Hearing from Coach Mike Tomlin


On cornerback talent, staying the course, dealing with superstars  Throughout the 2009 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.
Q. At all levels of football, do you think there is a lack of cornerback talent?
A. No. I don't believe that to be the case.
Q. When young kids are being placed at positions by their coaches, though, does offense get the better talents?
A. There's an element of that that can play out at the skill-positions, because there is an emphasis on ringing up scoreboards, because if you can do that you can win. But I also think there's probably an emphasis – from a big-man standpoint – to put the talented big men on defense first. There's give-and-take. I can see the merits of both approaches. I know I went to college thinking I was a defensive back, but my college coach had other things in mind.
Q. Once it gets to the professional level, it always works out that teams never seem to have enough cornerbacks but nobody ever seems to complain that any particular draft class is lacking talent at wide receiver. Is that the case?
A. I think when you talk about a lack of talent at a position, you're usually talking about the top-tier talent. The top-tier talent cornerbacks are rare animals, just like the top-tier talent left tackles are rare animals. Very difficult jobs, very specific skill sets required to do those jobs, and there really is not a lot of variance in that. Whereas top-caliber wide receivers can come in different shapes and sizes and forms, not necessarily so when you're talking about left tackles and cornerbacks.
Q. You have said that in the course of putting together a plan for an upcoming game, you will try to envision how that game will unfold. What elements are you looking at when you try to come up with how a particular game will unfold?
A. Physical matchups – ours vs. theirs. Players understanding the familiarity of what they're looking at, so it's scheme familiarity. Those are two big components of it.
Q. In the hours before kickoff, how did you think the game against the Packers was going to unfold?
A. I thought there were going to be more points rung up than either team anticipated, but I didn't think it was going to be 37-36. But I thought the offense had the chance to move the ball.
Q. As a coach, when you're examining your team's performance how do you know when it's time to make changes vs. when it's a better approach simply to stay the course?
A. It's less about the performance and more about the attitude, the perspective, or the level of confidence of the men. When you have failure but you have confidence and belief in what you're doing, it's easier to stay the course. When you see a lack of confidence or continuity, it's time to change.
Q. Recently in Minnesota, there was a public disagreement between quarterback Brett Favre and Vikings coach Brad Childress. How do you handle superstar players in this salary cap era?
A. It's really a non-issue for me. I believe players and coaches have a unique understanding of the division of labor in this business – they play and we coach. Mutual respect is required. There are things that come with my job that are going to be unpleasant for them. That's how it goes. I really don't give it a lot of thought whatsoever. I don't deal with them with kid gloves. I treat them like I treat everybody else.

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