Q. How many jobs actually are available to be won tonight?
A. I don't do a count, but I imagine five or six jobs are up to be won by about eight or nine guys. That's usually the case this time of year. There are somewhere in the high-40s in terms of solidified spots, and the other spots will be determined by upside and special teams productivity.
Q. You've also talked about roles, or divisions of labor within the group, as being up for grabs. How would you characterize that aspect?**
A. There are certain specialized jobs within positions – third-down back, slot receiver, nickel corner, interior sub-package rush-man, and things of that nature – and we've seen guys show flashes of assuming roles in those positions. Eli Rogers has had a great preseason working in the slot, and you can see what he's going to be able to give us working in that capacity. Javon Hargrave had a great interior rush game in our previous preseason game, in New Orleans, and you can see he could be that third interior rush-man to provide rest for No. 91 and No. 97. Those are some of the specialized jobs I'm talking about when I'm talking about division of labor within the group. Some guys have been doing a nice job, and tonight will be the last opportunity for them to state a case for themselves in some of those types of jobs.
Q. What can a player do to win a job tonight? Does he have to make a splash?
A. The splash will really just highlight a larger body of work that's above the line. We can think back to splash plays, we can think back to 2009 when Stefan Logan ran a punt back 80 yards in the first quarter of this game against Carolina and cemented his position on the roster, but he had a nice body of work throughout that preseason. He had about four or five kick returns a few weeks earlier in Washington that went up past the 50-yard line. Splash tonight will highlight a larger body of work that could be the final nail in the coffin in terms of somebody doing something positive.
Q. So, the game is over, and you're back in Pittsburgh. After watching the video, what's the next thing that happens in terms of putting together the 53-man roster?
A. You have to assess the overall health of all of the people who participated in the game, because you can't make decisions without the health discussion. We have to get prepared to beat the Washington Redskins, and we need healthy bodies in order to do that. You don't have that discussion about the final 53, or who's available within that 53, without assessing the injuries from this performance.
Q. At any time during the process, do the assistant coaches get any face-time with you to state a case for a guy or guys one way or the other? Are they aggressive in lobbying for their guys?**
A. To assume that they're going to wait for the 11th hour for that to happen would be an understatement. That has been going on throughout the team development process. I don't mind that at all. For a guy to have a chance, the man he works intimately with from a coaching standpoint has to believe in him, so the fact coaches lobby on the behalf of players is just a natural part of business. They better believe in them.
Q. Do their opinions matter?
A. In some instances they do, and in some instances they don't, because they're unaware sometimes of all the variables that are a part of the decision-making process. Sometimes their opinions weigh heavily, sometimes it's of no consequence because of elements of which they have no knowledge.
Q. Do you ever seek out their opinions?
Q. Is it ever a last-minute thing that turns the tide one way or another?
A. I would compare it to being on the clock during the draft. It's not all it's cracked up to be. You think you're making all of these major decisions when you're on the clock during the draft, and really those decisions are on-going and have been continually made as a part of a process throughout draft prep. I can say the same thing about putting together a final roster. There's a feeling that you're making decisions at the 11th hour, but what you're doing is assessing a cumulative body of work that has transpired over the last several months.
Q. When you're putting together the 53, how many guys are on it directly as a result of special teams, purely special teams?
A. It depends. It differs from year to year based on the needs of the team and based on the skills of the potential guys. Some guys have made it in the past exclusively on their special teams ability – Ross Ventrone being an example of that. Sometimes their special teams abilities highlight their efforts and are a chief reason why they make it as opposed to the sole reason. It's always an element of the equation. There always are several guys within that discussion, but usually the conversation involves others at their position as well, and usually the health of others at their position is part of the discussion, too.
Q. Do you speak personally to each player who gets cut?**
A. I'm available to each guy who gets cut. During that process, I want to provide these guys with what they want, or need. Some guys need discussion and want some clarity in terms of what produced the decision. Some guys just want to shake your hand and wish you the best and get out of the building. I've learned that those situations are not about me but about those guys, and I generally provide them with what they need, or want.
Q. Is it your experience that most of the guys who get cut seek out that one-on-one time?
A. Surprisingly, it's about 50-50. Half the guys need a little discussion and some clarity about what produced the decision, and half the guys don't want to talk about it. I've learned that it's tough to predict which side each individual guy is going to be on. I really just think it's about what's going through their mind at the moment and how they deal with the information they're receiving.
Q. Do you believe it's ever your place to give a guy some advice, such as "I don't think you belong in the NFL." Or, "You were really close to making the team, don't give it up?"
A. I provide advice when it's wanted, or if I feel like it's needed. So it's usually about the relationship I have with the individual, or what that individual needs at that moment. Again, I try to not make it about myself, I try to make it about them. Some guys want a discussion and need encouragement. Some guys don't.
Q. Would you allow a player to come in and just vent? Would you sit there and just listen if a player wanted to get something off his chest?
A. In 10 years, I haven't had a guy vent in the way you would imagine. Usually it's just disappointment. I haven't heard first-hand of anybody being hacked off because they got cut, not in any organization I've ever been a part of. This is a long trek, an unbelievable journey, and usually most of the time the guys who are on the bubble, if you will, they are emotionally spent by the time they get there. And if they're on the wrong side of it, there is really just a general disappointment. Or in some cases, a relief that the trek is over.
Q. The preseason ends tonight, and another portion of the process will be over. Are you satisfied with the work that got done in these preseason games?
A. I've been happy with the process. I like the work that has been done. I feel good about our general readiness to this point. When you look back on it with 20-20 vision, training camps, preseasons, and the like are all done in an effort to set you up for a season. A true assessment of any element of this process that we've been through is done based on how we perform and our larger body of work in this journey that awaits us.
Q. Is any part of your assessment based on the health of your team as it comes out of the preseason?
A. I don't over-analyze the injury element of it. I just acknowledge that it's going to be a part of it.
Q. Do you have an opinion about the length of the preseason?
A. I do. They provide four games, and so I'll take the games they provide. I think we all could get by with less. The evolution of today's professional athlete, the fact that they come to training camp with a level of conditioning that's unmatched historically to how they used to come, I think that lends itself to quicker readiness. I think the structure and set-up of the offseason program through OTAs and minicamps accelerate the overall game readiness process. I think we all could be better prepared with less, and I think it's just a matter of finding the happy medium of what's appropriate. It's easier for me to say that because I have an established veteran quarterback. If I didn't have an established veteran quarterback, my opinion might be different. There are a lot of perspectives and elements in this discussion, and that's why it is the heated discussion that it is.