The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their second straight defeat of the 2020 season on Sunday even though they earned a playoff birth. Getting back to a more regular, this means Mike Tomlin’s weekly press conference on its regularly scheduled Tuesday even though the team has an extra day before their game Monday night. While not always asked about specific players, Tomlin sometimes brings up more players in responses than ones he was specifically asked about. Remember these are players mentioned in response to specific questions during the press conference.
Kevin Dotson, Chukwuma Okorafor, James Conner & Terrell Edmunds
While Coach Tomlin generally gives a rundown of injuries before the question and answer period, he was asked about an injured player later. Coach Tomlin was asked specifically about if there is a feeling Kevin Dotson will be ready by next Monday which triggered a response about all the players he listed as injured.
“It is, but again, His availability could be compromised at the early portions of the week. That’s why I mentioned him along with the other ones— Okorafor, Edmunds, Conner. We will make all of their availability decisions based on practice and the quality of it.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question specifically about James Conner and if he noticed any effects from COVID-19 in his first game back.
“I did not, no.”
One player who was the source of many questions was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Coach Tomlin was actually asked a question about the offensive line unit but mentioned Roethlisberger in his response.
“I don’t have any concern whatsoever about our offensive line’s ability to protect for Ben. Whether it’s short passing or intermediate passing or down the field passing, pass protection has been an asset to us.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question about if they are putting too much on Roethlisberger when it comes to having a balanced offense.
“Really, we make our decisions about the mode in which we work, and that’s what you speak of. We work week-in and week-out to determine when and what that looks like. What are the advantages of it? There are a lot of variables at play. We make those decisions week-to-week based on a lot of variables— our makeup and our ability to execute the challenges of the opponent, the vulnerabilities of the opponent whether it’s operating at pace or changing people or otherwise.”
Coach Tomlin was asked another follow up question about the decision to utilize the quick passing game and if it was something they planned on going into the season or if it has just evolved that way.
“Rhythm passing has been something that has been an element of play for us for a number of years, to be honest with you. He’s good in that area. We’re good in that area. There’s very little negativity in the plays in terms of negative loss plays, sacks and so forth. That’s nothing new for us to be quite honest with you.”
Coach Tomlin was asked yet another follow up question, this time in reference to his comments during training camp in regards to Roethlisberger’s spiral. Unsurprisingly, Tomlin did his best to avoid the question.
“I struggle to remember the conversation that you mentioned, to be honest with you. We’ve had a lot of conversations and evaluations of Ben [Roethlisberger] throughout the course of the season. To be honest, I don’t remember that conversation and how it relates to the question that you asked.”
Wide receiver Diontae Johnson was benched during the first half of Sunday night’s game after he had a couple more drops. Coach Tomlin was asked about how Johnson responded after his time on the bench.
“I thought he responded appropriately. He didn’t pout. He waited for his next opportunity, and when his next opportunity came, he was productive. We will move forward.”
Some players on the Buffalo Bills said after the game that JuJu Smith-Schuster’s pre-game dance gave them a little extra motovation. Coach Tomlin was asked about Smith-Schuster’s dance on the on the Bills logo before Sunday night’s game.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. That’s the first I’ve heard of that. You know, these are professional players. These guys are motivated each and every week. Sometimes they say things in an effort to provide a vision of motivation and things of that nature. I doubt, knowing the group that coaches that team Sean McDermott, I’m sure they were motivated in all the proper ways and that had very little relevance in how that game was played.”
Over the last few weeks, Chase Claypool has seen a reduction in snaps. Coach Tomlin was asked if Claypool has hit the rookie wall at this point of the season.
“I’m not acknowledging that he has, but I’m acknowledging that there is a potential for that, and one of the ways you help a young man work through that is reduce his number of snaps, which is what you see us doing.”
In Week 14, T.J. Watt logged less snaps than Alex Highsmith. Coach Tomlin was asked if Watt has been battling an injury or if there was a method to managing his snaps.
“If you remember several weeks back when we talked about that block of games, we mentioned we were going to have an all hands on deck mentality because of the number of games that we played in a short number of days. We thought it was appropriate to play a lot of people, to roll a lot of people at all positions. Outside linebacker and T.J. Watt is not excluded from that. If you look at any of that, it’s probably a bigger theme in terms of us acknowledging that we had to play a bulk of the games in a limited number of days and in an effort to keep everybody up and function with the level of physicality and effort that was required to preform in those games. We wanted to play a lot of people. Looking back at it, we obviously didn’t have the type of success that we desired to, but that is life. Hopefully, we learn some lessons from it and move forward.”
Another player who saw an increase in snaps last week was running back Jaylen Samuels. Coach Tomlin was asked if Samuels will have a larger role moving forward or if it was a one week thing.
“We will determine that as we formulate our plan this week and look at who is available to us and what assets they provide relative to the matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, and that definitely could include him in an increased role as you mentioned.”
One of the players who stepped up into a bigger role in Sunday night’s game for the Steelers’ defense was linebacker Avery Williamson. Coach Tomlin was asked how Williamson handled the communication aspect for the Steelers.
“I can’t say enough about his work and his work to get up to speed and embracing the responsibility of being a central communicator for us. He was better. It is reasonable to expect him to continually get better with each opportunity, but I can’t say enough about his efforts in those areas.”
For a full recap of Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: