Coach Tomlin preparing for "a big time challenge"

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin watches the fourth quarter against theLos Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field.Photo: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Mike Tomlin Conference Call with Raiders Media on Wednesday.

Q: What did you learn about Derek Carr from your time working with him at the Pro Bowl?

Coach Tomlin: “Really, Orlando, at the Pro Bowl was the first time I had the opportunity to be around Derek. I was really just impressed by him, his general football demeanor. His passion for the game was obvious. He was upbeat. We knew because he was the youngest guy in the quarterback group that he’d be in the game at the end. He just did a really good job of leading us through those circumstances and helping secure victory. Had a really good experience with him.”

Q: When you look at the Raiders offensive scheme and the advance nature of any creativity that you see from a schematic standpoint, what strikes you about their design offensively?

Coach Tomlin: “I don’t know that I’ve been looking at it in that way. Obviously with each week we’re presented with different schematic challenges. This week obviously is one of them. I think the utilization of [Jared] Cook, in particular the way he’s able to attack you in vertical spaces, is going to be a big time challenge. It has been for everybody that’s played him over the course of the year. I think he’s having an incredible season. I think the autonomy that Carr has at the line of scrimmage and the options that Coach [Jon] Gruden is always giving guys that plays quarterback for him is as challenging as anything.”

Q: Do you see this offense matches up week to week more than most in terms of the personnel groupings?

Coach Tomlin: “I think that’s always been a signature of Coach Gruden ball. He’s going to do what’s required week to week. He’s going to play the personnel game and lean on matchups. They may be different from week to week as evident when you watch the video. What those are, the significant ones will be revealed to us throughout the game and we understand that.”

Q: It seems like every week we’re talking to another coach that work with Gruden at one point. Your situation was different in that he came to a staff that was already intact. I’m curious how did he come in and get everybody on board with his way of coaching?

Coach Tomlin: “Really it wasn’t the staff that was intact. Really it was just four defensive coaches, Marty Kiffin, Rod Marinelli, Joe Barry and myself. All the other guys had been let go or gone on with Coach [Tony] Dungy. Jon has a lot of passion about football. It was obvious that he was the right man for the job. We quickly got behind him, and the rest is history. I don’t know that it was an intact staff the way that you portrayed it there.”

Q: What do you anticipate from your backfield?

Coach Tomlin: “We’re working these guys this week. We haven’t practiced yet. We’re comfortable with [Stevan] Ridley as a veteran ball carrier. A guy that’s kind of been in those circumstances at the professional level in the past. We’re encouraged by the growth and development of Jaylen [Samuels] as a young guy. Particularly in recent weeks. We’re excited about watching that develop. I think we’re going to discover that through preparation and see where the week leads us.”

Q: Where is Jaylen from a pass protection standpoint?

Coach Tomlin: “He’s been playing in those circumstances over the last several weeks. He’s above the line. We’re comfortable with him from that perspective and have been for some time now.”

Q: How has Ryan Switzer been for you since you guys acquired him?

Coach Tomlin: “He’s been a real developing asset for us. Obviously, he kind got on the moving train. As you mentioned, he spent a majority of the offseason over there, so it’s been a developing process but with each week he’s been increasingly significant. Particularly over the last several weeks, not only as a kick/punt renter, but with things on offense as well.”

Q: Darrius Heyward-Bey was a real high draft pick for the Raiders and did some good things toward the end, I don’t know if he ever ascended to the draft status, but he’s still in the league after all these years. Why is he a good guy to have on the roster?

Coach Tomlin: “It’s not about what he is capable of, although he’s got some really strong capabilities, it’s about what he’s willing to do. He’s a multi-positional guy. He’s a passionate and detailed special teams contributor for us. He plays gunner for us at a high level and has for a number of years. We appreciate what he brings, but it’s interesting, he’s a football player first and a wide receiver second. A lot of the contributions he’s had over the course of his career here has been in the area of special teams and it has been a significant one.”

Q: How do you regard special teams coach Rich Bisaccia?

Coach Tomlin: “Rich B., that’s my brother from another mother. My relationship with him is a personal and professional one. I love that guy. Professionally, I got a lot of respect for him and the job that he does and has done for an extended period of time. I think his resume speaks for itself. He’s a quality, quality football coach.”

Q: Coach Gruden says he can see him as a future head coach someday, do you see that in the NFL for Rich Bisaccia?

Coach Tomlin: “I’ve held him in that regard for a number of years. That’s not an opinion that’s developing or developed of late. I think he has been capable of that for some time. It’s just about an opportunity for him.”

Q: What about Rich [Bisaccia] makes you two guys so close?

Coach Tomlin: “We prowled some of the same ground together. He’s a good friend, he’s passionate about ball. We share some similar perspectives about the game in that way. He’s a fun guy to work with. We’ve been through good times and bad, like a lot of people that you work with. He’s one of the guys where you know what you are going to get from him, regardless of circumstance.”

Q: The coaches here have maintained that they believe in Martavis Bryant’s abilities, but it’s more about reliability and consistency for him. What do you think what Bryant needs to do to maximize his potential in the league?

Coach Tomlin: “I have no idea. I’m not involved with what’s going on with him there and I don’t know that it’s appropriate for me to have an opinion in that regard. I appreciated his efforts while he was here. He was a positive contributor to our efforts, and largely it was a really good experience. We wished him well and that sentiment remains the same.”

Q: Martavis Bryant is someone over the course of his life he’s been through a lot, what do you think about how he’s overcome a lot of that?

Coach Tomlin: “I just think he’s capable of speaking on his own behalf on some of those things. I don’t know if it’s appropriate if I have an opinion in this forum.”

Q: What have you seen in the development of JuJu [Smith-Schuster]?

Coach Tomlin: “I just think it’s the natural maturation process that young guys go through. This is his second lap around the track, so it’s reasonable to expect him to be better prepared. With knowing that, it’s easy to expect him to be more consistent in performance, which he has been. We are asking the same thing from T.J Watt, James Conner and a couple other second year guys. To be quite honest with you, we are asking the same thing from Ryan Switzer, even though it’s his first year with us, he’s been in this league before. We expect those guys to have more consistent performances, to be increasingly on the rise, not wear down in the ways that maybe rookies would wear down, etc. That’s just kind of our mantra.”

Q: What sort of leap do you think players are capable of from that rookie year to their second year?

Coach Tomlin: “It really depends on what transpired, to be honest with you. If they played a lot and they were able to maintain their health throughout the course of the journey; then it’s reasonable to expect significant gains because they were a part of the whole experience and the totality of it and the lessons learned formal or informal, within the white lines or outside the white lines. Sometimes your rookie years are marred by injury and so forth lack of availability. It’s probably less reasonable to expect some of the gains because you missed some of the experiences when you don’t play.”


Noah Strackbein
EditorNoah Strackbein
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