Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin holds his weekly press conferences every Tuesday. Each week, we will take a glimpse at what stood out from coach’s comments about the previous week and heading into the Steelers next game.
Good afternoon. I’ll start with a quick assessment of our last game like I always do. It was good to come out of a bye and get a win. It was good to come out of a bye and get a divisional win. Some of the things that have characterized some of our negative performances did turn up at the early portions of the game and we have to continue to work hard to work through those things in terms of finding rhythm early. Didn’t get much done in the first quarter of the game, penalties were an issue there. We turned the ball over and we acknowledged last week that Cleveland was the best in the world at producing turnovers. So, to do go into a stadium acknowledging that somebody is really solid in an area and still not have a good enough performance in that area is troubling. We have to do a better job at ball security. That is going to be catastrophic to our efforts if we do not improve in those areas. We have to get the ball more on the other side and I think those two things work hand in hand. We are not producing enough turnovers. I think we have nine in seven games. I think we were talking about 20’s even last week prior to playing Cleveland in terms of their output so they are setting the standard there. We want to be in any of those conversations. We believe getting the ball will help us in our efforts. We have to get the ball more. We have to do a better job of maintaining possession of the ball. We are still continuing to work to improve in terms of our technique and our awareness from a penalty standpoint in an effort to reduce those to improve our chances of winning. That first series of the game we converted a 3rd-down and 2. We got a penalty that pushed it to 3rd-and-11 and we were punting. Those are more than just plays, those are possession, and possessions obviously are significant. You look around today’s NFL, particularly the dominant teams, you can’t afford to waste possessions. It’s just the reality of it but we found our footing. We made some splash plays. I thought our big people controlled the line of scrimmage as the game wore on, our offensive line, our defensive [line]. Whether it was producing running lanes for James Conner and protection for Ben [Roethlisberger] on offense or minimizing the run so we were in favorable possession down circumstances on the other side and then we were able to pressure Baker Mayfield and try to get him off of his spot and create some negativity and win those downs. As the game unfolded I thought those things became more evident but obviously, we have more work to do.
We’ll continue to do it this week, we’ll do it with an edge as we prepare for more AFC North ball. That is significant for us, our third consecutive AFC North game, this one being on the road. Our senses are heightened obviously. From a health standpoint, Ben [Roethlisberger] has a fractured index finger on his left hand. It didn’t prohibit him from being effective in the second half of the game but obviously we’ll look at it in terms of his availability this week and how it might affect him in a practice setting and so forth. Not anticipating it being an issue for him in-play or in-game but I did talk about it after. I wanted to give you guys an update. Coty Sensabaugh will be managed day-to-day with his toe and see what that means for his availability. Marcus Gilbert missed the last game with a knee. He’ll be given an opportunity to participate this week and see what that participation looks like in terms of his availability. I also will mention Matt [Feiler] who filled in place of him did more than a serviceable job, but we’ve come to expect that from Matt as well as the others. We don’t have backups, we have starters, and starters waiting. The standard is the standard of expectation so guys like Matt, B.J. [Finney] and others and there have been many already this year make that phrase reality with their above-the-line performances and we are appreciative of that.
As we prepare for Baltimore, we prepare with an edge. Lke I said this is a significant game for us and for them. They are a 4-4 team. I know they are fighting to stay in the hunt as are we. It’s at their place. They are coming off of two consecutive losses. They have a quality team and hadn’t been that long ago since we’ve played them but there are some significant things to acknowledge as we prepare for them.
On the defensive side of the ball, the pressure that they put on the quarterback is a signature of their play. I think they have 27 sacks or so. It’s [Terrell] Suggs and company, they do it the way they do it. They get after your quarterback, they are really good blitzers, they beat blocks, they put consistent pressure on your passer. They couple that with tight coverage. They are the number one defense in football. I think they are number two against the pass. They have a veteran safety tandem in [Eric] Weddle and [Tony] Jefferson. They do a lot, they are very versatile, their pre-snap looks are challenging, they’re interchangeable by concept or even thoughtfully. Sometimes you will see a concept and Jefferson will do it, the next time you’ll see it in the game and it will be Weddle doing it and that just speaks to the versatility and cohesion that they have within that tandem that makes operating from the offensive side more difficult. They also have Jimmy Smith back. They didn’t have Jimmy Smith the last time we played them. We have a lot of respect for him. He’s a quality shutdown corner. I’d imagine they are excited about having him back in the fold to go along with the other quality cover men. C.J. Mosley had missed some time leading up to our last game so our last game was our first game I think back for him. Boy I am seeing the benefits of consistent availability when it comes to C.J. Mosley, you name a situation, he’s a guy in the middle of it. Whether it is coverage, whether it is rush, whether it is interior run, perimeter run, he is a vertical player, he’s a horizontal player. His name is in every discussion when you are talking about what they do on defense so he’s finding his rhythm. I know he missed some time there early, he’s a big-time contributor to their efforts.
On the offense side of the ball it’s all about Joe Flacco and the utilization of weapons and how multiple they are in the ways that they challenge you from a personnel standpoint. Got a myriad of tight ends, I think they have four on their roster. They have been suiting all four of them and I am talking about high pedigree guys. Guys like they have had [Mark] Andrews and their first-round pick [Hayden] Hurst who didn’t play against us last time, so we have to be ready for the tight end personnel groups, the gapping and things. The use of multiple tight ends produces and their flexibility in it. The athleticism of those tight ends allow them to not only play traditional multiple tight end ball but also spread you out and challenge you in ways that Joe [Flacco] is comfortable doing from a spread standpoint.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. Quality special team’s unit as always. Their specialists are top notch. We are excited about the opportunities that the journey presents. This weekend is not different than any other. Our hair is standing up for obvious reasons. It’s AFC North football. It’s a road game in Baltimore. Got to love the National Football League.
Did a call or something you saw come in from other coaches to go for it one 4th-and-one?
No, we are thoughtfully aggressive. I am not going to speak to anything specifically that was the tipping point but those that know us know that we play and play to win. We do not live in our fears.
Were you trying to play off of momentum for later in the game I assume?
You can assume. I am just playing to win.
It seemed that Baltimore controlled the line of scrimmage last game, is it critical to make that happen against this team?
I don’t know if they controlled the line of scrimmage as much as they controlled possession downs. Usually, when you are losing possession downs, it’s because they are left for you unfavorable for you offensively or they are very manageable for your opposing offense. We didn’t do good enough on possession downs. We didn’t do well enough on possession downs, and some of them were very manageable for our offense and some of them were long for their offense. As I look back, at it particularly in the second half of play, where the game really unfolded we didn’t do enough on possession downs. We didn’t get off the field on defense and we didn’t sustain drives on offense. I thought that was probably the singularly most deciding factor in terms of how the game unfolded.
You’ve had several touchdowns in the two-minute drill at the end of halves. What’s been the catalyst for that?
We work it hard. You guys watch us in training camp. We work it every two or three days. You have an expectation when you work the way that we’ve worked in that area specifically. Hopefully our guys have that expectation as well. I know that the results are probably indicative of those expectations, but when you put time into something, you expect the result of that work and I think we’re getting it in that area.
Do you believe that your team’s level of physicality has increased from earlier in the season?
You know, I haven’t thought about it. I like to think that that’s the case, and this is why – I think that the better you have an understanding of your job, the better that you have an understanding of how your job fits into the bigger picture, there’s a couple things that happen. The more that you communicate, and the faster people play, and I think good communication and fast play produces physicality. It produces certainty in movement, and I think that allows guys to play fast and free and thus, more physical.
Why didn’t Artie Burns play many defensive snaps last week?
He was late to a Saturday walk-through, and then it was my choice not to play him. You know, we’ll keep working with Artie [Burns]. He had a good week of practice last week. I don’t want to make more out of it than what it is, but he was late, and we wanted to be focused with the guys who were wired-in appropriately where they needed to be in the hours leading up to kickoff. And so, he suffered the consequences of that. We’ll roll that ball back out and get back on task with him and others this week.
If Coty Sensabaugh can’t go, do you feel comfortable with Artie?
I’ll let you know after I watch this week’s preparation, not only in regard to him, but Coty [Sensabaugh]. We’ll let his availability be our guide in terms of whether or not he plays, and I mean what I say when I say when I say that.
He’s been involved.
But I mean is he a possibility if Coty can’t go?
Anybody on the 53 is a possibility including Brian Allen.
Re: Baker Mayfield making a comment about the Steelers defense being more proactive than reactive:
I’m not aware of his comments. I’ll just say this – we build a plan week-in and week-out and we generally stick to that plan. We try not to be reactionary in thought. Part of being good in this league is eliminating problems before they happen, and if they do happen, you better eliminate them quickly. So, I think that’s always our mentality in terms of how we build plans or address issues or circumstances.
James Conner saw limited carries the last time you played Baltimore. How much does he have to do with controlling the time of possession and possession downs you were talking about?
You know, oftentimes the running game or opportunities in the running game, are controlled by game circumstance. We got down by 14 and then we didn’t convert third downs in the second half, so we didn’t have enough snaps. That’s going to minimize the total number of carries, so you can paint whatever picture you want regarding the run game the last time we played them. It never came to fruition for a number of reasons.
Your home crowd is chanting James Conner’s name. Your quarterback has been so vocal in talking about how much he likes to play with him. What is it about him that people like so much?
He’s run for 100 yards in three-straight games. I mean that’s not hard to figure out.
They never chanted Le’Veon Bell’s name and he’s done that.
I’m sure they have.
Re: Baltimore’s personality
They play defense, and generally, they play football the way that they play football. They have continuity. I think continuity allows you to do that with Coach [John] Harbaugh in the lead. But also, Coach [Don] Martindale, might be new to the coordinator job, but how many years has Martindale been in Baltimore. They’ve got great continuity, and so as they go through changes, it’s not changes. Some of the names have changed over the years, but a lot of their talent is homegrown and developed. It used to be [Duane] Starks and [Chris] McAlister. Now it’s Jimmy Smith, for example. It used to be Ray Lewis, and there’s C.J. Mosely. [Terrell] Suggs has played forever and probably will continue to play forever. But I think continuity lends itself to that personality that you speak of that remains consistent.
Can you speak of the difficulty of keeping continuity despite personnel changes?
Continuity is good, provided that it’s positive. When it’s not, you’ve got to make changes, obviously. So, I don’t think a lot about continuity. I think a lot about being competent and competitive and good. Continuity is just kind of born out of those things if you’re just continuously focused on those things.
Talk about Mike Hilton coming from a practice squad player to becoming a significant part of your defense.
Mike’s [Hilton] story is probably reflective of a lot of stories. Mike just works hard every day and takes advantage of opportunities given, and when he does, we give him more. He wants to be a central reason as to why we’re successful, and he’s anteing up and kicking in daily. Those sub-package defenders don’t get enough credit. They might not be classified as starters, but guys like Mike Hilton and Morgan Burnett and L.J. Fort are significant contributors to our effort. I’d be remised if I didn’t mention we had all three of those sub-package defenders available to us last week and that’s probably why our third down performance in particular probably looked the way it looked. We haven’t had a lot of games this year where all three of those guys were available to us, so it speaks to that continuity discussion, whether it’s over the long haul, you’re talking about an organization over the course of years, or you’re talking about a unit week to week. Mike has missed some time with injury. Morgan has missed some time with injury. Fort has missed some time with injury. It’s good to have all three guys available. I think that increases our chances of being successful in the significant possession downs in which they operate.
With today being the trade deadline, as long as you’ve been here, you’ve kind of held on to draft picks. Why is that so important to you?
We believe in homegrown talent. We invest time and resources into the development of players. Players buy into what we’re selling and work their tails off to improve and be reasons why we’re successful. I think it’s difficult to walk about from relationships when people are invested. We’re invested, the players are invested. It is what it is.
Do you expect any movement for the Steelers today?
I haven’t thought a lot about it to be honest with you. I’m sure the phone may ring. We’ll see what happens. But more than anything, I’ve just been focused on preparing for Baltimore.
Do you expect Le’Veon Bell back this week?
Any other questions? You all have a good evening.
Transcript provided by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Tomlin presser: AFC North football, James Conner and facing the Baltimore Ravens appeared first on Steel City Underground.