Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin met the media today for his weekly press conference in preparation for their Monday night game against San Francisco 49ers. The hot topic was of course the one game suspension of linebacker James Harrison that was announced this morning following his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Tomlin also addressed the injury status of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker LaMarr Woodley, defensive end Ziggy Hood, safety Troy Polamalu, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, wide receiver Arnaz Battle and linebacker Chris Carter.
You can listen to the audio of the press conference below and I will be adding more talking points shortly.[audio:http://www.steelersdepot.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/mike-tomlin-week-15-49ers-press-conference.mp3]
Tomlin opened by announcing the one game suspension of James Harrison and said that they will accept it, but they are disappointed and disappointed for Harrison, because they know how hard he has worked to play with the rules. Tomlin says he has worked extremely hard to adjust his game. Tomlin said unfortunately the incident happened, it was a penalty, and we have to be accountable for that, he has to be accountable for that. Tomlin said we accept the decision of the league office and we will move forward. Tomlin said that Harrison will be allowed back in the building next Tuesday. He imagines Harrison will appeal and that the process will move along quickly. The team will prepare as if Harrison will not play Monday night. Tomlin said, “We will move forward, James will move forward.”
As far as injuries go, Tomlin said linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) could be characterized as questionable with his hamstring strain right now. The same can be said about safety Troy Polamalu (hamstring) with his hamstring injury and they will see where the week takes them with his participation. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) and center Maurkice Pouncey (ankle) are both dealing with their ankle sprains per Tomlin and they both have worked tirelessly to get themselves back into playing shape. He will see where the week takes both of them, but characterized both as questionable right now. Tomlin says he is optimistic about the availability of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot/knee) but of course they will let the week guide them with him. Defensive end Ziggy Hood (groin) appears to be recovering nicely from his right groin strain and they expect him to participate. The same can be said for linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) and of course considering the suspension of Harrison, it would benefit them having him Monday night according to Tomlin.
As far as the 49ers go this week, Tomlin said they are a very balanced team. Very capable team of running the football and stopping the run per Tomlin. Tomlin called running back Frank Gore a great player and that he has been for a number of years. He says quarterback Alex Smith has done an awesome job this season. Tomlin noted that they are doing a good job at not turning the ball over while their defense has been good at forcing them. The 49ers have only turned the ball over 10 times this season while the defense has taken it away 31 times.
Defensively they are fun to watch on tape if you like defense said Tomlin. He said linebacker Patrick Willis is a special player and arguable the best in the world at what he does. Says linebacker Navorro Bowman is underrated. Aldon Smith is tough to deal with schematically. Tomlin said the 49ers are not a good team, they are a great team.
The standard is still the standard despite injuries and suspension and said that if the team enjoys challenges, they have one this week in the 49ers. Tomlin refused to say if Lawrence Timmons or Jason Worilds would play at right outside linebacker should Woodley not be able to play this week.
Tomlin refused to speculate about an appeal for Harrison and said he does not know what he process is or who he would be appealing to and so-forth. Tomlin said it was a foul and that a quarterback that has just released a pass is defenseless. He said again, it\’s a foul. Tomlin said he hit him, he hit him illegally and he has to suffer the consequences. Based on what the league lays out, Tomlin said he is a repeat defender and both Harrison and the team have to suffer the consequences.
Tomlin said all three quarterbacks are an option if Roethlisberger goes into this game less than 100% and they will get all the quarterbacks ready this week. Tomlin said if Roethlisberger is going to play Monday night, he is going to have top practice at some point this week. Everyone needs physical reps as he put it. Right now they are just trying to get him as healthy as they can. Tomlin says if he is healthy enough to play he will play. When asked if playoff scenarios play into the decision this week Tomlin said, “I don\’t play that game.”
Tomlin said he has talked briefly to Harrison today and that he is an emotional guy who likes playing football and unfortunately that is being taken away from him for a week.
Tomlin likes what Jim Harbaugh has brought to the 49ers and he tips his hat to them and the 49ers organization. Tomlin said the 49ers game against the Arizona Cardinals this past works as an advantage both ways. He says he and his brother are both 10-3.
As far as the play of Chris Kemoeatu and his penalties this season, Tomlin said he is playing illegally and getting penalized. He needs to either change or improve his technique or he will not be given an opportunity to play going forward. Tomlin did not say if Trai Essex would start over Kemoeatu at left guard if Doug Legursky is forced to play center this week should Pouncey sit.
More talking points on the way shortly.