Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
steelers.com

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin holds his weekly press conferences every Tuesday. Each week, we will take a glimpse at what stood out from coach's comments about the previous week and heading into the Steelers next game.

Opening Statement

Good afternoon. I’ll really kind of start outlining some things regarding Ryan Shazier and his circumstance. I think I first should start with a few Thank You’s. We were dealing with some tough circumstances last night and we got extraordinary support from the people in Cincinnati. Specifically, the University of Cincinnati Medical Center staff and personnel, the Cincinnati paramedics, the Cincinnati police department went above and beyond in terms of assisting Ryan and us and dealing with the circumstances.

Myself, Art Rooney, and Kevin Colbert were given an opportunity to get over to UCMC after the game and visit with Ryan and a few of his family members and close loved ones. He is being given expert medical care. We are really pleased with the efforts of those people involved. We have our medical staff on site as well. Dr. David Okonkwo was traveling with us and has been with Ryan since the incident occurred. I really have no update in terms of his medical status other than what was released earlier.

I’d imagine at the appropriate time those that are responsible for his care will give you a reasonable assessment of where he is.

I imagine that could occur as soon as later today but from my perspective, obviously, it was a tough evening. Ryan is a trooper. Had an opportunity to spend some time with him. He’s in really good spirits. Tough guy. He’s got great support with family and loved ones there. It was painful to kind of get on that plane last night but that’s life. We realize and understand that he is in really good hands and is getting expert medical care. He also challenged us to move on with what it is we need to move to and he’s with us as well. With that being said we’ll do that. We’ll continue to provide you with insight. That’s appropriate as we get it in terms of where he is and his recovery.

Tyler [Matakevich] also got injured in the game. His shoulder is being evaluated as we speak. I don’t understand his status or availability potentially for this week. I’d imagine there are some other bumps and bruises associated with play. I’ll highlight those things as we push through the week, most of them will probably be revealed through practice participation and so forth.

Much like I talked about last night, the game of football challenges you in a lot of ways. It does whether you play or coach or what have you support personnel. It’s a trying game at times, not only in terms of the competition but just some of the things that come with ball-like life. You have an opportunity to learn about yourselves. You have an opportunity to really appreciate the efforts of others and there was a lot of that last night in the midst of some of the things we were dealing with. The guys made the necessary plays. They stuck together. They relied on one another. Obviously, it was not perfect by any stretch but the resolve of the group was very evident.

Proud of them for that. Hopefully we can learn from those experiences and utilize those experiences to strengthen us this week. Face battles that we know lie ahead and really have a big one this week in the form of AFC North Football.

The Baltimore Ravens come into our place riding a three-game win streak so we understand what that’s about. If you look at Baltimore, they’re doing it in a very impressive fashion. They’re plus-14 in the turnover ratio. They lead the National Football League in that. They’ve scored seven touchdowns this year when their offense isn’t on the field in a variety of ways. Pick-6’s, returned punts, returned kicks, they play a great brand of team football. Recent weeks they’ve run the ball extremely well. They’ve got balance. They utilize in all of their eligible. They’re making dynamic plays in the kicking game. We know the quality of the specialist that they have with [Justin] Tucker and company. They are delivering and delivering in a big way.

So, it’s December football. It’s going to be primetime division rights at stake and so forth. What else could you ask for in December football in the National Football League. We are going to prepare. Look at some division of labor things relative to some adjustments. Good thing we have a week or so in an effort to do some of those things. We will, maybe make a personnel move or two where appropriate. Hadn’t thought a lot about those things at this juncture. Really just assessing some of the things that transpired last night and really trying to make the quick transition in terms of preparation for the Ravens.

With those things being said ill open it up for questions.

How do you motivate the team after they see a teammate injured severely?

We don’t wait for something to happen to talk about those things. We talk about transitioning week-in and week-out. There’s a process that we go through in terms of preparation, play, the evaluation of that play and then we repeat the process. We are 13 or so opportunities into that cycle of preparation and play. When they come into the building tomorrow, we will reset and start anew like we always do.

Have you had to deal with an injury like this before?

I have. I’ve been in football for all my life. Unfortunately, injuries occur – serious injuries occur from time to time. They are capable of shaking you individually and collectively. I think we all probably deal with it in different ways. I think it all has to do with our personal relationships with the game of football. For me, football has been so awesome in my life. It’s blessed me in so many ways, that I have that perspective as we push through some of those difficult times.

Re: On his exchange with Ryan Shazier last night

Strangely normal. Ryan [Shazier] is a legitimate leader. He was asking about the guys – Vince [Williams] particularly. I told him about the guys. We talked about how the game unfolded. It was a normal conversation. Not only is he a mentally tough guy, but he’s a guy that is spiritually in a great place. That’s an asset that he has with his family.

Re: His reaction to Troy Aikman calling last night’s game ‘bad for football’

I’m not going to react to comments or opinions made by others. I could stand up here all day and do that. I will acknowledge that there were some unfortunate things in that game that we don’t need in our game - by both sides. My job as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers is to work hard to minimize those things that we are involved in before they occur. And we do, but they did last night in an instance or two. We will make an accounting of that and work hard to make sure that they don’t happen again.

We have a responsibility to make this game as safe as it possibly can be. It’s my responsibility, in my opinion, as someone who is highly involved in the process behind the scenes as a Competition Committee member and a guy who has been in this league for a long time. I take that responsibility personally. We’ve worked hard to improve in those areas. I think the game is safer than it’s been.

With that being said, I think we still have room for growth. That’s my approach. I also think they were some tremendous displays of competitive play and spirit last night that probably won’t get talked about as much as it should. Guys individually and collectively on both sides – digging down and preforming at a high level. I think that’s always an element of the matchup as well that doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. Guys make a lot of personal sacrifice. Guys play their guts out on both sides when those two teams come together.

Re: If James Harrison’s improving health will help with upcoming personnel moves

I haven’t got into those hypotheticals to be honest with you. I haven’t asked about anybody else’s status, from a medical standpoint, since I’ve been back from Cincinnati last night other than Ryan [Shazier] and Tyler [Matakevich].

Have you had a chance to look at the tape of JuJu Smith-Schuster’s penalized hit?

I haven’t had a chance to see the television copy. Oftentimes, particularly in HD, that provides the best-case scenario. I will stand by my statement last night, ‘His actions after the hit are more disturbing than the hit itself.’ Oftentimes, plays like that are teachable moments, and when you look at it, you have an opportunity to talk about ways that you could be safer. He’s a better sportsman than he displayed after the block. You have to acknowledge that. He has to work hard so people understand what type of man he is from a sportsmanship standpoint. That’s not something that is going to happen overnight. That is just the reality of plays like that.

What did you think of the [George] Iloka hit on Antonio Brown in the end zone?

It was a bang-bang play. Much like the JuJu [Smith-Schuster] hit, I haven’t had the opportunity to see it from a television perspective. Oftentimes, those things look a little different from the sideline than they do on HD TV. That’s why often-times, those at home or a former player, like you mentioned earlier, may have the opinions that they have. Their perspective is usually different than our in-stadium, on the sideline perception of some of those things.

Was there a play from the Bengals last night that bothered you?

I’m focused on our guys, and how they perform and the nature that they perform. Coach [Marvin] Lewis coaches that team. I have great relationship with him. I sit on the Competition Committee with him. I trust that he’s doing some of the things with his team. I don’t worry about what goes on, on their side to be honest with you.

How much doubt did you have that Antonio [Brown] would play yesterday?

He was listed as questionable. It was 50-50. He did an awesome job of trusting our medical people of taking him through the process of preparation. And ultimately going out there and playing at a high level on a limited number of physical opportunities and prep. Antonio is a guy who really finds his comfort in physical work. I don’t want to underscore what he was able to do, but we are appreciative of it.

Is Antonio ok from the hit he took in the end zone?

Yes, to my knowledge. Again, I had not asked a lot about any of our guys’ medical status other than the two I mentioned so I really do not have a definitive answer for any of those things regarding other people.

What is it about AFC North football games that make it so close to the edge?

I think it’s divisional football. We say AFC North football because that is the division we’re in but I’d imagine people in other divisions in the National Football League feel the same way about their divisional play. These are highly contested contests with teams that are highly familiar with one another from a personnel standpoint and from a schematic standpoint. The teams you mentioned have been really good teams so we all share similar goals and so forth. With scheduling and such many of these games have occurred in December on Sunday night, on Monday nights, on primetime and so forth. There is a certain element of emotion that is in play as well there also.

How much are you concerned with the physical back to back games coming up before playoffs?

I’m not. We’ve got no control over scheduling. They schedule a game, we’ll show up and play.

Re: Patriots game coming up:

I am here talking about the Baltimore Ravens. We have a big AFC North game this week.

Did Ryan or anyone ask you about his future playing football?

No, like I said. Not surprisingly he wanted to know what was going on with his brothers.

When you saw how affected Vince Williams was what did you feel your responsibility was?

I was not surprised Vince’s [Williams] response. I know how close those men are. They’re professional brothers but it goes beyond that. When you put what you put into what we do, the relationships go beyond professional. They are quite personal and they have to be if you want unique outcomes so we don’t run away from that. We embrace that. I don’t think anybody was surprised by his response. I think in a lot of ways we shared his response, just might not shared it as outwardly as he did.

With positive feedback coming back about Ryan and the statement from Kevin Colbert, did that help you at all?

I’m not looking for help. I’m focused on Ryan.

Did it make you feel better about the situation?

Again, I’m not looking to feel better for selfish reasons. My energy and prayers are focused on Ryan and his recovery.

Is it possible that he comes home today?

I’ll let the medical experts who are handling him in Cincinnati make any statements regarding his care. I just think it’s inappropriate to make such statements I’m ill-equipped to.

Did you get a chance to talk to any of his loved ones?

I talked to just about everyone. I talked to his mother and father last night when I was with him at the hospital talked to Michelle, his fiancé. I talked to everyone. And obviously they’re highly concerned but also supportive and prayerful as are we.

Did the doctors mention any similar injuries to Tommy Maddox 15 years ago?

I just think with the nature of the injury I don’t think it’s one that’s appropriate to look for comparisons. I think that they’re really working hard to get Ryan all the medical attention he needs and are guiding every I and crossing every T. I hadn’t spent a lot of time talking about comparisons or looking for comparisons in an effort to seek comfort. We just want to provide him everything we’re capable of providing he and his family.

Did you talk to him today?

I have not.





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