On playoff football, mistakes, working the team
Throughout the 2010 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. In terms of the brand of football being played, how are the playoffs different?
A. I don't know that they are. The one thing about playoff football that's different from regular season football is that you almost always pay for errors, whether they're tactical errors, physical errors, mental errors. When you play good people, the consequences for your mistakes show up, and they show up more consistently and more quickly than they do in the regular season.
Q. So if you were to ask for one quality from your team during the playoffs, it would be no mistakes?
A. To minimize mistakes. We're going to make mistakes. That's the nature of the game of football. I've yet to be involved in a perfect game, but you really have to be on the screws and you have to work to minimize your mistakes, whether they're physical mistakes, mental mistakes or in the case of coaching, tactical mistakes.
Q. Are there elements of the game that become more important, maybe some of the subtle things that go on in the game?
A. There's always the feeling the game can hang on each and every play. That's just a signature of two good teams playing one another, and you get that every time you step into the stadium in playoff football.
Q. Feeling as you do about the importance of minimizing the different kinds of mistakes, is there anything you can do as the coach to facilitate that?
A. It depends on who I'm dealing with, and that's one of the approaches I take in terms of dealing with my team. Some people manage stress differently. Some people need to be challenged to be on the screws, some people are wound a little tight and need to be loosened up. I try to provide the guys what they need in order to be prepared for that.
Q. Do you work more, longer hours and harder, during the playoffs?
A. I don't know that I work more from an hours standpoint. I don't think that is what's required. I work hard, but if you're punching a clock, I wouldn't say I work any harder at this time of the year than I would in September.
Q. When it comes to working the team, do you get a point where putting in more time isn't necessarily of any benefit?
A. We lived by a common sense approach to this football season for our team, and by that I mean we try to provide the guys with what it is that they need. We had an opportunity with the bye week to really do that a couple of weeks ago. We had some veteran guys where rest was the most important thing, and we provided that. We had some injured guys where recuperation was the most important thing, and we provided them with that. We have some young guys who contributed greatly to us being in the position we were in, and they need to continue to sharpen their sword for the battle, and we gave them competition. That's what it's about to me – providing the guys what it is they need to do the job.
Q. In terms of the preparation for a game, is there a time when you're finished?
A. It's ongoing. It really is and always has been.
Q. How do you spend the hours before kickoff?
A. Wrapping a bow around thoughts – on ways I think the game may unfold, on things I think I can do to combat the things that concern me. Things of that nature. Getting a sense of what concerns the people I work with – assistant coaches and players. Making necessary adjustments, if it's applicable, or if I'm capable. That's what I do in the hours or minutes leading up to game time.
Q. Are you just going over those things in your own head?
A. No, it's inter-active. I generally stay on the move, and I'm generally pretty thoughtful about what time I put myself in the game site. What time I get to the locker room, because it can be too much of that sometimes. I'm very thoughtful about what time I put myself on the game site, because once I get to the game site those are the kinds of things occurring for me.