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03-23-2010, 02:01 AM
View From The Press Box
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Tomlin talks
March 22nd, 2010

ORLANDO, Fla. --

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin talked extensively Monday for the first time since a season-ending news conference on January 5. Not that he said much if anything about quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Tomlin, in fact, would not “comment on the comments” he made to the NFL Network last Saturday night regarding Roethlisberger. He did talk about a number of other subjects, including Bruce Arians, the running game, the return of Larry Foote and the health of Aaron Smith.

What follows are excerpts from Tomlin’s Q&A with Pittsburgh reporters –- all two of us -– at the Ritz Carlton.

Q: If you are not going to say anything about Ben Roethlisberger why talk about him to the NFL Network?

A: “Because it’s the NFL Network and the NFL and NFL Network is one and the same.”

Q: Can you clear up any confusion there had been over Bruce Arians? There had been speculation that you were going to fire him following the 2009 season.

A: “I don’t know where it came from. I think it was generated by people outside of our building. I became aware of the confusion but it wasn’t something that was generated by us or through us so really I didn’t have an opinion regarding it then and I really don’t now.”

Q: Can you talk about the signings the Steelers have made since the start of free agency?

A: “I really feel great. I think part of us getting better and putting ourselves to be a championship-caliber team for 2010 is strengthening ourselves, creating a more competitive environment, having better quality depth. I think with the moves that we’ve made it’s been an improvement in those areas. I think that is critical to us being one of those elite football teams.”

Q: Did you bring Antwaan Randle El back as a punt returner?

A: “No but I know what his resume is. I know what he’s done in the past. It would be naïve for us not to explore possibilities of that.”

Q: Could you save a roster spot if Randle El is able return punts next season?

A: “Certainly. I think in the National Football League if you are a return specialist you’ve just got to show unique characteristics and we’ve seen flashes of that from Stefan (Logan) but as we move forward the bar does not stay the same. It changes and that’s just the reality of this business. It’s going to be fun to watch those men compete and try to watch Stefan build on what he did in ’09 because it’s going to be required to move forward.”

Q: When it comes to improving the running games, does that fall on Arians and other assistant coaches or the players?

A: “It’s a mentality. We’ve got to commit to doing it. Yes, ultimately when the ball’s inside the white lines and we’re playing football it’s about execution. But it’s also about planning, it’s about preparation. It’s a commitment, one that we’re willing to continue to turn stones over to make sure that we’re doing our very best to make sure we’re great in those areas.”

Q: Would you like to have a traditional fullback?

A: “If it it’s available, particularly at this time of year when you have an expanded roster. I think you try to find as many guys with skills sets as you possibly can in an effort to put together a roster that’s comprised of the best 53 men. So we’re looking for guys that are not similar to guys that we have. Not only at that position but others. It’s critical to having an improvement mentality.”

Q: Will Larry Foote be used as more than just a backup?

A: “It’s my desire to create competition and let these guys sort it out on the field. I think ideally that’s the way this game is supposed to be played. I’m excited about the potential of that. I know we’ve got some starter-capable guys, particularly at the linebacker position. You throw Larry Foote into the mix. I think Keyaron Fox showed that he’s capable of playing winning football on a solid defense. We’ve got what we desire: quality depth and competition and at the end of the days that’s the ultimately motivator.”

Q: Can you give an update on some injured player, specifically Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith?

A: Of course, Aaron is local. I see Aaron quite a bit. I haven’t seen Troy. All the reports that I get from the guys that had various types of injuries during the season and surgeries after have been encouraging. There have been no steps backwards as we push into 2010. I’m comfortable with the phsycial health of all those men.

Q: Are you going to limit Aaron during the upcoming offseason practices?

A: I am. And I probably would whether he was injured or not. We have some young guys at his position -- Ziggy Hood, Sunny Harris -- guys who are pushing into their second year. You know how I feel about the growth and development between year one and year two. His number of snaps in the spring and summer would be de-emphasized whether he was injured or not.”