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Transcript: Mike Tomlin Conference Call 12/12

Q: Are you treating this game this week as a big game, or is it just another in a 16-week season?

MT: You know, they're all big games and we're treating it as such, but you mentioned it there – when it's a 16-week season, you only get so many opportunities to state a case for yourself, so they're all significant.

Q: Did you feel differently about the game last season? It seems like you felt the stakes may have been raised for that regular season matchup?

MT: How so?

Q: There was a quote that I don't have in front of me, but you seemed to state the enormity of that Week 15 matchup last season.

MT: Yeah, I was just acknowledging the outside perspective of it. I don't know that our perspective changes. It was in response to a question regarding the hype around the game, if that's what you're referring to. I was acknowledging the outside perceptions of it, not necessarily our approach or our mentality regarding it.

Q: We've seen Ben Roethlisberger make some uncharacteristic mistakes in the red zone this season. Is there something you can point to as to why that has been the case?

MT: Obviously, Ben is the quarterback and there's certain responsibilities that come with the position, but protection of the ball is an 11-man job. We, as a unit, are striving to do better in those areas and I acknowledged that we need to.

Q: What have you seen from Tom Brady on film this year? His numbers seem to be a bit down from previous years.

MT: You know, he's Tom Brady, man. He's capable of controlling and dominating the game, obviously, and he needs no endorsement from me. The minutia of specifically what's on tape is probably less significant than his capabilities and impact on play.

Q: Rob Gronkowski has had some success against your teams in the past. What have you seen from him this season?

MT: He's a dangerous man. He's Gronk. He's a vertical matchup. He's a big-time play-maker. He's good with the ball in his hands after the catch. He's a big-time competitor. It is a serious job to work to minimize his impact on the game.

Q: Does it seem like there's been more drama than usual surrounding your team this year?

MT: No, not from my perspective.

Q: With the Le'Veon Bell situation and some of the comments from your quarterback, does it seem like there's just been more off-field drama than usual?

MT: I don't have that perception; no.

Q: Is that just normal for a football team to be dealing with some of these things?

MT: It is in our market and for us; yes.

Q: In regards to Rob Gronkowski's dominant performance against you last year, do you have to remind your team to not let him take over the game again this year?

MT: I think that goes without saying, obviously. Those that were a part of us understand that. Those that weren't care less. We better be concerned about preparing ourselves to minimize his impact and do what it is that we need to do to be successful this time around.

Q: How are you able to develop receivers so well into your system from the draft, in contrast to some of the struggles that New England has had over the years with finding and developing young talent?

MT: We're not doing anything special. We identify traits and talents that we like in all of our positions and try to get good people who happen to be good players and then foster growth and development in them. I'm not going to pretend like we're any different than any other organization from that perspective. 

Q: What has allowed JuJu Smith-Schuster to make a significant leap forward this season?

MT: He's able to work in practice every day. He's taken advantage of those opportunities. He played a lot last year and I think just that experience of that lap around the track, getting exposure that playing provides you is a springboard for improvement in Year 2. I think it's reasonable to expect those guys to grow and grow in big ways in Year 2 after having the type of experience JuJu had in Year 1. Not that I'm surprised by it, but it's somewhat expected.

Q: Do you have any update on James Conner and whether you expect to have him available on Sunday?

MT: I don't. We haven't done any physical work yet today so that remains to be seen what today looks like.

Q: How anxious are you guys to end this three-game losing streak?

MT: We don't even approach it from that perspective. All of the games that have been played are in the books. There's nothing that we can do about it. It's nothing that we can do about the three that we lost. It's nothing that we can do about the five or six before that that we won. We are what we are. We have an opportunity this week and that's our mentality and focus.

Q: Do you miss Le'Veon Bell this season?

MT: No.

Q: How did you not let that situation derail the season or tear the locker room apart?

MT: From OTA 1, he wasn't a part of us. It's not something that this group of men have missed. It's a part of business, unfortunately, at this level. We all know and understand it. We've been focused on the people that have been here and working.

Q: How have you seen Jaylen Samuels develop this year?

MT: It's been a steady improvement and I think his play of late particularly reflects that.

Q: What are his strengths that he brings to your club?

MT: He's just working in all areas to be the type of player that we need him to be, obviously, which is a complete one. He's got that type of focus and he's a sharp, young man so it's not unreasonable to expect improvement in all areas.

Q: What have you seen from the Patriots struggling run defense of late?

MT: I wouldn't describe it that way. They do what it is they need to do. You can't stop all things all the time. They're a formidable bunch. They've got veteran players. They've got really good schematics. They're a tough nut to crack.

Q: Do you feel like you have your backs against the wall a little bit this week?

MT: I just think that's perception based, man. Hopefully, everybody has that mentality every week.

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