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 came back from an off day for a fully padded practice. 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. In fact, several players were brought up by Tomlin before he took questions as either missing practice or updating a previous injury.
Wendell Smallwood & Curtis Riley
The Steelers brought in two veteran players in Curtis Riley and Wendell Smallwood at the beginning of training camp this season. Coach Tomlin was asked about why they chose to bring in experienced players at those two positions an what he has seen from them so far.
“More than anything we were interested in increasing the level of competition in this environment, and the way that you do that is you bring as many capable men in as you can. Both of the guys that you mentioned have credible NFL resumes and they’ve proven that thus far. They’ve got a veteran-like look to them and both have been positive contributors to the days that we’re having. We look forward to continuing to get to know them and looking at ways that they can maybe carve out a niche for themselves within what we’re doing here.”
Ray-Ray McCloud was another player with NFL experience the Steelers signed this week. As a follow up question, Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw in McCloud to bring him in.
“Like we mentioned about the other two guys, Ray-Ray is a guy with credible NFL playing experience and our desire is to have the most competitive environment that we can have here. And so infusing a guy like that with a legitimate resume into the mix I think aids us in that we’ll get to know him and see what he brings to the table in terms of his skills relative to his position.”
Devin Bush spoke to the Pittsburgh media on Friday and talked about how the game has slowed down for him as he is coming into his second season. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he is looking for in Devin Bush in his second year with the Steelers.
“I’m looking for that step to be revealed in the quality and the amount of his communication, and he still has room for improvement in that regard. He’s better than he was, but as a defensive quarterback, if you will, I’m really looking for significant maturation in that area. He’s checking all the other boxes. He came in great shape—shape that indicates he has an understanding of the challenges that lies ahead. The experience that he gained last year is going to be an asset to him moving forward, but I’m particularly looking for dramatic improvement from a communication standpoint because it comes with the nature his position.”
Zach Banner & Chukwuma Okorafor
On Friday, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said the competition for the starting right tackle position between Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner could not be decided until the final preparation for the Steelers Week 1 matchup against the New York Giants. Coach Tomlin was asked how difficult it is to evaluate each of them with no preseason games.
“We’ll go until we get definitive clarity. We’ve got two really good capable men there—guys that are not new to us and new to the challenge. So we’re excited about watching those guys sort themselves out and we’re looking for as many ways as we can to create an atmosphere where they can definitively separate themselves. When we get to that spot we’ll know it. But until then, we’ll continue to work to create opportunities for them to distinguish themselves.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: