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5 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin after the Steelers’ limited contact practice Saturday

Coach Tomlin answered questions from the media following the Steelers’ eighth practice.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers-Training Camp Photo: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ eighth training camp practice on Saturday, head coach Mike Tomlin briefly took questions from the media. While not dressing in full pads following the physical practice of Friday night lights, Coach Tomlin was still asked questions about specific players as well as some open ended questions based on position groups. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but more so about how Tomlin answered the questions.

Ben Roethlisberger

After sitting out of practice Friday night, it was a surprise to see Ben Roethlisberger not participating for the second straight day. With 15 years in the NFL on his resume, it isn’t necessary for Roethlisberger to constantly practice this early in the preseason. In fact, it would be quite the surprise if Big Ben was in pads for either on the Steelers first two preseason games.

Coach Tomlin was asked about Roethlisberger missing two straight practices and if he was dealing with any sort of injury.

“Nah, we’re just creating more opportunities for guys like Mason and Josh, particularly with that 2-minute drill we did today. We’ve seen Ben in enough 2 minutes and he’s going to have an opportunity. But particularly when we push into preseason football, the guys that could be in position to execute Week 1 of the preseason or Week 2 of the preseason are the guys that need the reps.”

Anthony Chickillo

It’s odd for the Pittsburgh media to ask abut a player who did not practice due to injury and not mention his current status. Regardless, Anthony Chickillo was brought up to Mike Tomlin after practice. Chickillo has been one of the biggest beneficiaries from T.J. Watt’s injury with him being with the first-team defense most of the time he takes the practice field.

Coach Tomlin was asked about if he has seen an improvement in Chickillo after he underwent a medical procedure on this foot earlier this offseason.

“I don’t want to make too much out of it. He’s highly conditioned, he’s worked really hard, he’s in great shape, and I attribute any rise in production or activity to that.”

Tomlin was asked a follow up question about the benefit of Chickillo getting a lot of reps with the first team defense.

“Big time. I think all these guys are searching for that and all will have the opportunity to get it at some point I’m sure.”

Derrek Thomas

There is not a lot of information out of camp about the newest Pittburgh Steeler signed Thursday after practice. Derrek Thomas apparently had an impressive interception Friday night in his first action in black and gold. The undrafted rookie cornerback out of Baylor is 6’ 3” 200lbs. so his size alone will have him stand out among the cornerbacks.

Coach Tomlin was asked if he had looked at anything specific about Thomas going into the draft and if he’s impressed with his size.

“I did not. Man, he’s an impressive looking dude, isn’t he? He looks the part. He made a play or two. We’ll just keep infusing him into the process. You've got to tip your cap to guys who get on the moving train and play catch-up. We work hard to create an environment that gives them an opportunity to do so, but it’s a daunting task nonetheless.”

Vance McDonald

To say the depth of the tight end position for the Steelers is a concern is a bit of an understatement. With Xavier Grimble sidelined Saturday with an undisclosed injury, the depth chart gets even shakier. While Vance McDonald continues to shine, he has not been a stellar example of health for the Steelers throughout his first two seasons with the team.

Coach Tomlin was asked about his thoughts on the tight end group and if anyone has stuck out to this point.

“Again, (it’s) early in the process. I like Vance McDonald, but you guys know that.”

JuJu Smith-Schuster

It’s no surprise to Steelers fans that JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the most beloved players in training camp. Between pulling in passes, signing autographs which turn into tattoos, and helping with gender reveal‘s, JuJu’s attitude and youthful enthusiasm is contagious. On Saturday, he even had a special guest join him for training camp: his dog Boujee.

After Coach Tomlin surprisingly answered an open ended question about a particular position group, he was asked about his young receiving corp and if anyone is standing out.

“Again, I like JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was a pretty good catch down in the corner, wasn’t it? We like the pool of guys we’re working with. Some of their resume’s may be short, but we like the pool of guys. We like the trajectory of the group, and we look forward to those guys being big-time contributors to our efforts.”

Mike Tomlin’s full media session can be seen here: