Labriola On

Tomlin on cohesion, Schobert, taunting

Q. You're very close to the end of your time this summer at Heinz Field. Were you able to accomplish what you needed to accomplish?
A. I feel comfortable that we were. It was important that we get the train out of the station, if you will, to display our physical conditioning, to start to develop an understanding of what we're asking them to do, and not only big picture but individually their roles in it, to establish some cohesion and to understand not only our desired personality in all three phases, but also to understand just what is required to win. What are some baseline things required to win in the National Football League in all three phases, and so we've been working on conditioning, we've been working on skill development, we've been working on football intellect, and we've kind of gotten enough accomplished here that we can say that the train is out of the station. But those things – and that's a point I've been making to the football team – those irons in the fire will remain hot through our entire journey. We're going to continue to grow in all areas if we're doing the things that we need to do and working to develop to be the type of team we desire to be.

Q. In this, your second year having training camp here, have things been smoother from a logistical standpoint?
A. It is very smooth. Our operations people here at the stadium do a great job of making us feel at home, doing a nice job of converting the stadium in a lot of ways into a training facility. The weight room, the dining facilities, and the training room services, all of that has been spectacular.

Q. A part of the schedule just about every single day both in training camp and then into the regular season is walk-through. What happens at walk-through?
A. Walk-through is when we gain some exposure about the work that we're going to do that day on the field, and it's done for a lot of reasons. Different people learn in different ways. Some people learn in a classroom setting, sitting in seats. Some people learn it very much in an in- helmet-like setting, and that's what the walk-throughs provide. It provides an in-helmet perspective on the work that's going to be done that day, and then ultimately a lot of people learn by doing. And so, there's a process by which we teach that we subscribe to, where we classroom it, we walk through it, and then ultimately we execute it in a practice setting. It's all done to meet people where they are in terms of learning, but also to work toward efficient practices. The walk-through bridges the gap between meetings and practice, where hopefully we have better execution in practice because of the walk-through.

Q. Is there a point during this camp/preseason process when you would want to have a five-man offensive line unit together so that it can develop cohesion for the start of the regular season?
A. There's no question, and the sooner that's identified the better. But again, the sooner it is identified, but what you don't want to do is mis-identify the appropriate five. So as soon as we have an understanding of that, that group will begin work and that has happened in a lot of ways, to be quite honest with you. We just choose to not make any bold declarations regarding it. It's not necessary. We like to work behind the scenes and hone our skills and readiness for the battles that lie ahead.

Q. In layman's terms, what is cohesion along the offensive line?
A. It's multiple men working together, and when you talk about identifying units, the offensive line, particularly for the offense, really is a shining example of that cohesion. The secondary, if you're talking about the defense, is another shining example of where that collective work is important. The ability to communicate, the ability to do a job collectively, to lean on strengths, to work to minimize weaknesses. The protection of the quarterback is a multiple-man job. Those guys work hard together. Keeping a lid on it in the back end in the secondary is a multiple-man job. Often times we've got five or six guys on the field working collectively in that charge, and so, collective work is important, Offensive line play is probably the signature of collective work on offense; secondary play is probably the signature of it on defense.

Q. For the first time in a long while, teams will cut their rosters somewhat gradually before having to make the big cut on Aug. 31 to get down to 53 players. Do you like this gradual procedure?
A. It doesn't matter to me to be quite honest with you. Whenever it's time to cut, you're generally in position to make those decisions. You have a general understanding about what has transpired and about who's deserving of moving forward, and often times those decisions are clear ones.

Q. What was the purpose of this change?
A. There were a multitude of reasons given in committee. None of them really stand out right now and I don't think, largely, a lot of us really care, to be honest with you, when that is. As long as we have sufficient time to do the evaluations, and it has been that through this process. We had to cut five guys this past week. We were ready at that point. We had seen enough to do that. And I imagine we'll be in a similar position moving forward.

Q. About a week ago now, the team made a significant acquisition via trade when inside linebacker Joe Schobert came over from Jacksonville. What does he bring to the defense?
A. He is a veteran player who has well-known and consistent productivity, and that's very attractive. Not only productivity in terms of run-game tackling – his tackle total is what it is, it speaks for itself – but this is a guy who has been one of the best interceptors at the linebacker position in our game in recent years, and he also has a resume of quarterback pressures and sacks. He plays a well-rounded game. We're highly familiar with him because not only did we play against him when he was in Cleveland, but we also played against him since he's been in Jacksonville. We've seen that guy every year of his professional life, and he's been a consistent and productive player, and so we're glad to have him.

Q. Joe Schobert was playing for the Browns when he made the Pro Bowl in 2017, and that also was the year you and your staff coached the AFC team in that game. What did you learn about Schobert through that experience?
A. You know, not very much, to be very honest with you. It's funny when you're working the Pro Bowl, some of the most familiar guys in those settings don't do a lot of interacting with you. Divisional opponents. I remember fondly riding to practice every day in the front seat of the bus and sitting across the aisle from Terrell Suggs because he was also on that team. And all we ever said to each other every day was, "Good morning." Sometimes familiarity is not a good thing, and Joe probably had a similar mentality. He's not an overly talkative guy anyway. I think some of those AFC North guys didn't want to fraternize with us too much during the course of the work week.

Q. Schobert reminds me a little bit of Joe Haden in that neither guy enjoyed a lot of team success before they had a chance to come to Pittsburgh. Do you find that guys in that situation are hungrier to win than maybe some others?
A. There is no question that's an element of it. Particularly those guys who are at a point in their careers where they have been recognized in the ways those two guys have been recognized. Both guys are Pro Bowl guys, both guys are second contract guys and have been rewarded financially for their careers and the individual success that they've had. And so, you're starting to check boxes. When you look at your career and your resume, everybody has a desire to win and a desire to experience what it feels like to be highly competitive and pursue World Championships and things of that nature. And it's reasonable to expect that to be a motivating factor for guys like (Haden and Schobert).

Q. The NFL released its annual rules changes and points of emphasis video, and that video explained one of this season's points of emphasis is to penalize taunting. Where do you stand on this point of emphasis?
A. I'm a supporter of it. We are examples to the younger generation of guys who play this game and are involved in this game, and there's responsibility that comes with that. Often times I wish our network partners would be more cooperative and work with us to present us in the very best light to those people, but we also have a responsibility. And so, I'm a supporter of it, largely.

Q. Enforcement of taunting rule this would seem to be highly subjective, with what qualifies as taunting likely to vary from crew to crew. Is that a problem, the potential arbitrary nature of this?
A. I don't believe that it is. We have no intentions of toeing the line. If you have intentions of toeing the line, it becomes problematic and a thing of discussion. But that's something that we want to stay completely away from, and so we hadn't spent a lot of time focused on it and talking about it. I expect our guys not to be involved in that and to display the professionalism that they have.

Q. Is there any clarity developing with respect to the depth chart at running back behind Najee Harris?
A. Different guys have different skill-sets, and more than anything it is less about depth and more about specialization, about the guys bringing their special skills and traits to the table. Anthony McFarland has a different skill-set than the majority of the runners, so it's reasonable to expect his area quickness and spatial play to be a factor. And that's a way that he can contribute. Benny Snell over the course of his career has proven to be a solid short yardage and goal line runner. He's got a good pad level, he's got strong legs, he's got good drive after contact, and so, he lends himself to a role in that area. And we're getting to know some of the others. But in today's game, that's what it's about. It's not necessarily about a depth chart per se, particularly when you're talking about who falls behind Najee, but it's more about what skill-sets they bring and how can we accentuate their talents.

Q. Another guy on the depth chart at running back is Kalen Ballage. What have you seen from him?
A. He's got a well-rounded skill-set. He's athletic, he's got good speed for his size, and he's also very strong. He'd missed a block of practice time here recently due to injury, and that was unfortunate. We're glad to have him back and watching him continue to state a case for himself, his inclusion in this and the carving out of a role that highlights some of those well-rounded skills I mentioned.

Q. With tonight being the third of your four preseason games, what are you looking for that's different from what you were looking for in the first two?
A. I expect an elevated level of execution, and I think that's a reasonable expectation, considering this is the third preseason game, but also considering there's some semblance of planning, not only in terms of game plan schematics, but also in the utilization of people and putting people in position to perform. We care very little about that, to be honest with you, over the course of the first couple of preseason games, and so it's reasonable to expect our collective execution to be better and cleaner in this venue.

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