Tomlin on O-linemen, balance, 'A'-players

Q. You have said often that it's good to be able to work on aspects of the team's performance following a win. Is there any way in which a loss can be good for a football team?
A. You could convince yourself of that, but our business is winning. And so that's always the objective, so I really don't see any positivity in not getting the job done. Sure there are lessons to be learned, and sure it provides a trajectory in terms of areas of needed focus and things of that nature, but each and every time our objective is to win, and that alone.

Q. The importance of being balanced on offense is something that's generally accepted at all levels of football. What are the kinds of things an NFL defense will do to take advantage of an offense that isn't balanced, things you wouldn't normally see used against a balanced offense?
A. Teams will alter their schematics to minimize your strength if you're deficient in an area. Forget balance. You have to be able to run it when you choose to run it or throw it when you choose to throw it, and sometimes by choice it's not balanced. But when you have a weak element of play, a weak aspect of play, then those you play against can prey upon it schematically. And by that I mean overplay your strengths and make it tougher sledding for your strengths. That's why you always have to be balanced in terms of your ability to both run it and throw it.

Q. What are some of the specific things an NFL defense might do to minimize the strength of an offense that isn't balanced?
A. It's as simple as one-high-safety and two-high-safety defenses, and you hear commentary about that all the time. If people are not varsity in terms of running the football, then defenses employ two high safeties, essentially assigning another man to the passing game, and that's problematic. It's easier to throw vs. one high safety, and it's easier to run vs. two high safeties. And when you're lacking in any one area, opponents will employ opposite schematics to minimize the other.

Q. What, if any, are the differences in fundamentals and technique that offensive linemen use when they pass block vs. when they run block?
A. It's all lower body in the running game. It's all in the knees and ankles. It's pad level. It's gaining real estate. It's very different in the passing game.

Q. Are those differences so drastic that doing one thing a lot erodes a player's ability to do the other – like a muscle in the body can atrophy if not worked regularly?
A. No. You develop skills or skill-sets that allow you to do either, and you work to keep them both sharp, and the quantity of either is irrelevant as long as you have the skills and those skills are sharp.

Q. When you get a rookie offensive lineman, generally speaking, is he better at run blocking or pass blocking?
A. It really depends on the program you get them from. You go get a Wisconsin offensive lineman, for example, you know the reputation of that program. And so it's really about the program itself and not necessarily the level of play. Certain programs are geared toward run-oriented offenses, and some are spread and they throw it every down.

Q. Have player safety rules impacted the way run blocking has to be accomplished in the NFL?
A. I don't know. I haven't studied that. I would say that the positioning of the umpire in the backfield is probably as dramatic as anything in officiating, because you have two officials in the backfield – front-side and back-side – and the amount of holding calls and things of that nature (increased) in the run game that are catastrophic to the running game appear to be more in vogue than it was years ago.

Q. When you have those two officials in the offensive backfield now, how does that change what they can see in the area of holding vs. when it was just the referee lined up in the backfield?
A. Well, when the umpire was on the other side of the ball (lined up behind the defensive line), he was probably more concerned about staying out of harm's way than officiating the game. (Laughs)

Q. Your team has had a little bit of experience with players testing positive for COVID-19. Have you found that when they come back the virus has affected their conditioning?
A. It's not something I have to be conscious of, because I rely solely on the expertise of the medical professionals. Thankfully for us, all of our guys have been asymptomatic and experienced very little, if any, repercussions of missed time.

Q. Ben Roethlisberger has put a lot of the problems with dropped passes on himself. Do you agree with him, that a lot of the fault for the dropped passes lies with him?
A. I want everybody to take ownership when we're not successful. I don't want anyone to minimize their role. I want everyone to maximize their role as we seek solutions for whatever the issues are. So I appreciate that perspective.

Q. You are a believer in the "next man up" philosophy because you always say that injuries are as much a part of football as blocking and tackling. In addition to "next man up," is it reasonable to expect more from your "A" players?
A. No question. And that's how you support your teammates. We've been talking a lot about supporting those who are ascending, those who are outside their normal roles and are the "next man up," if you will. The best way to support them is not to pat them on the back or give them an atta-boy, but it's to kick butt around them. Those 'A' players, those guys who are in the stadium doing what they normally do, their roles are what they normally are, and they're known commodities in that area, surely I am comfortable asking those guys to do a little extra in an effort to support those who need it.

Q. In having this conversation with the team, do you identify certain guys as "A" players, or do you just talk about it in general and allow every player to believe he's an "A" player?
A. Both. It starts with how you view yourself. No one is going to view you as an 'A' player unless you view yourself as an 'A' player. That's an element of play, too. Then there are the ones who everybody knows, who aren't debatable, and you challenge those guys and you challenge them openly. That's why I'm comfortable in saying both. If you have any desire or any aspirations of being an 'A' player, it starts with you and you first.

Q. Buffalo's feature back is Devin Singletary. What kind of a runner is he, and how do they utilize him as a receiver?
A. He's a stop-and-go guy. He's small in stature but not undersized. He darts in and out of holes. He hides behind blocks well. He attacks vertical holes well, which makes his draw-play game very effective because of his ability to dart in and out of holes laterally. He's a challenge. He's a good fit for their offense and a good supplement for Josh Allen and his running abilities, and it's reflected not only in his play but in their production since he has been in that role.

Q. Do you expect the Bills to use cornerback Tre'Davious White to match up against one of your receivers all over the field tonight?
A. I do not. I think he's a left cornerback. I don't know if they would identify any of our guys as a Stefon Diggs-like guy, and so I expect him to play left cornerback. But if he does match up, then that's fruit for those he is not following. And a little perspective for them.

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