Hearing from Coach Mike Tomlin

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On cornerbacks, running the ball, news conferences  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. What qualities make a cornerback?
 
A. First and foremost, I look for the two things you can't coach: instincts and body control. So much of cornerback play, of secondary play, in general is instinctual and the ability to get your body in and out of awkward body positions and movements. Those are the two primary things I look for, because you can't coach them.
 
Q. You once said good cornerbacks have to have a nastiness to them. What do you mean by that?
 
A. More than anything, it's a mentality, because the nature of that position is based on failure. It really is. They have to be unflappable from a mental makeup standpoint. The mental toughs, I think, manifest itself in different ways, and physical toughness, the edginess, is a part of it.
 
Q. Besides working with a player or talking to him, how do you gauge his mentality?
 
A. It shows on tape. It really does. How a guy responds to a negative play tells a lot about that. It's one of the things I look for when I evaluate college defensive backs. I want to see what they do after they give a play up. I want to see their mannerisms. I want to see their level of aggression. Do they go into a shell? Do they play conservatively? When they're faced with a tough opponent, do they play conservatively, or do they take calculated risks. All of those things that are tangible that you can see on tape speak to their mental makeup.
 
Q. Did the way the offense ran the football against the Ravens – vs. a tough defense at a difficult venue and with an inexperienced quarterback – impress you with respect to that element of your game?
 
A. It was impressive, and really, it was more impressive based on the situation rather than the opponent. We were in there with a very young quarterback, our third quarterback, and so it was no secret that we needed to limit his exposure to that defense. The Ravens responded accordingly by packing the line of scrimmage, and we were still able to run the ball effectively for most of the game.
 
Q. When something like that happens, does it open your eyes to possibilities you didn't necessarily know you had?
 
A. Sure. When you're able to operate under duress, I think that is something you grow from. That is something we potentially grew from, a circumstance we potentially grew from, and hopefully it'll be a weapon for us as we proceed through December.
 
Q. On Tuesdays during the season, you have your regularly scheduled news conference, which is broadcast live on both television and radio and attended by both local and national media. How do you view those sessions?
 
A. (Laughs). Most of the time they're comical. And let me say that I respect the job the media has to do, and I understand the nature of our relationship in that we're all a part of the same ecosystem. Sometimes the line of questioning is funny, because it's obvious that it's done to build a specific story – and sometimes I'm willing to help and sometimes I'm not.
 
Q. Do you ever test out things by saying them to the media on Tuesdays, say, before you might say them to your players on a Wednesday?
 
A. That's primarily my focus when I take care of that obligation. I'm talking to my football team. I'm setting the stage for what is going to happen on Wednesday mornings, because I'm not naïve. I know that my team listens, watches and reads what is said.
 
Q. Sometimes in those news conferences you'll talk about a deficiency in the team, and other times you'll talk about a deficiency in the team and there are names brought up. Is that a conscious decision you make to do that?
 
A. Sometimes those deficiencies, those personal deficiencies, are obvious, so why deny them? Generally, I like to keep our business, our accountability business, private. But when it's obvious, why deny it?
 
Q. You said earlier that you know your players read, watch and listen, so do you use a Tuesday to send a message to an individual player?
 
A. No. I do not. But when areas of personal deficiencies are obvious, I'm not going to deny it.

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