STEELERS vs COLTS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2008 KICKOFF -- 4:15 P.M. HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN'S PRESS CONFERENCE TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4
Coach Mike Tomlin:Good afternoon. Things happen fast around here today on a short week. I had an opportunity to come in here and watch the tape. It was great to go into a hostile environment like that and get a win for our football team. I think that is the prevailing thought after watching the tape. Equally as significant is the fan support that we had in D.C.; it was exceptional. We have to quickly put that game behind us and part of doing that is assessing where we are from an injury standpoint; I know that you have some questions regarding that. No new news in regards to Ben (Roethlisberger); he has a 12 o'clock appointment to get scanned today. We will have news at some point, just not as I sit here right now. Heath Miller has an ankle sprain; he is doubtful this week. A couple of guys that are coming back from injury and working with some things that appear to be favorable at this point but might require a day or two here at the top of the week; that would be Willie Parker and Casey Hampton. Some other guys nursing some bumps and bruises from last night; Mitch Berger has a hamstring; we will see where he is when he comes in today. Tyrone Carter has an ankle sprain; he may require a day; we will see where he is. Najeh Davenport has a hamstring strain and Hines Ward has a shoulder; he could be day-to-day. A couple of guys that we will have returning this week, which is big for us; Ryan Clark, we anticipate having him back as we do Keyaron Fox; which is good because we play Indianapolis and they are a 4-4 football team but I don't think the 4-4 record speaks to what they are capable of and who they are. There is no question that they are a veteran-laden team; well-coached. As they sit here at 4-4 at the turn they are very capable of putting together a tremendous run and letting their rocky start be a distant memory. We respect that element of it and we have to be at our very best when we play these guys on Sunday evening. We will start with Peyton Manning at the quarterback position; he makes them go offensively. He has a supporting cast that is exceptional at all positions, whether we are talking about Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne or Dallas Clark or (Anthony) Gonzalez. Joseph Addai is back in action; this offensive unit is capable of ringing up the scoreboard. Defensively they fly around and play with great energy and enthusiasm. We have a tough challenge to match that, particularly on a short week. We will be conscious of that as we prepare. They are led by (Dwight) Freeney, (Raheem) Brock, and (Robert) Mathis up front. At linebacker, (Gary) Brackett is very active, as is (Tyjuan) Hagler. In the secondary they have a guy who runs around at strong safety named Bob Sanders who is the best or one of the best in the business regardless of who you ask. His mate back there at safety, (Antoine) Bethea, is very good as well. In the special teams game they have a kicker named Adam Vinatieri who won't blink, I am sure, at Heinz Field. We have our work cut out for us; we intend to do that. Coaches are making progress with game plans; players are just starting to trickle into the building to get their treatment and so forth. We have a quick turnaround.
What is Marvel Smith's status?
I won't know until Marvel gets into the building today where he is. I didn't mention Marvel and I didn't mention Bryant McFadden either because I hadn't seen or heard from those guys at this point.
Has Marvel's injury lingered longer than expected?
You can say that, but that is how it is when you deal with backs, it is somewhat unpredictable and we acknowledge and accept that. The big thing is that we get him back healthy, and when he is back healthy, we proceed on.
*What was different with the offense in the second half?
In looking at the tape I don't know if it was a tale of two halves, really. I think that we needed something to ignite us. I think that both teams were playing very good defense; we put ourselves in a hole there initially. We tried an onside kick and they got the ball; we were able to hold them to three. We had a freakish interception on a third-down which gave them good field position. I think that when Andre Frazier blocked the kick, that was when the pendulum started to turn in our favor. We made some plays; we overcame a holding penalty and got a first-down and a touchdown prior to the half. I think that was the swing and not necessarily the halftime intermission.
Did you do anything different with Byron Leftwich in at quarterback?
No we did not.
Can you talk about the execution of the defense on Washington's first two series?
We have a philosophy of give us a blade of grass to defend and we will defend it; they embraced that. It was not the first time that they have taken the field under those circumstances and it probably won't be the last. I think that we have the kind of defensive unit that responds to those challenges; that is why you are comfortable taking some of the risks that you take at times because of what they are capable of doing.
Will you have an update on Ben later today?
I will, if and when I get it. At this point, I am speculating. He has a 12 o'clock appointment; at what time that information will come back over here and my level of availability are in question.
Could he have gone back into the game?
He potentially could have gone back into the game.
Did he hurt it on the quarterback sneak?
I found out this morning that it was the quarterback sneak.
How did it happen on a sneak?
I know that he hurt it on the sneak; he is getting it looked at now. I don't have any juicy information for you in regards to how it happened.
Is an aggravation of an old injury?
Yes, that would be a safe assessment.
What would it take for you to rest Ben and go with Leftwich for a game?
The information that I get from my medical personnel and how he is feeling.
Can you assess your team at the halfway point?
I prefer to be 8-0, no doubt, but 6-2 is what it is. We are not going to be deep thinkers at this point. We appreciate where we are and we recognize that we could be in a better position, but it is not bad. We are just going to continue to live one week at a time as we get into the second half of the season. I think that we are just beginning to write our story just like a lot of people are just beginning to write their stories. So much of this thing is going to turn out how people play when they get on runs, how they deal with injuries, how they respond when they get people back from injuries. That is why this Indianapolis Colts team is so dangerous. They are 4-4 at the turn, but that means very little. This team could very easily be 12-4 in two months if you blink. Those are some of the things that teams like that are capable of. Hopefully we are one of those teams that are capable of that; I know that is what we are going to work towards on a daily basis.
What is missing with the Colts?
Bob Sanders has missed some time. When Sanders plays they are usually pretty good. They are better equipped to answer that than I am. What I look at is a team that has the weapons, is capable of winning and getting after people. I just finished watching the tape from the Ravens game and that was a decisive victory. Who knows some of the reasons why we go through some of the things we go through at different points in the season, but really it tests us, it measures our mettle. That is a team, an organization and a coaching staff that I know is mentally tough. They won't blink at 4-4. They are looking to get on the run.
How do teams feed off of big plays made vs. big plays missed?
We dropped an interception as well in the first half. That is football. That is the nature of it and I try not to ride the emotional rollercoaster or at least try to manage it and understand particularly in games like that, Monday Night Football when you are playing a very good team, the emotions can work against you. The big thing is that we use it for good and try to manage it early. It put ourselves in the position to take control of the game as it progressed and we did that. We did that with a splash play from Andre Frazier, but it was a sequence of events as well. You cringe when you don't scoop and score that blocked punt, particularly how that game was going. Those sequence of plays on the second and long when you hit Santonio (Holmes) and then you come back on the third down and you hit Hines (Ward) and you get a first and goal and you punch it in and score, is equally significant because it could have easily been a 6-6 game as opposed to a 10-6 game at the half. I really think those sequence of events as opposed to just solely the block, those sequence are what led to what transpired in the second half.
What did you see on the roughing pass play on James Farrior?
I didn't and that is why I responded the way I responded. I am going to defend our players because they play hard and they play the game the way it is supposed to be played. When I err, I am going to err on the side of defending them. I don't apologize for that. I understand those guys have a tough job to. We all do. Emotions are a part of it. That was a critical play in the game that could potentially close the door on the game on a fourth down play. I didn't agree with it at the time.
Did the team pay more attention to detail with Byron Leftwich in and can his experience vs. Colts help?
I don't know about the increases attention to detail because Leftwich was in the game. I just think again we weathered an early storm in that football game and had a play that ignited us and we followed up that play with significant plays, leading into the half. I think we came out of the locker room for the second half very energized having weathered their best shot. That is my assessment of that sequence of events. In terms of exposure and experience of competing against Indi I am sure it will be helpful this week as we prepare. Leftwich is a great communicator. How it unfolds in terms of play or preparation of play, we will let that unfold as we get some information in regards to Ben's (Roethlisberger) health.
*Did the Redskins play your quarterbacks differently?
No they did not. Some of the things we saw in the second half we saw in the first half.
Talk about Bob Sanders.
He is the lead dog. He is all of the clichés you can think of. The way he plays the game, with energy and enthusiasm and production, people feed off of those kinds of performances and that kind of performer. There is no question that they feed off of him. He has tremendous talent. He has great football character. He delivered a play for him on his first game back. They were successful because of it. That is just the kind of player he is and that is why he received the accolades he receives. I think the measure of a great player such as him, is the fact that the people around him play better when they play him.
Talk about James Farrior.
James doesn't like to talk about his age, but I do. He is the captain of our defense and that is not something that we say or take lightly. He does a lot of things for us. He plays in all situations. We speak directly with him through the coach to player communication. He makes adjustments. He makes calls, he gets people lined up. He is the man in the middle. He plays with a great deal of passion. I think we feed off of him as a defense and as a team. We got nothing but respect for what he brings to the table and we appreciate it.
Did Leftwich do a better job of getting ball out on time?
He probably did do a better job of getting the ball out and now it did not surprise me. That is one of the characteristics of Byron Leftwich. He got the ball out pretty good in Jacksonville and the different places he has been. That's who he is. He is a quick decision maker. He is an anticipatory thrower. That is Byron. That is what makes him who he is.
Is Peyton Manning the hardest guy in the league to try to disrupt?
All you can do it get after and beat people and quickly as you as can and get to the quarterback. The essence of rushing the passer is to apply pressure. It is not necessarily a sack even though when you do get sacks it measures your performance. The key is pressure and that is always out intent. That is what we are looking for. Whether or not we get one, it is a lot of factors. Coverage is a factor in that. The quarterback's willingness to hold the ball or not hold the ball is a part of that. When we played Eli Manning last week I thought we had great pressure. He got the ball out of his hands so we didn't get sacks. It could be a similar environment on Sunday with Peyton Manning.
*How did Willie Parker look to you?
I thought he looked surprisingly sharp given that he hasn't played in about a month. Where he is at in terms of being Willie Parker, I think he is better equipped to answer that, but definitely a winning caliber performance for us last night and we are glad to have him back.
Do you think Roethlisberger's shoulder has affected him?
I'm sure his shoulder has affected him. How much has it affected him I do not know? It really is kind of irrelevant. We don't look for or seek excuses. We don't make them, whether we are talking about Ben or someone else or our team in general. Things like bumps and bruises and injuries are part of this game. When we deem people healthy enough to play then their play speaks for itself. That's how we approach it.
*Is there a scenario where Roethlisberger can want to play and you rest him?
I don't want to speculate at this point. We could speculate for the rest of today. I would just as soon wait until we get more vital information in terms of where he is.
Talk about not letting Washington's offense get big plays.
That was a big concern of ours going into the game because they did have big play threats. Santana Moss is a guy who is capable of taking the top off the coverage. (Antwan) Randle El was great after the catch. Clinton Portis is Clinton Portis. If we were to play well last night, we felt like we had to limit big plays as much as we could. For the most part I think we were successful at doing that. Clinton (Portis) bounced out and got out for 22 yards on us pretty quickly one time and that is what he is capable of. But other than that I thought we did a good job of managing that and trying to make them earn it as they went down the field.
Talk about your group of the Linebackers.
I think I give them an incomplete at this point. We are eight games into this season. How you rush the quarterback in November and December is what they remember. That will be the message I deliver to these guys. Not a bad body of work at the turn, but we need to heat up and heat up at the appropriate time. I think the great rush men and the great rush units define themselves late in the football season and in the playoffs. I like where we are right now. We have to stay on the grind.
Can you talk about Dick LeBeau and what you learn from him?
Dick is an unbelievable guy and an unbelievable coach; he is what this game is all about. He is totally selfless. This guy has been doing it in this league in some form or fashion for 50 years but everyday he comes in here asking the critical questions, trying to learn and trying to get better. If you can't learn from that, then you have a problem; I enjoy it. It is a pleasure to be associated with a guy like Dick LeBeau.
Can you talk about Tony Dungy?
I haven't really had a whole lot of time to think about it; I am sure that I will over the course of the week and particularly pre-game. One thing that I do know about Coach, and I have a great deal of respect for him, is that his track record speaks for itself. This is a guy that has won over 70 percent of his games on the road since he has been in Indianapolis; that is what is motivating me this morning in regards to Coach.
*Were you pleased with the safety performance of Tyrone Carter and Anthony Smith?
Those guys did a nice job; we didn't skip a beat and we kept the ball in front of us. We made the tackles when we had to make them when the runs broke out. Of course, Tyrone had the play to seal the game at the end. Those guys get a passing grade.
Can you talk about Ike Taylor and the way he has been shadowing top receivers?
Ike is a guy that embraces those kinds of challenges; the last couple of weeks we have had him on Plax (Plaxico Burress) and then Santana Moss. It brings out the best in him; he has done a nice job on some top-caliber guys. You would like to consider doing it again this week but who would you put him on? We will see.