Coach Mike Tomlin talks about tonight's preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers:
Q. Is it realistic to believe that a handful of players can make the 53-man roster based on what they do tonight in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers?
A. If recent history is any indication, that very well could be the case. You could go back and look at guys like Stefan Logan, who made a football team because of his performance in the Carolina game, Stevenson Sylvester made the team and really unseated Patrick Bailey because of a performance in the Carolina game, Jonathan Dwyer ran his way off the practice squad in the Carolina game a few years ago. I made those points very clear to our football team this week. I want them to understand there's nothing mystical about this game. This is a tangible opportunity to make a final statement.
Q. Has Drew Butler punted well enough to be one of those 53?
A. I think tonight's performance will be an exclamation point one way or another in that regard. He's one of those guys I'm thinking about when I say this is a very tangible opportunity to show well and improve.
Q. How many of the regulars will play a lot of minutes tonight?
A. It's really on a position-by-position basis based on what coaches want to see. Obviously some of our more established players will get minimal work tonight. We're more interested in seeing these final guys sort themselves out and who's interested in representing themselves as NFL-caliber football players.
Q. Is the battle for the starting job opposite Ike Taylor still a battle?
A. Very much so. And that doesn't mean it will come to a close when this preseason comes to a close. The reality is most tight battles that I've been associated with play off into the regular season and are determined there with quality play in regular season stadiums, as it should be. Just because we're bringing the preseason to a close doesn't mean anybody is anointed in any regard. Guys will continue to play, play for minutes, and play for positions. That's just part of today's NFL.
Q. How close is Casey Hampton to being ready to play in a football game?
A. Pretty close. First of all, Casey has done a nice job over the last several years of maintaining a certain level of conditioning over a 12 month period. This season remains in that category. He's in great shape. He's physically healthy now. He's starting to put together some nice work days. We're excited about getting a contribution from Casey Hampton.
Q. Is the situation at left tackle any clearer now than it was a week ago?
A. We have a couple of guys who now are both healthy and both capable, in Max Starks and Mike Adams. From that perspective, the position is in better shape. We have two legitimate options there. We'll continue to watch those guys. Obviously, Max is proven on a National Football League level, and Mike is not. That is going to weigh into it at least from an early standpoint. We're going to continue to watch those guys and give them opportunities to work, and then sort them out.
Q. Are you comfortable with Chris Rainey's decision-making as a punt returner?
A. I'll let you know in a couple of months. That's life in the National Football League. A few years ago, I wasn't real comfortable with a guy named Antonio Brown, who was unproven. Over the course of a couple of months, he made me comfortable, and Chris better do the same.
Q. By and large, the team's tackling seems to be solid this preseason. Do you agree with that?
A. We have room for improvement, I'll just say that. I'm always going to be a little bit less than satisfied with those things, because I realize how pivotal they are to our success, that being blocking and tackling.
Q. How significant was that 98-yard drive for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the first half against Buffalo?
A. In a few weeks, it'll mean nothing because we'll be into the regular season. That's just the reality of life in the National Football League. At this moment, it's a good sign of our growth and development, but in a couple of weeks, it'll be meaningless.