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10-20-2009, 06:04 PM
Mike Tomlin (Shamus/Getty Images) By SteelCityInsider.com

Posted Oct 20, 2009

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Mike Tomlin answered questions today about Jeff Reed, Troy Polamalu, the Minnesota Vikings, his starting tailback, and more.

Mike Tomlin, coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Exciting week for us. We begin preparation for the Minnesota Vikings, which to this point have proven that they’re a world championship caliber outfit. They’re an undefeated team. They’re rock-solid on all levels. They’re well-coached.

Offensively, this guy that plays running back for them is arguably the best football player in the world right now in Adrian Peterson, and the guy under center is a legendary quarterback in Brett Favre. They’ve got top-quality linemen such as Bryant McKinnie and Steve Hutchinson on the left side, big powerful people who plow open holes for their feature runner and protect their quarterback. They have big play capable receivers in (Bernard) Berrian and of course Sydney Rice is an emerging star in this league who had an enormous day this past weekend. He’s a guy on the come and a fast-riser for them. Their rookie Percy Harvin is not playing like one, similar to our rookie. He’s making splash plays and time and time again is proving the stage isn’t too big for him. Rock-solid West Coast offense, tried and tested. Members of their coaching staff are well-schooled in their offense, as is their quarterback and everyone else. They’ve got great continuity in regards to that. They don’t beat themselves. They take care of the football. They’re tops in the league in turnover ratio. They control the clock with their run game. They don’t make mistakes, and that’s probably one of the reasons they’re a 6-0 football team. Their quarterback is operating very efficiently at this point. He has a rating of around 110. When you’ve got a quality runner like Adrian Peterson and a quarterback like Brett Favre who’s not making mistakes, you’ve got to play close to perfect to beat them. We’re coming to grips with what that’s about as we prepare.

Defensively, they’re a 4-3 team. It starts up front with Kevin and Pat Williams, disruptive interior forces that they are. Those two guys go to the Pro Bowl every year. They trample the run on the way to the pass. Kevin has distinguished himself not only as a run stuffer but as an interior rush man. I think he has four sacks on the season. Jared Allen’s on the outside. He’s one of the top sack men in the league. He provides a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to them. To boot, the left end, Ray Edwards, is a top quality player in his own right and probably doesn’t get the recognition he deserves playing with that group. E.J. Henderson is the man in the middle, one of the best linebackers, in my opinion, in the NFC. In the secondary they’ve got the likes of Antoine Winfield along with Cedric Griffin. They play a very physical brand of football. They launch a lot of things out of their cover-2 shell from a schematic standpoint, and within that scheme corners have got to be football players first. These guys fit the bill in regards to that. They’re violent people. They defend the flats. They play man to man. They come up and participate fully in the running game. Very good football team, needless to say.

In regards to a couple injury issues, Andre Frazier, who missed last week’s game with a quad contusion, we anticipate he’ll be able to go this week but may be limited early in the week. Rashard Mendenhall has a knee bruise. It shouldn’t affect his play whatsoever. It may limit him tomorrow. All the other injuries are minor. Everyone who got hurt in that game last week was able to come back and finish the game (except Travis Kirschke), so we’re good from that standpoint because we’ll need all the able bodies that we can get.

Also of note, Troy (Polamalu) seems to be progressing relatively well in his march back to full participation. We may limit him in the early portion of this week, but we just want to keep that arrow pointing up in his participation and specifically the quality of that. I like where we are in terms of getting him started, getting him back in the fold, and getting out there and making plays for us. Want to keep that arrow moving up and may exercise caution here early in the week in terms of participation and make sure he’s ready to go for us on Sunday.

Q: In regards to Jeff Reed, do you have a policy when things like this come up? Or do you do it on a case-by-case basis? And, second, was there any value in handling Santonio Holmes last year when it comes to this?

A: I have a set policy or approach to how I handle it. First thing we need to do is information gathering. That’s something that as an organization we’ve done. We’ve talked to all of the parties involved – myself, Kevin Colbert and Art Rooney – and then we evaluate the situation and handle it internally, always with the premise that we want to do what’s right and do what’s in the best interest of our football team. In reference to Santonio’s situation last year, we handled it in a very similar manner, and that is our approach. We want to minimize distractions, we want to gather information and deal with it internally. Probably the only difference in the situations is the time of the week in which it occurred. Santonio’s incident occurred on a Thursday evening. It basically became something we had to deal with on a Friday leading up to a football game. We chose to deactivate him to minimize the distraction and continue preparation for the football game, and really dealt with his situation the following Monday. If you remember, he missed that game for that reason. He was deactivated. His deactivation was not punitive. It was done to minimize the distraction and to prepare for a football game that was closing in on 48 hours away from the incident. We’re handling this in a similar manner. It’s just that it happened on a Sunday and we’re afforded the opportunity of dealing with it and address it on a Monday or Tuesday, similar to how we did the Santonio thing, which we addressed after that weekend’s game.

Q: Is there a degree of frustration on your part in having to deal with this matter?

A: I wouldn’t necessarily call it frustration. I acknowledge what comes with this job. I’d like to be 6-0 but I’m not. I don’t always get what I want in this business. It’s not something that’s pleasant. Anything that takes away from game preparation and game readiness is a distraction. Anything that sheds a negative light on this organization or its players is a distraction. It’s not something that’s pleasant, but I’m paid and paid well to deal with it, and I’ll do that.

Q: Since you don’t have a backup kicker, does that make it more difficult to sit him out a game?

A: It makes it difficult, but all of those type of decisions are difficult. Whether you’ve got a replacement on the roster or not, when you’re talking about pulling people out of lineups and so forth, it’s not conducive to winning. I think that’s the reason why those caliber of guys are here, because they’re capable of helping us win.

Q: Will he play this week?

A: He’s going to play. Again, in comparison to Santonio’s situation, Santonio missing that game against the Giants was not punitive in nature.

Q: Do you have your own version of three strikes and you’re out?

A: No. No, I do not. We deal with every situation and circumstance individually, and really lean on the guidelines of the National Football League in regards to player conduct. More than anything, the important thing is that we talk to all parties involved, we gather information, and we make decisions that are based on the best interests of our football team, and keeping in mind that we would like to keep all of these actions and stuff inside our organization.

Q: Are you satisfied he didn’t do anything that would warrant any type of disciplinary action?

A: I’m satisfied based on the information that I have that I have enough information to say he is going to play this weekend. The investigation is ongoing. The information-gathering is ongoing. This process will run its course but I won’t let it dominate my train of thought this week as we prepare to play the Vikings.

Q: Do you keep open the possibilities for other sanctions?

A: Again, I think it’s important that we follow the guidelines laid out by the National Football League and that’s what we intend to do. I’m sure they’ll launch an investigation and this process will run its course. We’re going to make decisions that are best for us.

Q: Will the NFL let you know by a certain point in the week?

A: I don’t think this is something that’s going to be played out in that timely of a fashion; very rarely is it ever. I’m sure their decision will be made based on the outcome of the legal action.

Q: In terms of Troy, would you have preferred he wore the knee brace?

A: We’re not going to put him in harm’s way in terms of anything our medical experts would advise otherwise. Obviously, if he didn’t wear the knee brace, he received that as an option from our medical experts. I tend to let veteran players make decisions in terms of what’s best for them as long as there are no medical risks involved.

Q: Was his limping a sign of a setback?

A: No, what happened was when he intercepted that ball down there in the red zone – good to have Troy back, by the way – he banged his knee on the ground. So it was really something separate and different from the injury he sustained weeks ago, and that created a situation where he hobbled around a little bit the rest of the day.

Q: Were you worried when he came up limping?

A: I’ve learned to become a flat-liner. There’s a lot out there that’ll make your heart jump if you allow it.

Q: He said he was tentative after banging it. Do you expect that tentativeness to continue?

A: I think that everybody who plays this game at this level goes through some man-versus-himself battles in regards to being tentative or aggressive or cautious, particularly when your body’s betraying you at times. Troy won’t be the only guy out there on the field with little aches and pains and things that bother him physically during the course of the game, and all of those men will be making those judgments and decisions about whether to let their hair down and proceed with caution.

Q: What makes Peterson so good?

A: He’s got a great deal of God-given ability: He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast. He also has the things you can’t measure. The tape says he’s ridiculously competitive. He doesn’t turn down challenges. He does a lot of things well, even when the ball isn’t in his hands. He’s an aggressive functional blitz pick-up man. He runs good routes out of the backfield. He’s just a complete football player and arguably the best player in the game right now.

Q: Is Rashard your No. 1 back now?

A: At this point it’s ongoing, but I will acknowledge that Rashard has earned the right to take the majority of snaps as we proceed. I think that’s how we approach a lot of what we do. Who’s going to give us the best chance to win on a week-to-week basis? Rashard has had the hot hand the last several weeks. He’s been given the opportunity due to the injury to Willie Parker, and he’s really taken advantage of it. It’s great to have Willie back. We have several capable runners that we’re comfortable giving the ball to. Rashard has the hot hand right now, so in the short term we’ll proceed in the manner that we have in the last several weeks. If and when that changes, we’ll let you know.

Q: What are you seeing from your old coaching staff in Minnesota?

A: Schemes evolve. Defenses, offense, special teams evolve. It hit me that I’ve been gone from there for quite some time just watching tape preparing for this week. A lot of the faces are unfamiliar to me. A lot of the schemes and things they’re doing are unfamiliar to me. And that’s not surprising to me. It’s been three years since I’ve worked there, of course. They’ve got a great coordinator in Leslie Frazier who does share some philosophical similarities schematically that I share, but he also spent some time in Philadelphia under the late, great Jimmy Johnson and employs some of those techniques and approaches to the scheme in how he attacks people. So they’re a different defense, a great defense, one that we respect, and I’m not going to de-value what they’re doing or underestimate what they’re capable of simply because I have a history with that organization.

Q: How did Aaron Smith’s replacements do?

A: They were above the line. Travis Kirschke played good football. I liked what Nick Eason gave us. And the young fellow, Evander Hood, continues to be a guy on the rise. They’re going to be judged on their body of work.

Q: Where were you the first time you saw Brett Favre play? In college yourself?

A: Yes.

Q: Has he reigned himself in as John Elway did as he matured?

A: He has not, in my opinion. Really. I’m very familiar with competing against this guy. I broke into the league with the Bucs and we used to play those guys twice a year. He utilized all his eligibles. It used to be (Mark) Chmura, now it’s (Visanthe) Shiancoe. He’ll check the ball down to backs; Dorsey Levens, and now Chester Taylor is one of the most dangerous screen men in football, third-down backs. He utilizes all of his eligibles. He plays within the scheme of the West Coast offense, meaning he can get the ball out his hand extremely quickly and dump balls off and utilize a lot of people. But he brings the Brett Favre element, that he’s a calculated risk-taker. He has the arm strength to attach you vertically and horizontally, every inch of the field, and he’s willing to do that. He’s still good when plays break down. When you blitz this guy, you’d better understand that he’s prepared for it and he gets in attack mode when you attack. We respect that element of it.

Q: Have you seen more allowance of stopped forward progress plays?

A: I think there’s been an increased emphasis in the National Football League to be slow with whistles so that when things occur at the end of plays, coaches can be given an opportunity to challenge plays. They let plays play out so they can get the call right. In doing so, I think it creates an opportunity for some of those other things to occur, like what happened in our game. It’s just the nature of today’s NFL. It’s continually evolving as we search for a perfect game for our fans.

Q: Is a forward-progress play challenge-able?

A: Is the whistle is not blown, the whistle is not blown. So that element of it is not open to a challenge, but again there’s give and take to every adjustment that you make in regard to regulating and officiating this game. In not blowing the whistle as timely as it has been blown in the past, it also creates opportunities to get calls right.

Q: How will Parker rotate in?

A: That’s something that will be determined later in the week. It’ll be done with the emphasis on giving us the best chance of winning.

Q: Are the Vikings a heavy blitzing team?

A: Their personality changes week to week and that makes them a difficult defense to prepare for and consistently makes them one of the best defenses in the National Football League. They’re capable of rushing and attacking with four, and they also have some linebackers who are capable of heating you up. They bring secondary men. They’ve got a well-rounded schematic approach to attacking you