The Pittsburgh Steelers were back out in pads again Thursday, and head coach Mike Tomlin and crew were ready to get this new year started right. Throughout the day Thursday, fans had a lot of offensive talk to digest. Ben Roethlisberger spoke around noon, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner spoke prior to the team’s 1:30 p.m. ET practice.
A lot of these interviews was nothing more than status quo, but one particular part of Fichtner’s interview stood out. Throughout the offseason several fans were hoping Mike Tomlin would take a ‘Running Back By Committee’ approach to this upcoming season. After all, sustainability isn’t really James Conner’s strong suit. Nonetheless, Fichtner said what we all should have expected, “Conner is the guy.”
This per Dale Lolley of DKPittsburghSports.com:
Fichtner said the Steelers might need to find roles for the other running backs on the roster, but James Conner is the team's most capable every down back. Sounds like as long as Conner is healthy, he's going to carry the load. #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 27, 2020
This isn’t to suggest rookie Anthony McFarland Jr., Benny Snell Jr. or Jaylen Samuels won’t have a role on the team, but that role will likely depend on Conner’s availability.
So far, Conner has yet to prove he can get through a full NFL season since being drafted. With that said, it looks as if the Steelers will be wise to find roles for the backups if/when Conner sustains another injury.
There was other news from Day 8 of training camp practice...
Let’s get to it...
After a day off, the Steelers were back on the field, and several players returned to practice who had missed time prior:
JuJu Smith-Schuster (days off)
Kevin Dotson (knee)
Diontae Johnson (undisclosed)
Chukwuma Okorafor (groin)
Wendell Smallwood (shoulder)
Terrell Edmunds (undisclosed)
Chris Wormley (shoulder)
Vance McDonald (day off)
According to live feed from Steelers, among the players returning to practice are JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Kevin Dotson. Ryan Switzer and Kerrith Whyte are not practicing.— Joe Rutter (@tribjoerutter) August 27, 2020
However, there was one player who had the day off:
Eric Ebron (illness)
Those who were previously injured and remained out of practice were:
Derwin Gray (knee)
Kerrith Whyte Jr. (groin) (day-to-day)
Alexander Myres (groin)
Ryan Switzer (foot) (day-to-day)
Kam Canaday (knee)
Derek Watt (unknown) (working back)
After practice, Mike Tomlin addressed the media and said there was one new injury during Thursday’s practice, and that was Anthony McFarland who left with a concussion and will now enter the NFL’s concussion protocol.
Eric Ebron was out with illness, Anthony McFarland in the concussion protocol— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) August 27, 2020
Another example of the more you can do
On the last Training Camp Recap, Cam Sutton was highlighted for his ability to play so many positions in the Steelers’ secondary. The same is now being said of safety Marcus Allen. Allen, who is a heavier safety, practiced with the linebackers on Thursday. For someone desperate to make the team, the more you can do the better your odds are of making the roster.
Former PSU safety Marcus Allen is practicing with the inside linebackers today in individual work. Steelers are down to 4 ILBs on the roster.— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) August 27, 2020
After practice, Mike Tomlin expounded on Allen’s ability to drop down into the box and play a Mark Barron-like safety position.
We've played Marcus Allen at safety and inside linebacker - Coach Tomlin on depth— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 27, 2020
During Ben Roethlisberger’s interview Thursday, he was asked who, when on 11-on-11 drills, was winning, the offense or defense? Roethlisberger’s answer was simple. The defense. However, they do say defense starts ahead of offense.
Ben Roethlisberger said it plain and simple ... defense is winning 11-on-11 in practice.— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 27, 2020
Fichtner had some glowing remarks about Eric Ebron, and his ability to make the offense even more dynamic than it already is. He talked about his experience, intelligence and his overall unique skill set.
'Eric is exciting because he is a been there, done that guy in this league. We've tried to be intelligent about where we have put him and not overdo it too quickly. He has a skill set that is very unique.' - Randy Fichtner on @Ebron85— Teresa Varley (@Teresa_Varley) August 27, 2020
Best ability is your availability
Chase Claypool’s hype train is on full tilt, and many are wondering what sets him apart from other players, as it pertains to his relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. As it turns out, it is just about availability. Claypool hasn’t missed a practice, workout or meeting. Your best ability sometimes is your availability.
Fichtner said the rapport between Roethlisberger and rookie Chase Claypool is “unique”. He cites Claypool’s availability. (He hasn’t missed a snap) as well as his conditioning leave and intelligence in making transition. He says that’s why opportunities are coming his way.— Ray Fittipaldo (@rayfitt1) August 27, 2020
While Roethlisberger spoke glowingly about his elbow and how he is doing in his rehabilitation, the fact remains the Steelers have been putting Roethlisberger on a pseudo pitch count. While Roethlisberger is feeling great, the team is still be hesitant realizing how many throws he has accumulated over the years.
Steelers OC Randy Fichtner says he has to keep an eye on limiting Ben Roethlisberger from throwing too many "extra reps" this time of year, such as when he and Maurkice Pouncey are trying to hit the goal post from like 50 yards away.— Brian Batko (@BrianBatko) August 27, 2020
Of course, media asked Roethlisberger if he has any plans of playing out side of his current contract, but Roethlisberger wasn’t biting. He is taking it one year at a time.
The docu-series developed
In case you missed the Ben Roethlisberger docu-series “Bigger than Ben” released Wednesday, the franchise quarterback spoke about how it came to be and why his agent wanted him to do it. If you missed it, click HERE.
Roethlisberger said the docuseries released yesterday came about at the behest of his agent. Said he and his wife started documenting things on their phone. Then added the professionals. #Steelers #dkps— Dale Lolley (@dlolley_pgh) August 27, 2020
Social justice requires action
Many were wondering if the Steelers would be cancelling practice due to the social issues swirling around our country, and Tomlin spoke about those issues, and the Steelers’ approach, after practice.
A brief summation via Missi Matthews of Steelers.com:
Coach Tomlin on social justice issues: we desire to have an impact, more so than statements...we had continued conversations...I appreciate the hearts and spirits of our players.— Missi Matthews (@missi_matthews) August 27, 2020
A recap of the day’s happenings, in audio form:
Live Look-In at Practice
Today’s #SteelersCamp practice is #LIVE at @heinzfield!— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) August 27, 2020
Watch Training Camp Live, presented by @FedEx, an exclusive daily live look-in at #SteelersCamp!
For more training camp coverage, watch NFL Network. https://t.co/nwTPPm5413
Mike Tomlin Post-Practice Conference
#LIVE: @missi_matthews & @CraigWolfley wrap up what Coach Tomlin said in his post-practice media session, what they saw at #SteelersCamp and more on Training Camp Wrap Up, presented by @UPMCHealthPlan!— SteelersNationUnite (@SteelersUnite) August 27, 2020
For more training camp coverage, watch NFL Network. https://t.co/LKQ6KCkW6p