Following on the heels of Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert on Sunday, it was the turn of Mike Tomlin to talk with the media at the owners meeting on Monday, discussing a wide range of topics ranging from notable player departures to recent free agent additions.
But while the Steelers head coach appeared reluctant to talk too negatively about names like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, he was far from encouraging when the subject turned to Artie Burns. As per Teresa Varley of Steelers.com, when asked if it was a little disappointing that the young cornerback seems to perform well in practice but struggles during a game, Tomlin left no doubt that that he was unhappy with the level of production he was getting from Burns on game day.
“Not a little bit disappointed. Disappointed. Certainly. Having the ability to carry those talents into a stadium kind of defines us, or inability to do so, so certainly.”
And if Burns is to get another opportunity to prove his worth in the NFL with Pittsburgh, it appears that he might need to be more concerned about keeping his roster spot right now, rather than worrying about who will be the starter opposite Joe Haden in 2019.
“You know, that’s what this process is about. It’s not about giving him another chance. It’s about putting together the very best group that we can put out there, and if that includes giving him another chance, then certainly, but it’s not per se specifically about giving him quote-unquote another chance.”
Rather than be drawn into the ongoing saga about Ben Roethlisberger and his leadership abilities, Tomlin put the onus on everyone to improve this season, including himself.
“I don’t think he was void of leadership skills or talents. I think he’s more than capable as a quarterback. I think he’s more than capable as a leader. But do I expect growth and development? Certainly. I expect growth and development from all of us based on the experiences that we’re a part of. And I expect growth and development from myself from a leadership standpoint based on the experiences that we have, so that’s not unreasonable.”
And although the Steelers coach would not go into the details surrounding the breakdown in the relationship with Brown, he did reiterate a point he has made in the past when discussing team personnel - a desire for players who want to be in Pittsburgh.
“I don’t have a lot of the intimate details about his [AB] wants and desires. Probably not fair for me to express that. I know he has expressed that. I have just taken the position that we have from an organizational standpoint. I have been really consistent with it. I was consistent with it addressing it at the end of the year. We can’t do this with hostages. We need volunteers. And we need players, good guys who want to be here. If guys can’t check those boxes, it’s probably best for all parties involved that we go our separate ways.
“That is the only thing appropriate to be said about that circumstance and Le’Veon Bell’s circumstances. I think it’s been highly chronicled and too chronicled. I think some things have been said that may or may not be true. All I know is neither one of those guys are members of our team anymore, so I understand that. I understand what that means. We focus our energy on those who are and their readiness and preparation.
“I think that relationships run their course and the fact that neither one of them are here speaks to that. But I’ll also say we’ve got good players on our team, and no disrespect to those guys or what they’ve been able to do over the course of their careers, particularly in Pittsburgh, but we had a Pro Bowl wideout on our team who’s still on our team from last year. We had a Pro Bowl running back last year who was on our team who’s still on our team. So we’ve got good players, we’ve got good quality players specifically at those positions. Will we need additional plays from other people, certainly, but you have that discussion and make those statements year-in and year-out, and we do.”
Tomlin would go on to speak at length about his hopes for JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington in 2019, as well as the team’s plans for the vacant spot at right tackle. A job that will seemingly go to the winner of an open battle between Matt Feiler, Chukwuma Okorafor and Jerald Hawkins, judging from his remarks.
A transcript of his interview can be found here, with some additional remarks about the changes to the coaching staff and the recent free agent signings broadcast in a sit down interview with Missi Matthews that can be viewed here.