Tomlin noncommittal on personnel decisions
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Coach Mike Tomlin does not have all the answers yet, or at least he did a good job of not providing them in his first news conference of the regular season.
The Steelers, for example, traded for veteran return specialist Allen Rossum on Saturday and list him No. 1 on their depth chart on kickoff and punt returns. Yet all Tomlin would commit to is that Rossum was added "to the mix."
Tomlin said his staff will figure out who the backup center is as the week goes on, and he would not commit to Willie Colon staying at right tackle or if free safety might change.
It sounded as if the new coach wants to keep his players on their toes, especially those who may think they've arrived by winning starting jobs and/or roster spots to open the season.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we're going to have a revolving door at every position," Tomlin said. "I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that we're going to be open to the development of men even though we've moved into the month of September."
It's why rookie outside linebacker Lawrence Timmons has added another position to his repertoire, that of inside linebacker, where his future may lie.
"Lawrence is just trying to get in where he can fit in," Tomlin said of his first draft choice. "Thankfully, he's a sharp guy and he's capable of cross training positionally. He seems to be picking it up pretty well.
"We just expect him to be a good teammate and to compete for a helmet this week. If he gets one, go out and make plays regardless of what phase he's playing in, whether he gets a chance to play in the base defense, the sub-package defense or kicking game."
Tomlin also would not commit to a third-down back or a short-yardage back. They may be one and the same -- Willie Parker.
Parker said early in camp that he wanted to do both and he has had a chance to do both. The Steelers no longer have the kind of back who will blast through a line and drive tacklers back in short yardage, although Carey Davis might get a crack at doing just that.
But for the opening game Sunday in Cleveland, it's possible Parker will get his wish and stay on the field in any situation, leaving only to take a break.
"I think he's been very impressive as a guy who is capable of competing for us on third down," Tomlin said. "I think some of the running back versus linebacker drills that we had in camp were very beneficial to him. I know, personally, he's asked that those continue a little bit throughout the regular season.
"I love that about Willie. He's got desire to be a complete football player and every-down back. We're open to that because of that. Whether or not he's the third-down back or short-yardage guy really depends on what we're trying to do week to week from a game-plan standpoint. We're open to it, but we'll let those things sort themselves out as we progress."
Tomlin said he might be more apt to sub for Parker early in the season because he's not yet used to playing an entire game. Tomlin's more apt to rest him for a series here and there, especially if the coach keeps him on the field on third downs and in short yardage.
"It really depends on the circumstances of the game," Tomlin said. "What I mean is, how he's doing from a conditioning standpoint? I would imagine that he's going to be better in October than he is in September. We have an understanding about that. That's just getting your legs under you and getting in football condition, particularly for a guy who totes the football. We're going to keep and eye on that and we'll deal with that along the way."
Backup linebacker Marquis Cooper (hamstring) is the only player listed as out. Tomlin said everyone else is healthy and ready to play. ... Tomlin said he wants Santonio Holmes to concentrate on receiving and will not return punts or kickoffs. ... Tomlin said he would consider assigning cornerback Ike Taylor to cover Browns receiver Braylon Edwards no matter where he lines up.
NFL PREVIEW '07:
The Post-Gazette's Steelers writers breakdown the upcoming NFL season in a special 16-page preview section. This year's cover story takes a look the first seasons of Chuck Knoll and Bill Cowher and how they relate to rookie coach Mike Tomlin as he enters his first year with the Steelers.