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Tomlin on letdowns, ringing the bell


Q. One of the truisms of every NFL season is that you don't really know what kind of team you have until the eighth or ninth game. Do you know what kind of team you have?**

A. I think we're still telling that story. Hindsight is always 20-20 and you can always point to some turn in growth and development, whether it's positive or negative for any team. Right now, I'm not looking for that, because we're in the midst of it. Establishing the ability to play good, winning football on a week-to-week basis is a part of it, regardless of circumstance, game location, opponent. We've stacked together three wins to this point, but that was in the comforts of Heinz Field. I'm interested to see if we can take that momentum on the road. That's what it's about for me – knowing what you're getting regardless of circumstance. When you go to the drive-thru and you order a No. 1, you know what that is regardless of where you are in the country. That's what you look for from your football team.

Q. The Steelers have to guard against a letdown today against a New York Jets team currently riding an eight-game losing streak. Do you bring that up to the players?

A. You don't have to. It's obvious. What I do bring up to the team is that when we play well we have a chance to beat anybody, and when we play poorly anybody has a chance to beat us. That's just Football 101 in the NFL.

Q. You chose to mention the issue of guarding against a letdown in your news conference this past week. Why did you say it out loud this time?

A. I just wanted to answer the question before it was asked. (Laughs). I think it's important that I point out global things in football, so our guys have an understanding of how fragile this is on a week in and week out basis. I just made a big deal out of it to them a few weeks ago, after we had lost to Cleveland and then Cleveland went and lost to the Jaguars. It was a great opportunity to point that out to them, because I knew what an emotional game that was for Cleveland when they beat us and then had to get it up again six or seven days later. I made such a big deal about it then, so it really was old news as we pushed into this week. I just continually reinforce it, and I don't just use our journey as a means of messaging but everybody's journey. Because it is a global thing. It's very much an NFL thing. That's why there's so much parity.

Q. To what do you attribute this recent offensive explosion?

A. It's a hardening of the understanding of what's expected from individuals, and those guys understanding what they do and how it fits into the big picture. We're getting better technically, and so much of it is fundamental, small, minute, fundamental things. Our offensive line is really gaining cohesion in terms of rush-games and picking up pressure. Our receivers are getting better at recognizing coverages and making proper conversions. The inclusion of the running back in the passing game, particularly on third downs with the utilization of Le'Veon Bell, and winning some possession downs with him has been significant. It's a bunch of little things and not maybe some big, broad, sweeping things. Sometimes some minor, ordinary progress and adjustments create extraordinary results.


Q. What's the process for a guy who lost his job to get it back?**

A. Often it's out of his control. What is in his control is his preparation and his work. I tell guys routinely that they have no control over when I ring their bell; they have all of the control over their readiness when I ring their bell. When you lose your job or get a reduction in your role, you've essentially given the power to me, and so it's a wait-and-see opportunity for them. At the same time, they have to work while they wait, because in football, like life, you get opportunities at redemption. Things boomerang back around, and that's what I look for when I make the necessary decisions we have to make. We took Dri Archer off kickoff return and put LeGarrette Blount back there. It's only a matter of time before things boomerang back around to Dri Archer. It'll be interesting to see his overall readiness and his improvement in that area when he gets his next opportunity.

Q. Is there something the player can do to make you think the time has come to re-ring his bell?

A. No. It depends on what's happening inside stadiums with the people who replaced you or with the health of the people who replaced you.

Q. So somebody either has to get hurt, or the guy who took my job has to be playing poorly for me to get another chance?

A. Certainly.

Q. What has allowed you to steady this team and get it on the right track following the up-and-down 3-3 start?

A. We just don't ride the emotional roller coaster. We just try to prepare week to week, and go out and play, and play to win. We weren't doing it enough at the beginning of the year, but we don't look at the larger body of work. We try to remain where we are in terms of the journey and stay singularly focused on the task at hand. We've been able to do that, and really, that's how you get out of negative situations, that's how you sustain success. You don't spend too much time evaluating the big picture. You just focus on what's at hand.

Q. Has the defense become more aggressive recently?

A. Sometimes the game circumstance creates opportunities for defense. When you're ahead, you're going to get more rush opportunities, and through that you're going to get more hits on the quarterback. We have been taking advantage of circumstances and some of the game situations we've been in, but I don't want to get too happy too soon.


The Pittsburgh Steelers prepare for the game against the New York Jets.

Q. Sean Spence was the Steelers' recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award this year. Have you ever seen a recovery quite as dramatic?**

A. No, and that's because of how catastrophic the injury was. Rehabilitation is a very lonely thing and can be, but when you go through a two-year process of rehabilitation, it just speaks to the character and commitment of that young man.

Q. Do you see Michael Vick making the same kinds of plays as when he was the No. 1 overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft?

A. No. That was a number of years ago. He's a dangerous quarterback. His mobility, his escapability, his competitive spirit all are still major factors, but I was in the NFC South when he came into the league, and Michael Vick was the fastest man on the field and not by a little bit.

Q. The Jets are No. 3 in the NFL in rushing. How would you describe their running attack?

A. They have a quartet of backs they utilize, and that group does a nice job. But they also have some wrinkles or gadgets, if you will. You'll see some pistol, you'll see some wildcat. David Lee, their quarterbacks coach, was an offensive coach down in Miami years ago when the Dolphins made that fashionable in the NFL by utilizing Ronnie Brown and company, so you see some elements of those things. All of that stuff makes it difficult to nail down their running game, it keeps defenses off balance, and it allows them to minimize some of the exposure things they've been concerned about in the passing game.

Q. What kind of passing attack will the Steelers face today?

A. It's an evolving one, and I say that because they're just starting to get their footing with the quarterback change and the addition of Percy Harvin. They're a much different team offensively from a passing standpoint than they were three weeks ago. That's just the reality of trying to infuse a talent such as Percy Harvin into what it is they do. Obviously Eric Decker has the stats, but if last week is any indication, Percy Harvin is the man moving forward.

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