Coach Mike Tomlin discusses some issues on the eve of the second preseason game, against the Philadelphia Eagles at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18 at Heinz Field:
Q. Some fans tried to read into your quarterback rotation for the preseason opener when Charlie Batch played before Dennis Dixon. Should fans do that?
A. This is a long preseason, and this is a process. Of course, we're very familiar with all four quarterbacks we have working. It gives us the freedom to mix-and-match to put those guys in different circumstances to evaluate them. Really, that's what we're doing. I wouldn't read too much into it. They're all capable guys, and we're glad we have them. And we're also glad to have the problem we have in terms of sorting things out among four quality guys.
Q. With the little time you have had with Jerricho Cotchery, what can he bring to this team?
A. He has a very even-keeled professional demeanor in terms of his approach to football. Of course we have some very talented young guys at his position – Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown – but they are just that. Young guys. Any time you can add a veteran guy with that even-keeled stable demeanor, I think it brings something to the group.
Q. Tony Hills is starting at right guard against the Eagles. Would you consider this an experiment?
A. It's a little more than an experiment. He has earned the right to put himself in that race with how he has played and performed. Tony is not new to us – he's a veteran guy who is maturing and he's taking advantage of the opportunities given. We're going to give him some repetitions with the first group against the Eagles and hopefully he'll see some first-string guys from the Eagles and represent himself well.
Q. John Malecki never played center in high school or college, but he took a lot of snaps at that position against the Redskins. Is this the direction he's heading?
A. When you start talking about a guy who aspires to be an interior backup offensive lineman like he does, snapping is a skill that you gotta have. Most teams in the National Football League dress seven, maybe eight, offensive linemen. If you're an interior guy and you're capable of playing guard and center, you add value. We believe in position flexibility, and so we're encouraging him in that area so he can give himself the best chance possible.
Q. Maurkice Pouncey made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and seems to have taken on more of a leadership role. Is this an example of a young guy developing extremely quickly in that area?
A. Maurkice is a unique guy. His play a year ago proves that, but we also expect him to take the next step. Leading is a part of that. He has natural leadership skills and great passion for the game. He's a diligent worker, and I think that's the most important element of it, because when you work the way he works you have the right to lead others and demand that they do the same. He has earned that respect within his group, so he's doing it.
Q. Ike Taylor's injury, as disappointing as it is for the team, creates opportunities for others. Is that a silver lining?
A. That's always the silver lining with injury, as far as I'm concerned. One man's misfortune is an opportunity for another. That's the way we approach it. We think we have a bunch of capable men here, and given the opportunity they're capable of proving it. So we're looking forward to watching these guys work and having a chance to play against some quality people with the Eagles and show what they're capable of.
Q. One of those guys who has been getting more of an opportunity has been Donovan Warren. How did he do against the Redskins?
A. This guy has been growing on us because he has the best ability, which is availability. A lot of guys have gone through preseason/training camp-like injuries, things like hamstrings and quads and so forth. Obviously this guy came to training camp in great shape, and he's been able to stay on the practice field and because of that he's been able to get repetitions, he's been able to stay on the practice field, and as a result he's been able to get better and show us what he's capable of. He'll be given more opportunities moving forward.
Q. What was the most disappointing facet of the preseason opening loss to the Redskins?
A. There was a lot to be disappointed about, but my expectations are pretty high, and I think the team's are as well. We didn't block well enough, we didn't tackle well enough, we didn't run well enough, we didn't throw well enough, we didn't kick well enough. Other than that, we were solid. So we'll roll the ball out again against the Eagles.
Q. Rookie Cameron Heyward seemed to give a good accounting of himself in his first preseason game, and then in the following practices he got involved in some scuffles during practice. Do you like a little bit of that?
A. This guy is going hard. He's trying to earn his stripes. There will always be a little resistance to that, not at someone else's expense. Those are the natural growing pains that come with a young player who is working extremely hard. We're not going to make it an issue because it's a non-issue. We're more focused on his growth and development, which is going really well.
Q. Will rookie cornerback Curtis Brown get some snaps vs. the Eagles?
A. He is, and we're looking forward to watching him go. When he has practiced for us, he has practiced extremely well. He has great short-area quickness, and he stays close to guys. We're looking forward to seeing him against the Eagles.