On Tuesday, head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to the Pittsburgh media in his regularly-scheduled press conference. After outlining player injuries and their upcoming opponent, Tomlin took questions from those in attendance. One of the issues Tomlin addressed was the increased number of in-season trades going on in the NFL compared to past years.
“I can’t speak for the National Football League or what’s going on globally,” Tomlin stated. “I know that we’re not major players in that market.”
Although Tomlin may not feel that they have been major players in trading during the season, one of the most highly coveted players early in the 2019 season was safety Minkah Fitzpatrick who the Steelers acquired following Week 2. The Steelers uncharacteristically went after Fitzpatrick, trading away a first-round draft pick. The Steelers have not traded a first-round pick to where they no longer had a selection in the first round since 1968. So the Steelers being players for Fitzpatrick was definitely a break from the norm.
Coach Tomlin went on to explain why some players on the trading block caught their attention over others.
“When we are (in the market),” Tomlin continued, “it’s because probably we have coveted that particular player in the draft. So we had a level of comfort about who they are as football-men but also who they are as people and had a certain level of comfort with that. That’s probably been the instance with us, that we felt like we’ve done the work even prior to the trade discussion because most of those instances we look hard in at those men prior to the draft in which they came out.”
While Tomlin downplayed the Steelers involvement in the trade market this year, he acknowledged what many had noticed about the players the Steelers acquired in 2019. Both Mikah Fitzpatrick and tight end Nick Vannett were players the Steelers spent considerable time evaluating prior to their respective drafts.
As for getting new players acclimated who have been acquired during the season, Coach Tomlin responded to a question about dealing with team chemistry when new players arrive at the facility.
“I think that we’re developing in those ways particularly when you start talking about new components,” Tomlin answered. “Whether it’s Nick (Vannett) on the offensive side of the ball or Minkah (Fitzpatrick) on defense, just to get to know the communication, both formal and informal, which comes with knowing people and having shared experiences. I think were very much in development that way, but so are a lot of people.”
Ironically, there were two NFL trades completed on Tuesday after Coach Tomlin‘s press conference. Both franchises who acquired new wide receivers are teams the Steelers have already faced in 2019. The New England Patriots acquired wide receiver Mohamed Sanu from the Atlanta Falcons while the San Francisco 49ers were able to trade for former Steeler Emmanuel Sanders from the Denver Broncos.
Coach Tomlin talked about how the Steelers look at other trades when they happen around the league.
“It was mentioned that there’s some trades going on in today’s game, so it’s competitively fair from that standpoint. We don’t worry about it. We don’t look to hide behind it.”
Tomlin finished up his statement coming back to how the Steelers handle acclimating their new players.
“We understand that this is a collective effort and there’s a component of this that is intangible,” Tomlin continued. “And that closeness, and that relationship, that understanding is an element of it that produces victory. So we’re working at it. But we acknowledge that it is still in development in some instances.”
When it comes to Mikah Fitzpatrick, he seemed to get acclimated with the Steelers fairly quickly but yet is constantly improving. In his four games with the Steelers, Fitzpatrick has an interception, three passes defensed, a force fumble, and 21 tackles. As for Vannett, he only has three catches for 33 yards in his three games with the Steelers, but has proved to be a valuable asset as he has logged over 100 offensive snaps.
On Monday night, Fitzpatrick will get the chance to face off against his former team at Heinz Field in prime time. While many fans believe Fitzpatrick has already made an enormous difference with the Steelers’ defense, an extra week to work with his new team could mean even more of an impact.
“A week like last week allowed us to take a step back and teach (Fitzpatrick) some more global things,” Tomlin added. “To look at things outside his helmet and how he can be a part of that process.”