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. In the preseason game against the Bills, James Farrior returned an interception for a touchdown, and he also had a sack and forced a fumble. What does Farrior mean to this team?
A. James is a guy we put out front. He's a leader because he puts the other guys first. He's a veteran player who's very approachable and someone the young guys are very comfortable with. He leads by example. He opens up his home to those guys. He's a special, special leader.
Q. The process of re-signing veteran players who are in the final years of their contracts, how does that happen? Are they somehow prioritized, or does the team just sign the ones it can sign?
A. It's a priority, but it's also based on a lot of situations and circumstances – signability, relative health. There's age and then there's football age. There are a lot of things that weigh into the equation in determining who to sign and how to go about signing them. It's a part of the business that not only do we go through but everybody in this industry goes through.
Q. You have spoken about losing a couple of the important personalities from last year's team – Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden. How has this team been growing in that area?
A. I think we're still writing that story. That's something that evolves over time, sharing success, sharing failure, guys being their best selves and providing the group with what they think it needs to keep us singularly focused and moving forward. That's nothing as a coach that you try to control. You just recognize it when it's good. I think we have an environment that's conducive to those things developing, so we're just going to have to wait and see.
Q. During training camp, there were example of guys playing pranks on one another. As a coach, how do you balance allowing guys to have some fun without losing discipline?
A. It is a fine line at times. As long as things are done in good spirits and as long as people don't tote the baggage, if you will, if it doesn't escalate and it's light-hearted, then it's a non-issue. You see that quite a bit in a lot of sports, and quite frankly, it's part of the sport culture. Some of the things that go on in baseball clubhouses when teams are in the middle of a pennant run are noteworthy, and I just think it's part of the sport culture, part of what makes sport what it is. It's part of the child in all of us, and as long as it doesn't get out of hand I think it's a positive thing.
Q. If someone was to tell you that a team was undisciplined, what would that mean to you?
A. Undisciplined is beating yourself, doing the things that are not conducive to winning. Making unforced errors, if you will.
Q. Winning the Super Bowl in your second season as an NFL head coach has to have raised your profile. Can you use that higher profile for good, to better the team somehow?
A. I try to. I don't know how effective I am at times. I know I can get the attention of the officials a little bit better than I could in 2007. That's just the nature of it. There are small examples of it. There's a price you pay in everything you do, there are positives and negatives of course. I'm not consumed by it, by any stretch, but when I seen an opportunity where it maybe can help us, I'm not above trying to exploit that.