Full transcript of today's media session with Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin:
No black today?
Yeah, I figured Iíd give you guys something else to write about with the white shirt on today. Iím starting to get it.
All right, we feel like weíve had a productive camp up to this point. We look forward to taking the next step on Sunday night and seeing where we are against some unfamiliar faces. But at this time Iíll take questions.
How do you weigh the preseason games versus practice?
Itís always different when the lights are on. I think you weigh those heavier than you do practices. The level of intensity is up a notch, particularly in the special teams game. Itís very tough to simulate that on the practice field, and of course thereís full-speed blocking and tackling and taking men to the ground. Without a doubt, these games weigh heavier than practices.
How long will you go with the starters?
Roughly a quarter, 12-15 snaps. Weíre going to treat you like the first preseason game that it is, maybe a little different at the quarterback position. Willieís not going to play. I think that is the thing to do at this time. I think anything less than a 100 percent here from him this time of year I think weíd be smart to protect him.
Who else have you ruled out?
The known guys: Rehage, Stapleton and Timmons. Those guys can be ruled out at this point. All other guys will be determined as we get closer to the game, keeping those guys alive and see where they are, particularly because weíve given them some down time here this morning with no practice. Time for extra treatment and so forth, weíre not going to make any snap judgments on where these guys are. These guys are competitors. They want to play if theyíre capable.
Are you excited to coach a game?
Yeah because Iíve sat in the backseat and passenger seat enough and you always talk about, boy, Iíd like to do that. Weíll see wonít we on Sunday night?
Does it mean anything that itís on TV?
We talk about not paying attention to variables that donít matter: Where we play? Who we play? Whoís watching? We try to keep the focus on us and how we perform. From my standpoint, thatís important but Iím not going to deny some guys are going to be fired up because itís on national television and their peers will be watching. This Hall of Fame game is one that everybody in the National Football League watches. Youíre at training camp and youíre sitting around at night meetings; you take a break from night meetings and you turn the TV on and you watch the first football of the year. So it is a little special in that regard, but itís not a focus of ours.
Will your family be here?
No, they wonít. My wifeís not big on preseason football. She has a tough time remembering the names in the second half.
Will James Harrison play?
James will lean on the side of potentially not playing, but again I havenít made a final decision on anybody except for the guys I spoke about.
Will you call the plays?
No. I believe that my job is to game manage. Once I become a play-caller, I lose a little sense of whatís going on with all 53 if weíre talking about a regular season situation. Iím going to game manage. Iím sure there may be instances where I am involved in that, but Iím going in it with the mentality that Iím a game manager.
Who starts at free safety?
Will it change at that position in the future?
It will. Those guys are competing. Theyíre well aware of that, but again a lot of those decisions as we move forward will be based on performance. So thereís potential for that, but weíll see.
Will you stick with LaMarr Woodley a little longer because heís a rookie?
Absolutely. When I talk about how long the ďfirst unitĒ Ė itís funny saying first unit in the first preseason game Ė but the so-called first unit will play 12 to 15 snaps but there will be exceptions to that.
Does that mean it will get Ben get more reps then?
No, it might get Ben less reps.
Will Najeh start?
Whatís the quarterback rotation?
I like to have a plan, be loosely organized and have a feel for the game and look at it as we go. Right now itís our intention to maybe play Ben a little less than most of the starters and move on with Charlie Batch from there.
Brian St. Pierre. And then Bryan Randall. Then, weíll draw straws.
Will your coordinators be upstairs?
No, theyíll be on the field.
What do you expect out of your players in the game?
I expect them to compete. I expect them to play with great energy. I expect them to be very physical because thatís what theyíve shown me thus far. But I want to see what this teamís about. Again, I try to go in without any preconceived notions like Iíve said before, so Iím just kind of excited to see what this team really is about.
Were you on the field at Minnesota?
Whats the theory behind that? Do you like them near you?
You cant cook from the living room. I coordinated from the field. I coached secondary in Tampa from the field. I think theres value to being able to look a man in the face and being able to communicate.
But you've got to stick somebody up there, right?
Yeah. Just not me.
Who's going to be upstairs then?
We've got Kirby Wilson upstairs. We've got Harold Goodwin upstairs offensively. We've got Lou Spanos upstairs defensively. We've got Ray Horton upstairs defensively.
A lot of defensive coordinators are on the field, but the offensive coordinators seem to be upstairs. Is that Bruce's choice, is that your choice?
I just think you need to be closer to the men. You need to feel the energy. You need to feel the ups and downs that are involved in football.
The other position that has been back and forth has been right corner. Who starts there?
Deshea and Ryan are starting and its kind of like last year, we assumed that young playmaking types like Anthony Smith and Bryant McFadden would beat these guys out. What is it about Ryan Clark and Deshea Townsend?
Its not necessarily about what they are potentially capable of. It's about what they are on a day-to-day basis. These guys are extremely consistent. They're very smart. They're very competent. You know what you're going to get from them. Thats very attractive. They're rock-solid guys. They don't ride the emotional rollercoaster. There's not a rollercoaster in terms of their level of play. You know what you're getting. From a coach's standpoint, that's very attractive, particularly from a secondary coach's perspective.
How will you use your tailbacks?
We've got a lot of guys we want to look at. We want to look at Najeh (Davenport) as a primary ballcarrier; Kevan Barlow, Carey Davis. At the same time were going to look at some guys as third-down candidates. Verron (Haynes) has a reputation in that area. We want to see what Carey Davis can do in that area. We want to see what Najeh can do in that area. We're going to roll the dice a little bit in that area. We're going to play a lot of guys in different situations. We don't know what they're capable of specifically in terms of role development. I think if we keep and open mind and give them the opportunity to show what they're capable of, it will become clear.
Will you use Carey and John Kuhn at fullback?
Yes. They'll spot at fullback. We preach position flexibility. We encourage those guys in the value of the more that they can do. Those two guys can play multiple positions.
With all the guys behind Willie, will there be enough carries to go around?
Hopefully. And thats one of the things we've been excited about being involved in the Hall of Fame game and playing five preseason games. It gives us more of an opportunity to evaluate those men and let that situation sort itself out.
Najeh is such a different style than Willie, do you adjust when he's in at all?
Not adjust in terms of personality. Maybe adjust in terms of play selection, runs that they are most comfortable with. But that's just smart football.
Santonio (Holmes), will he play more or less considering he missed the first week of camp?
It really depends on his level of conditioning. We'd like to give him a lot of work, but not at the expense of a potential health risk because of a lack of conditioning. He's going to be one of those guys who we'll evaluate as we go and see where he's at in terms of conditioning.
Will he return kicks?
He will not. Willie Reid will be first man up to bat in that area?
In kicks or punts?
Will you have two deep or one?
Essentially, there's one deep. Theres another guy back there, but you don't want him to get the ball. You just want him to lead the way. There's one and a half, if you will, in terms of guys deep.
Who are those other guys?
There've been some guys there. Najeh has worked there. Carey Davis has worked there. We've put quite a few guys in that area. Gary Russell has also worked there.
How much should fans read into how much play time people get or don't get in preseason?
It depends on who we're talking about. Sometimes you go in and you want to see something. Sometimes roles and reps and things just evolve.
What about the three injured OLBs?
Itís going to create an opportunity for someone else to show what theyíre capable of. Itís given Clark Haggans an opportunity to slide over and show his versatility and play on the right side. Rian Wallace has played some outside. So, really more than anything Ė we acquired Marques Cooper who spent some time here in the past last year; I have a prior experience with him, not only with Tampa but Minnesota as well. Heís a quick study, heís going to have an opportunity to get his feet wet. Unfortunate for some guys, maybe a little unsettling from a coachís standpoint because you donít want to run out of bodies in the preseason, but it does on the bright side of things create an opportunity for some men to show what theyíre capable of.
Is lack of practice time affecting Lawrence Timmons to play as much as you had hoped this year?
We still yet have played a preseason game. Weíre 5 games away from this thing. He has a lot of ground to make up; he has time to do it. But more than anything, the most important thing is getting him back out there healthy and playing. Until he does that you really canít evaluate where he is in terms of moving ahead because itís a waste of time. We have to get him back out on the field.
What are the differences in body type and skill you need (at OLB) on right side vs. left, and how is Clark doing flip-flopping?
Really, at the end of the day, ideally when you talk about body types at those spots the reality is those guys at the end of the day are probably essentially the same guy. Yes you could mention that the left outside backer is more of a power player because theyíre going to see the tight end more often than on the right side; most offenses are right-handed. But at the end of the day if youíre talking about ideals those guys have to be the same animal. They have to be stout vs. tight ends, they have to be able drop into space and they have to come off the edge.
And how is Haggans doing on the right?
I think heís doing well. He and I have had several conversations about it. Itís awkward at first, it is. Itís a totally different perspective on the game of football. But I think itís giving him an opportunity to grow. he feels good about it, he feels better about it than he did when he initially started doing it. but like anything else, thereís a level of comfort that comes with it.
Do you have Arnold Harrison on the right or left?
Heís going to play both. Heís one of the guys who will benefit from some of the guys not being able to play. Tentatively, weíd like to get him a rep or two inside, but heís going to have a full plate playing both outside spots and special teams. Weíll see how that gets toward the end, if we can steal him a snap or two inside that would be great. You notice that we have been practicing him a little bit (inside), giving him an opportunity. I think itís as important as anything, when youíre looking at thing, particularly guys who are fighting for roster spots, you see what theyíre capable of doing, you give them multiple positions so youíre not handcuffed by position needs when youíre filling our your roster. Thatís why you see guys like Arnold Harrison playing inside and outside, guys like Rian Wallace playing inside and outside. Because theyíre trying to find a seat on the bus and theyíre willing to do whatever it is to do that.
What are your thoughts on the situation in Minneapolis?
My heart goes out to that community. Being a part of that community for a year, I understand the devastation of that accident. Not only in terms of the lives that were lost and the people who were injured, but as they move forward. Thatís a major thoroughfare in that city. I can imagine that itís going to paralyze that city from a transportation standpoint for a long time. Very sobering events. It just shows you, I guess, that life and some of the things we take for granted sometime are very precious. and we shouldnít need to be reminded of that but oftentimes we are.
What color you wearing Sunday night?
Believe it or not, I havenít even thought about it. Iím trying to decide whether Iím going to treat you guys to a shave.
Youíre not a suit guy, are you?
Do you have any pregame rituals?
I donít. What happens is, I usually get sucked into other peopleís, guys who play. You interact with somebody and then itís ďhey, coach, we have to do that every week.Ē I donít have time for it because usually I get sucked into everybody else.ís
A myriad of things. Praying in the shower, etc., etc. Itís sport, you know? Whatever guys feel like they need to do to get themselves together to play great. I donít play so Iím a little superstitious than maybe I was when I did.
All 4 specialists in the game?
Give up on black in the heat?
No, I just thought Iíd treat you guys to a white shirt at the press conference so you can debate whether or not Iím going to wear it this afternoon.
You guys let me have too much fun, Iíll tell you.