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Tomlin on the process of cutting to 53

Q. I’d like to begin by going over the process of cutting the roster from 90 players to 53. Will you have done anything before the game, not necessarily cutting anyone, but in terms of meetings or discussions with Kevin Colbert and your assistants?
A. We start meeting once we start playing games, and we meet after every game to develop a global personnel meeting. But we acknowledge none of those decisions are final, and we have a lot of respect for what transpires against Carolina tonight because history tells us we need to take that approach. We could have outstanding performances, we could have injury. And those things are very real possibilities that could change the trajectory of any conversation, and so a lot of them are not worth having in any great detail in advance.

Q. Are there a certain number of roster spots that are settled in your mind before kickoff tonight?
A. Yes, but you could say the same thing about that back in March. Just the known commodities who play this game and play it at a high level and are under contract with us and are core components of our team … unless something happens, they have roles here. Yes, there are spots settled, but there’s nothing earth-shattering or groundbreaking about that.

Q. OK, the game is over and you’re back in Pittsburgh. What’s first on the agenda?
A. Probably not waiting until we get back to Pittsburgh is first on the agenda. As we walk off the field – it’s that level of urgency, and I can’t stress that point enough. We walk off the field tonight, it’s all eyes on our regular season opener and putting ourselves in position to do what we need to do there. So in some form or fashion, it’s almost instant in terms of thinking about the things that need to be done and the process in terms of meeting and having necessary discussions about getting the team cut down. Sometimes the most significant decisions don’t transpire until very late in the process. It could be the early portions of next week. Often times, you’ll see teams cut down to 55 or 56 guys pretty quickly. Friday in most instances. And they’ll save four or five significant spots, and those are the decisions that may require more discussion or maybe surveying options relative to other cities and so forth. But that doesn’t transpire on Friday. The things that are discussion-worthy and have that level of complexity occur much later in the weekend.

Q. Do you have a list of players, or will you make up a list of players where you say, “These are the guys who are varsity?” And then go from there?
A. That’s a great place to begin, but the conversation always gets more complex than that because we’re not trying to assemble the very best players, we’re trying to assemble the very best team. So division of labor, cooperative work, position flexibility, and things of that nature make the conversations more complex when you get down to the nitty-gritty. But at least initially, in the early stages, sure, it gets that simplified.

Q. Is it a good sign if you’re cutting “varsity” players? Does that necessarily mean you have a deep and talented roster?
A. It might just mean they’re varsity in one particular area, and that’s not a high priority for us. Sometimes people are specialists, and you only see them as employable in certain situations. The veteran edge rusher, or the veteran pass-rush specialist, for example. Often times, there are elements of people’s play that make them varsity, but maybe not necessarily varsity for you in terms of the makeup of your team. That’s why every year this component of the process is big, not only evaluating the guys you’re evaluating in your city but also evaluating guys globally, because somebody might not fit in another circumstance but may fit perfectly for you. I enjoy the process.

Q. The total you need to get down to is 53. When do you get down to numbers per position, such as X-number of quarterbacks, etc.?
A. That’s not an early part of the discussion. Initially, you’re talking about who’s varsity and who’s not. So looking at it positionally from a numbers standpoint slows that down. I think for competitive balance within your team, that’s one of the last variables you’re looking at when you’re trying to decide between capable men.

Q. Does the salary cap ever get involved?
A. Not significantly, no. It just doesn’t. At this point in the journey, we’re looking for guys capable of helping us deliver championship-caliber play.

Q. As far as trades – either you looking to see what you might be able to get for someone, or you looking to acquire someone – when do those conversations start?
A. Those conversations happen periodically between personnel men throughout the team development process that is training camp and the preseason. It is standard business procedures, not only for us but for everybody in the National Football League. So you never get a sense of anybody’s level of urgency, like hey, they’re really shopping for this position this year. You could speculate in that regard, but the bottom line is all 32 cities are making those calls and talking about potential trades and who’s open to what. It’s just part of this time of the year.

Q. In terms of acquiring a player or someone at a particular position, do the Steelers make calls and ask about specific players or positions, or is it a situation where it’s better to keep your cards close to your vest?
A. It might be as simple as asking, “Are you interested in moving anyone?” “Do you have excess at any position?” Everybody who is in this business, you’re not tricking anyone in those phone conversations. Everyone is professional. Usually it ends up in some non-committal questions, like, “Do you have an excess of talent at any position that you’re interested in moving?” And they say, yes, or no, and they may talk specifically. But if it’s not the area of need for you, then why would you undress yourself in that way. I think that’s just the standard level of communication that goes on between clubs and individuals relative to those discussions.

Q. Do you do different versions of the roster, maybe change your mind, maybe have your mind changed?
A. You could, but you could tie up a lot of your time with that, but what’s waiting on you is the regular season and the preparation associated with that. You can make it as elaborate as you want to make it, but the bottom line is you better make some decisions and make them relatively quickly because it’s time to move on at this juncture.

Q. When and how much do the medical people get involved in letting you know about injuries, the severity of those injuries, and how long players might be unavailable?
A. It’s not a significant component of the decision-making, because we’re continually communicating with medical people throughout the team development process. Daily, in some instances. The overall health of individuals in this process is at the front of a lot of these discussions. It’s not anything new or earth-shattering or groundbreaking when it comes to decision time.

Q. Do you ever change your mind?
A. You continually are always working to get your roster better, and that’s one of the points we always make to our team: That just because you make the initial 53, you have to continue to earn it daily. And that’s everyone. That’s the reality of it. People are flying around the National Football League every Tuesday looking for work and getting hired because of what transpired the previous Sunday in stadiums. There is no anointing, there is no finality to it all. The team development process is ongoing throughout the journey. If anything, this is just the start.

Q. We’ve talked about trades. Now to the waiver wire. Teams have 90 players and to get to 53, they have to cut 37. Thirty-seven players multiplied by 32 teams is a big number. How can you get through all of that, and what’s the process of trying to get through that to see if you might be interested in claiming someone?
A. It’s our job, and it’s our hobby to know the league, to know personnel. So it’s not like the analysis of it and the gathering of information relative to knowing those people begins once cut-down happens. We have a file on all of those people, just like every organization has a file on all of our people. You meet them during the draft preparation process, you meet them at the Senior Bowl, you interview them there, you interview them at the Combine, you bring them in for pre-draft visits, you get to know them during that process, you pursue the veteran player during free agency and maybe you lose out in signing them. Everybody has a file. There are budding, developing relationships with any man who’s employed within the National Football League, so it’s not a ground-zero study as you suggest. If there is a level of interest regarding someone, it’s just simply saying, “Hmmm, he’s on the wire.” It’s just that simple.

Q. Do you ever make a decision to keep a guy who has no practice squad eligibility instead of a guy who still has practice squad eligibility and try to get him on your practice squad?
A. It’s tough to speculate the actions of others. When there are 31 other teams, all it takes is one, so you’re doing some heavy speculating when you’re saying somebody is not attractive to all 31 others. So you better be real careful in that scenario you suggest.

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