Tomlin on negativity, truth-telling, windage

Q. At your news conference, you said, "We recognize some of the negativity that comes with the position that we are in. We are going to absorb the negativity that comes along with our recent performances." What do you mean by negativity?

A. We're playing a professional game, and at the professional level there's a lot of media attention and so forth, things from the outside, things that don't necessarily apply to us but that we come across in a professional-type manner. It's the guys' job to field questions in a professional way from members of the media, and I don't want them to try to lessen what's transpired. Or to try to clean up what's transpired. I just want them to acknowledge it and embrace it, and understand that there's a certain negativity that comes with dropping four games in a row. And the way to rectify that is to not seek comfort, but to continually harden ourselves and prepare and wait for our next opportunity to rectify the situation.

Q. When you were a college player, it was the traditional media you were dealing with. Now there's a whole other world out there because of social media. How do you try to help them handle that?

A. And I think that's one of the reasons why in today's football you talk openly about things that are not necessarily directly football-related, because I'd be burying my head in the sand if I didn't acknowledge that those things exist. Guys have to deal with those interactions after they leave this building in ways they never had to in the past, so if I don't acknowledge it and address it and lay out a game plan or blueprint about how we mentally deal with it and push through it, then I'm doing them a disservice from a preparation standpoint.

Q. Are the young guys particularly susceptible to this? Or might they actually be better able to handle it since they grew up with social media?

A. They don't view themselves as susceptible, because they've grown up in it. It's much more of an issue for guys like Ben, who didn't grow up with social media but have been in this league for a number of years. They're very sensitive and conscious of it. The young guys, they're less sensitive to it. Their senses are somewhat dulled toward it because of the era they grew up in. Nevertheless, regardless of the perspective of the individual guy, it's important that we lay out a blueprint and address things that could affect preparation and ultimately play, and that's what we're doing with that.


Q. Another thing I thought was interesting last Tuesday was when you said, "We're a very transparent group. We speak truth openly among ourselves." Why do you believe that's beneficial?**

A. Because it aids in the healing process or the fixing process when things are less than ideal. We don't waste a lot of time speculating. We tell the truth as we see it. It helps in accountability, and it helps in righting the ship.

Q. What typically is the setting for speaking truth openly?

A. It's in all settings. If it's a coaching point on the field when you're on the field, or interactions or an accountability comment between players on the field, or in the classroom when we review tape, or in walk-throughs when we're checking our responsibilities and are we in the right place and looking at the right things. It can occur in any of the formal settings we utilize to prepare ourselves for games.

Q. After nine games, the offense is ranked No. 25 in the NFL in rushing. What has not been working there?

A. We haven't been ahead in enough football games. Often when you're behind, it changes your personality, particularly as the game continues on and time becomes a factor. Historically, we've been a strong run group in the latter part of games. We wage the war of attrition in the run game in that manner. We're more effective as the games wear on, but if you're not ahead in the fourth quarter that personality gets lessened. But the bottom line is we have to run the ball better than we've been running the ball. You can look at the totality and seek comfort in some of those things, but just per tote – yards per carry – is not where we want it to be, and we have to get it back.

Q. When you have a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger, does it take extra discipline to stick with the running game?

A. The bottom line is you have to ring up the scoreboard and you have to possess the ball. That's how we approach our business, and sometimes that means Ben is going to be a central figure and passing is going to be very relevant. Sometimes it means balance. Sometimes it means some teams get off the bus aiming to minimize Ben and Antonio Brown, and the running game has to be heavy. Balance is what you seek, and flexibility and balance from the group from a personnel standpoint so you can be what you need to be in the moment you need to be them.


Q. Describe the style of the Browns running game?**

A. It depends on circumstance. They've been behind in games, and so it's been lost. It's steeped in the personnel, and I mean the running backs themselves. They have two distinct running backs they feature. Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, and they're very different. Crowell is a one-cut downhill runner, and they have a downhill approach, inside zone gap-scheme stuff, and powers and counters. And then they have Duke Johnson, who is a more a lateral-to-perimeter runner. He's featured on third downs because of his pass catching skills, but he also does things in the run game, and you'll see that be more perimeter-oriented. His draw-game is outstanding as well. They have a very well-defined division of labor, and if you want to talk about what their run game personality is, you tell me the back and I can better describe the personality.

Q. Do you expect them to match up with Joe Haden on Antonio Brown?

A. There have been certain games where they have, and there have been certain games where they haven't. I think it's less about Joe and Antonio, and more about the consequences of that matchup. What does it do in the other scenarios, so we'll have to see.

Q. What statistic, other than the final score and the turnover ratio, do you see ending up as being the most indicative of the outcome of the game?

A. The windage. The initial forecast is calling for significant gusts of wind and how that could affect the game. These are the two direct ways it could affect the game: if the wind is significant, then it's going to be the things in the kicking game – net punting, kickoffs out of bounds, drive start – things that are affected by the kicking game and the kickoff game specifically. If the wind is significant, keep an eye on those things. And in the passing game, we're comfortable with Ben's ability to cut the wind because of his arm strength and experience and things he has been through over the years. I would imagine there would be more unknowns in the passing game with Cody Kessler if the winds are significant and continuous.

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