Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ tenth practice in Latrobe on Sunday, head coach Mike Tomlin briefly took questions from the media. Although he expanded his comments when it came to the offensive line to include additional players, Coach Tomlin was asked questions about specific players in regards to their recent play. This list isn’t to suggest these players were the only ones who stood out, but highlights how Tomlin answered the questions.
Chukwuma Okorafor & Matt Feiler
With Alejandro Villanueva unable to finish practice on Tuesday, the offensive line saw even more shifting of positions than what they originally had due to Maurkice Pouncey and Ramon Foster sitting out. While the battle for the staring right tackle job is believed to be a two-man race between front-runner Matt Feiler and second-year player Chuks Okorafor, there have been times when both players have been on the field and yet neither were at right tackle. In camp, Feiler has seen action at guard while Chuks is currently listed as the backup left tackle on the Steelers’ initial depth chart.
Coach Tomlin was asked how he would move things around on the offensive line with Feiler and Okorafor if Alejandro Villanueva is unable to play.
“We’ve got some interchangeable parts. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are vying for roles. And part of that is to make yourself versatile. We’ve got tackles playing right and left. We’ve got tackles playing guard and tackle. I think you saw Fred Johnson play guard and tackle today. Versatility is big for situations such as that and we call on guys to show what they’re capable of. It’s no different than a game day for us. Most of the time we’ve got seven or eight offensive linemen suited in a regular in-season game, so those two or three backups got to have some versatility. Someone’s got to be snap capable, they’ve got to be a guard. The tackle’s got to be versatile. Such is life in the National Football League. And opportunities like this really highlights that versatility.”
Devlin Hodges gets a shot at same circumstances as Rudolph. But working against the 2s. Completes 8 straight passes, including a nice 15-yarder to Kevin Rader. But his final pass to Diontae Spencer from the 8 doesn't get into the end zone and time runs out #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 6, 2019
The last time Devlin Hodges was brought up in Mike Tomlin’s press conference, he had yet to get an opportunity to participate in the “seven shots” drill. Since then, Hodges has seen an increase in playing time in all quarterback activities. With the nickname “Duck Dynasty,” Hodges is hoping to impress enough to carve out enough playing time in the Steelers’ preseason games to showcase his talents across the league.
Coach Tomlin was asked if Hodges had been showing him something in order to get more practice time than the typical fourth-string quarterback.
“He’s getting some opportunities. He’s going to get some opportunities I think you refer to him as a fourth arm but every man here is a man that has a legitimate opportunity. Particularly so when Ben (Roethlisberger) is the quarterback because you know there is going to be regular scheduled days off and increased opportunity for others. So we’re not taking his presence for granted, and neither is he.”
B.J. Finney & Company
During the 2019 off season, many believed it would be extremely difficult for the Steelers to keep both Ramon Foster and B.J. Finney. In a surprise move, the Steelers retained both players and Finney has returned to his role as a backup for the interior of the offensive line. Getting the occasional spot start, Finney has showed his value in stepping in wherever he is needed whithout the rest of the line missing a beat.
Coach Tomlin was asked about the the value of Finney’s versatility along the interior of the offensive line. Tomlin expanded his answer to include a large portion of the linemen.
“I think that just comes with the territory. B.J. is valued in that way, but you know you can mention a lot of guys. Matt Feiler has been playing both guard spots along with his tackle position, Fred Johnson I mentioned earlier. A lot of the tackles are rolling right and left: Hawk (Jerald Hawkins), Zach Banner, Chuks (Okorafor). Versatility is big in the offensive line. It has to be.”
Mason Rudolph leads 2-minute offense. 1:47 remaining from his own 38. One timeout. Got the ball to the 25, but clock runs out on three straight incompletions. One to James Washington. Two to Eli Rogers. Last pass broken up by Kameron Kelly #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 6, 2019
With Sean Davis just beginning his return from an injured finger, Kam Kelly has been the biggest beneficiary of the void in Davis’ playing time. While Kelly has run with the first team a lot in Davis’ absence, he was surprisingly listed as third on the depth chart at free safety behind Marcus Allen. Perhaps it is a gentle reminder Mike Tomlin puts no value in the preseason depth chart he is required to release since he typically lists the players in terms of experience.
Coach Tomlin was asked about how Kelly has jumped out at him with the extra playing time he’s been given.
“It’s due to the injury to Sean Davis. He’s getting an increased opportunity. It’s kind of what I was talking about. The thing I will say about him is he’s proven to be ready for the opportunity. He’s highly conditioned; he’s making good use of it. That’s just an example of what I was talking about when you get an opportunity to step up due to others.”
Mike Tomlin’s full media session can be seen here: