HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 4
Coach Mike Tomlin:I guess I will start by saying that I thought that we had a great practice today. It may not have any bearing on how we perform on Sunday, but it was a very sharp practice today; the tempo was excellent and we got quality looks from our looks-squad. This time of year is important that we follow the iron is as sharp as iron principal. We have guys on the looks-squad who are giving us quality looks from Dezmond Sherrod to Orpheus Roye; it runs the spectrum. I thought that was what made practice great today. I will answer any questions.
James Harrison is okay?
Has the reluctance of using Rashard (Mendenhall) that you talked about after last game subsided or is it still there?
I reserve judgment until we see how he performs in regular-season football. Of course he is going to be given an opportunity to do that; he is preparing to play. We are not going to know that until we play and that is what makes this weekend so exciting, not just for him, but for a lot of guys.
What is holding Sean McHugh from practicing?
What it is, (is) an ankle. He could probably fight through it if he was capable of playing this weekend, but he is not ready from an assignment standpoint. We are exercising a little caution and letting him be all eyes and ears in taking in some of our football and our verbiage. We will get started fresh with him next week. Had he been healthy enough to practice, he probably could have gone through it, but he doesn't know what he is doing yet anyway. We are just taking some time to let him soak up some of the academic aspects of what it is that he needs to do for us.
Can you talk about your philosophy on potentially taking or deferring the kickoff?
I don't mind divulging that. To me, there are a couple of things that are going to factor into whether or not you accept the ball or you defer. Game location; if you are in a hostile environment then you might trust that you have a good defense, which might lend you to putting your defense on the field. If you have a weather environment that is worthy of some considerations as far as field position; all of that would be contingent on how you feel about your defense, and of course we feel good about ours. Those are the two major factors that will lead to the decisions from my standpoint other than taking the ball. This is the National Football League and you take the ball, all things being considered.
What is it with Dallas Baker that you saw from last year to this year?
Quite simply, he has been productive. If you look at his production last preseason, it was next to nothing. He caught balls; caught critical balls; caught a variety of balls; showed that he was capable of playing in the slot and moving the chains on third down. He was making significant plays. There is really no secret formula. The reality is that we acknowledge guys who produce and he produced this year.
Are you surprised with how quickly Ryan Clark has come back?
Not really if you know Ryan. This is a guy who has battled adversity during his entire professional career all the way back to draft day when he came out of school and he wasn't selected. This guy has a great spirit, a great work ethic and great football character. I would have been surprised had he not been back to form, truth-be-known.
Did you think he would be this ready to play though?
You know, I didn't know if he was capable of being healthy. Once he was capable of being healthy, I think that the football element of it would be taken care of. I thought, going back to almost a year ago to when he was going through his situation, you were more concerned with his health than with his ability to play football.
Who will be your third tight end on Sunday?
It will be an offensive lineman.
Will Santonio (Holmes) be used on punt returns just based on field position or will tempo of the game be factored in as well?