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. Excluding the long-snapper, punter and placekicker, what does a guy have to do to make the 53-man roster simply by what he contributes on special teams?
*Tomlin: They have to be dominant in that phase. Special teams is a legitimate phase of a football game, and we treat it as such in terms of how we dedicate field time and meeting time. Guys are definitely capable of making the team solely by what they're doing on special teams. Quite frankly, that's how Pat Bailey made it a year ago. Pat Bailey made it because he was a dominant guy during the preseason on special teams, and he proved to be a dominant guy on special teams in the regular season and postseason.
Q. Do you see any of those kinds of guys this year?
*Tomlin: I see some guys who are candidates. The only way they really can distinguish themselves is in the games. Practice is one thing, but probably more than in any other phase of football you don't know what you're working with in special teams until you see them in game action.
Q. After the Cardinals' game, you said you wanted the team to commit fewer penalties. How do you coach fewer penalties?
*Tomlin: The penalties I'm really focused on are the pre-snap penalties, and of course post-snap penalties are not tolerated. The things that occur prior to the snap and after the whistle need to be eliminated, and some of the things that happen during the course of the game you understand that's football. I'm less concerned about some of those penalties – not that they aren't an issue, not that we aren't coaching proper technique . But the penalties that occur pre-snap and after the whistle as a coach are the ones you really despise.
Q. It's often said in boxing that to win the challenger has to knock out the champion. When you're picking 53 guys, what does a rookie have to show you to replace a veteran?
*Tomlin: It really is two-fold. At times that element is part of the equation – that the champion has to be knocked out. But another element of the equation that weighs in the rookie's favor is at times when it's close, you consider the potential upside, the continued growth and development of a young guy. Let's face it, young guys will be much better players in October than they are at the end of August. At times, that weighs in their favor. At times, the body of the work the rookie is competing against weighs against him. Every situation is different, and I really can't pinpoint what the deciding factors are. I look at it from both directions.
Q. Do you feel any obligation to a player who has been here throughout the whole offseason and training camp to get him in a preseason game?
*Tomlin: It's not a participation sport at this time. You would like to get them all in the games, but quite honestly, if you're unable you don't lose a bunch of sleep over it.
Q. Regarding the pass interference penalty called on Anthony Madison that nullified his interception vs. Arizona: Did you agree with what was ruled?
*Tomlin: By no means did I agree with what was ruled. Actually, I turned that play in to Supervisor of Officials Mike Periera, and two days later he agreed with me. That doesn't do us any good at that point, but at times it does make you feel a little better.
Q. Are you satisfied with your short-yardage game?
*Tomlin: No, not at this point. We had some success, of course, against the Arizona Cardinals by converting a third-and-1 and we ran the ball into the end zone a couple of times, but we're just going to continue to build our thing. We understand that situational football, moments like that, are the difference between winning and losing, and quite frankly being the difference between being good and great. Short yardage, goal line, red zone, two-minute third down – those all are areas we believe are very important to our game.
Q. Does Isaac Redman have a legitimate chance to make this club?
*Tomlin: He does. Like everybody. I know it's kind of a cliché, but we evaluate all 80 men. If you have a helmet and you're in camp with us you have a legitimate shot. Some people take better advantage of the opportunity than others. He's one who has taken advantage of the opportunities, and he has opened some eyes along the way.
Q. Can you evaluate Daniel Sepulveda to this point in the preseason?
*Tomlin: Daniel is a very talented guy. When healthy, he shows why we traded up in the fourth round to get him. He's a two-time Ray Guy Award winner. A very talented guy, and more important than that he's a good guy and a good teammate.