Steelers HC Mike Tomlin conference call (11.27.19)

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin:

On the absence of Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey heading into a matchup with the Browns:

“Maurkice is a significant player and leader for us, but I think we are more than capable. We have the benefit of having (Steelers C) B.J. Finney, who is a veteran, multi-positional backup who has been called on a lot over the years to play center and guard. He is more than capable.”


On how to keep his team focused on the game and not let emotions from last game carry over to this week:

“We keep it moving. That incident is in our rearview mirror. We focus on this challenge, this week and the things that are going to be going on in this stadium and this game. We will play and play to win, and part of playing to win is playing smart so it requires not a lot of conversation from us.”


On positives of Steelers QB Devlin Hodges:
“He has done a good job of protecting the football and not affecting us negatively in that way. It is OK to punt from time to time so that is an accent in this juncture.”


On his comment about the Steelers relishing opportunities in high-intensity moments and games:

“I thought I was pretty clear yesterday, we are excited about being in these type of games. It is what competitors crave, and we have a lot of respect for it. We like to show that respect by performing and obviously, as we sit here today are preparing for that.”


On what the Steelers need to improve against the Browns:
“We have to take care of the ball better.”


On Steelers S Minkah Fitzpatrick’s impact in the first game and if the addition of RB Kareem Hunt affected where Fitzpatrick was on the field:

“Not at all. Some of the stuff, they did that when (Texans RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.) was there so schematically, it is nothing new so it did not change us structurally. Minkah has a been a positive contributor to our efforts in a lot of ways, more than just the turnovers. He is just the same professional, good communicator and been a real good addition.”


On if he will ask NFL officials to be on high alert for physical hits from the Browns, given the fines from the previous game:

“No, I won’t.”


On the majority of the Steelers’ sacks coming at home:

“It really has a lot to do with game circumstances – sometimes when you have the lead and the crowd noise becomes a factor and teams get one dimensional. We get quality effort from a lot of men that produces the total that you mentioned.”


On the Steelers consistently remaining competitive each year despite adversity:

“There is no secret sauce. That is our job. Football is our game. Our job is to win. Circumstances don’t matter. People don’t care about our problems or they are glad we have them. That is the approach that we take.”


On if he sensed an awakening of the Browns-Steelers rivalry in the previous matchup:

“I don’t really think that it was dead.”


On the expected playoff-type atmosphere this weekend and confidence Steelers QB Devlin Hodges has the mental makeup to perform well:

“I don’t know that he does. I think particularly when a guy’s résumé is as short as his, he is writing that script with opportunities such as this. I would just be seeking comfort if I was trying to convince myself otherwise.”


On what Steelers RB Benny Snell Jr. can provide, particularly if Steelers RB James Conner is unable to play:

“[We’ll take a running back unit] approach. (Steelers RB) Jaylen Samuels is a senior member, outside of James Conner. Benny is really just coming back from injury. He had a good performance last week, but much like Duck, his résumé is so short in terms of exposure. He is kind of writing that with each and every opportunity.”


On Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster’s status:

“We haven’t practiced yet today.”


On if there is an indication on whether or not Smith-Schuster will be able to play on Sunday:

“I don’t. I don’t want to speculate. I just [will wait] on the participation report.”


On if he approaches coaching this game like it is an elimination game, particularly as it relates to QB play and potentially making an in-game substitution at QB:

“I am always trying to cross those bridges as I come to it. Really, at this juncture of the week, I am thinking about preparing, the significant matchups and things of that nature. Maybe I will delve into that at the latter portion of the week, but I haven’t given it a lot of thought into it right now.”


On the Browns defensive front, given the absence of DE Myles Garrett:

“They have a bunch of quality players. They are a strong unit. That hasn’t changes. It is just an opportunity for other capable men to step up. I was really impressed with the run game presence of (DT Sheldon) Richardson last week with Miami for example. They have many capable men over there.”


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