WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin chatted with reporters for almost an hour Tuesday at an AFC coaches breakfast. What follows is his take on a number of subjects, including the AFC North, Todd Haley and the Steelers’ running backs.
Q: Is the offense, and how it will look under Todd Haley, coming more into focus?
A: It is. It’s been fun. He is very flexible and very sound in his approach. We’ve had awesome discussions in terms of building it, but as I always say, and it will be the case, we are going to build our attack around the strengths of our men. Ben Roethlisberger is a talented guy. We have talented receivers. We have an interesting group of running back prospects. We are putting together an offensive line. We are laying down the fundamental bases of how we are going to approach what is going to be good for us, regardless of circumstances. I really think some of the personality things, some of the things that will capture people’s attentions, have yet to be discovered because of roles and so forth. We are having fun. We’ve had some good discussions. He has really brought some awesome ideas and approaches to the group.
Q: What made Todd Haley the right person for this job?
A: First and foremost, I’ve always respected him as an offensive-minded football coach and play caller. I had the opportunity to compete against him, not only since I’ve been here in Pittsburgh but even as far back as coming into the league when I was a secondary coach and he was a wide receiver coach, and we were in the same division. I was in Tampa Bay, and he was in Chicago. We go back as far as 2001 in that regard. The most significant thing for me was when I started the process of visiting with him. The first time we sat down in Mobile, Alabama, his genuine love for Pittsburgh, the way he embraces the standard that is the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s something you can’t quantify. That’s an intangible that is going to help us, when somebody legitimately understands and embraces what comes with being a part of our organization. I think it’s a leg up. I saw some of those same things with Carnell Lake a year ago. I am always going to be attracted to that, because this is a unique place. I want men who embrace the legacy.
Q: What are your thoughts on the AFC North?
A: I take a great deal of pride in being in what we believe is the toughest division in football. I think the way the defenses play represent that. There is some young exciting offensive talent in our division. The quarterback and receiver, of course, in Cincinnati making a lot of noise. But I think each year we’ve all got a lot to prove. There’s some familiarity there. I think we’ve got some stability within our division with coaches that have been around for awhile. It makes it exciting, it makes it competitive, I think it makes it great for our fans.
Q: Do you have an update on running backs coach Kirby Wilson (Note: Wilson, who was severely burned in a fire in early January was released from the hospital over a week ago)?
A: I think progress is good. We are of course excited about it. He is attacking the rehabilitation. He is an extremely tough guy, an extremely blessed guy and we are excited about getting him back at some point.
Q: With Rashard Mendenhall likely to open the season on the PUP list, are you looking for anyone to emerge at running back?
A: The great thing about it is that I like all the men. When given the opportunity, they’ve all shown that they are capable of being reasons why we win, and not guys that we win in spite of. Isaac Redman has proven that he is a legitimate NFL running back. He is not an unknown commodity. Jonathan Dwyer has been in our program for a number of years now. He had a 100-yard game a year ago. We all are excited about Baron Batch. We saw him in Latrobe a year ago. He’s a young guy who hasn’t done it inside stadiums in a regular season setting, and he is coming off an injury, but we saw enough there in terms of his competitive spirit and skills. John Clay got an opportunity and all he did was score the first time he touched the ball in the NFL. He needs to embrace that it’s not going to be that easy moving forward.
– Scott Brown