HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN PRESS CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 23, 2008 STEELERS VS RAVENS MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 2008 AT HEINZ FIELD - KICKOFF 8:30 P.M**
Coach Mike Tomlin:Good afternoon. Some 48 hours after Sunday's performance, I guess my perception of it really hasn't changed. It was below the line in some areas; some critical areas, particularly the protection of our quarterback. It produced a loss for us. One of the things that I did miss or failed to mention after the game in reviewing the tape was that there were some positive things. Our defensive performance was excellent. I thought that our kickers performed extremely well – Mitch Berger and Jeff Reed. Jeff Reed has been extremely consistent. Collectively, as a football team, it was not good enough to win; we have some work to do. We need to move forward this week. What better motivation you have than to play a division opponent like the (Baltimore) Ravens on Monday Night Football in front of your home crowd. Let's talk about the Ravens here for a moment. They are a 2-0 football team; a very solid football team. They are 2-0 for a lot of reasons; their defense is (an) obvious (one). They have run the ball 90 times in two games, 45 carries per game. They are dominating the time of possession; 37 minutes to 23 minutes a football game. They are known for what they have on defense; they are solid on all levels defensively. Trevor Pryce and (Haloti) Ngata up front; (Terrell) Suggs is a dynamic and dangerous player at linebacker; the man in the middle is still the man-in-the-middle: Ray Lewis; Bart Scott is very good; Chris McAlister is playing at a high level, he has two picks; Ed Reed picked one off and ran it back this past week. Offensively I mentioned the 90 carries; they hand the ball off to whoever is back there; (Le'Ron) McLain, (Willis) McGahee is back. We all know what Willis McGahee is capable of. Then they have a rookie, Ray Rice, who is doing a very nice job of running the football for them. (Joe) Flacco is managing the game; he is doing what they are asking him to do. When he is throwing it, he is throwing it to the right people; he is throwing it to Derrick Mason who is a veteran player and is capable of moving the chains and dominating a football game. He is also throwing it to Todd Heap who is a very good tight end that we are all aware of. In the special teams game, they are rock solid. They have a veteran kicker (Matt Stover); their punter, (Sam) Koch, is doing an awesome job. He is another reason that they are 2-0; this guy is averaging 46 yards a kick, 44-yard net. When you dominate the time of possession, when you have a punter who is punting like this, and when you have the number one defense in football, you have a good chance at being undefeated, which they are. We have a lot to motivate us this week; we have a lot work in front of us to do. Hopefully, I'm sure that we will be motivated when we come in here tomorrow to start that process. Part of us doing that is addressing the injury situation, and we do have some. Casey Hampton has a groin strain and will be week-to-week; he will be out this week. Brett Keisel has a calf strain; he is week-to-week; he will still be out this week. Willie Parker has a sprained left knee; he will be out this week. Donovan Woods has a hamstring injury; he is still categorized as week-to-week; he will be out this week. We have some other bumps and bruises that might limit some people at the early part of the week. Other than those people, we are a healthy football team.
When did Willie Parker get hurt?
Toward the end of the game. He came out and we knew he was uncomfortable, but we didn't get the information until yesterday when we were able to run some tests.
Is that why Rashard Mendenhall played at the end?
Yes, at the end of the game.
So Parker is week-to-week?
Yes, but this week he can be characterized as out.
*Will he miss more than one game?
No, I am not ready to say that.
Is Mendenhall ready?
Ready or not, huh? No, Rashard is ready. He is a talented guy and he has been practicing well. He gets his opportunity and I think that is what team football is all about. A lot of his peers around the league, they have been getting opportunities, partly because they do not have Willie Parker playing in front of them. (Now) he gets his opportunity. I'm sure that he is excited and I know that our team is excited to see what he is capable of doing. What better way to start than to do it on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens.
Why did Mendenhall not get any carries in the past two games?
It was purely situational. The other night we had a tough time getting any rhythm going offensively. I think Willie only had 12-13 carries himself. That is just the way that the game unfolded.
Will Mendenhall get all of the carries?
He will be the primary ball-carrier.
Why is Baltimore so good against the run?
It is all of the people, really. They have very few holes defensively. Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Suggs, Ngata, Trevor Pryce, (Jarret) Johnson; those are the reasons why people have a tough time running the football on them; not only because they are great football players, but they have a great deal of continuity. Those guys have been playing together for quite a while.
How limited will Ben Roethlisberger be in practice this week?
At this point, I don't think that he will be limited at all. Of course we will see when he comes in here tomorrow. He has some bumps and bruises, but we don't think at this point that it will limit him in terms of practice tomorrow.
Could he have gone back into that game?
I don't think so. We wanted to run some tests to make sure that he was fine. I think that the process of running those tests would have made it tough for him to go back into the game.
Who has the ultimate responsibility at the line of recognizing blitzes?
It is really multiple responsibilities. The center determines who we identify as the "mike" linebacker, and based upon protection, a lot of things spin off of that – who is hot, who generates the hot. Then the quarterback identifies along with the wide receivers who are potentially guys that will break off patterns and be hot. Every protection is different; every defensive front is different. The center identifies what we identify is the "mike", the quarterback and wide receivers identify the hots, and the backs have to identify who they have to pick up. It is a collection of people doing their specific jobs that creates that.
Does the quarterback have the final say?
Absolutely, but a lot of times the potential of that is limited because of the play clock.
Is it fair to say that Ben had a tough day recognizing?
It is fair to say that we had a rough day.
Did the coaches put the players in a spot to deal with that?
The reality is that when you have a performance like that, it is really all of the above. As coaches we could have done a better job of adjusting and putting these guys in position to be successful. We could have done a better job of identifying on all levels: wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, offensive linemen, quarterbacks. We could have done a better job of physically blocking them. Football is not without its ups-and-downs, particularly during the course of a season. One of the things that is important as we move forward is that we accept responsibility for the tape that we put out there. We put that tape out there on Sunday night, and there are repercussions of that. We have to make the corrections and we have to take responsibility for what we did collectively. I believe that we will do that, and that is as critical a part of moving forward as anything else. That is where we are right now; sitting down and talking about it doesn't solve the issues. We have to meet, we have to practice, and ultimately, we have to go out and perform. Our next opportunity is Monday night, and that is where our focus is at this point.
Did anybody sign Gary Russell?
They did not; at this time he is back on our practice squad.
Did Philadelphia show you something differently?
Not anything that we had seen if you had studied them over the course of this year, preseason, and last year. It is still early in the season so there are some things that they ran against us that they had not run in the first two games. It was not uncharacteristic of a Jim Johnson defense.
Who will back up Chris Hoke?
Will you sign anybody?
At this point, no. Of course those things are a possibility as we proceed through the week, but at this point it will be Chris backed up by Travis.
How do you adjust to having two defensive linemen out?
For us, we acknowledge that injuries are a part of the game. The standard of expectation will not change for us. It is an opportunity for some people to step up. Brett Keisel got hurt and did not play last week; Orpheus Roye stepped up and did a very good job. As a matter of fact, his hustling caused the first turnover of the game. That is where we are in regards to that. I think that anything else is not good for winning football. We expect those guys to step up and deliver for us and we know that they will.
How easy is it to replicate what Philadelphia did to you?
That is probably not a question for me to answer; that is probably a question for Baltimore to answer. They are capable of getting after you, much like Philly. It is probably easier for them than it would be for another team based upon their defensive makeup. We expect the Baltimore Ravens to be the Baltimore Ravens. They don't have to try to be the Philadelphia Eagles. They are good enough in their own right; they are the number one defense in football. People are averaging 160 yards of total offense against them; 23 minutes of possession. The work that they put in thus far dictates that they are pretty good. They don't have to worry about trying to be the Philadelphia Eagles. Look at the quarterbacks who have played against them; their quarterback rating for the season is 26 for quarterbacks who have played against them. We have a tall order getting to play against the Baltimore Ravens.
Does Mendenhall catch the ball better than Parker?
He catches the ball well; I am not ready to say what he is in comparison to Willie Parker right now. Willie has a more complete body of work.
Who is Mendenhall's backup?
It will Mewelde (Moore) and it will also be Carey Davis. We have some options there.
What can the coaches do differently in terms of adjustments?
Preferably not get sacked quite as much as last time. We need to make adjustments; we do make adjustments. The adjustments that we make, the quality that they are executed ultimately measures us. When I say that we could have done a better job; that is what I am talking about. I am talking about the end result. It is obvious that the adjustments that we made were not sufficient because they continued to sack us and we did not win the football game.
Do you change what you do, or do you try to do it better?
I think that ultimately, you have to improve the quality of your work. The way that you do that when you are not on the screws is initially, there is a reduction in what you do to make sure that everybody is sharp and on the same page. There is going to be a little bit of that. From a long-term standpoint, that is not the answer to that because you need to be multiple to have long-term success in this league. But ultimately you reduce, you sharpen, you get everybody on the same page and you continue to march.
Can draws, screens, etc. work against the blitz?
We did run a draw or two; we executed a couple of screens, although not very successfully. I think that ultimately that is the case. If you are not successful, then you are not successful. We called a couple of screens. We called a wide receiver screen on third-and-six; they did a nice job of defending it. Ben had to run the football. We called another screen and Ben lost the ball and had to pick it up and attempt to throw it over there late; it happens. All-in-all it was a sub-standard performance, there is no way of getting around that. We don't make any excuses for that; we accept it. We are ready to move on.
Do you anticipate making any changes along the offensive line?
Is Deshea Townsend ready to come back yet?
He is scheduled to run tomorrow; that does not necessarily mean that he is scheduled to practice. He is going to begin the process and we will be able to evaluate where he is in regards to the game as we proceed through the week.
Is Willie's injury an MCL?
It is a knee sprain.
Where there plays to be made against Philadelphia?
Absolutely there were plays to be made but at the same time you do not want to take away from what they were able to do defensively; they did a nice job. I spoke last week about the acquisition of Asante Samuel and what he gave them from a corner standpoint; the veteran presence and the back to back up what they do from a blitz standpoint. They executed it better than we did so you have to give them credit. Absolutely there were plays there but we didn't make them.
What do you think about Joe Flacco?
I thought that he was worthy of where they took him. He appeared to be one of the best in the draft and that was obvious. He is confirmed that to this point because he is the quarterback of a 2-0 football team.
What about his skill set?
He is big, he has a strong arm, he can put the ball in tight places, he places basically mistake-free football; he did at Delaware. He has done so thus far; he is 2-0.
*Should you be able to make it tough in a rookie quarterback?
I'm not going to make any Joey Porter comments in regards to that. They are a good football team. They are dominating the time of possession. They ran the ball 90 times in two football games. We run the ball 89 times in three football games and we run the football more than most. So that lets you know how they are playing. 37 minutes of football, they are a tough to beat. They are playing to their strengths and they are doing a nice job of it.
Casey Hampton's injury – does it have anything to do with the shape he was in for Training Camp?
I do not. No.
Re: Background with John Harbaugh
We've known each other socially in coach's circles for quite some time. We both have a University of Cincinnati background. John is a very good football coach. The great thing about it and you know he is off to a great start, because I believe that team mirrors his personality from a football standpoint. They are rock solid in the special teams game. They are playing to the limit and they are winning.
Do you expect opponents to blitz more?
I truly believe that Baltimore is going to be Baltimore. They are going to do what it is that they do. They play great defense down there for a long time and a lot of the key components are the same, including the coaching staff. Coach Rex Ryan, still leading that charge. In terms of what lies ahead after the Ravens, I could care less. It all lies right here now on Monday night.
Do you think the Ravens were overlooked in the division?
I don't worry about overall perception. No, what they are doing is not surprising to me. They have a great defensive personnel. They are solid in the kicking game. They have a staple of backs. They are big upfront in the offensive line. They are playing their football and they are 2-0 because of it.
When we talked about injuries early and people having to step up, that is what we are talking about. Bryant (McFadden) has had an opportunity to step up because of injury to Deshea (Townsend) and quite honestly he answered the bell. The standard of expectation has been met. He has played great football for us, not the we are surprised by that.
Re: Concern with Ben continuing to get hit
There is a concern of the cumulative affect of getting hit. I'm not willing to you use the word skittish.
Re: Fan support here in Pittsburgh
We look forward to playing in front of our fans particular on Monday night. Especially after considering what happened to us playing in the road verse a good football team last week. We are going to need our fans to be at their best and we know that they will be. They will be ready. We better be ready to deliver for them.
More difficult to pass protect on the road?
Absolutely it does. But by no means is that an excuse for the performance that we had on Sunday.
Re: Putting Gary Russell on the roster
It is a possibility. Yes.
Re: Patrick Bailey on special teams
I thought he did a nice job. He was a four phase guy. Active in all four phases, he showed the personality that we expect from him. He was high energy and he was where he was supposed to be.
Is there something to say about the home team's Defense feeding off fans energy?
Hopefully it is something we can capitalize in. I am not ready to speak to the rivalry, being home and away and things of that nature. We just focus on what we need to do on Monday night, and this one, the important one. They are 2-0, leading the division. We have a home game, so we are excited about that. Hopefully our defense does feed off of the home crowd. I am sure we will.
Is there a drop off from Casey Hampton to Chris Hoke?
Chris Hoke is not Casey, but again, we don't anticipate a drop off of production. We expect him to go in and perform at a winning level and we know that he will.
Re: Travis Kirschke
In the past he has proven himself. He has position flexibility and I mentioned Bryant McFadden earlier with how he has performed, and I thought that Travis Kirschke really came in and did a nice job playing in place of Brett Keisel. He will potentially get some nose work again this week. So we will see how that goes.