Head Coach Mike Tomlin
Opening Statement: Good afternoon. We're excited about stepping into a stadium and performing for the first time. It's a tremendous honor to represent Jerome [Bettis] in this game and honor his career and tremendous accolades with how we play in this game. I'm excited about seeing a lot of young guys getting an opportunity in all three phases. I spent a lot of time with Danny Smith this morning talking about how to utilize and evaluate young guys in the special teams' game. We've got some guys that work extremely hard and this is a significant step in a lot of ways toward playing. We've got some guys that have distinguished themselves offensively and defensively but have very little background in special teams. Guys like Anthony Chickillo, a guy that played defensive line at Miami (Fla.) and was a four-year starter but he doesn't have a lot of a special teams background. A guy like Jesse James, an early-out guy from Penn State, played a lot of offensive football there, but not a lot of special teams. When you think about them, they've carved out a niche for themselves as offensive or defensive players, but what they do as special teamers is going to be equally significant. Those are just two examples of why this game is so significant for young players, and obviously there's a lot more examples than that. What we're looking for is simple. We know we're not going to play perfect this first time out, but we can't compromise playing hard and playing fast. We're going to cater our menu to allow guys to play in that manner, but it's also their responsibility to play in that manner. We want to see who can play hard and fast when they lack complete certainty in terms of what we're asking them to do. That's all part of this process. We want to play clean, and by clean I mean no pre-snap or post-play penalties. Some of the
Jerome Bettis puts on his Hall of Fame gold jacket for the first time.
[penalties] that occur during the play may be technically related, and we'll grow in that regard, but I see no reason why we can't come out and be sharp from a pre-play and certainly a post-play standpoint from a penalty perspective. Lastly, I want us to understand situational football: the unwritten rules of the game and how the game changes. A lot of what we do is situational. The drills that we construct for them during the course of practice, whether it's pass under pressure, team run, red zone, short yardage, goal line, you've seen a lot of it over the last couple of weeks. I expect those guys to display the understanding associated with the work they've done. We all acknowledge that the game is slightly different on third down or in the red area, or goal line and short yardage. We've talked about it. We've done a lot of reps, and we want to see it displayed. Those are the three things that are critical for us in terms of setting a good barometer with this group and some things that we're looking for in the stadium. In regards to participation, a lot of it is going to be determined by player availability or health, specifically by position. There are some guys that will not play, and I can say that safely. Ben [Roethlisberger], Le'Veon [Bell], Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Maurkice Pouncey, James Harrison, those are guys that I have right now that I don't intend to play. There are some other candidates, but their availability will be based on numbers at their position, specifically healthy numbers at their position. There are really no other final decisions being made regarding who [will play], or snap allocation. We're going to start with the framework that I just mentioned. Obviously we want to see a lot of young people. You're going to see a lot of Landry Jones. He's going to play a lot. We don't have a pre-determined snap count that we expect him to have. We're going to play him until we've seen enough, and then maybe give somebody else some work. He could play the entire game or he could play the majority of the game. Our intent is to get a good look at him. I could go through some other ones.
How are you going to go with the kickoff guys?
It's going to be Dri [Archer]. He is going to handle both, and then we'll go from there. We've got [Kenzel] Doe as a candidate. We've got Sammie Coates as a candidate. Sammie may work in conjunction with Dri as a kickoff returner. [We've got] C.J. Goodwin. We've got a lot of guys to look at. But our first priority in both punts and kickoffs will be Dri Archer. Any time you can get live game snaps is important, whether it's your first year or your 10th. It's a chance to show you can execute when the lights come on. Landry's been doing a good job. He's been growing. It's his third year, and I think he's feeling more and more comfortable. I think he'll do a good job.
The safety position, there is only one guy who is healthy and that's Will Allen from last year. What are you looking to see out of the young guys?
Just like I talked about this with the group, I want to see them play hard and fast. I know that they are not going to be perfect but they have to play hard and fast. They have to display an understanding of positional football. Obviously you know they have to be penalty free. A lot of these guys we are excited about seeing. Whether it's Alden Darby or Ian Wild, we want to see these guys play football. They have worked their tails off and I want to see what they are capable of doing, and we are excited about it. One man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. We believe that and we live that. Obviously we are experiencing some short-term discomfort at the safety position with a number of guys out but I don't focus on the guys that are out. I think about what a great opportunity this game is going to be for guys like Darby and Wild.
Has Landry Jones taken a big step forward and in what ways?
I will let you know after Sunday. We are measured by what we do in stadiums. His performance has been on a steady incline out there but that's out there. We prepare and play out there for what transpires in stadium, and I am excited about watching him play.
Are you going to use all three quarterbacks?
That is to be determined. Like I said earlier we are going to give Landry reps then we will decide from there.
Mike you mentioned Jerome. What are some things you remember when you coached against him and what are some of the things that stick out about him to you?
The larger than life personality. How he could represent the heart beat of the team. I remember back in 2001 or 2002, we were playing those guys in Tampa Bay and he hurt use pretty bad that day, by probably [rushing for] about 150, and we held him down to 150. But he was just a spectacular player, a power player, but also a guy that displayed great feet. He was a guy that inspired others with how he played the game and I think that is a bench mark that you use when you are talking about gold jacket type guys. He made other players around him better. He deserves all the accolades that he has received over the years and obviously this is the ultimate weekend.
Had you known him before and how has your relationship grown over the years?
Not personally. But obviously I have gotten to know him quite a bit over the last 8-9 years since I have been here. I think the thing that stands out the most is that he is a tremendous advocate for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is a Steeler and bleeds black and gold. A lot of our conversations center around the development of younger guys and the teaching of the younger guys and how he might be able to help the younger guys represent this franchise in a way that we all want. When I think about Jerome and the development of our relationship, I just think about him being a Steeler. He's a quintessential Steeler.
Following a dominant performance in the Backs on Backers drill, the linebackers went to work again in the second practice in pads.
Re: I asked Dick Hoke yesterday for Jerome's greatest run, the one that stands out in his mind. He said in Tampa Bay, there was a 25 yard run, he got into the secondary with one after another going down:**
I was there. I think I may have jumped on his back there late in the down. It was just one of those things, it's one of the awesome pleasures of being apart of this thing. To experience a tremendous respect for competing against a guy like that and then getting to know him on a personal level and being on the inside if you will and seeing not only what he means to the organization but the guys that he played with and the community and the fans, is just one of the things that does not get old being in our business, and it's one of the things I continue to develop an appreciation for.
I spoke yesterday to Coach Butler and he spoke about deferring to the older guys at outside linebacker. What do the younger guys have to show you over the course of the preseason to get into the snap rotation?
They have to show us consistent above the line play and with that understanding is detail, and with that is technique. But I like what they have done thus far and I am excited to watch them play on Sunday night.
Re: William Gay had said the Hall of Fame game was the time when you learned his name. You talked about the safeties for instance, is this the time were the coach really learns their first names?
It's those moments. Sometimes I pretend like I don't know their first names. So maybe I don't. But that's what this process is about. I think that one of the things that I embrace and I know that the guys that have been here embrace is that we legitimately don't care about what means you get here. If you have a helmet on you have an opportunity to carve out a niche for yourself in this group. I am excited about watching these guys take advantage of that opportunity.