The 2013 NFL Scouting Combine is officially over, and the Steelers coaches and scouts are back in Pittsburgh , where they will begin processing the information that was gathered in Indianapolis. Starting next week, the Steelers will begin attending different college's Pro Days, where they will get another look at some of the players who were invited to the Combine as well as a first look at some players who were not. On Tuesday, Feb. 26, a portion of the Steelers' contingent left Indianapolis on a chartered bus bound for Pittsburgh, and Coach Mike Tomlin took some time to answer a few questions.
Q. What does the NFL Combine teach you that you need to know?
A. More than anything, we get an opportunity to put a face and a personality with what we see on tape. That's a big part of it, obviously, getting to know the young men and what makes them tick. What their goals and aspirations are, and how they have gotten themselves to this point.
Q. Did you learn anything different during this past week in Indianapolis, or is it more a case of one Scouting Combine being the same as another Scouting Combine?
A. I'm always continually impressed with the increasing understanding of what lies ahead. Technology and a lot of such things have taken away a lot of the mystique of what lies ahead for these young guys as they come to the Combine. They know the drill. They what's to be expected. They know what will be asked of them. And not only in terms of the drill work, but also in terms of the interviews. They're increasingly more prepared, year in and year out, when they come here.
Q. During the interview process with these players, you have an opportunity to learn about their backgrounds, their upbringings, the circumstances surrounding their childhoods. It seems as though there are more and more each year who have overcome some real-life issues that could seem insurmountable to some of us. Do any of these individual stories surprise you, get to you maybe?
A. Some of them are really amazing stories of perseverance and survival. But that's nothing new. I am continually amazed by these young men's ability to persevere and survive year in and year out.
Q. What did you like about Richard Mann to hire him as the wide receivers coach to replace Scottie Montgomery?
A . He's just a football purist. He's a good communicator. He says what he means in very concise sentences. He's got a great deal of experiences and has worked with a great variety of guys. He knows everything about playing the position at this level.
Q. Is the read-option offense here to stay in the NFL?
A. You know, I think all of it tends to come in cycles. It'll disappear and then show itself again at some point. I just believe that's the nature of the game.
Q. It does appear as though the read-option is here to stay in the NFL for the foreseeable future, and so do you have to cater any of your offseason to figuring out a way to stop it?
A. No. For us, we're a rules-oriented, fundamentalist group. More than anything, the read-option allows us an opportunity to reinforce some of the support unit rules and things that our defense is built on.
Q. With the read-option, when the quarterback puts the ball into the running back's belly and holds it there, how is he designated in terms of the rule regarding treating him like a runner vs. treating him like a quarterback? When can a defense treat him like a running back?
A. When the quarterback is in the pocket, he's a quarterback. In the read-option game and some of those schemes, whether he gives the ball to the running back or not, he's still in the pocket and you have to be mindful of how you contact him.
Q. One of the things being said about defending the read-option is that a team needs cornerbacks capable of playing man-to-man in order to have more players available to defend the run. Do you subscribe to that?
A. What you need is an ample number of guys in the box to defend the run. You can do that with man coverage, zone coverage, or pressure for that matter. You have a variety of coverage options. The issue is the number of guys you employ in the box to defend it.
Q. Are Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III actually better read-option quarterbacks because of their ability to throw the football?
A. And they're smart guys. They're physically talented and they're mentally talented. You don't want to underscore that either, particularly looking at what RG III did as a rookie. That was impressive.
Q. Is your locker room in disarray?
A. No. (Laughs). We're 8-8.
Q. Is that what it is, the simple function of being an 8-8 team?
A. I think questions like that come with losing, and we lost some in 2012. We don't have any intentions of repeating that in 2013.