Steelers conference calls vs. Giants

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STEELERS vs. GIANTS SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2008 KICKOFF -- 4:15 P.M.  STEELERS CONFERENCE CALLS

HEAD COACH MIKE TOMLIN

Could you give us an update on the injuries specifically to your running backs and your secondary?

Really there is no news at the running back position.  We will know more as the week proceeds in terms of Willie's availability.  He is healing nicely.  We are hopeful that he is capable of playing, but we will see here as the week unfolds.  In the secondary, of course, Bryant McFadden is out and will be out indefinitely.  He broke a bone in his arm and had a plate inserted on Monday so he won't be participating.  Troy (Polamalu), of course, is recovering from a concussion that right now the results of those tests that were given after the concussion are favorable.  We will continue to test him as the week goes on and if he is given the green light by our medical staff, then he will be available to play.

The situation with Polamalu, there are reports that he has had seven concussions. Does common sense dictate that you would want to give him a week off, regardless?

I am not confirming that he has had seven concussions.  I don't know that to be true.

Do you look at this game as a good barometer for your team heading into midseason?

I guess for us it can be judged in that way.  We are just trying to live day to day and week to week and kind of seek victory.  We acknowledge that this is going to be an awesome football game because the Giants are defending world champs, but not only that, they are good here in '08.  They are a 5-1 team and we have a lot of respect for those guys and really that is where we are focused right now.

How has your revamped offensive line done, particularly at the guard position?

I think they are growing week to week and really that is the only way that we can approach it.  We are not going to be readymade in that area.  We acknowledge that we are kind of going through a transition.  I think each week they have grown and developed better cohesion, have played better.  I think their growth and development is one of the reasons why we have been able to win a few games here in a row now.  Along the way, of course, we sustained an injury or two. Max Starks had to step in and play last week, Darnell Stapleton has had to step in for Kendall Simmons.  That is part of it.  I think for us to be a good team and for them to be a good position we have to have quality depth and the standard of expectation can't change as natural things that are part of the game like injuries set in.

How is Stapleton doing?

He is doing well.  I think the biggest barometer for his performance is that he played in the second half of Monday night versus the Ravens and we played winning football and he has been in the lineup since then and we have had a winning performance against Jacksonville and run the ball very well and protected the quarterback and did the same thing in Cincinnati.  So far so good with him.  Again, he is at the floor in terms of what he is capable of and hopefully he continues to get better every week.  I think he has done that here over the last two and a half weeks.  He has been progressing nicely, but he has a ridiculous challenge this week with their front.  Robbins and Cofield and company are really going to be a good barometer for where he is.

Why is Hines Ward such a good blocker?  Is it technique, willpower, or a little bit of both?

I really think it is all of the above.  I think in order to be a good blocker, first and foremost, there has to be a mentality and willingness to do that.  He takes a great deal of pride in it, and secondly he is just blessed with physical talent.  He is probably more powerful than people think.  Like a boxer he delivers a great blow with a short punch.  That is just who he is.  It is part of what makes him him.

Why aren't other receivers better at blocking?

I think it is a combination that he has a unique talent in terms of being able to create power and also he has a unique talent that he takes a great deal of pride in doing that.

Does it help your team to play on your sometimes messy field more than everybody else?

It probably helps us in the fact that we are used to it and it is not something that dominates our thought during the game week, or during the course of the game for that matter, where it might our opponent, but the field condition will be the same for both teams.

When you watch tape of Brandon Jacobs what do you see?

Ha.  This guy is a dangerous man.  He gets his pads square and gets downhill on you, you have a problem.  We respect the heck out of him and really quite frankly, now we are trying to figure out how we are going to get this man on the ground.

Is he a throwback to one of the older style power running backs?

He is.  He is a super talented guy.  He is just very impressive.  He could be compared to any dominant, historic, big power backs that have come through this league.

What was the reaction in the film room when you showed the block that Hines Ward had this past Sunday on the linebacker?

Really Hines does that quite a bit.  Guys appreciate it because it helps us win and really the response was not out of the ordinary.  It has really kind of become commonplace, at least since I have been here.  That is how he plays the game.

Why are Roethlisberger's sacks up this year?

Really it is not up this year.  It has kind of been at that state here over the last several years '06, '07, '08.  He is a very talented guy.  He is a very competitive guy.  He is trying to win on each and every play.  Sometimes he holds the ball too long, sometimes he makes great plays because he holds the ball too long.  We have a great deal of belief in him.  You take the good with the bad.  Sometimes we groan in developing as an offensive line and as a running back corpd in terms of picking up blitzes or the wide receiver corps acknowledging and identifying hots.  I think it is all of the above.  We don't shy away from that, it is an area that we need to improve, and we really are going to be tested in that area this weekend.

How difficult is it for you to implement some kid of quick pass offense to counteract the Giants' pressures?

You know we are going to play our game.  We are always trying to get the ball out of our hands and throwing on rhythm and that won't change, but we have an eye to what those guys are capable of, but we have to put our best foot forward and do what we do.  That is the way that we are going to approach it.

Do you see anything when you watch Ben and Eli that is a common factor?

That they are both extremely competitive and well-documented winners.  I think that they are great for this game because of that.  They are young, emerging guys and that is what they have in common.

Is there any downside to that early success in terms of people's expectations for them?

We don't worry about high expectations, we embrace it.  It is better to have that than low expectations. 

QUARTERBACK BEN ROETHLISBERGER

Q:  How much is your banged up running game affecting your offense?

A:  Well last week we ran for over 100 yards, the week before 99 yards.  So I think we have some guys that fill in and fill the void pretty nicely.  So I think they are doing a great job. 

Q:  Hines Ward is a valuable player in many ways.  Could you tell us about how his blocking helps your offense?

A:  He is an extra lineman out there in the run game.  He is not afraid like a lot of wide receivers are.  He will go in there and he will block a linebacker.  Sometimes we have to ask him to block a defensive end; not just safeties and corners like a lot of guys do.  And so you have to really appreciate what he does and the extra work he puts into helping our running game.

Q:  Does he put a little fear into defenses?

A:  Well, I think they have to know where he is because he is an extra lineman out there.  He is going to put a helmet on you and he is going to block you.  It is not easy.  So I think guys are always wondering where he is.

Q:  Can you talk about your relationship with Eli and how remarkable it is that both of you have already won a Super Bowl.

A:  I don't really have much of a relationship with Eli.  I don't know him that well.  But I think it is awesome to watch him win the Super Bowl last year and know that he is from the class as me.  It is a pretty neat thing.

Q:  Do you remember much when the Giants came to visit you before that draft?

A:  A little bit.  I remember them coming to Oxford and talking to me, but I don't remember a whole lot about it.  It was pretty brief.

Q:  Do you think there has been any difference with how your career and Eli's career has developed with you being in Pittsburgh and him being in the New York market?

A:  Well, I think he is probably scrutinized more, obviously, because of the media up there.  But obviously we have both have won a Super Bowl and so far have had pretty good careers.

Q:  In terms of the publicity you receive, anything in that vein?

A:  I don't mind where I'm at.  I don't want to be out there like that.  Football is what I do.  It is not who I am.  And that is the mentality that I take.

Q:  I know you were only with him one year, but what do you remember about your relationship with Plaxico?

A:  Plax really helped kind of mold me and make me who I am.  He made me a better quarterback.  It was a privilege and an honor to play with Plax.  I have always thought he was one of the elites in this league and it was hard for him to leave; I didn't want him to go.  But he had to do what was best for him.  And he is doing a great job.  I love watching him play when I watch the Giants play.  And it is just awesome.  He is a great guy and a good friend.

Q:  It seemed like the organization had to make an 'either-or' choice there with Hines that year, right?

A:  I guess. I don't know what went on behind closed doors. 

Q: It seems like starting with the draft there were a lot of comparisons between you and Eli.  Is that something that ever goes away?

A:  I don't know.  I guess it would go away if something happened to one of the players.  But it is just something people are probably always going to talk about.  People always talk about draft classes and quarterbacks.  I feel honored to be in the same class as him and Philip.

Q:  Some of the Giants have talked about how this is a real litmus test type of game.  Do you feel your team feels the same way?

A: Well, we know it is going to be a great game.  They are the defending champs and they are a very, very good football; very physical, very fast.  And we know how important this game is.  And it is by no means going to be easy.  So I guess it will help us kind of figure out where we are and where we are headed.

Q:  What kind of reception do you think Plaxico is going to get there in Pittsburgh?
* *A:  I don't know.  It is hard.  Our fans are pretty ruthless to anybody.  But I think he will get a very warm reception from the players, obviously.  He had a very good relationship with them.  It is hard to say.  I would say if Bill Cowher went to Cleveland they would boo Bill Cowher and they are probably going to boo Plax a little bit.  But you never know.  I'm sure you will hear mixed emotions.

Q:  Do you stay in touch with him?

A:  I haven't talked to him in a little while, no.

Q:  It looks like your sack numbers are a little high this year.  Is that just a product of you being able to make so many plays with guys hanging on your back?

A:  I think it is a product of the defenses we played at that time.  They were the top two defenses in the league; Baltimore and Philly.  And we didn't have very good communication and they get paid, too.

Q:  How are things going with your new guards?

A: They are doing a great job.  Chris and Darnell, with Darnell filling in for Kendall Simmons.  They are doing a great job of really stepping in and really picking up the pace.

Q:  So that hasn't really been a problem?

A:  No, I don't think so at all.

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