Hearing from Coach Mike Tomlin


Q. You use the phrase "below the line" when talking about an aspect of the team that you believe is not measuring up. Is there a statistical barometer for "below the line," or is it more of a feel on your part?
A. When I say "below the line" I mean good enough to win with. Sometimes that's measurable, sometimes that's just a feel. That's usually how I approach each specific instance. Usually, you can attach a number of some kind to it, but more than anything it's a feeling that you all know exists when you're talking about a specific area of our team, or an individual.
Q. Applying "below the line" to the running game, is there a number for that?
A. Yards per attempt is a legitimate number for that.
Q. What's the number?
A. 4.0. I think that's reasonable.
Q. The New York Jets recently got fined $125,000 for incorrectly reporting an injury to Brett Favre during the 2008 season. Do you understand the league's point regarding the reporting of injuries?
A. Quite frankly, I don't. I have a bit of sentiment for the Jets' position in that Brett Favre was going to play. He wasn't probable, he was going to play. A lot of times, if you wrote down every one of the aches and pains guys have, by December you would have 35 or 40 names on your weekly injury report. You have to make decisions, you want to do what the league asks, you want to do what's right, no question. But at times some of the frivolous things that come along with the injury reporting, there should be 25 or 30 names on those lists every week on those lists for every football team.
Q. Has the league ever verbalized to teams and/or the coaches why the reporting of injuries in this way is so important?
A. I haven's asked that question. The reality is that it's a policy, so we have to adhere to it and we understand that. We try to do it to the best of our ability.
Q. There are players who may do foolish things in this league, and then there are players who in fact are fools. Obviously, you don't want to bring fools into your locker room, so how do you tell the difference?
A. Really, it's their body of work. You call on your time spent with them, how they conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis. No question, we all make mistakes, we all fall short of perfection. It's really about the track record, whether you view a specific act or statement as something that's less than ideal, or is it a pattern of actions or behaviors or statements. I really think the resume, or the experience you have with an individual how you respond to those kinds of things.
Q. You have talked about an upcoming game being physical and "getting our minds right" to play that kind of game. Chuck Noll used to say that it's not normal human behavior to do a lot of the things that happen on the field during NFL games. How do you train yourself to do that? Is it necessary to practice being physical?
A. I think you get to a point in the season where it's counterproductive in today's NFL to wear your troops down from a banging standpoint. We have periods on Wednesdays and Thursdays when that is the central element, but those are 20 minutes out of a week offensively and 20 minutes out of a week defensively in terms of bringing that element to the table. More times than not it's about mental preparation from my standpoint. I agree with Coach Noll. It goes against natural survival instincts to do what these guys do. You have to prepare yourself for that. You have to prepare yourself physically – that's what training camp and the preseason is about, plus portions of the week during the regular season. But as you get into the season, you have to call on those snaps you logged back in Latrobe, and you have to call on your experience in terms of preparing yourself above the neck for that.
Q. How do you get their minds right?
A. I talk about it, but the reality is that each individual man has to prepare himself for that battle. They know what they go through in preparation for that battle, and they have to get themselves to that point. I show them video images of guys doing it successfully, and I show them video images of guys being unsuccessful. Those are the teaching tools I use to help get them prepared to play.
We're interested in football players first, and by that I mean they have an aptitude for the game, they're football intelligent, and they also have an aptitude for playing the game, which means they're willing and capable of playing the game in a physical manner.

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