Coach Mike Tomlin talks about various issues relating to the Steelers' third preseason game, which is tonight against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Q. How did you evaluate the performance of rookie quarterback Jerrod Johnson in the game against the Indianapolis Colts?
A. I think I'm developing a different impression of all the guys based on a body of work. He's one of the young guys who has taken advantage of some opportunities and moved the offense down the field late in some ballgames. You have to give him credit for that. You have to take note of that. And we have.
Q. It was only a preseason game, but Johnson did move the team 65 yards in 15 plays for the game-winning field goal by Daniel Hrapmann, and he seemed to have all of the poise he needed?
A. He did a nice job in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, but I thought the difference in the Colts game was that he was more situationally aware. He had a third-and-4 when he had a bootleg, and he kept the ball, he tucked the ball, he didn't run out of bounds, he cut back in and kept it in play. He was just aware of the fact we were in the red zone, it was a third down situation, that it was a two-minute situation and we needed to continue to burn the clock. That shows me growth and development really more than the play itself.
Q. Again it's only the preseason, but did 146 yards rushing by the offense against the Colts impress you?
A. It was OK, but of course we have a desire to be better than that. We don't want to be good, we want to be great, but we like where we are. We see signs of positive growth, and we're just going to continue to work.
Q. Your depth at running back and linebacker already has been tested by some injuries, but is that necessarily a bad thing during the preseason when you're looking to evaluate players?
A. That's just the nature of this journey that we call a football season. I'm sure at some point, depth at every position is going to be challenged. Those who are filling the ranks have to step in and deliver, and they have to deliver quality play. More than anything this misfortune in the short term is providing an opportunity for us to make that very clear to the other men involved – that over the course of this football season there is going to be some misery positionally, but the standard will be the standard and we're going to expect men to step in and deliver.
Q. In the game against the Colts, linebacker Brandon Johnson wore the helmet that was wired to receive the defensive calls from your sideline. How did he do in the communication department?
A. I thought he did a nice job of representing himself in communication with the defense, and I'm equally impressed with Sean Spence as a young guy who has an opportunity to do some of those things as well.
Q. Outside linebacker Adrian Robinson seems to be moving forward?
A. He is. Still somewhat of a one-trick pony, but he's developing other aspects of his game. This is a guy who was a college defensive end, so obviously some of the coverage things are new to him, some of the special teams play from a linebacker standpoint is new to him. But I like the way he works. I like his natural motor. He's a very humble guy. He's representing himself very well.
Q. Chris Carter seems to be showing the coaching staff that he has a lot more to give. Is that accurate?
A. As a second-year player, we challenge those guys to take a big step. He has embraced the challenge thus far, and the big thing about Chris and what he's doing is he has been taking advantage of the snaps he has been given due to someone else's misfortune. They're not empty snaps. He's getting better every day, and that's what we expect.
Q. Would you agree that your depth in the secondary is improved?
A. I like the way the group is working, and obviously we're still a group that's a work in progress. Ike Taylor does a nice job of leading those men, and the young guys are doing a nice job of following. The big thing about the group is they bring their hard-hats to work every day. They take a blue collar approach to getting better, and it's really because of the leadership of guys like Ike Taylor.
Q. Did David DeCastro take a step forward in the game against the Colts?
A. I think he has done that, really, over the last several weeks. He has a sense of the speed of the game, he's very sharp mentally, he is adjusting to the physicality of it. I think he's improving every day, and the tape displays that.
Q. Did Mike Adams show you anything by getting himself back onto the field for the second preseason game after injuring a knee in the first preseason game?
A. He did, and that's not an easy thing to do for a young guy. That was a positive thing, regardless of the way he played, and he did represent himself rather well in the game. His availability was probably more important than his ability in that football game.
Q. The first roster cuts are due to be made by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28. Have you thought about that yet?
A. I really haven't. I prefer to live in the now. I ask our guys to live in the now. Every time they snap the ball is an opportunity for somebody to develop a case for themselves. I've made a conscious effort not to worry about that too much. I'll deal with that when I get to it.