So we started this thing off clean when it's time to play ball in September.
Do you address being in shape to these guys during the off season?
That is the number one thing I address to those guys as I brought the off season to a close. A lot of times you can get enamored with things and trying to anticipate how roles and so forth are going to unfold, particularly young guys. They're trying to find their seat on the bus, they're trying to learn positions, they might try to make themselves more valuable by learning different positions on techniques and so forth. The one legitimate thing that one individual can control is showing up here on time, and ready to work in great physical condition. It starts with physical conditioning, it precedes anything else. So that's not one of the things I talk about, it's probably the central thing that we talk about in preparation for training camp.
Do you embrace people calling you by the Super Bowl champions?
No I'm not going to be resistant to those things they can call us quite frankly whatever they chose to call us. Some are going to be nice, some of the things they call us might not be as nice. What they call us is irreverent, it's more about what we do, what we are willing to do, no question we got a capable group—we know that—we are not going to run away from that. Capability is not an issue; it's more about what we are willing to do. That's going to be my focus, that's going to guide our actions, what's written and said about us is just that things that are written and said about us, that's not going to change how we approach what it is we do. It better not.
With the offensive line not having a year to play, would it make them that much better this season?
You hope that it will. Not only together—let's just look at the men individually. These guys are kind of coming into their own. A guy like Willie Colon is a veteran football player-he is moving into the prime (if you will), a guy like Justin Hartwig is no longer the new guy in the locker room. He is a Steeler, he has been here before. It goes on and on and on. Of course we made a commitment to Chris and Max and that's where they are in their career. These guys are moving into their second contract, they are in the prime of their career, if there is such a thing, he would anticipate these guys improving individually and thus collectively.
Does Essex have a shot at the right guard spot?
He does. Trai is a similar situation professionally. He has been around; h e has made himself valuable because of position flexibility. Trey has got desire to be great, he wants to be in the huddle with the other starting ten, and you got to respect that. He will be given an opportunity, but that's all he will be given. Who walks out of that tunnel for us on opening day in the starting line up will determine what they do here.
Does the flexibility hurt him at all?
No it doesn't. It doesn't. Not in my opinion.
*What positions are you focusing on?
I'm personally not focused on any of them. I make a conscious effort not to assume or to anticipate anything. I kind of sit light on my feet and watch them unfold. Because just when you have your attention focused on one, another one unfolds, you might miss it and so forth. So I'm just interested in watching all of these men compete, define roles, decide who stays, who goes, the naural things that happen in team building at training camps.
You didn't mention Warren or Sepulveda – does that mean they are good to go?
Well those kinds of specialists are limited in terms of their participation anyway. I don't see those guys being limited to what we're asking them to do. Already 100%, I don't know what 100% is but in terms of the things that we ask them to do in terms of the practice, both guys will do it 100%.
*What are your thoughts on the battle for the number three receiver spot?
I don't know yet whether or not I like it. Those guys ran around pretty good in shorts. We will play legitimate football here starting tomorrow and I have more opinions on how things are shaping up.
Do you think Sweed can step up?
That remains to be seen. I refuse to talk myself into wanting to see something in one way or another, I'm going to let those guys play and define their roles.