Mike Tomlin Wants You to Keep Talking About the Steelers Age

Maybe you’ve heard, but there is a belief out there that the Steelers defense is getting up there in age (and at certain positions, they are … but they also have some young depth behind them as well, particularly on the defensive line).

Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about this multiple times at his first press conference of the season on Tuesday, and with each and every question seemed to grow more and more irritated.

He finally suggested the discussion motivates the old guys, saying “Keep talking about how old they are. That makes my job easier.”

So there.

– On a semi-related topic, the health of outside linebacker James Harrison was discussed briefly with Tomlin joking that the former defensive player of the year was “sandbagging” the media with the talk about his ailing back. Later, Tomlin was asked if second-year outside linebacker Jason Worilds would be an option to take a few snaps in Harrison’s place, or if middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons would swing outside as he’s done in the past. He said that Worilds has definitely improved and him seeing the field a bit more is an option, as is moving Timmons outside if needed, and that all options would be explored.

He also added that he expects “James to be James” on Sunday.

– Near the end of the press conference somebody asked Tomlin how this season compared to the start of last season when the Steelers were going to be without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games of the season. The easy answer would have been to say something along the lines of, we have our franchise quarterback for the season opener this year, but Tomlin instead went with, “I haven’t really thought about last season.”

– Tomlin expects the Ravens to be a “salty” bunch.

– The Ravens have quite a few new starters this year, particularly both starting cornerbacks (Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith. Combined they have one NFL start) which inspired Tomlin to suggest the Ravens know more about the Steelers (whose roster has pretty much been set since the beginning of camp, with 20 of 22 starters returning) coming into this game than the Steelers know about the Ravens.

– Tomlin “understands and acknowledges” that the Steelers are “going into a lions den on Sunday.”

That reminds me of the great quote from Brian Billick way back in the day:

“When you go into a lion’s den, you don’t tiptoe in. You carry a spear. You go in screaming like a banshee and say, ‘Where’s the son of a bitch?’ “

Hopefully the Steelers bring the spear on Sunday.

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  • Hoffstra323

    Age is only a number, I agree with that but you have to look at a few other things. The steelers will be able to keep some elder statesmen because they are all about family and I’m sure it will be hard for some of those guys to walk away from that team.

    risk vs reward. older players have to realize that they may not draw the big money offers that they used to. guys will be sacrificing there bodies for less money, and also less playing time. However I love the idea of cam heyward and zig hood being future starters with guys like keisel and smith to back them up. provided those guys can stay healthy and be willing to take pay cuts in the future the offer should be there for them to stick around. the steelers have drafted there ends of the future so all they need is capable backups, and they already have them. I know we need a DT but that is another matter. One thing the steelers usually do is draft the best man available when it comes time for them to make picks. This is how the process should be done, Its just good business. This is the correct way to phase out older players.

    What position a guy plays and how he plays are also a big part of this. James farrior can continue to play the game for a few more years easily. provided he is taken out on 3rd downs for pass coverage i see no reason why not. that also provides a nice opportunity for a slow transition for a guy like sly sylvester. Ike Taylor could also be around for almost another decade. another example would be charles woodson, now i know he’s not a steeler but he makes for a good comparison. If someone was to ask you right now who would you rather have Ike or Woodson, I am guessing that most people take Woodson. I would take Ike hands down, here is why. He may be the fastest corner in the league, and at thirty-one thats impressive. He never misses time due to injury and is a shutdown corner with great size. He is also a huge bargain compared to Woodson. Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story. Charles woodson was a superstar at Michigan. He got drafted by the Raiders and played there for a long time. If you look at his numbers you would say that he did not live up to his hype, then at the age of 30 he becomes a superstar once again for greenbay? I know I have digressed from my point a bit but I guess what I am trying to say is that you cant always judge a guy by his stats. A shut down corner is a shut down corner, and I think Ike is more of a true shutdown corner than Woodson. Greenbay has done an excellent job of moving him around in order to get the best out of him. The truth is that Woodson is fragile, and Ike is as solid as ever, even minus a thumb. troy Polamalu is unfortunately a guy who will not last as long. Even If he does survive the season without injury I would be surprised if the Steelers lock him up for more than three years. Football has taken its toll on his body and he has sustained too many injuries. As soon as he slows down even a little bit, which may already be happening his game will take a huge hit. Troy is a gambler, and a good one, and when he does make mistakes he can often make up for them with his ability. when he can no longer do this Troy will no longer be troy. Then there will be no point in keeping him around, because what he brings to the table cannot be taught. Perhaps I should have mentioned big snack, he can continue to clog up the middle for quite a while, provided he wants to.
    One final note. Brett Kiesel out runs Lamar Woodley to the endzone last year if there is no one in front of him on his interception/touchdown against the bucs.

  • Randy Steele

    The best time to be an old football player is the first game of the year. Look out, Baltimore.

  • Drobviousso

    Well with Smith, the average age is 31.5, which is historically old. With Hood instead,they are 30.5, which is only top 10 in NFL history. (Dr obvious from his phone

    • Cols714

      And Heyward in for Keisel, Sylvester in for Farrior and I’m sure the age drops even more…

      • http://profiles.google.com/drobviousso Casey Kretschman

        True.  I am making no normative statement here, only pointing out that the reporter’s questions weren’t totally off base.  If you found out the Steelers were historic in any particular dimension, and your job was to churn out stories about the Steelers, you’d probably ask too.

  • countertorque

    FO did a historical study in their book this year and it shows that most of the oldest defenses in history were very good.  It’s been awhile since I read it now, so I won’t try to quote any numbers.  But, it helped to put my mind at ease.

  • Rob D

    I don’t think a single one of our old guys on defense are over the hill..as in unable to pull their weight. Aaron Smith might bear some watching, I guess but Hamp, Farrior, Pola and Clark, Ike, Keisel the Diesel,Harrison ..they can still play at a high level. Some of them are still arguably amongst the best at their position in the entrie NFL.

    Then you add in Woodley,Timmons Ziggy, Worilds, the blossoming McClendon, Heyward, Sylvester, K. Lewis, Mundy (who looks like he’s getting it finally) PLUS the two promising talents in Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. I know some of them aren’t going to contribute much if the vets stay healthly but I really like our depth and the athleticism of our draft picks.

    I also think Carnell Lake is going to make much the same difference in our defensive backfield as Sean Kugler did last year with our O-line (he did a masterful job after our two starting T went down IMO..backup guys were ready to play)

  • GlennW

    The concern with older players is not so much that they can’t still play (as evidenced by the previous season’s performance), but that they’re more likely to be injured and less likely to promptly recover/return from injury.  That’s recently been a legitimate concern with Smith, Polamalu and now perhaps even with Harrison.  Nothing much you can really do about it except cross your fingers, but it is a factor.  Everyone breaks down, eventually.  And if a few veteran players break down all at once, a sudden “unexpected” collapse can occur.  Hell, that happened with this same defensive group in the 2009 season.