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Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin conference call with the New England media

Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, October 30, 2013.

Q: Your offensive line looks like a triage unit after the last game. How are they doing and do you expect to have them back before this game against the Patriots?

MT: You know, we are optimistic about the return of those guys but we have yet to practice this week. We just had a walkthrough [and] they were participants in that. We'll know later in the week as we go through our work the level of availability.

Q: How much of your defensive preparation this week focuses on Rob Gronkowski and what he brings to the Patriots offense?

MT: He is a special player. He does a lot of things for them. The vertical stuff down the field obviously, the red zone talents are what they are. He is a big component of the passing game. He has been back for a couple of weeks and I think he has been targeted 23 times. So, obviously we need to allocate some work to try and minimize his role in the game.

Q: What did you see from Aaron Dobson last week that might indicate he is getting on the same page with Tom Brady and evolving into the guy the Patriots hoped he might be?

MT: He has made a lot of plays for them over the course of the season, not only last week. He appears to be an exciting young prospect. I know he has made plays down the grass for them¬¬ and appears to be somebody they should be excited about.

Q: Looking back at your last game against Oakland, what do you look at as the one thing as to why you weren't able to pull out the win?

MT: Just not enough positive things over a 60-minute football game. I think it's easy to point to one play potentially being the difference in the game, but the reality is there were plenty of opportunities in that game in all three phases. Usually that is what happens when you come up short. You can't give up long runs, obviously you can't start off slow offensively, you can't get punts blocked, you can't miss field goals. There is a myriad of things that you can point to that could change the outcome of that football game. That's just truth.


Q:** Tell me a little bit about what you see from Devin McCourty and his evolution as an all-around defensive back with him moving from corner to safety.

MT: He is a very aware player. He's got a lot of range. That play last week on the sideline, that tells you everything you need to know about him. He is a smart and selfless player; to tip that ball back in bounds to that other DB is impressive.

Q: What is it like for you to coach a guy like Troy Polamalu? With his instinctiveness on the field, how much of what he does on the field is him free-lancing or him doing things based on his own judgment as opposed to what is called by the defense?

MT: Coaching guys like Troy, it's a pleasure and a challenge. I think that's what we all are excited about in our business is to have an opportunity to work with someone who maybe sees the game a little differently than others and it is exemplified in their play. He is a guy that's got a great deal of passion for the game and is fun to be around every day.

Q: Do you feel like you maybe miss the presence of James Harrison both on the field as a pass rusher and in the locker room?

MT: I really hadn't thought about it to be honest with you. People come and go in the NFL. That is the nature of it. We've lost a lot of significant players over the years.

Q: Despite the evolving roster changes, you have consistently had a positive turnover differential. That hasn't been the case this year, so how much has that played into the predicament you are in right now?

MT: I often times think that the turnover ratio is a good indication of record, and it is in our case. We've got to do a better job there.

Q: What's been the reason for the dearth of takeaways from your end?

MT: I think it's a lot of things. Obviously game circumstance has a lot to do with opportunities given and sometimes we're just not making those plays. We definitely need more of them.

Q: The Patriots have lost a lot of key guys on defense with Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Aqib Talib. How have they been able to adjust and get the job done as they did last week?

MT: I think they've got a lot of good players that are playing for them right now. Brandon Spikes and [Don't'a] Hightower and Chandler Jones. I mean those are highly regarded young guys that just came out in recent drafts and they're showing their worth. You couple that with the addition of the young versatile guy [Jamie] Collins from Southern [Mississippi] and I think they have a lot of good players playing right now. I think the talk about the guys that their missing is an injustice to the quality young players that they are playing with right now.

Q: Tom Brady's numbers are down across the board this year. How would you rate his play? Do you think he is still doing a good job given all the turnover they've had on offense?

MT: I'm sure he measures himself by record, and I agree with him. The big thing in the midst of all the things that maybe are going on is they are finding a way to win. That's what is most important. I'm sure it starts with him.

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