Coach Mike Tomlin talked about a variety of things in advance of the Steelers' preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings in the Hall of Fame Game:
Q. If you had to write a book titled, "Cover-2 for Dummies," how would you explain what it is and what it's designed to do?
A. It's an umbrella of defense that keeps the ball inside and in front. It disrupts the normal flow of the offense by re-routing the perimeter receivers, and the pass rush is a tremendous part of the coverage. The ball has to come out of the quarterback's hand on time. If it doesn't, it breaks the coverage down.
Q. What kind of players do you need on the back end for cover-2?**
A. Guys with good vision. Guys who are capable of being disciplined from a vision standpoint. Guys who are capable of seeing one thing and feeling another. Ronde Barber is the quintessential corner. There was nothing he couldn't do. He had great vision, a good, consistent, physical tackler. Great anticipation. It allowed him to excel. Over the years, I've fielded a lot of questions about him, and the scheme, and what the scheme did for him. My contention is that he did a lot for the scheme. A lot of what I teach, the principles I teach today's players were consistently developed and done by him within the scheme and became a benchmark of expectations.
Q. You have given guys days off periodically throughout training camp. How are those decisions made?
A. I get a lot of information. I filter through a lot of that information. Ultimately it comes down to healthy bodies positionally. If I have an opportunity to give an established guy a day off periodically because we have enough healthy guys working at his position, then I'll consider it. If I don't, then I won't.
Q. Coaches always want to win now, but you're also going to be in this job years into the future. Based on that, what's your philosophy on using future draft picks to trade for a veteran player? When is that a good idea?
A. We have no set principle or philosophy. We look at the needs of the moment and weigh it against the cost of addressing those needs. Then we make those determinations on an individual basis. The latest acquisition, Brandon Boykin, is an indication that we believe the needs of the moment supersede the expense of next year's draft pick.
Q. Is that a difficult decision? Are draft picks difficult to part with?
A. Really, it's not. It requires some discussion and some thought. We have great continuity, with Kevin (Colbert) and myself and Art (Rooney II), and that's what is required.
Cornerback Brandon Boykin wasted no time getting onto the practice field at Saint Vincent College for his first day of Steelers Training Camp.
Q. What have you seen thus far from cornerback Brandon Boykin?**
A. He's just a good above-the-neck, tough football player. We thought a lot of him when he came out of college. We interviewed him, brought him in for a pre-draft visit. We've been following his career over in Philadelphia. He's just an above-the-line capable NFL cornerback, a guy to provide tremendous competition, a guy we know is capable of playing NFL football.
Q. A focus of interest, especially during the preseason, is the release of the depth chart every week. When you're compiling that, are there any messages in there for guys?
A. Yes. The message is that I don't over-think it this time of the year.
Q. You did put Boykin behind Cortez Allen at right cornerback. Was that a message to Allen?
A. I did that because Cortez has been here and Boykin has not. If Cortez reads into it in that way, then good for him. We don't over-think it, to be honest with you. We're here at camp to establish the depth chart. You have to start somewhere from a depth chart standpoint, and depth charts at this time of year probably reflect what has transpired and the status of the guys coming into the situation, as opposed to what they've done since they've been here. We'll get more clarity as we continue to step into stadiums and snap the football.
Q. If you're a name on the depth chart, what do you have to do to either move up or get moved back?
A. Consistency in play, whether it's positive or negative, affects your status on the depth chart. If it's positive, in all likelihood you're going to move up. If it's consistently below the line, in all likelihood you're going to move down.
Q. How are Bud Dupree and Jarvis Jones, the two No. 1 picks at the outside linebacker position, coming along?
A. Doing a lot of great things. I've been pleased with the performances of those guys so far. I'm excited about watching them play in the stadium. They're talented people. They work extremely hard. They do a good job of communicating. I think the arrow is pointed up with those two.
The offense went 7-for-7 today in the "Seven Shots" drill during today's practice at Saint Vincent College.
Q. How will the Steelers handle the new extra-point rule?**
A. We're going to play it by ear. I know that I don't fear it. I know that I'm excited about taking a look at how it unfolds. One of the things I acknowledge is that in any stadium we step into it has a chance to be a significant component in terms of the development of the outcome of the game. One thing I will acknowledge is I feel pretty comfortable doing it with the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and others.