Hearing from Coach Tomlin

On getting a hat, rookies, the practice squad

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. How do you make up the game day roster, or as you often say, how do you decide who gets a hat?

A. There are base-line minimum numbers, positionally, that you have to have. That's the basis to begin, making sure you have the minimum at every position – three running backs, seven offensive linemen, minimum of two tight ends, at least four wide receivers, at least five defensive linemen, in our scheme a minimum of seven linebackers and eight defensive backs is the base-line I'm willing to go from a secondary standpoint. That's where I start each week, and then I build the remainder of the opportunities and jerseys around those who are deserving, plus any matchup that might give us the best chance to win.

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Q. Is there such a thing as too many rookies?

A. You're conscious of the position you put rookies in when you have flexibility. When you don't have flexibility, you ride with what you have to ride with, but when you do, you're thoughtful about some of the decisions you make in terms of some of the positions you put people in. Particularly early in the season.

Q. So that ties in with what you call September football?

A. Absolutely.

Q. When you're doing your job – either preparing the team during the week or on the sideline during the game – are you conscious of what September football is and do you do your job differently?

A. You do, because you have to be a man for circumstance. And in September football team, the team with the best chance to win is the team that doesn't beat itself, or the team that makes fewer mistakes. You seize opportunities when they present themselves, you try to increase the potential for the other team to make mistakes and you want to minimize yours. It does change how you approach a game, and games do unfold differently early in the season than they do in the latter part of the year.

Q. After rosters are cut to 53 players in early September, teams then are permitted to put together a practice squad of up to eight guys. Are those eight players who get signed to the practice squad the ones who were the closest to making the final 53?

A. They are guys with upside and potential, who are selfless and diligent workers. You can't be a high-maintenance practice squad guy. You have to be extremely reliable, you have to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. You have to be a self-motivated man, you have to be a high energy guy and you have to have good practice habits. It starts there for me. There are a lot of things that occupy a coach's attention once you get into the regular season, and guy who are not playing cannot be one of them.

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