Fresh off a trip to Sea World and just days away from the start of his first training camp as head coach of the Steelers, Mike Tomlin fielded questions from the Pittsburgh media.
Good afternoon. Summer is kind of coming to a close and it is about time. I have done about all the errands I can do. I have been to Sea World and actually have played golf twice. So I need a vacation from vacations. We are getting ready to go to camp and we are excited about that. I will address any questions regarding that.
How do you feel heading into your first camp?
I feel like I always feel this time of year. It really doesnít feel any different. I am ready to get going and am excited about it, ready to attack the challenges that lie ahead for us. Just really ready to get going.
You saw St. Vincent College and did a walk around. What was your reaction to the facilities?
I really think it is awesome. Logistically it is good. Everything is close, compared to some of the places I have been in the past. You have the fields, you have the dorms, you have the caf, you have the locker rooms, the weight room and that is about all you need and it is all pretty close. I think it is a very good facility.
Mike, is part of putting you to ease knowing that youíre taking care of everything and not forgotten anything or will that take care of itself?
There is always going to be bumps in the road and that is a part of it. Part of us determining of what we are able to be is being able to deal with it. We do feel that we have dotted the Is and crossed the Ts and we feel good where we are. We will move forward and deal with issues as they arise as I am sure they will.
A little more intense training camp than the previous coach?
I am not familiar with how it has been in the past. I really canít speak to that but it is going to be trying at times. There will be some adversity and that is what training camp is about. That is part of team building. It is supposed to represent, if you will, what lies ahead and there is no doubt that there will be some challenges when we play football this fall.
Is 15 two-a-days standard for you?
This is the first time I had to pick so I am comfortable with it. I like the schedule. I put a great deal of time in developing it. I am comfortable with it. It is some ways similar to things I have done in the past but it stands on its own.
Some of the two-a-days are one hour. Are those special teams drills? Walk-throughs?
Yes. Special-team emphasis practices. Ed, you do your homework. Two-a-days arenít true two-a-days. We have some special-teams work we like to focus on. They are shortened practices but at the same time you have to go through the mental process of getting ready to take the field twice a day even if they arenít full practices.
All players required to show up?
Mike, what is your reaction to Alan Faneca saying that this is going to be his last year? How does that play into going to camp and dealing with adversity?
I really have no reaction. I am focused on 2007 and very rarely I look beyond that, to be honest. You canít take anything for granted in this business. I
think everybody who is a part of this needs to focus on í07 and I think that is all he said so really I have no reaction. I just look forward for him to report to camp along with the rest of them.
Is Lawrence Timmons 100 percent healthy?
Yes, he is.
Are you worried about depth on the offensive line?
That will be determined. I try not to paint a picture of what is going to happen. I like to stack the team along with everyone else and make it as
strong as possible then go through the process of building it. Those questions will be raised and answered along the way. I feel good on where we are heading into it.
Are you going to do goal-line, two-minute stuff at camp?
Absolutely. Itís training camp. We are going to be smart about that. You have to put them in situations where they can turn the volume up every once in a while and we are going to do that.
Under the previous coach the conditioning consisted of 14 40-yard
dashes. Will you use that?
We will have a conditioning test. It is going to be somewhat of a surprise. Well, maybe not a surprise to them. That information has a tendency of
leaking out. There will be a conditioning test but it wonít be 40s.
In setting a tone, does this have to be you toughest camp?
Again, I donít take that approach on how we will go about it. It is training camp and itís the í07 season and we are going to do the very best that we can. I am not looking at this as a tone-setter or how this camp is going to compare to camps in the future and camps in the past. We have to be
prepared to be our very best and thatís how we are approaching it.
Coach, outside the normal hours of camp do you have a problem with players leaving campus?
I think that is sometimes needed for sanity sake. You have to go off and
get in your car and ride off and get a meal outside the facility. There will
be a curfew and those types of things because itís a business, but there is nothing wrong with a guy going to get a burger and get away every now and then. And there is going to be moments of that like every camp. Players do it, coaches do it and we all need to do it now and again and there is nothing wrong with that.
The media doesnít do that.
You guys are just more committed than us.
You have any doubts that Faneca is going to be professional?
You donít play football the way he plays football without being a professional. Ultimately your character shows through and it is obvious when you turn the tape on what his football character is.
What is your policy in picking captains?
We are going to select captains but we arenít going to anoint anyone. We are going to watch the process of the team building and they will reveal
You will pick them, not the players?
How will you approach the preseason games?
We have five preseason games so that is great for us. It is great for me
to be put in some situations to prepare to play. We are going to be
thoughtfully non-rhythmic like we have been during the offseason. We are going to look at guys at different spots. We are going to look at different combination of guys. You have to be willing to do that if you mean what you say. We will leave no stone unturned.
What is your goal in training camp?
I want to come out of training camp a unified, hardened group who is
ready to do battle.
Talk about Ben Roethlisbergerís offseason and where he is.
I think he has had a very good offseason. It has been fun to get to know him as it has been with a lot of the guys. I know he is very motivated and very competitive. I know on a personal note that he has some critics to answer which is great. Whatever motivates people to do their best. I am very pleased where he is at and how he has taken to the changes around here. He has behaved like a franchise quarterback.
Does he have anything to prove to you, Mike?
Absolutely. Absolutely, but I think he is more concerned about proving
things to himself as we all should be. That doesnít separate him from anybody. We all have something to prove. Itís awesome and thatís what is great about what we do for a living. You can never breathe a sigh of relief in this business. Every day we come here, whether it is today, tomorrow or 10 years from now, we all have something to prove.
Anything surprise you about Ben during the offseason?
I really canít say that there was. There were no major surprises.
How important is it to have everybody signed and in camp Monday?
It is important. It is important because the train starts moving at 4 oíclock on Monday. It is tough to get on a moving train if you hadnít tried before. You would like to have all aboard before we take off Monday.
Do you feel good that that will happen?
Was signing Dan Sheldon any indication of Willie Reidís foot problems? How is the return game overall?
He is a viable guy, another guy to put in the mix. It is not reflective on
Willieís situation even though Willieís situation is somewhat of a question mark. We feel that we have some candidates in the return game.
Are there questions?
Absolutely, but it is nothing we can answer here. It is going to play itself out. We have five preseason games and someone will come to the forefront and we fully expect that to happen. He is a viable guy and a guy with a resume who we thought could be in the mix so thatís why we brought him in.
Is Willie ready to practice?
Where is Willie Colon going to play?
We are going in to this focusing on right tackle along with Max Starks
and let those two battle it out a little bit. There will be some movement.
Willie is a guy who we think is capable of competing and being in our top five so we need position flexibility to see if he is capable of doing that, whether if it is at right tackle, whether it is at center or guard. We have to exercise a little patience and be open-minded and let that play itself out and it will. Initially we are going to start him out at tackle.
How long do you let that play out? Two or three games or do you have a timetable of when you want to have the main unit in there?
I am one who truly believes that it will become obvious. Sometimes I think if you are patient and donít rush to judge then decisions become obvious and that one will.
Coach, do you have one overriding emotion heading into camp?
I feel alive. I love this. I love football. I would coach it year around if I could.
What are you going to do this weekend?
I donít know. I better ask my wife. When it gets to this time in the summer I just try to stack up as many brownie points as I can. Wherever she wants to eat, whatever she wants to do is fine because on Monday I get pretty
A lot of pressure comes with his job. What makes you ready for it?
Pressure is funny to me. The standards I set for myself in terms of what I want to do are higher than anybody else can impose on me. I donít ride that emotional roller coaster and I donít encourage our guys to ride that emotional roller coaster. A true battle is a man versus himself if the man is right-minded. Thatís the kind of football team we have.
If you pick your nose it is going to be breaking news. Are you ready for that?
I figured that out. I know you guys have to pin your ears back and do what you have to do but I am not overly concerned about that.
What do you like about Troy Polamalu?
Troy is a known commodity, not only around this building but around this
league. He is a heck of a player and a heck of a guy. He is awesome.
Do you have any hat days planned?
Christmas may come a few times. We will see. I think that decision will
become obvious too.
You donít have any days off until after the preseason game. That was thought out, right?
It is kind of what this thing is about. We want to come out a hardened unit and the only way you can do that is if you are challenged in a lot of ways. Development of mental toughness and the ability to answer the bell in unique circumstances are important. We will be faced with situations in the year where we will play on a Sunday and then have to come back on a Thursday and play a football game and the standards arenít going to change. We are going to be required to win a football game. That is what training camp is all about. You put guys in situations that put them outside their comfort zone and make them a little bit uncomfortable and see who is able to deal with it. Those who struggle with it become aware of it and they grow because it all mirrors the challenges that lie ahead. It is not going to be comfortable to play at home Sunday and then go on the road Thursday night, but guess what? The standards and expectations arenít going to change. We have to go win. That is what training camp is all about. That is why we will be thoughtfully non-rhythmic and do some of the things that we do with the scheduling.
Movie day done? No more?
We will see. You guys are on the playersí payrolls sometimes. You guys are very nice people, but if it was soft you would complain about that. You are unbelievable.
What about all the fans at St. Vincent? Isnít that awesome?
I think it is awesome. I hope we can entertain them. I hope they can have a good time. It is an awesome atmosphere for families to come. It is a great thing. It doesnít change in term of what we have to do and why we are
going up there but it is an awesome sidebar. I know I would like to take my boys somewhere to watch somebody else work.
Is there extra pressure with all the fans?
Itís elevator music. You hear it but you donít unless you listen for it. Our
focus is on what we need to do.
Are injuries in preseason games a concern?
You would like to lend an eye to that but the reality is that this is a violent game and injuries are a part of it. You canít live in fear. We have to have a strong enough football team that when injuries do occur we keep marching. The reality is they are going to occur. You would like to keep them to a minimum but the reality is that they do happen. We had a first round draft choice last year in Minnesota who, on the second play, blew his knee out, Chad Greenway. It was unfortunate but we had to move forward. It is part of it. Itís football.
Timmons opens at what position?
Right outside linebacker.
Would you get involved if a player is not signed come the start of camp?
Yes. It hadnít been required as of yet. Time isnít tight yet. If time does get tight I am sure I will get involved.
Who opens up at center and right guard?
Chukky (Okobi) is at center and Kendall (Simmons) is at right guard, if you are talking about how we are starting.
How do you like your backfield with the bevy of veterans?
We have a good group of veteran guys, guys who are known what they are capable of in this league. It is going to be good competition. I am looking forward to watching it play out. It is a bunch of been-there, done-that guys with Najeh (Davenport), Verron (Haynes) and (Kevan) Barlow. We are going to let it play out. We have five preseason games and there will be enough totes for everybody. We will see how it stacks out.
Is Larry Croom your guy? Or did the scouting department find him?
They all have to be my guys. He is a guy who has been around. We will
Give him an opportunity to show what he can do. He is not green. He has been through the process a couple of times. Letís face it, all of those guys have an injury history so it is good to have a stable of backs, especially if you are going to play five preseason games.
Does training camp and how it is run change year to year?
We are all in the process of self-evaluation. I am not going to paralyze myself by analyzing every decision you make. We have a good plan and are going to move forward.
How was Sea World?
Let me tell you, Florida in July with three little kids is not a good time for the parents. It was hot and then it rained, then it was muggy. Kids had a good time and thatís all that counts.
Score at golf?
Whoo, one thing you have no chance to be decent at golf unless you play a lot. I donít play a lot.
19 July 2007