Hearing from Coach Tomlin

On teaching and learning, October, Ben

Throughout the 2010 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.

Q. You never go out of your way to praise a player who steps in for another and performs well, because you teach that the standard is the standard, and the expectation does not change. But when the students show theyíve learned the lesson doesnít that make the teacher proud?

A. Absolutely. And itís not something Iím trying to convince them of. Itís something I believe in. These guys are professional athletes, and in the big scheme of things theyíre in the minute upper percentile of people who do what it is that they do. So, what difference does it make if a guy is a front-line guy or a starter-in-waiting. Theyíre all capable men, capable of playing above the line and providing winning ball for us. Thatís something we talk about openly.

Q. Have you found that to be something you have to convince even professionals to believe?

A. Surprisingly, yes. Everyone wants a disclaimer. Everyone wants to grade on the curve. We donít live in that world. Thatís one of the things about sport in general that I love. Itís black-and-white, either you do it or you donít. Youíre successful or youíre not. You win or you lose. I try to keep it as close to that as I can in everything that we do.

Q. Youíre about to enter another phase of the schedule. How does October football differ from September football?

A. Dealing with the realities of football season, the natural adversities that the game and the journey present. Injury, and not only injuries that take people out of football games, but injuries that limit preparation. Injuries where people are limited during the week and how are they able to prepare themselves above the neck mentally and perform. The level of cohesiveness you can have in the midst of all those things. All of those things can define teams in October.

Q. Before the season started, you talked about what you liked about this particular team. One month into the season, what do you like about this particular team now?

A. Itís a lot of the same thing. I think this is a uniquely close group. This is a group that genuinely enjoys one another, and thatís immeasurable. I donít know that you can measure it, but I also know that it helps you. A month in, itís been confirmed that has helped us in some form or fashion, even though you canít measure it.

Q. Now that Ben Roethlisberger has re-joined the team, heíll be playing with and against guys whose bodies already are accustomed to the speed of regular season football. Do you have to do anything with Roethlisberger to work him up to that speed?

A. Iím not overly concerned about that, and mostly because of the position he plays. If he was a running back or a cornerback it would probably be more of an issue. There is a level of concern, but not an extraordinary level of concern.