Tomlin on backup QBs, Ravens


Q. Let me take you back to St. Louis. It's the third quarter, and Ben Roethlisberger has injured his knee and is being attended to on the field by your medical staff. What's going on in your headset, and on the sideline?**

A. More than anything, I'm making sure Mike is getting a few snaps so we don't flub base things like the center-quarterback exchange. I'm looking at a package of plays that he's comfortable executing because as a backup quarterback he doesn't get a lot of physical reps during the course of the week. Huddling with the offensive coaches, looking at a package of plays he's comfortable with for all situations and not just the next couple of plays. What does he like on third-and-short, what does he like on third-and-medium, what does he like on third-and-long, what does he like in the red area? Highlighting some of those things, because some of those things already have been done leading up to the game for those moments, but you like confirmation of those things. Because his attitude might change based on what he's seeing as the game is unfolding. It's a re-visit of things that have been discussed; him getting physically ready to play in terms of taking snaps from center; and then obviously also checking on the status of Ben.

Q. So then in terms of determining what plays the backup is comfortable with, that has happened before the game?

A. It happens before every game, but you always acknowledge that what has transpired in the stadium to that point may or may not change that outlook or that mentality, and so that makes it a conversation worth revisiting.

Q. The "next man up" philosophy – is it different when it's the quarterback in terms of how you build around the position? For example, if the injured player was a guard, you could plug in another guard and run the offense.

A. It's not any different. The things we do to help a quarterback are more highlighted than the things we do to help a guard, but we do things to bring the game to the player regardless of what position the player plays or who the player is. If it's a guard, we might not have him isolated in pass protection the way we might have had the person he is replacing. Maybe we would always send the center to him in protection to make sure he always has help in protection. Maybe the starter who went down pulls a lot, and so maybe we're not going to ask the guy who replaces him to pull. Those are just some examples because you mentioned the position of guard, but those things go on at all positions in terms of bringing the game to them. They're just more highlighted and more talked about when it's the quarterback position.

Q. Do you just know how to bring the game to the next man up because you're familiar with your personnel, or is it something you talk about with that player?

A. Both. Part of it is to have an understanding of the men we work with to make those conversations short, because time is of the essence. But conversations are good as well, because things don't stay the same. You might come out of training camp or the preseason with a mentality regarding what somebody's capable of and what their potential strengths and weaknesses are and what we need to do to help them if they're pressed into duty. And that may quite frankly change over the course of the journey. It may change due to their growth and development. It may change because of injury. They're just very necessary conversations.

Q. You're preparing your team to play without your starting quarterback. Is that process different if you know it's only for one game vs. knowing it's going to be for a number of games?

A. I do very little different with the team. It may create a different approach from a staffing standpoint. But from a team standpoint, we're just week to week.

Q. So how would it change from a staffing standpoint?

A. We're conscious about what he runs, because it's going to become part of a self-scout for the future opponents. When you know a guy is going to play for one game, you can throw caution to the wind. You can run plays that maybe aren't married to another section of plays. You can put concept plays in. But over time, those things become very transparent if it's not within a system of football with a partner of plays or a series of plays. So if a guy is going to be in there for an extended period of time, you put the self-scout element into the equation that future opponents are going to evaluate.

Q. So since there is little video of Mike Vick in this offense, and you're playing the Ravens on a short week, is that an advantage? Or is that talking yourself into trying to feel good about this situation?

A. That is talking yourself into it. I prefer they play their backup quarterback, even though I don't know what their backup is going to do. (Laughs)


Q. In looking at this Ravens team, how did they get to be 0-3?**

A. It's very simple: they haven't made the significant plays in the waning moments to secure victory. It doesn't mean they're a bad tam. If they had made those plays, it doesn't mean they're a great team. They've played three games, and they've lost three tightly-contested games. A few plays could have swung the outcomes of those games, and so at this juncture of a season I rarely read too much into that stuff, particularly when they're someone else's problems. We have enough issues of our own right here in Pittsburgh.

Q. How would you assess a Ravens defense that has lost Haloti Ngata during the offseason and Terrell Suggs to an Achilles injury in the opener?

A. They've got quality players at every level. Nose tackle Brandon Williams is a big-time football player. He was very disruptive a week ago. He's in his third year in their program. They have Elvis Dumervil at outside linebacker, and we know what he's capable of. Their inside linebacker tandem of C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith is as good as you're going to run across. They're playing some really good ball. And the Ravens are getting some quality play in the secondary. Jimmy Smith has been around for some time and is a savvy veteran guy. Lardarius Webb is another veteran, and that gives them a cornerback tandem that is splash-play capable, and they also have Will Hill making good plays at safety.

Q. Are they asking for more from Dumervil in the wake of the injury to Suggs?

A. At this juncture they are, but they've also acquired Jason Babin, and I imagine they're getting him up to speed so that they can have that three-man rotation at outside linebacker they've become accustomed to. I imagine it's not going to be long until Babin is ready to rock-and-roll, and the Ravens get that division of labor they're looking for.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.