Coach Mike Tomlin talks about the conclusion of training camp at Saint Vincent College and the upcoming preseason game against the Buffalo Bills:
Q. In the first of two joint practices against the Bills – last Wednesday at Saint Vincent College – it seemed that the defense had itself a nice afternoon. Is that accurate?**
Q. What did you like about it?
A. I just think when you have the type of young guys we have, you look for base, core things. Guys being able to play hard and fast together. They're doing that. They're communicating. And the rest of it is just a growth process when you start with that. We're just going to continue to put them in situations to facilitate that growth. They're doing a nice job of bringing the amount of intensity that's necessary, and the amount of communication necessary for them to grow as a unit.
Q. You started in the NFL as a defensive backs coach. If you were coaching the defensive backs, what do you tell them about how to do a better job of corralling running backs in the open field, as didn't happen on Rashad Jennings' 73-yard run in the preseason opener?
A. Sometimes you're so committed to pre-snap disguises that often it puts you in poor position to execute the job that it is you need to do. You just have to have an awareness of that, and it often happens because you don't have control over when the ball is snapped. So you have to respect your original landmark, or original destination regardless of where you are, and then when the ball is snapped you have to be able to move to that and play the game of angles when you're not in a position to do so. That's what happened on that run. We were executing a nice disguise, and the guys weren't positioned in the areas they needed to be. That happens from time to time, and so you have to be able to adjust individually and collectively. It's a collective thing sometimes when runs break out like that.
Q. What about takeaways, from the same standpoint as a former secondary coach?
A. It's really simple from my perspective. I always tell guys that it's about technique and opportunity. Both things are required, and obviously the better the technique the better your opportunities are going to be – both the quality of them and the frequency of them. And the big thing is when you get an opportunity, you have to cash in. Those are the things we've been talking about. Sometimes you get enamored with takeaways and become preoccupied. But the reality is if you're playing good, sound ball, if you are where you're supposed to be, if you see what you're supposed to see and are practicing sound technique, those opportunities will present themselves to you.
Q. Is this preseason game, against the Buffalo Bills, any different in your mind than the one last week against the New York Giants?
A. Yes it is, because we expect these guys to take significant steps forward. They've been a stadium before, and so they know what that's about. They have that experience in their back pocket, and we've had a good week's work. So I'm raising the bar of expectation in terms of the quality of our performance.
Q. How long will you play the starters tonight?
A. They're going to play into the second quarter. It's the point in the preseason where we're increasing their snaps, and I think they've prepared for that. I know we've practiced in that manner.
Q. The fact there have been two joint practices with the Bills before this preseason game, do you view that familiarity as a good thing or a bad thing?
A. I think it's been a good thing from a team development standpoint. It put some urgency and intensity into practice; it exposed us to some guys who are unfamiliar to us; and it exposed us to some schematics that are different than what we see on a normal basis. Those things alone made it very productive and a good thing.
Q. There were a couple of developments affecting your special teams during the last week in Latrobe. Punter Adam Podlesh was put on the reserved/did not report list, and long-snapper Greg Warren injured a meniscus. What's the outlook there?
A. It's just part of business. We're going to sustain injuries throughout this journey that's going to be our season. It just so happens that right now it's to our special teams. We have quality and capable men who are ready to step up, and we're also willing and capable to add to that if necessary.
Q. What do you like about first-year punter Brad Wing so far?**
A. I like his demeanor. He's a legitimately confident guy. Not arrogant, he believes in his talent. He had a bad kick against the Giants, and when I talked to him at halftime he assured me that he would bounce back. And he did. I like to see the in-game bounce back from young guys. Often times when something negative happens with a young guy, you have to get him out of the stadium before they have the ability to bounce back. He was able to bounce back in the stadium, and that told me a lot about him as a guy and as a player.
Q. Has the Sean Spence recovery story surprised you in any way?
A. It really hasn't. I know what the prognosis was, but when you've been in this business as I have and you spend time with people, you know they are routinely capable of beating the odds. That's why they're here, that's why they are who they are. He falls into the category. Sean is a very disciplined and hard-working young man, and it doesn't surprise me at all that he's been able to come back and overcome that. He's a football lover. He loves the things that are associated with ball – the drudgery, the working, the weight room. He loves to talk football, schematics, and those are the people I like to be around.