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Conference calls: Pittsburgh Steelers


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are preparing to face an up-and-coming Texans team.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the Houston media on Wednesday via conference call about their upcoming matchup at Heinz Field against the Texans.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin

(on what RB Rashard Mendenhall and WR Limas Sweed bring to the table) "You can't deny their pedigree. Both guys are very talented young men. Specifically, Mendenhall has great vision. He has pretty good feet. He's got a nice combination of agility and power. Sweed, of course, is a big guy and is capable of making big guy plays, but both guys are works in progress. We were able to acquire those guys and add them to our offense. We're blessed because we don't need immediate contributions from those guys. How much they are able to factor into this weekend is to be determined, but we know that in the long term we have two good guys in those two."

(on how tough it is to have to play without G Alan Faneca) "It's part of today's NFL, truth be known. That's part of it. We always try to keep our eyes fixed on what's ahead and where we are. We appreciated what Alan did for us when he was here. Not only was he a great player, but a great leader. Time moves on, and so should we."

(on what he is concerned about the most going into this game against the Texans) "I really respect what they (Texans) have up front defensively. They've got three top-quality first-rounders there and guys that have come into their own. (DE) Mario Williams looks like the freak of nature that he is. He looks like a guy who was worthy of the first pick in the draft. (LB) DeMeco Ryans, of course, is the guy in the middle that does a lot of stuff for them. Offensively, you've got to be concerned about (WR) Andre Johnson, who is capable of taking the top off the coverage, as they say in this business. (He's) a very talented guy, multiple Pro Bowls, a solid veteran player. (RB) Ahman Green has a reputation and a resume that shows you what he is capable of. They're a very solid football team. I think they're a team on the rise. I think they've got great continuity from the top on down in terms of (Texans general manager) Rick Smith and coach (Gary) Kubiak and their relationship. They're a team on the rise, and we acknowledge that. We understand that we've got our work cut out for us this week preparing for them. Just, hopefully, they are not a team on the rise this weekend."

(on if it is harder preparing for Houston not knowing what the running back situation is going to be like) "No, because a lot has been written and said about (assistant head) coach (Alex) Gibbs and what he brings to the table regardless of who is the ball carrier. You know that they have the opportunity to run the ball effectively if your not where you're supposed to be and on your screws and details defensively. His track record speaks to that, and we don't expect things to change. All of those guys are professional, capable runners. We've got to be prepared to stop them."

(on how he assesses RB Rashard Mendenhall's performance) "He's shown us flashes of what he's capable of being. Quite frankly, I don't mind him getting a lot of publicity for those fumbles because we can't have them. Ball security is at a premium. I think in terms of being a tough team to beat, you've got to put that at the top of the priority list. He understands that. We're excited about where he is, but at the same time, we understand that he's going through a process that all rookies go through, and it's a learning experience for him."

(on how tough or easy it was to go into Pittsburgh and just fit right in and continue traditions of leading the league in average time of possessions) "You know, really, it was quite easy. In hindsight, that's probably one of the reasons that the Rooney's felt that I was the man for the job. I was schooled and brought up in this business under the leadership of Tony Dungy, who got his start as a player and coach here in Pittsburgh. So, some of the philosophical beliefs that I had about football came from him, which in turn, came from here, so it was a natural fit. Really one that I was unaware of or really consciously aware of during the interview process. It's been fun. In terms of the defenses, I'm one of the few people who are fortunate enough to say that I am probably a part of two of the prevailing schemes in the NFL here in the last 20 years or so. I enjoy that. If you love football, you've got to enjoy that. Working with Tony Dungy, Monte Kiffin, Dick LeBeau, and guys like that, it's been awesome."

(on how he ranks QB Matt Schaub and WR Andre Johnson in terms of as a duo in the league) "I think their best ball is ahead of them. We're talking about two guys that are just establishing some continuity. Both guys are coming into their own and their becoming veteran players and they've played some. (WR) Andre Johnson had 850 yards receiving last year, and he missed seven football games. I think that says it all in terms of what he is capable of. (QB) Matt Schaub, if you had to describe him in one word, it's efficient. He doesn't get sacked a bunch. He takes care of the ball. They converted 3rd downs last year at 44.6 or so percent. They're very efficient and explosive. That's why they concern us."

(on if he wishes he had DE Mario Williams) "Absolutely. The thing about talented people like him is that they can beat you in so many ways. I've gone back and forth all week on trying to decide if he is an athletic guy who happens to be powerful of if he is a power player that happens to be athletic. The reality of it is that he's both. That's what makes him so dangerous. That's what makes him the quality player that he is."

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

(on the additions of WR Limas Sweed and RB Rashard Mendenhall to their offense) "Well, the nice thing about what we have on offense is it takes the pressure off (WR) Limas (Sweed) and (RB) Rashard (Mendenhall) because there's no pressure for them to start this year. A lot of teams, when they go out and draft players, they need them to come in right away and contribute and help out. We don't need that right away so we can kind of let them grow and mature and learn this offense without being thrown in the fire."

(on how he improves on the season he had last year) "Well, it was improved from the year before, that everyone made a big deal about. But for me, the individual accolades don't mean nearly as much as the team stuff. So, we fell short offensively and as a team, so it's things we have to improve on."

(on why it's so important for the Steelers to go out and control the clock) "Well I think it boosts the offenses confidence and it demoralized the defense when you can just run on a team and use up clock. It gives your defense a time to rest and wears down their defense and gets their offense out of rhythm. So, I think it does a lot of different things."

(on what stands out about the Texans' defense) "A lot of things. I think the biggest thing for me is their speed, all over the field. From up front all the way to the secondary they seem to just always be flying around. It seems like a big blur when you're watching it on TV."

(on if they have to game plan for DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans) "Well, I think any time you get a phenomenal player like that you always have to be aware of where he is at. Our tackles, tight ends, backs and because he is always moving around our guards and centers have a big job this week of watching him and the rest of the defensive line and the linebackers. So, it's a challenge that my offensive line is encountering this week."

(on how tough it was to lose G Alan Faneca) "It was tough. Just because of the leadership he brought and obviously the skill level he brought to the offensive line. So, it's going to be different not seeing him out there on Sundays with us."

(on what he has seen from WR Limas Sweed so far) "Well I think he's come a long way from the OTAs when he was here and kind of his head was spinning. You know, he's shown some flashes of excellence but we all know, and I think he will be there first to tell you, he's got a ways to go."

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