Hearing from Coach Tomlin

On improvement, play-calling, milestones

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. Every football fan has seen it, and we'll refer to it here as the Calvin Johnson play. What did you think of that?

A. I thought it was a touchdown. I understand the rule, and I think the rule is pretty clear: during the process of making a catch, you have to maintain possession of the football through contact with the ground. In my opinion, the catch was made, and then it was complete when his butt hit the ground. When the ball hit the ground, it was a second act. To me, it was over when his butt hit the ground after he made the catch.

Q. Should the rule be changed?

A. I don't think they should. I don't think there's anything wrong with the rule. I just think that from an interpretation standpoint and looking at that play and utilizing common sense, he caught the football and the play was over when his butt hit the ground. His hand, which had the ball in it, hit the ground after his butt. As far as I'm concerned, the play was over and the catch was completed once he gained possession of it and his butt hit the ground.

Q. At your news conference after the game against the Atlanta Falcons, you referenced the running game and said you thought it left some yards on the field. What does that mean?

A. That technically we have a ways to go on many levels. I thought Rashard's tracks were sometimes too fast in some instances, which cost him to visually miss some holes. The quality of some of our double-team blocks, and how we come off those double-teams can improve. It's things that you warm up as you continue playing football. Sometimes, they're errors of anxiety or the anticipation that comes with week one football, particularly when you're talking about double-teams and hurrying to get off to the next level at the linebacker, or for a running back when he speeds up the process. Technically, we all can improve, and I think our product will improve because of it.

Q. From a coach's perspective, are you looking for a big improvement from your team from the first regular season game to the second?

A. For me, I think it's the first five minutes of the second game that's different and better. You acknowledge the anxiety and the nerves that come with the opener, particularly early in the game. I think those things subside a little bit more as the weeks go on and we should be much better in the earlier portions of the game from an assignment standpoint, from a minute detail standpoint than we were in the opener.

Q. In calling either the offensive or defensive plays throughout a game, is there ever any attempt by one coaching staff to get in the head of the other play-caller?

A. There's a lot less of it that goes on than people realize. It's really more about utilizing your people in regards to the matchups they face. To maximize your opportunities for success and to minimize your potential weaknesses based on matchup. Sometimes it boils down to playcaller vs. playcaller, but usually those decisions are based on the people you're using and the game situation you're in. It really puts a governor on some of that creativity, if you will, at times.

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Q. What makes a good playcaller?

A. The ability to not get bored is probably something that really stands out. I think a lot of times people think great playcallers are dynamic, trick 'em people, volume people. Largely, the really good, consistent playcallers who have done it for a long time have core beliefs and things they hang their hat on. And they do those things ridiculously well regardless of circumstances, and they're successful even when people know they're coming.

Q. When you hear something in the headset, do you ever think, "Wow, that's a good call?"

A. Absolutely. But usually it's based on circumstance, and not necessarily the call itself. "Boy, that is a great call for this particular instance with this personnel matchup in this field position at this juncture of the game."

Q. Do you save things, plays or calls, you think can work?

A. Yes, and particularly when you're in the kind of game we were in against the Atlanta Falcons. Where points are scarce, and you know you might be in multiple short-yardage situations and so forth, you want to save a couple of things for the latter portion of the game because you know it's going to come down to things of that nature.

Q. How do you deal with milestones for players, streaks they might have going, etc., within the concept of trying to win a football game?

A. I really don't. I have a level of respect for bodies of work and what comes with it, but it's not something that's in the front of your mind – or really not even in the back of your mind – as you prepare for games, or as you are in the midst of the game.

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