Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mike Tomlin's Wednesday Press Conference

Here is the transcript of Mike Tomlin's Wednesday press conference provided by the NFL:

(opening statement): “It’s been kind of a regular Wednesday morning for us. We came over to this facility and had our normal Wednesday morning routine of a game week. We met special teams-wise this morning, had the team meeting, and then broke up into offensive and defensive units and then positions from there. So we continue to put one foot in front of the other, and prepare ourselves to hopefully be our best on Sunday. Hopefully that’s enough to have a winning performance.”

(on preparing for trick plays): “It is not something that you can prepare for this week. It’s something that you build into your football. When we run to the football defensively, at times it looks like we are just swarming, but we are actually running with a purpose. It’s part of everything we do, it’s built in. People have rules of pursuit, and hopefully our rules will take care of us in regards to those things. If you are a pass player first, you play pass. If you are a backside deep defender, you have what we call a ‘21-man rule’– you’ve got to keep everybody inside and in front, etc. It’s part of our football. You run your antennas up in a week like this because you know they are very capable and have a great deal of success with those kinds of plays. But we can’t get enamored by it this week. We have to hope and trust that how we go about our business is sufficient in that area.”

(on his mindset after taking over as head coach): “The number one thing I was concerned about coming in was establishing a sound base of our football – laying the groundwork of our core beliefs. At the same time of course, you are multi-tasking, you are preparing to play and compete. You are getting to know guys and form relationships and all of those things. You can lose sight of the big picture when you try to address those things individually. For me on a daily basis, I wanted to make sure that I kept my focus on laying the foundation for what I perceive to be our football and how we are going to operate. And along the way, some special things happened. Relationships, appreciation for what people are willing to do, not necessarily what they are capable of doing, but what they are willing to do. We have an unselfish group. We have great leadership. Those guys genuinely care for one another, and I think it shows in how they play the game.”

(on if there was a transition between playing the Ravens’ run game and getting ready for the Cardinals’ pass game): “It’s going to be tough, but not because the Ravens are who they are. That’s just the natural challenge that the NFL schedule presents you week to week. Different teams have different strengths, different areas of emphasis in terms of how they play. It’s usually geared toward their strengths; who their dominant players are. We respect that process, that’s why win or lose we turn the page week to week, we wipe the slate clean and we start to prepare and focus on the opponent and the challenge that is in front of us. Big challenge this week, and glad that we have two weeks to do it.”

(on the success of defending opposing wide receivers in the second half of the season): “I think that over the course of the season, teams grow, units grow, and individuals grow. We grew in the right direction individually and collectively from a defensive standpoint. Not just the secondary, but the front as well. Part of great pass defense is rush. You can’t have one without the other. We’ve been consistently applying pressure to the quarterback, and that’s our emphasis, not sacks. Sacks don’t tell the story. It’s to be disruptive, it’s to apply pressure. We’ve done that, and the guys on the back end have done a nice job. Through it all, we’ve had some ups and downs. Some guys had the opportunity to step up and deliver quality play for us. We had some injuries in the secondary. I think that the emergence of a guy like William Gay, who stepped up and gave us quality play. Tyrone Carter, when called upon, stepped up and gave us quality play. It’s been one of the many reasons that we’ve been consistent. It’s about the men. It’s about what they do when they play. They’ve played to the standard.”

(on how the offensive line has answered the call this year): “As far as I’m concerned, that’s still the question as we sit here today. We are always going to be a team in the process of growth, gelling if you will, and coming together. I thought that our guys have done a nice job of focusing on the things they can control, their level of preparation, and their level of cohesiveness. Along the way, we’ve had bumps in the road. We’ve lost some guys and had to adjust the plan, but the focus has been consistent. The guys come into the building every day understanding that we need to get better individually, we need to get better collectively, and the only way to do that is to put your hand in the pile, if you will. That’s a group that does. They spend a lot of time together formally and informally. They take a great deal of pride in how they play. They’ve been highly criticized, and I’ve appreciated that. It’s helped me do my job. Please continue to do that. We’ll squeeze one more performance out of them. Hopefully it’s a winning one.”

(on defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau’s longevity and energy): “I’m focused on ’09 at this point, and 50 years is a long time. Dick is unique. I don’t know if I’m that unique yet. We’ll see. Dick is a pleasure to come to work with. He is very similar to Monte (Kiffin) in one critical way, and that is they have a legitimate passion for the game of football. They have a unique way of conveying that to players. Age is not an issue with these guys. They have great rapport. They are great communicators. More than anything though, the love affair with the game is very similar and very evident if you spend any length of time around either man.”

(on safety Ryan Clark’s presence in the middle of the field): “Hopefully it’s an intimidating one. These guys are professional, particularly this bunch that we play this week. They are big physical receivers. They are not going to be intimidated. They are going to do what it is they do. Hopefully we do what it is we do. Ryan has been a big part of that. I think he receives a lot of attention for a few plays that happened, some big hits. When I think about Ryan, I think about the ordinary things he does extremely well. He is a great communicator. He is a hub of communication for our secondary. He gets people lined up. He keeps the ball in front of him. It’s a unique job playing opposite of Troy (Polamalu) sometimes because Troy works outside the box. Ryan has got some experience in that. He played opposite another unique guy in Sean Taylor. He prides himself in playing opposite of men like that – keeping the ball in front and doing the ordinary things extraordinarily well. He is a big cog in our machine. We appreciate what he’s done for us. He’s just been a pleasure.”

(on the impact of coaching staff continuity:) “Enormous. It’s not much continuity in today’s NFL. Anytime you have an opportunity to maintain that, I think it gives you an edge. This coaching profession is a small fraternity. Of course I had a bunch of knowledge about those men and what they were capable of. I knew most of them on a personal level, so it wasn’t anything ground-breaking from that standpoint. We were able to come in and come together and get about the business of continuing to play great defense here. The issue is winning for us, and great defense is a part of that. Having the ability to retain those guys, of course, was pivotal.”

(on his time as a graduate assistant coach at the University of Memphis): “Lack of sleep would be the first thing that comes to mind. That’s probably similar to everyone’s graduate assistant position. It was exciting for me. It was my first opportunity to coach defensive football. Memphis was a unique place in that it wasn’t a dominant program, but they had dominant defense. They embraced that identity. I think that was the beginning of my mentality regarding playing defense. The mentality those guys had, they were intent on beating you up. When they stepped into a stadium, they played the game in that manner. They had that air of confidence about them, and I fed off of that. I think it was a fundamental basis for how I approached defense.”

(on wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner) “Randy has been an awesome addition to our staff. Of course I’ve known Randy for a long time. I met him in Memphis years ago. He is a quality football coach, a great communicator, is passionate about the wide receiver position, a western Pennsylvania man so course his bloodlines runs deep in terms of appreciating what Steeler football is about.”

(on whether the Buccaneers’ knowledge of the Raiders’ offense in Super Bowl XXXVII was overstated, and how that might apply for Cardinals’ head coach Ken Whisenhunt against the Steelers): “I really think it was overstated. It’s a good story. The reality is when we were on that Super Bowl run, we faced that offense every day all season – training camp, organized team activities, etc. If you look at the teams that we played in the playoffs, we played San Francisco coached by Steve Mariucci – west coast (offense). We played the Philadelphia Eagles, coached by Andy Reid – west coast. Then we played the Raiders, coached by Bill Callahan – west coast. So we had played the same offense three weeks in a row, and besides that, we had seen it all year. It got to the point that you didn’t have to draw new scout cards for the week. We played the same offense three weeks in a row.”

(on what James Farrior has meant to the Steelers, and on his past playing encounters with Tomlin): “James knows where I am if he wants to get a shot (laughing). I can’t defend myself anymore. He is spectacular for us. What he does inside the white lines is documented. He is a Pro Bowl player and rightfully so. He is an unquestioned leader on our football team. The guys look to him. He provides quality leadership for them. He is the kind of leader I embrace; very flat-lined emotionally. He doesn’t ride the emotional roller-coaster. He is very consistent on a day-to-day basis on how he approaches his business, and really kind of a blueprint for doing it at a high level for a long time in this league. I think a lot of our young players look up to him. A lot of guys gravitate to him. A lot of guys not only look to him in terms of how they prepare to play football games, but how they prepare over a 12-month calendar. This is a guy who is in great physical condition 12 months a year, takes a couple of weeks off, and then gets back about the business of preparing himself for the next one. Guys followed that model. He had a big following this offseason, and I think it’s one of the reasons why we are still in this thing.”

(on the status of Hines Ward’s knee): “The knee is awesome. It’s great. I usually give him Wednesday off, so we are going to stick to the plan. We’ll see where he is tomorrow. It won’t be an excuse regardless of the condition of the knee.”