As I prepare myself for my normal daily routine for a Tuesday, I’m a bit disheartened that I no longer have to set aside time at the twelve o’clock hour in order to catch Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin‘s weekly press conference. Since it is unlikely we will hear again from coach Tomlin until the draft, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting quotes Tomlin has given us this past season.
Since it is the first week of doing the “Throwback Tomlin Tuesday,” let’s go back to Week 1 of the 2019 season and the press conference leading up to the Steelers first game. During the question-and-answer period, coach Tomlin was asked about his thoughts on Javon Hargrave during camp and his importance to win his match ups on first down.
“I thought he had a solid performance in camp and in the preseason,” Tomlin answered. “I like how he continues to add to his portfolio. I often kid him, a nose guard is like Blockbuster Video- he better diversify. A nose doesn’t get an opportunity to play much, so he better reinvent himself as a sub-package rusher. And he’s done that over the last couple of years because of that challenge and thus he has made himself more useful to us. So it doesn’t matter whether or not he is a major component on first down or if they choose to play in that mode, he still has an opportunity to contribute to our efforts. He still has an opportunity to impact the game because of how he has developed as a sub-package rusher.”
As a follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if Hargrave has become more Netflix and less VHS.
“Certainly. And he better. Same discussion for Daniel McCullers. It’s just the evolution of roles in this game and opportunities you have to have those necessary discussions. You have to be transparent; you have to talk about the elephant in the room. Nose guards in the National Football League in 2019 better be able to do other things. Just like fullbacks. Rosie Nix was elected special teams captain. You better have other things that you are capable of doing that add value to your cause and ours.”
Coach Tomlin‘s words came to fruition during the Steelers bye week and beyond when Stephon Tuitt was put on the Reserve/Injured List with his torn pectoral muscle which required surgery. In the games leading up to its injury, Hargrave averaged 46% of the snaps in each game with only one game going over the 50% mark. In the games following Tuitt’s injury, Hargrave averaged 71.9% of the snaps per game and only fell below the 67% rate once which was in the very first game against Miami.
The reason Hargrave was able to contribute so much more after the loss of Stephon Tuitt was his ability to play defensive tackle in the Steelers subpackage schemes. By Tomlin’s standards, it appears Hargrave was able to diversify his play enough to earn him more playing time outside of just the Steelers base defense.
Unfortunately, Hargrave’s ability to play anywhere along the defensive line may find him no longer a part of the Pittsburgh Steelers moving forward as he will most likely be in demand for a greater salary than the Steelers would be willing to offer. So if Hargrave does move on from the Steelers in 2020, he has become a Blockbuster Video in regards to Pittsburgh as he would be nowhere to be seen.
While Tomlin’s analogy provided some laughs back in September, the message rings true. In order for a nose tackle to be beneficial in today’s NFL they need to be able to play anywhere along the defensive line or their number of snaps will be very limited. If Javon Hargrave does not return to the Steelers next season, it will be important for the team to not only find another nose tackle, but one that doesn’t qualify under the Blockbuster Video category.