Coach Mike Tomlin offers some insight on the Steelers' opening day opponent, the Tennessee Titans.
Q. The entire nation will be watching the game against the Tennessee Titans tonight. Does that affect your preparation, or the players' preparation?
A. I would like to think that it doesn't, because you'd like to think you always take that approach, but the reality is it's going to be significant, it's going to be an electric atmosphere, it's going to be awesome. I think the guys who have been around have an understanding of that, so really, it's a positive thing.
Q. If Lawrence Timmons can't start against the Titans, Keyaron Fox would replace him in the starting lineup on defense, and he also was voted a special teams captain for this season. What do you like about Fox as a player?
A. This guy has gained the respect of his teammates since he's been here. He's a diligent worker. He's serious about football, and he can play. We're excited about watching him uphold the standards of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Q. What is your biggest concern about the Titans?
A. They're strong in the line of scrimmage. If we're going to be successful, the in-line trench warfare is going to be significant. They have a defensive front that runs seven or eight men deep, and they play that way, they play with a great deal of tempo. Offensively, they have a great offensive line led by a savvy veteran in Kevin Mawae.
Q. Can you comment on the play of Titans quarterback Kerry Collins?
A. It doesn't take long to understand why he's their guy. He doesn't get sacked. He doesn't throw interceptions. Part of being a tough team to beat is not beating yourself. With him under center, they do not beat themselves.
Q. In 2008, the Titans' defense finished the season ranked No. 3 in the NFL behind the Steelers' and the Baltimore Ravens'. What makes the Titans defense so good?
A. It's that eight-man defensive line rotation I talked about earlier. They bring a lot of guys at you, they run to the football, they're relentless, and they feed off those guys. A quality guy on that second level for them is (linebacker) Keith Bulluck, and he has seven consecutive years of 100-plus tackles, and he has six career touchdowns. He's legitimate. The relentless pressure that the front provides creates opportunities for takeaways. A guy like (cornerback) Cortland Finnegan benefits from it, and he's a quality player. The safety tandem of Chris Hope and Michael Griffin is spectacular, and they end up around the ball quite a bit. But make no mistake, they all feed off that defensive front.
Q. When you go back and look at the game in Tennessee last year that the Titans won, 31-14, was it more what they did or more what the Steelers didn't do?
A. You can't take away the quality of their execution. You respect what they were able to do in that football game, but we believe how we execute ultimately determines what happens in football games. We didn't do a good enough job of taking care of the football. We didn't do a good enough job on both sides of the trench warfare, or in situational football. That's why we lost.
Q. The stomping of the Terrible Towels by a couple of the Titans players after that game last December – is that an issue that's more for the fans?
A. We understand that our fans are hacked off about it, as they should be. We understand what the legendary Myron Cope means to this organization. But if we're going to be more motivated, or hit them harder, or pursue the ball harder because they stomped a Terrible Towel, then we're not a right-minded group. We're turned on because it's a football game, and when we kick it off, we play and we play to win.
Q. Isaac Redman, who captured the fans' imagination during the preseason with his short-yardage touchdowns both at training camp and in the preseason games, is not on the 53-man roster. Who will be your short-yardage back to open the season?
A. We're just taking the approach here early on that whoever is in the game is in the game, and we're going to let those guys distinguish themselves, and then over the course of the year maybe that role is defined for us. I'm always hesitant about making judgments about specialty positions too soon. I just want to let it reveal itself to us, and until that time whoever is in the game is in the game.