In his weekly press conference on Wednesday, head coach Mike Tomlin spoke freely about the debut performance of newly acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as well as the first start for quarterback Mason Rudolph. Tomlin first offered up his thoughts on Fitzpatrick‘s time with the Steelers on Sunday where he had an interception and a forced fumble.
“I was really impressed by his ability to learn, and learn in a short period of time and to absorb the number of snaps he was able to absorb,” Tomlin stated.
Acknowledging the team aspect of the defense, Tomlin also went on to praise other defenders for adapting to a new player in such a short period of time.
“Kudos not only goes to him, but in an effort to simplify things for him we asked some additional things of others,” Tomlin continued. “For the large part we got what we needed there.”
With an extra day between games due to the Steelers playing on Monday in Week 4, Coach Tomlin hopes every any additional time in getting Fitzpatrick more acclimated with the Steelers defense will be able to help everyone in the long run.
“It will be good to get him with some additional time and for him to be able to continue to learn the depths of what we do and have a better understanding,” said Tomlin. “I think that’s not going to do anything but aid him in terms of his productivity and us collectively as he gains a footing back there, particularly working with Edmunds.”
As for the Steelers first-time starting quarterback Mason Rudolph, Tomlin indirectly addressed the offense’s slow start by pointing out improvement through the course of the game.
“I thought he warmed up as the game went on. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to be upward and onward from there.”
Coach Tomlin acknowledged the difficulties with such a young and inexperienced player making his first start while also outlining some characteristics which were pleasant to see.
“The quality of performance wasn’t always what we wanted or he wanted, but I did really like his demeanor, his communication, and his awareness in the midst of all that,” Tomlin stated. “Sometimes you get a chance to learn things about yourselves and one another in regular-season in-game action.”
One particular attribute Tomlin expanded on was Rudolph’s communication skills. Praised for his command of the huddle by some veteran offensive lineman after his first playing time in Week 2, Rudolph’s confidence in his communication appears to not be an issue moving forward.
“It was good to see that he’s a good communicator in the midst of all of those things and a really accountable guy. A guy that’s comfortable in his skin. I think that’s going to aid him in terms of getting the productivity and the consistent level of production to the direction that he needs it and we need it in an effort to be successful.”
While Coach Tomlin had praise for both of his new players, there is definitely room for growth for both of them. While Fitzpatrick made some definite splash plays on defense, there are always aspects of one’s game which can be improved over time as he becomes more familiar with his defensive teammates. As for Rudolph, hopefully the ultra conservative game plan and unwillingness to push the ball down the field in the first half of Week 3 have been left behind.
Ultimately, the key for success with both players lies with improvement, so Monday nights game against the Cincinnati Bengals will give more of a glimpse as to what Steelers’ fans can expect out of Mason and Mikah in 2019.