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Tomlin on teachable moments, motion

Q. In last Sunday's game against the Eagles, your offense utilized a good bit of pre-snap motion. What is that designed to do for the offense?
A. It makes the defense adjust, and it makes them adjust in a lot of ways. It just depends on what defense they're in. The adjustments in man-to-man are more difficult than they are in zone, and we were playing a team that featured a lot of man-to-man last week so we didn't want them to be comfortable pre-snap. We didn't want them to have that edge. We wanted them in continual motion and communication and adjustments, and so that why motion was in heavy use a week ago.

Q. Does pre-snap motion help Ben Roethlisberger in terms of revealing what the defense is in?
A. It really depends on the offensive play that you have called. If it's a run play, it doesn't help Ben at all, but what it does do is it might give us a gap advantage in terms of space. The creation of a gap, the expansion of a gap changes in man-to-man as people adjust to motion, but also people's responsibilities from a gap standpoint change with motion. So in the running game it's utilized for those purposes. For the passing game it does provide valuable information for Ben in terms of man coverage vs. zone, and having that understanding prior to getting the ball in your hands is very valuable to the quarterback.

Q. Do you want your receivers watching how the defense reacts to motion?
A. It is significant for the people in the passing game on pass plays. Less so on running plays.

Q. In talking about your team's ability to have one phase pick up another during a game, you mentioned that selflessness and a certain team-first mind-set is what allows a group to rise up in the face of adversity. Does that selflessness, that mind-set have to be a part of the players you add to the program, or is it something that can come together and develop once they're here?
A. Ideally, it's both. We covet guys who are selfless and good teammates, and so that's a big part of the research and evaluation process for us in terms of getting to know draft eligibles, but it's also something that's cultivated when they're here. Cultivated in a variety of ways through our work, but also through catch-phrases. For example, we always tell our defense that they have no control over how they have to take the field, but they have total control over how they get off the field. Statements like that prepare the defense, because sometimes you're going to have to take the field in adverse circumstances, you're going to have to take the field on a short field, and you have to deliver. We were in Week 1, about 10 minutes into our season, and we muffed a punt and our defense had to start inside our own 5-yard line. With that mentality, they were able to go out and get a stop and make them kick a field goal, and that was significant. So the mentality, or the mental makeup of the group, the preparedness of the group to deal with the uncertainties in football and in life I think is important.

Q. In terms of third-down efficiency on offense, what generally would you consider an acceptable percentage of conversions over the course of a game, understanding that over the course of a game there will be short-yardage situations and long-yardage situations the offense is asked to convert?
A. If you're north of 50 percent, in most cases you're having a solid day.

Q. Same question, but now for the defense – what would you consider an acceptable percentage of stops on third downs?
A. You better be south of 50 percent.

Q. In baseball, the starting pitcher gets the win or the loss, because even though he's dependent on his teammates, he's deemed most responsible for the outcome of the game. When it comes to third downs in football, is the quarterback comparable to a starting pitcher?
A. I don't know that there's any individual in the game of football you can look at the same way that you look at how the record is attached to a starting pitcher. Maybe the quarterback in terms of comeback win-ability. Fourth-quarter comebacks. But specifically, third downs themselves, I would not make that comparable.

Q. During your week of preparation for the Browns, did the subject of your starting quarterback being the only one in the AFC North who didn't win the Heisman Trophy happen to come up?
A. If it came up, it was probably brought up by me. (Laughs) That's one of the little tidbits I find interesting here in 2020 – all these Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks in the North. I say that tongue-in-cheek, but at the same time I'm sure our quarterback is motivated by that.

Q. You constantly preach to your team the importance of situational football. Late in the game against the Eagles, on a fourth down, Steven Nelson intercepted a pass when batting it down instead would've meant a big difference in field position for the offense. Do you view that as a bad decision, a player's instinct, or do you always want your defensive players to have a get-the-ball attitude?
A. It's a good discussion and a good question. Let's just refer to it as a teachable moment. I understand the instinctual end of it, but there are certain lessons that need to be taught and learned, and sometimes we learn through the course of the journey. Certain circumstances are just so rare that you characterize them as a teachable moment. We spend a lot of time talking about securing interceptions that determine the outcome of a game, and then getting down and taking all of the free grass. Or when you get the necessary first down, as Chase Claypool did against New York in Week 1 on the end around, to check out of the play and give yourself up and end the game. That's the way I approach what transpired at the end of the Eagles game on that fourth down play. Surely you would like him to bat that ball down, because an incomplete pass gives us the ball at their 15-yard line, but we're not going to condemn him or convict him for that. It's a teachable moment, not only for him but for everyone.

Q. What style of running attack do the Browns employ?
A. They're a nuts-and-bolts group. They're very fundamental in their approach and traditional in their approach. They're a meat-on-meat, bone-on-bone type of a group. The leaders of this group – Coach Kevin Stefanski, defensive coordinator Joe Wood, senior offensive assistant Chad O'Shea – they grew up in Minnesota, and I should remind you that it was the Minnesota years during the Adrian Peterson years. They're accustomed to being a part of a program that runs the ball and runs the ball in a very traditional way. They have the backs to do it. I can't say enough about Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and the way they've run the ball, and so that's a significant challenge for us.

Q. How would you describe Myles Garrett as a pass rusher?
A. He's freaky. He's instant in that he has that short-area burst that you covet, but he's also has the type of length that's dangerous as well, and I think that's why he was the first overall pick in a draft. When you have guys who are both twitchy and long, that's rare company. Very few people have both traits. When you think about length, you think about a guy like Jason Taylor, who had great length. When you think about twitch, you think about a guy like Dwight Freeney, who might be shorter but has that twitch or that get-off. Garrett is a guy who encompasses both, and that's why I used the term "freaky," not in a disrespectful way but just to acknowledge the rarity of those talents in one individual.

Q. Are Myles Garrett and Olivier Vernon as a duo comparable to T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree?
A. They work in a different way. I would not trade my duo for that duo because there are so many drop responsibilities within our system, and our guys are built for what we ask our guys to do, and those guys are built for the 4-3 system and built to deliver what they ask them to do.

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