*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. What is the most impressive element of this team so far? Tomlin: Really, I think, just the quality depth of the candidates we have here. You report to camp with 80 guys, and this has been the most competitive camp from a personnel standpoint by far since I've been here. Every guy in our camp is a viable guy, and there are things about him that you like. It's going to make some tough decisions, but those are good decisions to have to make. I've just enjoyed that element of it. You look at our cornerback depth – we have some guys who can play in the National Football League, and to be quite honest with you, some of whom are not going to make our football team. The same thing can be said about our wide receivers. A lot has been written and said about what we need to do in terms of developing a third or fourth or fifth receiver, for that matter. But I like the depth of the candidates we have, and some of those guys who are going to be on the outside looking in are NFL-capable guys.
Q. What have been your impressions so far of No. 1 pick Ziggy Hood? Tomlin: He's a rookie. He's doing some great things. The things that attracted us to him – what people said about him, his commitment to working – really have come to fruition. He's an impressive guy from that standpoint, a humble guy. He has the characteristics that could make him a quality, quality Steelers player. We're just excited about watching him grow and develop.
Q. During the preseason, how do you determine who gets the chance to return kicks in a particular game? Tomlin: At this stage, I'm looking for guys who are reliable and natural in terms of fielding the football, coupled with the guys I know least about. If I don't know much about Mike Wallace, and he's comfortable and natural in settling under balls out here in practice, then I'm going to want to see Mike Wallace returning kickoffs, as opposed to Rashard Mendenhall because I know a little bit more about Rashard Mendenhall. That's been my guiding force in determining who gets the first crack at some of these things this week. It's not a depth chart, per se. I want to see guys I don't know a lot about. I'm interested in seeing Joe Burnett and Stefan Logan returning punts. I'm less interested in seeing Mewelde Moore, because I know more about him.
Q. During the initial phase of camp, you have taken the opportunity to rest some of the thirtysomething players. How do you do that without making other guys jealous? Tomlin: I tell these guys that I'm going to treat everybody fairly but I'm not going to treat everybody the same. It's an impossibility. If we move forward with that understanding, I think that quells a lot of those issues. I'm not trying to treat everybody the same. The things I provide to certain people I may not provide to others – that's just part of life. But what I try to do is be fair to all parties involved and give them what they need. The guys have been giving me a hard time during the course of training camp like they always do by saying, "Man, I thought you were a players' coach." I tell them I'm a player advocate. I give them what they need, not necessarily what they want. And I think they understand where I'm coming from.
Q. When it comes to the execution of the running game in the NFL, for it to be successful is it 50 percent blocking and 50 percent the back? Tomlin: I'm a proponent of the ball carrier. I am. I worked in Minnesota, and when Minnesota drafted Adrian Peterson all of a sudden those offensive linemen are Pro Bowl players. When LaDainian Tomlinson is running, all the linemen in San Diego are Pro Bowl players. I think a lot of it has to do with the guy who has the ball in his hands.
Q. What were your impressions of free agent running back Isaac Redman in camp's first goal-line drill, in which he scored two touchdowns? Tomlin: Relative to who he was competing against, at that moment he distinguished himself, and that's all we have to judge him on. Hopefully we can put him in more situations against some people who maybe bring something else to the table to see how he matches himself up in those circumstances. But make no mistake, what he showed us the other day was pretty interesting.