It’s back by popular demand! The return of looking at the players mentioned in Mike Tomlin’s press conferences carries on as the team prepares for fully padded practices starting on Monday. As is usually the case, these players are not always ones Tomlin brought up himself but are specifically players about whom Tomlin was asked questions. This week, Tomlin took some liberties to bring up players in response to some general questions.
One of the new additions to the Steelers roster via free agency in 2020 is new fullback Derek Watt. Coach Tomlin was asked about his expertise on special teams and what he could bring to the offense this coming season.
“I think we are in the process of discovering that as we familiarize ourselves with him and his skillsets and the things he does well. The known aspect of his game that was really attractive to us was his high-level of productivity on special teams. I think he and Tyler (Matakevich) led the NFL in special teams tackles a year ago. And because we had an opportunity to play against his team last year, we also were very respectful of his functional fullback skills. But some of the off-the-beaten-path things, some of the additional things, we are going to learn about him along the way.”
The Steelers offensive line has been a unit discussed often during the 2020 offseason as more than half of the starters are now over the age of 30. Coach Tomlin was asked about having veterans on the offensive and he took the time to specifically mention Matt Feiler as he is transitioning back to guard after starting all but one game at tackle in 2019.
“Particularly in this environment, I think continuity is an asset. Offensive line, it probably gives you an advantage in some of the unforeseen things that you could see in stadiums at the early portions of the season that you don’t have a lot of video evidence of. That shared past experience that those guys have has a potential to be an asset to them, no doubt. But we are also going through some transition there. Looking exclusively at Matt Feiler at left guard. He has also been apart of us, but he has been playing right tackle.”
Steven Nelson & Joe Haden
In Steven Nelson’s interview on Tuesday, he stated he wants to be recognized as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and feels he is underrated. When asked about this, Coach Tomlin stated he likes Nelson having an edge and discussed the pairing of him and Joe Haden in the secondary.
“I certainly like a guy that has an edge, a guy that’ll do whatever it takes to find that edge. That feels like a comfortable place for Steve (Nelson) in terms of being overlooked for his quality of play and his consistency of play. Those are the two things I really value about him. I told him the other day his presence has been an enjoyable experience for me and us. He’s low maintenance. He’s very consistent. He’s highly professional. He just checks a lot of boxes. That tandem of he and Joe Haden are one of the central reasons why we’re excited about the potential of that back-end group. Obviously, we have to come together and get to work. Those two guys and that level of consistency in terms of their day-to-day approach to preparation and ultimately their play is really attractive to a guy in my position.”
James Washington & Diontae Johnson
The final question asked of Mike Tomlin on Thursday was in regards to players coming to camp with somewhat of a body transformation as they enter their second year in the NFL. Even though the question was centered around running back Benny Snell Jr., Coach Tomlin chose to give examples from the receiving corps both last year and this year when discussing the issue.
“I think not only running backs, and this is a legitimate discussion that you mentioned because of the guys that you mentioned. I think it happens across all positions. I think that continual discussion that we have about the difference between Year 1 and Year 2, you’re speculating in Year 1. In Year 2 you know what’s required of you, not only in the short term but just the overall journey itself—the level of conditioning required. We talked quite a bit a year ago about the transformation of James Washington’s body with that knowledge and understanding, for example. I believe you guys will see a significant physical difference in Diontae Johnson, since we’re talking about receivers, along those lines this year. I think you could look at any position and see growth and development in terms of understanding between Year 1 and Year 2 in terms of appropriate actions taken because of it, whether it’s guys adding bulk and strength for the long term fight or whether it’s guys getting lean and fighting professional tendencies, professional rhythms in terms of diets and nutrition. There’s a lot of reasons why those bodies transform, but it has to do a lot with knowledge as opposed to speculating.”
A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here with a link to the entire interview on YouTube:
Tomlin: "It's been a good week. The overall conditioning of the group, they are continuing to display good preparedness in that area. The rest of it is just teaching & learning, and I like the attitudes that everyone is bringing in regards to that."— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) August 13, 2020
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