Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin addresses the media during his conference call on Wednesday, November 26, 2008.
Q: You guys know the Patriots well, can you talk about playing the Patriots up here this week?
MT: It's a big game for us. They're a good team. We're both in playoff contention. It's that time year, we look forward to it.
Q: What are your impressions of what Matt Cassel has done the last two weeks?
MT: IT's been impressive. He's thrown the ball for over 400 yards, he seems to be administering the offense well. He's including a lot of people, throwing the ball to a bunch of folks and doing a nice job of it.
Q: Do you game plan the same way now as you did last year when [Tom] Brady was at the trigger?
MT: Every year is different. We're making decisions, in terms of game planning, off of what we've seen from those guys this year on tape and it's impressive.
Q: How about what your quarterback has done the last couple of weeks? He's had a shoulder problem but he seems to have managed it well the last couple of games.
MT: The big thing for us, and for him [Ben Roethlisberger], is that we've taken care of the ball the last couple of weeks and that's why we've been successful. If we are going to be successful up there it needs to be the same this week.
Q: What do you think when you see the point totals the Patriots have allowed the last two weeks?
MT: That's kind of the story of the National Football League it appears at this point this year. There was more points scored this weekend, I think, than in the history of the game. I think it's more a sign of the times than anything.
Q: Not with your team though...
MT: That work is behind us. We've got big challenges that lie ahead this week. They are a potent offense and they are capable of ringing up the scoreboard as evident with what they've done here recently so we've got a lot of work ahead of us.
Q: You're obviously known as a team that likes to bring a lot of pressure in different ways with Dick LeBeau's system, how have you seen Matt Cassel handle that pressure in the last couple of weeks?
MT: He's handled it very well. He's making quick decisions. He's getting the ball out of his hands. Their use of the screen game is exceptional [and] I think that combats a lot of the pressure packages. He's doing a nice job.
Q: To that point what do you think of Kevin Faulk as one of the most versatile players in the league?
MT: Kevin doesn't need my endorsement. This guy does everything extremely well. He runs it. He catches it. He blocks. He's a special player.
Q: What have you seen from Jerod Mayo so far?
MT: He's very, very fast, very physical, he runs around [and] makes a bunch of plays for them. He's not playing like a rookie by any stretch, based on what we've seen on tape.
Q: When you look at what the Patriots present offensively who is a greater threat, is it Randy Moss or Wes Welker in their passing game?
MT: They can both beat you and that's really how we're looking at them right now. Of course they do it in different ways but they're equally as dangerous and [they are] two guys that we have to prepare to contend with.
Q: Are you surprised that a team would single cover Randy Moss?
MT: No, nothing surprises me in the National Football League anymore.
Q: What goes through your mind when a player on your team pretty much guarantees a win?
MT: That's old news. Let's talk about what's going on this week.
Q: That happened this week...
MT: Not to my knowledge.
Q: It was reported in a paper that the same player did the same thing this week.
MT: I hadn't heard that.
Q: Mike can you talk about these two teams getting together at this stage of the season and the significance of it. Do you place any extra value on the fact that these two teams are again making playoff pushes?
MT: It's all the same for us. We all get 16 opportunities to state our case for the playoffs. It [has] added significance because the playoff picture becomes clearer this time of year, but we take these things one at a time. This is a big game because it's the one that we play this week. We acknowledge that we're playing a great football team, so that's what makes it exciting.
Q: What kind of lesson can you take from last year's game?
MT: They're a different team than they were a year ago. We're a different team than we were a year ago. We just focus on what's going on here in '08.
Q: How has Ben Roethlisberger evolved as a leader on the team?
MT: He's a veteran football player. He's comfortable in his shoes, he knows he's a big component of what we do and how we play football and he's comfortable with that.
Q: How much progress has Santonio Holmes made?
MT: He's progressing nicely. I think more importantly than what you see inside stadiums is that he is coming to work every day and working extremely hard, practicing extremely hard and I think those are key ingredients to being a consistent player, one that we need.
Q: Bill Belichick brought up the comparison between Troy Polamalu and Rodney Harrison. From your perspective do you think there are a lot of similarities there?
MT: I've noticed both guys play with a great deal of passion and people feed off of the way they play the game. I don't know Rodney personally but at least that's the way it appears on tape. From being around Troy on a day-to-day basis I can see that's the case here.
Q: The running game has been such a strength of yours but you've had some injuries, how much has that compromised your offense?
MT: It hasn't. If we are going to be good we have to be capable of winning games in a lot of ways - running it, throwing it - and if we are going to be a complete offense, a complete team, we have to be able to do that. Ultimately it's about winning and losing for us.
Q: How is Mewelde Moore different from Willie Parker?
MT: Mewelde is a guy that maybe doesn't have the standout physical characteristics that Willie has, in terms of straight-line speed but Mewelde does a lot of things well. He can run it. He can catch it. He's a pretty good blitz pick up guy. He's been a pretty good addition to us, most importantly because he's a good teammate.
Q: Can you talk about getting Heath Miller back in your lineup?
MT: It's good to have Heath back. I think that Matt Spaeth did a good job when he was down but everybody's aware of what Heath brings. He's a good in-line blocker and he's a good pass receiver. He's a good all around tight end and teammate.
Q: Can you talk about James Harrison and what he's meant for this defense?
MT: James is a guy that plays with an edge. He's a passionate player. He doesn't make mistakes. He's been productive for us. He challenges his teammates in the groups and I think he's the catalyst for what we do.
Q: If you're going to be defending a blade of grass is he the guy that you want to be holding that blade?
MT: I'll tell you we've got a few of those guys but no doubt he'd be among them.
Q: What do you think is the commonality between the Patriots and the Steelers in terms of their ability to turn it on late in the season?
MT: I think consistency, good teams. Doing it in different ways but ultimately that's what this thing comes down to is being where you're supposed to be and seeing what you're supposed to see and making plays to close out football games. They've done it better than anyone over that time span.
Q: How's the offensive line for Ben Roethlisberger now? It's come a long way since last season.
MT: We're a work in progress. We acknowledge that we're not perfect. We're growing and developing. We've got some new guys in that position that are having to step up for us. They've done a good job thus far but they've got a big test this week, particularly with those three men across the front in New England.
Q: I know the Patriots gave up a lot of points last weekend but it seemed to us that Vince Wilfork played a pretty good game last week. Have you looked at that tape, what did you like about what he did?
MT: I'm not going to get into the business of evaluating his performance. I'll say that those guys are very good football players. Not only him but [Richard] Seymour and [Ty] Warren - those guys are capable of controlling the line of scrimmage and we have a great deal of respect for them. We've got a lot of work to do if we are going to get those guys blocked.
Q: I know you said you don't want to evaluate Vince Wilfork, so can you just talk about the importance of a nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme?
MT: I think more than anything those guys need to be disruptive. They need to occupy multiple blockers and maintain the line of scrimmage and gap control. That's the basis of where it begins when you talk about describing the guys who play those positions.
Q: Are those guys sometimes tougher to find because there's not that many human beings that are that size with that agility on the planet?
MT: They are getting increasingly tough to find. That's why most of the people that have got a good one, they've found them in the first round of drafts.