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Mike Tomlin discusses the challenges of developing the 2020 rookie class

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The Steelers head coach discussed his franchise quarterback and the players new to the team when he met virtually with the media on Thursday.

NFL: JUL 26 Steelers Training Camp Photo by Shelley Lipton/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Mike Tomlin followed Randy Fichtner’s virtual press conference yesterday with his own this morning. In the interview he covered a number of topics facing the Steelers in their abbreviated preparation for the 2020 NFL season.

First off, in spite of Randy Fichtner seeming to say Ben Roethlisberger would throw at Heinz Field yesterday, the returning star quarterback did not throw, but his backups did.

Taking a more cautious approach with the most important player on the team isn’t a bad move, even if Steelers fans are chomping at the bit to see him back on the field again. If you really want to see Roethlisberger throw, a video was released of him throwing earlier this season at Robert Morris University.

Tomlin discussed the rookie class, and the challenge of preparing them for their first NFL season.

While Tomlin is an expert at saying a lot but not telling you anything about his plans, this one stands out. The Steelers are still going to work their rookies into the mix, even though they know they will be less prepared and more raw than rookies in the past.

I think we’ll see the Steelers utilize their rookie class similar to their college ways: Take them and use them at their best and most familiar plays and let them grow from there over the course of the season.

For instance, we will likely see a reduced route tree from Chase Claypool which allows him to get on the field with a few routes he has really worked on with Ben Roethlisberger, and then add to those routes over the course of the season.

We may see Anthony McFarland Jr., but we will likely see him in situations where his role is a simple one. It’s unlikely he’ll be asked to block early on at all, and more likely he’ll be running a simple route or carrying the ball.

I doubt we’ll see Alex Highsmith outside of obvious passing situations where he can just get after the quarterback and have other players tasked with maintaining pocket integrity and being conscious of potential run threats.

It will be a bigger than normal challenge for everyone involved in this NFL season, veterans, rookies, coaches, trainers, everyone. Every team is in the same situation though, and the teams that find a way to do the most with the little time they have will be the ones that see success.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel curtain for all your Steelers news.