The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered their third straight defeat of the 2020 season on Monday as they failed to lock up the AFC North division. Less than 13 hours after his post-game press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was back for his usual Tuesday time with the media. 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.
With Bud Dupree out for the season, Alex Highsmith has been called into more action than expected in his rookie year. Coach Tomlin was asked about his impressions of Highsmith so far this season.
“I’ve been pleased with his efforts and his contributions and maturation through this process. There’s valuable experience to be gained through the snaps he has acquired, but also, he has been a productive player for us. It’s reasonable to expect that to continue.”
Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, & Josh Dobbs
One player who was the source of many questions was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Coach Tomlin was asked a question about when he will know if Roethlisberger has hit the cliff at the end of a quarterback’s career.
“That’s not something that I am anticipating so I don’t know that I am sitting around waiting on it. I guess we will cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question about getting Roethlisberger more involved in practice earlier in the week. In his response, Tomlin brought up the other quarterbacks getting prep time.
“We’ve taken the practice approach with him for a number of years now in terms of the long-term preservation of his physical skills, particularly over the course of a season. That is nothing new for us. One man’s misfortune or lack of use is another man’s opportunity. Those are great opportunity for growth and development for guys like Mason Rudolph and Joshua Dobbs. That’s always been our approach. The train does not stop whether he is participating in practice or not. It doesn’t change the trajectory of our practice or the focus, particularly on a Wednesday as we lay some of the foundational things of our plan, some of the high-volume things that it is that we do. He has a 17-plus year body of work that he can call upon in this system that makes some of that stuff a more fluid endeavor. We believe we are providing what is best for all parties involved with that approach, but I’m not opposed to changing it if the circumstances dictate it. Like I mentioned, we will always have a hardcore plan, but I think it’s important that we’re open to altering that plan based off current circumstances, if needed.”
Coach Tomlin was asked another follow up question about if he evaluates Roethlisberger like he does every other player.
“Man, we evaluate everything and everyone at all times and that includes myself. If you’re not in the critical evaluation of performance continually, you’re not trying to get better, and that is something that we are continually trying to do.”
One of several players who had a rough game was starting left tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Coach Tomlin was asked about if he is concerned with Villanueva’s play and if they have options to give him help.
“It was concerning yesterday. I don’t know that it has been a pattern. Part of that has to do with the quality of play that Lawson has been providing them. I talked about him at the top of the week being the catalyst for that front, and he proved it. He played well, and they played well because of it”
Benny Snell Jr. & James Conner
One bright spot on Monday night was the effort given by running back Benny Snell. Coach Tomlin was asked about if he might ride the hot hand in Snell even if James Conner returns.
“We’ll ponder those possibilities. You have to admit, Benny was an awesome element of play for us in the last game where we didn’t have a lot of awesome elements of play. His efforts were appreciated, so I’m sure he will have an opportunity to be impactful in this one regardless of James’s availability.”
Eric Ebron & Derek Watt
Two players who did not finish the game Monday night were fullback Derek Watt with a concussion and tight end Eric Ebron with a back injury. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was any update on either player.
“It really is too soon. I didn’t mention them because I don’t have a lot of information there. I know that both guys are being evaluated. Derek Watt for a concussion, Eric Ebron for a back injury of some kind. Hopefully I will have an update for you sooner rather than later, but I don’t as we sit here today.”
One story which has been in the limelight a lot over the past week is JuJu Smith-Schuster’s pre-game videos. Coach Tomlin was asked if he plans to speak to Smith-Schuster about the situation.
“I am aware of it and I do plan to talk to JuJu, but we are professionals. I doubt any of those antics and things of that nature are legitimate motivating factors as you step into professional stadiums, but it is about respect. We’ll have a conversation, but I understand it is about the quality of play inside the white lines. I’m not seeking comfort or looking for excuses based on our recent performances on things that occur pregame or things of that nature that are social media related.”
For a full recap of Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: