Tomlin on traveling west, Jacoby, Vick

Q. You've always been big on family during your time as the Steelers coach, maybe best illustrated by having invited players' families to the Saturday practice on the day before Super Bowl XLV, kids running around the field after it was over, took a big Steelers family photo. How do you balance your players' family lives with work during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays every year?

A. There's work that has to get done, and that work is going to get done. We're going to try to do it in the most timely and sensible manner in relation to the things that are going on in the guys' lives. Sometimes I provide some options for them. Some Christmases, for example, we'll work early so they're home in time for dinner. Sometimes a guy has the desire to be at home in the morning with his kids when they open presents, and then we work later. I don't care with what means we skin it, but it's going to get skinned. There's work that has to be done.

We did the same thing this week with Thanksgiving. We worked early, we took the frills out of our day, we got our work done, and everyone was home comfortably in time for dinner to enjoy that part of the day with their families.

Q. In terms of an NFL regular season, how is Thanksgiving a significant mile-marker?

A. I don't know that it is, for me. I just try to live singularly, one week at a time in terms of the challenges. I know a lot of people look at Thanksgiving as a benchmark. Some people divide it into quarters and view quarters of a season as a benchmark – working the games in sets of four. The reality is we get 16 opportunities to state a case for ourselves, and I try to take each one of them as important as the next. That way I don't de-value the September ones, or place too much value on the December ones. There were times when you wished you had a September game back. Those games are just as important.

I try to live that philosophy in the words that I choose and how I think about the significance of each and every opportunity.

Q. What is it that's uniquely challenging about traveling three time zones to play a football game?

A. Just the time. The time spent. Your bodies are your bodies, and you're on airplanes and so forth. We're in bent-knee position for five-some hours, and there's a price to pay for that. But not anything we'll acknowledge that would be a significant contribution to the outcome of the game. It's the hazards of the business. Everyone has eight home games and eight road games. Sometimes the trips are short, and you appreciate those. Sometimes the trips aren't short, and you deal with those. But we won't be thinking about that when we come out of that tunnel and get ready to play on Sunday.

Q. What does it say about that task that after all these years, there doesn't seem to be a consensus about the best approach? Some teams will go early. Some teams go as late as possible. Some teams will stay somewhere close to the game so there's not as much travel back-and-forth.

A. There never will be. Some coaches are fundamentalists. Some coaches are schemers. Some coaches are offensive-minded. Some coaches are defensive-minded. That's the thing that makes the game continually interesting. For me, I've always been of the mentality that if I'm traveling east to west, I don't make a big deal out of it; if I'm traveling west to east it's probably more of a deal. Thankfully, I haven't done a lot of west to east traveling in my life.


Q. How did you come to develop your travel procedure on such trips?**

A. I just look at it as: I'm gaining time moving west, and I'm losing time moving east. So if I'm losing time, I better respect it.

Q. You said at your news conference that Jacoby Jones will return punts today. What went into that decision? What was Antonio Brown's reaction?

A. That decision was made when we acquired him. He's a talented guy. His resume is his resume. He needs no endorsement from me. I acknowledge that the start hasn't been as fluid as he would like or we would like, but that doesn't mean we're going to start blinking. We're going to run him out there. We're going to do a great job of blocking and pressuring the punts, and then let him do what he's been doing in the National Football League for a long period of time at a high level.

Q. Not that it would have mattered, but what was Antonio Browns reaction to the decision?

A. What was the phase you used before you asked that question? (Laughs) Antonio has an opinion. (More laughter)

Q. It seems as though Mike Vick is now your No. 3 quarterback, which means he will be inactive most weeks. Do you still see that as a worthwhile signing?

A. Oh, absolutely. He got us out of a few stadiums. And San Diego specifically. I think about the play he made on that final drive with his legs when he ran down the middle of the field and provided us with a significant chunk of yardage. Like I mentioned earlier, each one of these 16 opportunities is significant, and you don't know which one is going to be the tipping point as you pursue your dreams during the course of a season. But that guy got us out of the stadium that day, and his contributions are more than that instance, but that's just one that's very vivid and very tangible that you can look to that makes me say that.

Q. During the bye week when assistant coaches were available to the media, Joey Porter was talking about the rotation system with the outside linebackers and how, for example, James Harrison might wave off a replacement when he's sent in. Is that a big deal to you?

A. I don't micromanage those kinds of things. What's important is that there are certain moments where the personnel is very critical, and in those moments, everyone understands it and there is no negotiation. There are some other moments where there is some latitude, and that's what Joey was talking about in that regard.


Q. When you were a defensive backs coach, what was your opinion on having a cornerback shadow a receiver?**

A. I was less concerned about that matchup and more concerned about the one you're not talking about. Because in order to match up a top-flight cornerback on a top-flight receiver and switch sides of the field, you also have to understand the unintended consequences on the guy playing opposite him. If he's a guy who's primary a right cornerback, and now you have him working at left cornerback, he's out of his comfort zone. Or if that matchup creates an issue for a guy who's 5-foot-9 and now he's going against a receiver who's 6-5 and he's in that mismatch all day instead of only half the time … I don't think enough is thought about in terms of the unintended consequences of the other matchup. I've always been slow to have that (matchup) mentality.

Q. How does it limit a defense? Do you have to play more man coverage, just by definition?

A. You have the latitude to make it an issue or minimize the issue, but for me specifically, we've done it some in the past with Ike Taylor. And Ike always was a guy who wanted to do it, but it came down to a conversation where, "Hey, Ike, we may or may not do it, and it can have nothing to do with you. It may have something to do with Deshea Townsend vs. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, for example." That's just an element of it. Deshea vs. Chris Henry. Or Bryant McFadden vs. Chris Henry. It wasn't always about Ike Taylor vs. Chad Johnson.

Q. From the defensive side of that decision, do you make it more because of your guy or more because of their guy?

A. Again, sometimes it's because of their guy. Sometimes it's because it's of our guy. And sometimes it's just to send a message. Sometimes you admit that schematically speaking, or significance speaking it may mean little on the outcome of the game, other than the fact that we're sending a message.

Q. What kind of message would you be sending?

A. That we fight fire with fire. If they have somebody we perceive as a unique animal, and we have somebody we perceive as a unique animal, we'll let those two guys go head-to-head.

Q. That seems to be the case today, with the respective unique animals being Richard Sherman and Antonio Brown. Do you hope the Seahawks try to match-up Sherman with Antonio Brown?

A. When I'm on the other side of it as the offensive coach, and I put my offensive hat on, I don't care what you do.

Q. With your offensive hat on in that situation, do you want to attack that matchup just to send a message that you won't be deterred or intimidated?

A. We're going to play football on the offensive side. You can't get caught up in those things. You have no control over how the defense chooses to defend you or who they choose to defend you with. We have to stay singularly focused on our approach, our plan, our plays, the execution of them. It's less of an issue for us in terms of the thought process of how we go about our business.

Q. You think your quarterback shares that same non-committal view of not attacking an area an opponent is specifically trying to defend? Might he be a little too much of a competitor for that?

A. I would imagine our quarterback, in that circumstance, is thinking, who's covering Martavis Bryant?

Q. You mentioned during your news conference that the Steelers had to rush smart against Russell Wilson because he can exploit vertical lanes if they open up. Does that make the pocket-collapsing up-the-middle pressure most important?

A. No, that just means we can't end up with a bunch of guys behind the quarterback. That's the reality of it. We have to be cognizant of our rush lanes. We have to be re-trace conscious when we get to the depth of the quarterback, be capable and ready to re-trace our steps and stick our foot in the ground and work back toward the line of scrimmage to close vertical holes. It means we have to be ready to use our hands to come off blocks as he tries to find the vertical escape lanes. That's what I'm talking about.

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