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Tomlin on Pouncey, Tyreek, kickoff returners

Q. You had said about the Dolphins' personality that physicality was their game. What did it mean to go 83 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown by handing the ball to Le'Veon Bell every time?

A. It quite simply was our response to that. We didn't want to sneak in the back door. We wanted to meet that challenge head on and show we were up to it, not only on offense but on defense. That 10-play drive exemplified our mentality in that regard on offense, but the way we got after their featured running back at the early portions of the game, specifically early in the game, exemplified that on defense as well.

Q. Can doing something like that carry over for the rest of that game in a positive way for your team?

A. There is no question. We had 14 points before that drive, but we had some splash plays, some explosion plays, and that doesn't mean you're controlling the game. It means you got a couple of explosion plays. That drive was an opportunity for us to take control, or at least show that we were capable of taking control of the game.

Q. Were you ever a part of something like that as a coach, either way, giving or receiving?

A. In my mind I've been a part of it a lot, but it usually doesn't transpire in that way. And that's why you have to give credit to our guys up front and Le'Veon. We talk about Le'Veon a lot, his talents, his conditioning, and all of those things are on display. But you need to be cognizant of the similar things displayed by our guys up front. To be able to put that together in the manner in which they did speaks to those things.

Q. In talking to the team about that win over the Dolphins, what was your assessment?

A. We didn't spend a lot of time talking about it, to be honest with you. It's that time of the year. That was the second time we played the Dolphins. We got what we were looking for. We knew who was waiting on us (in the next round). We spent a lot of time talking about preparation for this one, and very little evaluating that last one, but that's just the nature of the journey at this point. We step into stadiums with one agenda – and that's to win and advance, and when you do your attention quickly turns to the next challenge.

Q. Did you look at winning a Wild Card Round Game as a been-there, done-that thing, something you had to get through in order to have a chance to advance farther in the playoffs than last year?

A. I don't look at it that way. We're trying to win it every year. We didn't win it last year. We're trying to win it this year. I know what you mean when you asked that, but I just don't live in that world. I don't subscribe to that line of thinking, and I work hard  to make sure our team doesn't either. We're not looking for good seasons. We're not looking for improvement that we can point to, or reasons to feel good about ourselves. Hopefully we have a strong enough group mentally that we don't need those things. We got into this tournament, we got into this season, we came into Latrobe with a mentality in terms of building this group toward a world championship. I don't think that sentiment has changed within the group at all.


The Steelers traveled to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs in a Divisional Playoff game. Travel gallery presented by Bose.

Q. A fan sent me an email last week, and he asked how do you know Maurkice Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center and another guy on another team is not? Can you help me with that?**

A. I know it as clearly as clearly as I know Le'Veon Bell is a Pro Bowl-caliber runner. He is as unique at what he does as Le'Veon is unique at what he does. Maybe for the viewer at home it's more difficult to see because of the nature of the job and the way the job is difficult to evaluate in that setting. But those of us in this business, those of us in this industry, it's no secret at all.

Q. What does Pouncey do/bring that makes him special?

A. His lateral quickness, his ability to get on the second level, his leverage, his hand usage, his finish. Really, it's just about every aspect of his game being top-tier.

Q. Where is Pouncey in the locker room hierarchy? Does he have enough cross-party appeal to win an election there, do you think?

A. (Laughs) He does. He's got natural leadership qualities. It was interesting and one of the central reasons I was really attracted to him in the draft. That was a unique college football team he was on down there in Florida. Tim Tebow, Aaron Hernandez, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey, the list goes on and on in terms of those guys, but when you showed up at Florida's Pro Day, he was the ringleader. And you saw it. You saw it in the weightroom when guys were lifting. You saw it on the field when guys were running 40s. He's just one of those guys from a personality standpoint where people gravitate to him. And he's easy to gravitate to in regards to football, because it's not only his job but his passion. He absolutely loves it. He loves everything about it. And it makes him an easy guy to gravitate towards.

Q. One of the things you said at your weekly news conference was, "(The Chiefs) are No. 1 in the NFL in creating turnovers and turnover ratio. That being said, we have some work to do in that area." How do you work on not turning the ball over? Are there physical reps that can be done in practice, or is it more a classroom thing?

A. It's done everywhere. Not only is it physical things in terms of those who run it and catch it and throw it, and them understanding they're carrying our hopes and dreams, but it goes beyond that in terms of the positions we put the guys in. We need to thoughtfully weigh environment into some of the play selections in the building of the game plan, because protection of the football is not only an 11-man job, but it's also all of us (coaches). We've been thoughtful about the things we're asking guys to do in preparation for the game with some of those variables in mind.


Q. We talked about this last week with respect to the Dolphins. What's the personality of the 2016 Kansas City Chiefs?**

A. They're a fundamentalist group, but they want you to believe that they're not, and by that I mean – and this is one of the characteristics of a West Coast offense – the window dressing is big, but when you get down to the nuts and bolts of the thing, it's very fundamental. And they do a great job of that. Andy Reid is one of the quintessential West Coast guys in football and has been for a long time, and you'll see them changing personnel groups, you'll see them changing people, you'll see a lot of pre-snap looks and motions, but underneath it all, they're very fundamental. They're a small-menu group. They know what they're doing and that allows them to execute at a high level. The same can be said about their defense under coordinator Bob Sutton. You'll see movement of people, you'll see one lineman and three linebackers and seven defensive backs, but at the end of the day, the contour of the things they're running are very fundamental. They're a three-deep group, a two-deep group. A little bit of pressure. They let the four-man rush do it for them. A fundamentalist football team in all three phases, and I think that's why they've had the success they've had.

Q. Do you believe it's physically possible for an NFL punter to kick the ball 35 yards down the field and out of bounds every time?

A. We'll see. Stay tuned. Thirty-five – you're really setting your sights too short. I've been talking to Jordan Berry all week about 45 and out of bounds. (Laughs)

Q. Fans see that as being an easy thing to do.

A. Hey, there are certain elements of that equation that you can't weigh until you get inside the stadium. The weather, the windage, etc., is a big, big element of that. I don't mind that the fans don't realize how difficult that is. They don't have to. They don't have to punt. There are a lot of elements of our business that get understated from a difficulty standpoint, but it's our job as professionals to make those things look easy.

Q. Would you consider that a viable strategy against a returner like Tyreek Hill?

A. There's no question. The conversation starts there. How much video does a guy have to have to get you thinking with that mentality? There's no secret. This guy is a Pro Bowl player, a first-team All-Pro returner. He's got every award a kick returner can have in his rookie season. That's enough video for me.

Q. As for your returners, who will be back for kickoffs today?

A. Sammie Coates will be the guy.

Q. What are you looking for in a guy before you'll put him back there in a game like the one today?

A. Ball security would be the first thing. We're gaining possession of the football in those circumstances – whether it's punt returning or kickoff returning – and people who don't have the ability to retain the ball are not candidates.

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