Hearing from Coach Mike Tomlin


On big hits, reputations, fatigue

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. The Adrian Peterson hit on William Gay has been getting a lot of air time. Is that something you have to address with a young player so that it doesn't linger?
A. That's one of the beautiful things about the National Football League. It's a humbling league. Every now and then you are going to lose physical confrontations, and I don't care who you are. That one is getting some air time because it was in open grass the moment that it occurred. Who it was – Adrian Peterson – makes it a big story, but over time it'll pass when somebody else gets caught in a compromising position either this weekend or next weekend, and then it'll be old news. William Gay is a competitor, and he understands that. We live by the motto: every now and again gun fighters get shot. He got shot in that instance.
Q. Is it because of Gay's particular makeup that you're confident that it won't have a lasting effect, or would that be the case with anybody?
A. From my mentality, that would be the case with anybody. I proceed with the assumption that they understand that. We talk about those things often, and I think you have to. You don't wait for an incident like that to happen before you start coaching the reaction, or the response, to those instances. That's just the nature of this game – every now and then you're going to get humbled, you're going to get embarrassed, if that's the word you choose to use. It's part of the game.
Q. When it comes to covering kicks in the NFL, is it want-to or is it schemes?
A. I really think all of those things are factors. I think it's schematics, I think it's talent, I think it's want-to. On any given play, those things are weighted differently, but no question all three are central to being a good coverage unit and being a good return unit. Scheme, talent, will, or want-to.
Q. Is it an accepted fact that throughout the league some teams are more physical than others?
A. We as coaches use it as a motivational tool when we prepare for teams with a "reputation" in that regard. I think people who play against us use that as a motivational tool to get their team prepared to play, whether they see it on tape or not. I truly believe that's the case. I think there is a fine line in this league between the teams that are physical and the ones that aren't. I think on any given weekend any team is capable of being that, just like any team is capable of being soft. There are certain teams that have a reputation for playing a physical brand of football, and it's centered around a few number of players. When you talk about the Baltimore Ravens, you think of Ray Lewis and you immediately put that persona on the entire team. When you talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers, you think of Hines Ward and you immediately place that persona on the entire football team. At times, the reputation is what it is, but usually it comes from the play or the personality of a very few number of players.
Q. Does winning the battle of the hitting usually translate into winning the game?
A. More times than not, when both teams are prepared and they're evenly matched, the more physical team is going to win.
Q. During a game, who decides when it's time to rotate different players onto the field to give other guys a breather?
A. It's the players, it's the position coach, and it's me. And really, it could be any of the above. We truly embrace the concept that the standard does not change, that the 11 in the huddle represent us, and they're the Pittsburgh Steelers. I prefer to have fresh people, ready people playing, as opposed to fatigued people, or injured people. The players have an understanding of that, they freely substitute one another; position coaches have the leeway to do that, as do our coordinators, and at times when I see things I do it as well.
Q. Can you see "tired" from the sideline?
A. Certainly. Sure. And it's a lot of things. It's mannerisms and demeanor in between plays more than anything else.

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