HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN PRESS CONFERENCE SEPTEMBER 30, 2008 STEELERS at JAGUARS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2008 ALLTEL STADIUM -- KICKOFF -- 8:15 P.M.
Coach Mike Tomlin:Good afternoon. It was good to get a win last night. We are facing a short week this week so we have to sleep fast, as they say. In reviewing the tape this morning, some things were clear last night and again this morning, that it was a very physical division game. I am glad to get that win, but we must quickly transition and put that behind us because there is no rest for the weary. We have to go down and play the Jaguars, and we have some recent history with those guys. They are a very good football team. Let me start talking about those guys. Of course, they are led by David Garrard, who is very good. If you put the ball in his hands at the end of football games and those guys have a good chance of winning, which is evident in recent history the past couple of weeks with that football team. They have two top-notch tailbacks in (Fred) Taylor and (Maurice) Jones-Drew. They have a nice one-two punch that can wear you down and win by attrition. At wide receiver they have (Matt) Jones who is making quality plays for them on third down, as does Jones-Drew. Ultimately, if those guys don't get you on third down, or fourth down for that matter, Garrard can pull the ball down and beat you with his legs. He has done that in recent weeks and he did it to us in January football last year. Defensively, they are a rough-and-tumble outfit; they have big people up front. (John) Henderson and (Rob) Maier; (Paul) Spicer and (Reggie) Hayward; those guys are big, strong, powerful people in a four-man front. They supplement those guys with some rookies who they are working in; in (Derrick) Harvey and (Quentin) Groves who have special pass-rush abilities, which a lot of people coveted in the daft. You have (Mike) Peterson in the middle of the thing making the calls and running the show. Really they are very good on the back end. (Rashean) Mathis of course is a standout player; they moved Brian Williams to safety; he shows some versatility and he is doing some good things there. They picked up Drayton Florence to hold down the corner spot. They corners play on the line of scrimmage and they get in your face; they do a nice job of mixing up coverages. When you can't rely on that, there will always be some safety help over the top from time-to-time. They are a good, balanced football team; they are big, powerful and they play a physical brand of football. We have to get ourselves ready to go because of that. It is going to be a similar kind of football game this week, potentially; we have to prepare ourselves for that. In the return game, they have a guy named (Brian) Witherspoon, an undrafted free agent out of Stillman who has really been impressive; really lighting it up. He is averaging 30 yards on kickoff returns and 15 yards on punt returns. It will be another week for our coverage units to continue to show what they are capable of. We have some work to do; we have to work smart with how we prepare for this football game because it is obvious that we are coming off of a very physical game and a short week and we have some injury issues. We have to be prepared but at the same time we have to get our football team together. That being said, let's talk about some injuries. Rashard Mendenhall has a shoulder fracture and he is going to have surgery; he will be out for the season, like I said last night. Kendall Simmons (will be out for the season) as well with a ruptured Achilles. Casey Hampton is going to be out this week with his groin strain. Brett Keisel will be out again this week with his calf strain. Willie Parker will be out again with a knee sprain. Those guys, all three of those last guys, are getting better but at this point we can't say that they are going to be capable of playing this weekend. We will be looking for ward to seeing where those guys potentially are after the bye. Donovan Woods, who practiced somewhat last week, is going to continue to move towards play. We will continue to see how it unfolds with him this week. Carey Davis, with the ankle sprain, felt a lot better today. I don't want to call him in and I don't want to call him out at this point. Along with those guys we have a laundry list of bumps and bruises that go along with playing a football game like we played last night. I am sure Baltimore is experiencing some of that as well; it is the nature of those kinds of rivalries and those kinds of atmospheres in the AFC North. We enjoy being a part of them and it feels good when you get a win.
How is Andre Frazier doing today?
He looks to be doing remarkably fine, which is good. All indications are that this guy has a chance to move on and play this week provided that he passes some tests, which people are pretty confident that he will. Really it is a blessing; it is always scary when you see somebody lying flat and then they have to bring the board out. A lot of that was probably for precautionary reasons, but you always want to exercise a little caution under those circumstances.
Will you be making moves at running back?
We are still exploring those things; we have some candidates that we are talking to and visiting with. I am not going to talk about it until we make those moves. We have some familiarity things working in the mix but we will see how that unfolds. Rest assured, we will play with a running back this week.
How reasonable is it that Willie Parker plays against Cincinnati following the bye?
I am hopeful of that and I am sure that Willie is. It is probably too early to tell at this point. He definitely has a shot. It won't affect what approach we need to take this week; we live week-to-week and day-to-day. We are going to Jacksonville this weekend and we need somebody to tote the thing and somebody to be a part of it that is capable of throwing their hand in the pile. We need to make moves that are relative to that, and that is where our focus is at this point.
Will you sign a running back today?
How will Kendall's injury influence your depth at your position on the offensive line?
Just got a man thinner and we're addressing that position group as well and Darnell is a staple who stepped in a played last night and did a solid job, but this week we'll open it up and get some competition. Darnell is a capable guy, Trai Essex is a capable guy who played a bunch of guard in training camp. Only reason he didn't have a chance last night because he was inactive and Darnell was because Darnell is a capable snapper. But those guys will pitted against one another and compete this week and we'll see how it sorts out and we'll go from there.
Starting tailback for this week?
Pick one for us. Your guess is as good as mine at this point. We will see on Sunday.
Can Mewelde Moore be a starter?
He's capable and he has done it in his career. Maybe not for 16 games, but there's been stretches eight, 10 games where he's capable of doing that and has done that in his career. And we're aware of that and that's a factor in our decision making, but we're going to weigh all of our options and we're not going to speak too hastily at this time.
What was the nature of Rashard Mendenhall's injury?
It's just a shoulder fracture and that's really all the details that I have and it's going to require some surgery which is going to happen relatively quickly.
Do you have to sign two running backs?
Probably going to sign two and that looks like that's where the direction we're going to go. You know we have two guys that went down in the football game aside from Willie Parker already being down so it's obvious that we're extremely thin at that position and it needs to be addressed.
How did Rashard Mendenhall hurt his shoulder?
I think we can't answer the rehabilitation question until after the surgery is done. I'm sure it'll be a success, I haven't seen a surgery that wasn't. It just happened playing football man. He hit a run down hill man and he hit a hole and I liked the way he was running when he went down. It's just a part of football and he'll grow from it and deal with it as will we as a football team and over time it will be a distant memory. Hopefully one that we'll find a way to put a positive spin on.
Who plays fullback if Carey Davis can't go?
Yeah Sean is fullback capable and he actually had a few snaps in our game last night as a fullback. That's one of the things that attracted him to us is that he is a tight end and on the line tight end a move guy, fullback guy. He has that experience and capability and he's going to continue to grow in that direction and really not because of the injury, but just because that's the way he's been going here since we reacquired him.
How did Mewelde Moore play?
Mewelde, and you can ask the guys in the locker room, is a tremendous team football player. If he was frustrated, he didn't let on. Mewelde is just one of those guys who wants to contribute; he is a good teammate. I thought that he played big for us. He delivered plays at critical times in the football game. The 24-yard check down was what we envisioned him doing for us when we signed him. To drop a ball off about four yards away from you, from a quarterback standpoint, and then watch the guy run 20 (yards) and put us in field goal range, that is big. We needed that element and that capability in our offense. He is a guy who we feel can win one-on-one matchups versus linebackers; he has shown that ability. He just needs to grow and continue to be a part of this thing and find a comfort zone in terms of his role, which is always the case when somebody is new. I thought that last night was a good game; hopefully we are making big steps in terms of where we are headed with him.
What are the cap issues with signing guys?
We are not going to worry about that; we are going to throw caution to the wind. We will let Omar (Khan) deal with that because we need some players because we are going to Jacksonville.
Is there room?
Can you talk about Jacksonville responding to injuries along their offensive line?
Their personality hasn't changed. I think that more than anything that is the case. They run the football for 500-some yards as a football team and they are averaging four yards a carry; 119-120 carries over four games as a team. They are still running the ball about 30 times a game and they are still averaging about four yards a pop. They have are capable of wearing you down and winning by attrition; that is what we have to safeguard against. If they are in nail biters, they know that they can put the ball in their quarterbacks' hands and he can deliver for them; he has time and time again. We are aware of that and we respect those guys; we have a lot of work to do. We will start tomorrow morning with our preparation with our football game.
*Describe the locker room scene at halftime with Ben talking to the offense:
I missed it. What happens is, a lot of times, I will say something to the team, we will let those guys refresh themselves, and we will gather as a coaching staff in the coaches' room for a number of minutes. Then we will come back out and the offense will address the offense and the defense will address the defense and then I will address the team before we leave. If anything occurred along those lines, it occurred during that time when the coaches were meeting in regards to schematic things so I missed that.
Was that game an example of leadership on your team?
I just thought the resiliency of the team, don't get me wrong, we have quality leaders, but people have to be willing to follow and ultimately people have to be willing to make plays and capable of making plays that deliver. I thought that they came and came from a lot of places last night and ultimately that is going to be what determines what kind of team we are. I thought they were resilient I thought they didn't blink. We faced some adversity and some of it was self-induced but such is life in the National Football League. We fought through it and we played for 60 plus minutes and we better be prepared to play for 60 more plus minutes this week because that is one of the signatures of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is that they are going to play for 60 and sometimes 60 plus minutes. You know that going in.
Is Najeh Davenport in good shape?
I am not ready to comment at this point on people that we are talking about.
Was Ben Roethlisberger lobbying for no-huddle?
Ben (Roethlisberger) has always been an advocate of no-huddle. He likes to get the keys to the car. But it wasn't a lot of debate or anything in that regard last night. The potential of it was thrown around briefly at the half and then initially at the end of the third quarter. When we got decent field position we went about doing it. We've put a lot of time practicing on that phases of our offense. We've got a great deal of comfort in it. It is obvious that Ben (Roethlisberger) has a great deal of comfort in it. We are always capable of calling it out time to time when we feel like we need to change the pace.
Re: Calling timeout from sideline:
That is one of those mistakes I make form time to time. I have to learn, and I told our football team this after the game, I have to learn to trust our quarterback in terms of managing the game from a play-clock standpoint. I want to do it for them, I want to help, just like I want to help my kids. They have to ride their bike, they are not always going to fall and that is what happened under that scenario. That play clock went down to three, two, one second and I didn't think we were going to get the play off and I called a timeout. And unfortunately after I called the timeout, they gave it to me and it looked like we had a successful play.
What are challenges of no-huddle on the road?
There are positives and negatives to it. I've heard arguments for both. People say it is tough to operate, no-huddle on the road. Some people say it is a weapon because the crowd doesn't know when to cheer because you are never breaking the huddle on the line of scrimmage. Really it all boils down to the quality of your execution. So we will see what we are capable of doing and we are willing to do it this week.
*Does timing of injuries disturb you?
Injuries happen at a bad time. Injuries are a part of the game. I am not going to sit up here and complain about it and what bothers me on the injury front. They are as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling. You don't like it but you deal with it. Not only as a football team but individually as professional football players. These guys know what comes with territory. That is why they cherish their health and their ability to play this game so much. When you feel good when you walk into the stadium, those guys are energized and you can feel it. You can see it. When you are not, and you are capable of playing, you have a job to do, and they love that too. Ultimately these guys love to play. At times you can't because of the nature of the game. We accept that.
Is Ben Roethlisberger getting enough time to make plays?
It doesn't happen actually a lot. It happened in that instance because we had a big gain down field to Hines Ward and Ben (Roethlisberger) was on the ground as was Marvel Smith, who got rolled up on, who was kind of slow to his feet and moving in that direction. It didn't actually happen quite a bit at all, even looking back over the last month. There have just been a few instances, especially when you get a big gain, or when you have a short yard situation and people are somewhat slow un-piling. It comes with the territory, but not. Nothing out of the ordinary.
How was pass protection?
Obviously it was better. It was acceptable because we won. Of course we are still growing in that department and not only from a protection standpoint but also from a communication standpoint, from a recognition of delivering the ball standpoint. We are a work in progress. We don't shy away from that. We work at it. It was good enough to win last night, but we are not satisfied by any stretch.
Has your special teams coverage improved this year?
Don't say that. We are working out. They are. They are doing a nice job. So we have a tall challenge this week and the name of that young man is Witherspoon. He is an undrafted rookie free agent from Stillman and he appears to be very fast. He is averaging 15 yards a punt return and 30 yards a kick-off return. So your reputation lives one snap at a time. So we will see what we are like late Sunday night.
Re: Thoughts on using Santonio Holmes as a punt returner:
We had then in punting situation where they were backed up a bunch, and he is in open grass, and we can lock some people down from a body standpoint and give him the chance to get some looks at people. The time that we were backed up and Mewelde Moore went back there. He is a great decision maker. Santonio is a part-timer, kid of a free spirit, so we like to give him some open grass looks. I think those two guys are working well together, in terms of getting their job done. It just so happens last night that we had them backed up punting quite a bit, so you saw more of him. But both guys are still in the mix, the division of labor hasn't changed. The game circumstance absolutely did and that is probably why you saw more of Santonio (Holmes). He is a spark plug and we needed a spark at time last night.
*Re: Santonio Holmes success against Baltimore
I really just think it is his game, but at the same time Baltimore has very good corners and they challenge him. They battle and at times you win some and you lose some. When you play the way that they do maybe you get an opportunity to get a big play or two and he made a big play for us last night.
Will you consider moving Willie Colon inside?
Not at this point. But again I don't want to close the door on anything. I think that will be prudent for us to weigh all of our options and I am sure that we will.
In the short term is it Essex and Stapleton competing?
In the short term and I say in the short term.
How has five-man rotation of defensive line gone?
Those guys held up pretty good I thought. There were some bumps and bruises along the way. One time Chris Hoke was laying on the ground and you said, "Hey get up Hoke." Nick Eason as well. But those guys did a nice job and we'll ball them up and get ready to go this week.
Talk about things Hines Ward does to help team win:
It's obvious to the people that matter and that is just pears in that room, in there it's teammates. That kind of work doesn't go unnoticed. It is valued. What goes on outside of that room I couldn't tell you from a value standpoint. But the kind of work that he puts in is valued by his teammates. He is not alone. I thought Santonio was very physical last night when he didn't have the ball in blocking. It is kind of the nature of that match-up. It brings the best out of you when you are going against great people and make no mistake, they are the number one defense for a reason and we respect those guys.