Throughout the 2008 season, Coach Mike Tomlin will answer questions exclusively for Steelers Digest and Steelers.com. The following is one of those sessions. For the complete interview, pick up the latest issue of Steelers Digest.
Q. Do you find that a lot of opponents bring their A-game physically when they play the Steelers?
A. They do, and I say that because I've been one of those opponents. You know what you're going to get when you play the Pittsburgh Steelers, and being physical is one of the things you prepare yourself for when you come to play them.
Q. When you were on the other side, what were you telling your players as they were preparing to play the Steelers?
A. That we were going to a football game and the only way to compete against the Steelers was to play the game in a physical manner. It's going to be an attrition game. That was always the approach teams took that I was on as they prepared to play the Pittsburgh Steelers, and I imagine that's the approach a lot of people take. That's why I believe we have a great fan base – people just like watching that brand of football.
Q. With the exception of an injury, what would influence you to make a change in the starting lineup?
A. Consistent below-the-line performance.
Q. Does anything else go into that decision – who it is, how much experience he has, what position he plays?
A. To me, you make changes so you can perform better. Consistent below-the-line performance with an option that potentially gives you an above-the-line performance dictates change for me. Those are the factors that I rely on, regardless of circumstance, individual, position. I think if you make changes, you make changes for a reason – to give yourself a better opportunity to win. If the alternative potentially does that, and what you're looking at is below-the-line, you make those decisions.
*Q. So you're not someone who believes in sending messages that way?
A. No. You have to be careful sending messages. You have to take action, and everything you do from an action standpoint has to be geared toward winning.
Q. Is making the kind of change we're talking about something that's a course of last resort for you?
A. I'm willing to play that card when I recognize the situation as something that needs to be done. It's not a last ditch effort, if you will. I've never approached it that way. The situations I have been in that dictated change, I've never approached it that way.
Q. When it comes to making these kinds of changes, there are some teams where management would meddle and force things one way or the other. What's it like to work for the Rooneys, who don't meddle?
A. People who own football teams do what they want to do, so I'm not one to pass judgment on how they run their business. I will say that it is a pleasure to work for the Rooney family and the Steelers organization, because it eliminates variables that don't matter. When you can do that, you can focus on what we come here to do, which is to win and perform for our fans. That makes it a refreshing and awesome environment, and that's the thing that makes this place special. I've worked at a few places, but we do a nice job in this organization, of course it starts with Dan Rooney on down, of not worrying about things that don't gear us toward winning.
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