TOMLIN ON TITANS
Coach Mike Tomlin takes a look at this week’s opponent – the Tennessee Titans:
Q. How did your team handle the short week of preparation before this game against the Titans?
A. Thankfully, it’s not anything new for us. We’ve probably played in as many of these Thursday night games as anybody over the past 5-6 years. We adjust our plan, our preparation is more mental than physical. Our goal is to come into the stadium mentally prepared and fresh physically.
Q. Does the short week affect the substitution patterns?
A. Potentially, but we feel we have a highly conditioned team. We’re going to keep an eye on some of the younger guys, of course, and some of the heavy-lifting positions, such as Rashard Mendenhall, who will be the primary ball carrier tonight. But largely, we’re just going to snap the ball and play.
Q. Rashard Mendenhall seemed to ignite the Steelers offense against the Eagles. Do you agree?
A. There’s no denying that, but he’s a talented player. He’s got a unique skill-set in that he’s both powerful and fast. He can run inside and outside, and he’s a viable receiver. It’s good to have him back.
Q. In a similar way, did James Harrison’s return ignite the defense?
A. James is one of those guys who can inspire a group of men on his presence alone. He has that type of play demeanor and reputation, and it’s well-deserved. There’s no question he was a shot in the arm to our defense. I look forward to him producing more plays to go along with it.
Q. What can the coaching staff do to limit the holding penalties?
A. Nothing, really. Sometimes penalties are a function of working hard and not necessarily smart. Hopefully over time as we progress through this journey that is the regular season we’ll get smarter. I know that we’re going to have to if we plan on continuing to win.
Q. Does the offensive line feel better about itself after not allowing any sacks against the Eagles?
A. I don’t think this group lacks for self confidence, regardless of circumstance, but that’s the nature of this game. We have some guys who believe in what they’re capable of, guys like Maurkice Pouncey and Willie Colon and others. They had a good game and are looking to build upon it against the Titans.
Q. Did Jason Worilds take a step forward in your mind based on the way he played against the Eagles?
A. If you really look at it, he played a lot of football for us last year. If you look at the combined time missed by LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison in 2011, (Worilds) was the primary guy to fill those voids. This isn’t his first rodeo by any stretch. He has played a lot of ball for us, and we expect him to be a critical component of how we play.
Q. Is there anything misleading about the Titans’ 1-4 record on the season?
A. For us, they’re 1-1 at home and we’re 0-2 on the road. It’s pretty clear for us. We have yet to step away from Heinz Field and win, and the last time the Titans played at LP Field they won against a team that made the playoffs last season – the Detroit Lions. That’s the reality of it as we see it. Records aside, this is a big game for us as it is for them, and we look forward to giving our very best.
Q. The Titans quarterback situation is somewhat fluid due to the injury to Jake Locker’s non-throwing shoulder. What do you see from his replacement – Matt Hasselbeck?
A. Thankfully, we see someone who is familiar. He started against us last year. We have that reference, but by the same token he has that reference with us as well. He’s a veteran guy who is good above the neck and makes quick decisions. He determines when or if he gets hit, like a lot of veterans do. We’re going to have our hands full in trying to pressure him and affect how he plays. That’s the cat-and-mouse that is football.
Q. Titans running back Chris Johnson has a long run of only 19 yards so far this season. What have you seen from him on tape?
A. No matter how hard the sledding is, or the lack of success he has had to this point, every time the ball is snapped he has an opportunity to right it. We felt like we were doing a nice job of holding him down a few years ago at this same venue, and he went 85 yards on one play against us. Thankfully, it was called back by a penalty. That’s the type of thing this guy is capable of and that’s why we respect him. That’s why, regardless of whether they’re in rhythm so far this year, we better do a good job of being where we’re supposed to be tonight.
Q. Wide receiver Nate Washington has a 19.6 yard average per catch. How would you assess him?
A. That’s always been Nate. He’s big play capable, not only because he’s fast but also because he’s fluid. He has deceptive speed and gait. He can run up on you before you realize it and has been doing it for some time in this league.
Q. You have referred to tight end Jared Cook as a matchup problem. How do you defend him?
A. We’re going to put a variety of people on him. We’re going to start primarily with safeties, but obviously there might be situations and circumstances when we have linebackers on him. When we do that, it’s going to be Lawrence Timmons. That’s the special skill-set that he has. He’s not you normal linebacker in terms of coverage ability, but make no mistake, guys with Cook’s skill-set are a problem in the NFL. Big tight ends who have vertical speed and play like wide receivers are changing the game of football.