HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN Tuesday, August 12
Coach Mike Tomlin:We are excited about taking the next step in our team development in Toronto versus the Buffalo Bills. Our goals this week are very similar to our goals last week. We want to be a tough team to beat and part of being a tough team to beat is not beating ourselves, so we are really focused on the things that are not talent oriented, but more of a cohesion- oriented and technically-oriented. We are going to focus on our techniques, communication, and playing within the rules. I didn't think we were highly penalized last time out, but a lot of our penalties were technical in nature. It was a good sign that we didn't have pre-snap, post-snap penalties. Those things make you easy to beat. But we did have some technical issues that we hope to clean up. We are looking for perfection from the assignment standpoint and really focus on the things that require no talent. Buffalo is a good team. They have a great running back. They have some talented receivers; they have a hot young quarterback. Defensively they have a front four that are relentless in their pursuit of the football and the quarterback. They have some special teams people that are dynamic return men, Roscoe Parrish and (Terrance) McGee. So, it's just what the doctor ordered. It is a challenge that hopefully we are up to and I look forward to meeting as we go to Toronto. Quickly on the injury front, some men that of course definitely won't be participating, most of which you know: Charlie Batch is recovering from his surgery. Kyle Clement will not play with a right knee sprain. Mike Humpal will not play; he is still experiencing effects of the stinger. Ryan Mundy will not play with a high ankle sprain. Troy (Polamalu) will not play with a hamstring. (Daniel) Sepulveda, of course, is recovering from his surgery. And we are going to hold Deshea Townsend, who is experiencing a sore groin that he has dealt with here for week or so and we feel that it is important that we deal with a little short term misery and put that element of his injury behind us. So we are probably going to hold Deshea at this point. Any questions?
Was there anybody that really stood out to you at the last game?
More than anything, I was just pleased with the start. I'm always cautious in terms of making snap judgments and evaluations at this point. I liked the way we played from a speed of the game standpoint. I thought the guys played with great energy. I thought some young guys stepped up, particularly in special teams. But it was a good start and that's all that it is. I think we will know more as we proceed and Thursday night is going to be a big part of it.
What are your plans for your quarterbacks this game?
Ben (Roethlisberger) is going to play with our first unit. We are going to play our first unit some more than we played in the last game. Byron (Leftwich) is scheduled to play and Dennis (Dixon) is scheduled to play. If we have enough snaps, maybe we'll play (Mike) Potts, but that is up in the air depending on how things unfold.
How is the competition at line playing out and when do you think you will have a starting five?
It's running its course. Justin Hartwig of course is going to get an opportunity to start and play with the first group at center this week. We scheduled to do that. He experienced some knee discomfort and came back and practiced with really no limitations yesterday, so it will be a big game for him. Sean (Mahan) is going to play with the second group. We are just going to continue to sort those things out and hopefully the answers will come clear to us because they will. So that is what we are going into the game looking at, the quality of play, the cohesion of the unit. The sooner we get the starting five together, the better.
Would you like to be able to make that decision after seeing (Justin) Hartwig go with the first team or are you content to let that go?
You know, I'd like to have it solved yesterday. You don't always get what you want. I think when we have clarity and certainty in terms of what is best for this football team we will make that decision.
What are your impressions of Rashard Mendenhall and what would you like to see him do maybe a little different?
I thought he was very productive. I thought he showed flashes of his pedigree the first time out. Every step he takes is a learning experience like all of the guys. So I look for him to be better in this game and I think that he will. He is a hard worker and we focused on things like what he does when the ball is not in his hands and ball security. He has embraced those challenges and we are going to continue to heap more upon him.
What will you do with your return guys? Will you give Santonio a shot?
We won't give Santonio a shot this game. We have a similar rotation that we had last time, but we will swap some people out. What I mean is Willie Reid will get an opportunity to return a punt or two; Eddie Drummond will get the opportunity to return a kick or two, where it was flip-flopped the first week. We are still looking at Mewelde Moore and Rashard Mendenhall. Mewelde is a punt returner, Rashard is a kick returner. Of course Jeremy Bloom will get the opportunity at both, depending on how many snaps we get. Hopefully, we won't get that many opportunities at kick-off return.
Will Willie Parker get more playing time this week?
He will. He will get more looks this week, as will everybody in our first units, offensively and defensively.
You made a point last year emphasizing that sacks are not always the fault of the offensive linemen; receivers and the quarterback also come in to play. Is that still your opinion and what are you doing to rectify all the sacks that this team has given up in the last couple of years?
That is my opinion and that will always be my opinion. Protection of the quarterback is a unit thing. From a past protection of the offensive line, blitz pick up the running back, potential sight adjustments of receivers, quarterbacks and receivers being on the same page. It is just the evolution of all of the men on our offense and there is a maturation process. I think that is what we are going through. I think we will be better in year two as we were in year one. We better be. Protection of our quarterback is critical to us being successful. I think we are taking steps in the right direction in that regard. I've been pleased with the pocket for the most part here in training camp, particularly in our play action passes as I've stated several times. There is going to be some clarity. It has to be. Decisions need to be made quicker because familiarity is increased so that is our intentions, that is what we are working toward and hopefully we will continue on that path.
You tried Roy Lewis at safety last week at the game how did he look and at that position does he have a better chance of making the team?
I think more than anything what he has done is cast a bigger net and shown that he is capable of doing multiple things which is bettering his chances at being a part of this team. He is very deliberate for a guy that is moving from corner to safety. He didn't shy away from contact. I thought he played the game very physical. He took advantage of an opportunity that wasn't expected by me or by him. That is always a good sign, but it is a long way to go. Guys like him fight up hill battles and how he handles the emotional rollercoaster will determine ultimately if he makes it.
Any thoughts on playing an international game in Canada?
You know, really none. I don't care where we play. I'm going to get off the plane, check into the hotel, leave the hotel, go into the stadium and play and get on the plane and get out. That's just me. Hopefully the guys enjoy it. Hopefully, we provide some entertainment to the people of Toronto but game location is kind of irrelevant to me.
Anthony Smith has caused some reaction with some of his hits here in camp. What is the coaching staff's reaction? Is this anything that concerns you?
We want to practice with great practice etiquette. I think that is important and I think that some of the reactions to some of those things are overblown. He is very sensitive too, and our guys are very sensitive too. I think that at one point his actions were referred to as "thuggery" or he was referred to as a thug. We take offense to that. These are young, professional people. They are very good at what they do and very sensitive to how they are portrayed in a public light. I was offended by the reference in reference to him. He is not a thug, he is a young, professional football player who is trying to be at his best and he plays the game very physically.
Was that something in print?
How do you handle that with your guys?
We talk about it and we understand that perception all the time is not reality and this is what we do and not who we are. We try to keep the lines clear in that regard. Sometimes things are said or written that are hurtful. He was hurt by that.
(Tyrone) Carter knocked down (Willie) Parker yesterday, what happened there?
It's football. That's why we wear helmets and shoulder pads.
You weren't wearing them yesterday though.
Yeah we were in that instance. That was in the afternoon. We always have helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon.
He hit Willie in that outside drill in the morning.
Yeah, that was contact, we were suited. It was 11 on 11, run emphasis.
Can you talk about Bruce Davis and how he has progressed from the first game to the second?
He was active, not to be confused with productive. He is a young guy with a lot of energy who has a desire to be great. He is playing catch up like we have talked about quite a bit. And he had better catch up in a hurry this week. I'm pleased with his approach at getting after it, but we need to see some results.
How do you feel about Larry Foote response to the push from (Lawrence) Timmons?
These guys are competitors. He responded the way I expected him to which was to punch the clock and get after it and try to get better and give us an honest day's work, which he has done. I've had very little complaints from him, if any. He understands the nature of this thing and that it's competition. I think he's embraced that, as have all the guys.
How is Anthony (Smith) progressing as a defensive back? He's had some ups and downs in his career and it's his third year now.
I'd like to think that he is moving in the right direction. Thursday night will be telling the truth be known because he has missed a lot of time with his injury. It is tough to evaluate him with a consistency of performance standpoint because he hasn't had a bunch of opportunities here at training camp. We intend to rep him out quite a bit Thursday night and hopefully he shows growth. I know that from a day to day standpoint how he approaches his business has been an improvement, but ultimately it is based on what you do inside the white lines. It will be a big test for him.
Do you have any problems with him hitting Hines?
Absolutely. We desire to be professional and practice with great professional etiquette. We understand that we fall short of perfection sometimes. That happens. This is a physical and emotional game played by those kind of people, but it doesn't necessarily make him a thug.
Will Anthony Smith get a look at strong safety, depending on personnel situations?
Yes, we intend on playing him at both safety positions on Thursday night and that is really what he has practiced at since he has been here. He's shown the ability to play both strong and free.
You talk a lot about coming to camp and leaving as one unit, how do you feel about that?
I think it's been very productive, but ultimately it's measured on how you perform over the long haul of the football season. I will get a better understanding of how successful this camp was months from now, like I was able to evaluate last years camp in hindsight. I think that will always be the case. It's not necessarily about the feelings that I have now, it's about the production that this camp produces. We are here working and we realize that we have battles that lie ahead and hopefully we are prepared to fight them.
Are you going to let (Mitch) Berger do all of the punting?
We are going to set up a rotation between those guys. I think we are going to punt both of those guys for the next three weeks and put one versus the other and see who comes out on top. It is our intent to punt both of the guys in all of the three remaining games.
Holder the same way?
That is up for discussion. A lot of that has to do with Jeff's (Reed) comfort of course. We are still in the process of sorting that out.