Other Tomlin observations:
The Saints have talked about research they have done about pitfalls Super Bowl winning teams have faced. I’m sure you’ve done the same and had some guys in your organization who had done it before, but no matter what, what are some of the pitfalls you encounter that preparation couldn’t have prepared you for?
“I think we’re all off the mark. Repeating is not what’s difficult, just winning is difficult. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve done it the year before or not. There are 32 teams vying for the World Championship and it’s a difficult journey. You kind of start anew. I think the level of expectations kind of change, but my experience was that we were simply trying to walk the journey to win a world championship and become world champions. I’m sure New Orleans is and it’s tough doing it. The fact that you’re defending champs, probably is an issue from those on the outside, but just walking the journey itself is a difficult one.”
I know you and Darren Sharper had some history. Have the two of you talked this week? I know he’s kind of outspoken guy sometimes, especially with his former teammates and best friends. Have the two of you talked?
“Darren and I have known each other so long that talking is irrelevant. I hosted him on his recruiting trip when he was 17 when he came to visit William & Mary. I was 19 or so. We’ve been friends since we were kids. This is just business. This is what we do.”
What were your impressions of 17 year old Darren Sharper?
“He was more talented than the rest of us. He had no business on William & Mary’s football team. His career’s beared that out.”
For teams that have had past success and have been successful year in and year out, how much can that success end up playing against them? Is there something that jumps to your mind of what’s going on here and why you’re not doing it like before?
“No. I don’t believe it hurts you. I believe it helps you. I truly believe that. I think past success puts belief in yourself, belief in one another in the midst of adversity. There’s no such thing as a football season without adversity. All teams go through it. Your ability to navigate it and respond to it and ultimately push through it is what’s going to determine your levels of success. I think past success, all that does is increase the probability of that happening. I don’t see it as a negative thing.”
I don’t know how much you got the see the Saints offense last year, but they were very successful. How different are they this year. What is the difference if there is one?
“I didn’t see much of those guys at all last year, so I probably can’t make an accurate comparison between the two.”
Can you talk about Mike Wallace. Are you surprised at how he’s blossomed and how you’re using him in the offense now?
“He is a detail guy. He’s a hard working guy. He’s a humble guy and he has a great deal of talent and I think that’s a good recipe for a young guy getting better and improving and he’s done that. He’s capable of more, but we like where he is. This guy comes to work every day. I think this guy has the desire to be a great player. Equally important or more important than that, he does the things on a day to day basis to try to make it a reality. He’s not a finished product, but we like his approach to pursuing it and along the way he’s helping us win.”
Darren Sharper’s only played in one game this year. Have you gone back to look at film on him last year and what do you think he means to that defense?
“I saw the highlights of last year. You touch as many balls as he did in significant games and score touchdowns not only what it does for your team in terms of the scoreboard, but from a mentality standpoint, just watching highlights and so forth from that defense a year ago, they took on the opportunistic personality that Darren Sharper has always had since I’ve known him. That’s what good players are capable of doing. They make the ones around them better and they see him. Darren has always been opportunist and optimistic as a player.”
I know that the Steelers organization has set its own bar and set it pretty high. With that being the case, did Ben Roethlisberger have to do things with the Steelers and the teammates to re-establish himself, separate from what the league and people in New Orleans and coast to coast wanted out of him?
“Certainly, there was a level of what we wanted looking forward and moving forward. That required some actions, an approach, mentality. He’s met all of those requirements and continues to.”
Last year, Hines Ward kind of spoke out.. Maybe if you’re a player like Hines Ward you get more leeway than someone else, but were you surprised he said that and did that give any indications about Ben and his leadership and status within the Steeler locker room?
“We deal in honesty. That’s the way to approach one another. You’re not legitimately close unless you can tell someone the truth as they see it and I preface that by as you see it. There’s nothing wrong with communicating even if it’s somewhat critical. We have to peel back the layers, if we want to be as good as we’re capable of being and truly coming together. Hines is about winning, always has been, always will be. If he said anything it was done with that in mind.”
Do you have any good Darren Sharper stories for us?
“I’ll take them to the grave. Because I would expect him to do the same.”
What do you expect the Superdome to be like in Halloween for a matchup between the last two defending Super Bowl champs?
“I expect it to be a playoff-like atmosphere. I do recognize how that city has gotten behind their football team and rightfully so. We’re excited about coming down there into that environment and that challenge. If you’re a competitor, it’s a challenge that we seek. We’re just excited about the opportunity. Is it going to be difficult? Absolutely, but that’s what you sign up for in the National Football League. We’re genuinely excited”
You mentioned how it was a separate journey each year. Last year at any point was there a point where things weren’t going so well, where you were able to reference the Super Bowl journey and talk about what you had done right the year before that you could draw on from that standpoint?
“I personally try not to do that. I make a conscious effort not to. Each season starts anew. I think that when you talk about the past and things of that nature you start assuming and assuming is a dangerous thing. Each year’s a new group, although many of the faces are familiar. Nothing stays the same. Roles change. There are new people added to the mix and so forth. It’s probably prudent to just address issues that are just relevant to the present.”
I assume you’ve watched the last two Saints games on film. What was the difference between Drew Brees and the offense in the Tampa Bay game and the last game?
“Not much to be quite honest with you. Of course they turned the ball over some and when you turn the ball over you increase your chances of losing. They’re a potent group. Drew uses all his eligible. His play action pass game, his misdirection pass game, his quick game. He has a complete game. At times when you do those things, the ball is going to get turned over for one reason or another. That’s football. That’s why people have the amount of interest they do in these games week in and week out, because anything can happen. What happened last week isn’t a measure of what that team’s going to be. I’m sure that the more distance they put between last weekend and the present will become a distance memory. They’re that good. They’re a talented group.”
You guys have a defense a lot of teams would like to emulate. From your perspective what do you think of Gregg Williams’ defense?
“He has a personality. I think his defense to a degree takes on his personality. That’s coaching. They’re attacking. They get after people. They pressure the quarterback. They create opportunities for themselves and they play with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm and as a coach, that’s what you’re always looking for. Coach Williams has done a great job down there, but quite frankly he’s kind of done a great job wherever he’s been. His reputation precedes him. He needs no endorsement from me.”
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said on Wednesday he expects the Saints defense to put a lot of pressure on him during Sunday night's game.
Asked about the season that followed the Steelers' Super Bowl championship victory, the quarterback said, "Our team was worn down and beaten up after the Super Bowl."
As for the Saints' 4-3 record, Roethisberger said, "Any team can beat any other team on Sunday in the NFL."
Now that you’ve been back for a little while. How are you feeling? Are you in the proverbial midseason form?
“I don’t know. Maybe the bruises on my body are midseason form. I’ve always tried to strive to get better, even later in the year. Things are coming along. We still have a ways to go but (I’m) trying to make progress every week.”
You and your teammates have been in the Saints’ position every week as defending world champions. Can you talk about getting the best shots of other teams every week? Did you guys face that coming off your championships
“Yes, you definitely do. A lot of people want to beat the champs. That just goes along with the territory. You’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Everyone wants to get you. A lot of your games are primetime. I don’t think you’d trade it for the championship, but it’s something you have to be prepared for. It’s never an easy thing.”
Did you guys have a hard time getting your groove back and into the swing of things after that title run?
“A lot of the hard part about it is your off time is so short. You play so longer than anyone else, the time to heal, rest, get your body right…A lot of times after championships, there’s a lot of turnover on teams. Other players get a chance to go to other places. There’s a lot of expectations on you. You kind of put the pressure on yourself just as much as anyone else does.”
When you reflect on the slumps you guys had after your titles, are you able to pinpoint things that happened internally in addition to getting the best shots of people from other teams?
“Those things were a while ago. I think a lot of it was feeling worn down and feeling beaten up. The added pressure of trying to do a repeat.”
Are you not necessarily surprised the Saints aren’t having an up and down early season?
“It’s early. They’re a great football team, one of the best in the league. They have some really great players and coaches and everything. I don’t think it’s time to panic if I’m a Saints fan.”
Is there also something to that with the balance of the NFL, the bounce of a ball might go your way one year and might not the next?
“Absolutely. Coach (Terry) Hoeppner. My college coach said is that no matter how great a football team is, there’s still an element of luck involved. Whether a ball is going into the end zone, hits and bounces out or hits and bounces in, or do you get one or two feet in. Little things like that sometimes make a difference in one game or one play that could be the turning point in a game.”
Can you talk about the year Mike Wallace is having and how he benefits you as an outlet?
“Mike’s a great player. He’s come a long way from just being a guy who runs down the field really fast. He’s running great routes. His role has evolved on this team. You just see him growing every day.”
Did he recommit himself or something he did in the offseason that indicated he’d have this kind of year?
“when you say recommit, I’d look and say he was doing something wrong initially. He’s just growing. Last year you have to remember was his rookie year. It’s hard for a lot of rookies to contribute right away. He used the talent that God gave him which is to run really fast. That was his number one trick as coach (Mike) Tomlin says. He still has it, but we’re moving him around. He’s running different and better routes. He’s growing as a football player.”
What are your impressions of the Saints defense?
“So afar and I have a lot more film work to do on it because of the complexities of the things they do, but they are a great defense. They do so many things and they pressure the quarterback. The number one thing I noticed is pressuring the quarterback.”
A lot of people flipped out here this weekend because the Saints lost to the Browns. What is your take on that given your familiarity with the Browns?
“This league, in my opinion I don’t think you can ever go into a game and say there’s a guaranteed win, because the NFL’s completely different. It’s truly any given Sunday. Any team can win anywhere any Sunday. The line, the favorites, all that stuff, I think you have to throw it out the window, whether it’s the bounce of the ball, a team showing up to play, another team not, who knows what it is? Any team can win any Sunday in this league.”
Did you feel you needed to re-establish yourself as a leader in Pittsburgh after your suspension as well as your public image?
“I don’t think I needed to do too much in the locker room because of the relationships I had with the guys and they all knew and know me. It’s just the perception of people who don’t know, who think they know things, so I think our relationship is so strong in this locker room. That’s what I think is so special, the relationship we all have and the friendship and brotherhood.”
What do you think Halloween night in New Orleans will be like?
“It’s going to be crazy. This will be my first game down there.. I’ve heard so many things. Put Halloween on top and Sunday Night Football on top of that. The moon’s going to out. It’s going to be electric I believe.”
What are some of the words some friends of yours have used to describe the environment in the Superdome?
“Loud, amazing, electric, just things you kind of fear as another quarterback knowing it’s going to be very loud and that there’s going to be a lot of fans. It’s going to be fun to see. I couldn’t tell you, I wasn’t here, the last time the Steelers played in New Orleans. So, I would expect there to be a lot of Steeler fans there.”
It’s not only two good teams, but it’s the last two Super Bowl champions. Does this add any element to the game?
“I forgot about that until you said it since it’s been so long since we’ve done that. People will the next couple days find every single way to add to this game, whether it’s the quarterbacks, coaches, both young coaches. Who knows? They’ll find every little element. Really it boils down to the Steelers vs. the Saints. I think it’s going to be a great game.”
By Ed Staton