It’s back by popular demand! The return to looking at the players mentioned in Mike Tomlin’s press conferences is a double-dose this week as not only did Coach Tomlin speak to the media Thursday morning, he also appeared on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. Since Tomlin was asked about different players in both interviews, they will all be covered here at Behind the Steel Curtain.
As is usually the case, these players are not ones Tomlin brought up himself but are specifically players about whom Tomlin was asked questions. This week, after being on the field with players for workouts, Tomlin had more to say than the previous interview.
Going back into the backup quarterback roll, Mason Rudolph will be someone who who will be constantly scrutinized for someone hopefully not setting foot on the field. Coach Tomlin was asked improvements and expectations for Rudolph this season.
“We’re not in the working stage yet for him to exhibit any significant improvements in any way and so that’s a tough answer. We’re looking forward to him taking a significant step this year. I think that’s a reasonable thing as he continues to mature not only through time spent with us, but experience and exposure. And he’s got some in-game exposure. It’s going to be an issue for him not to get those quality preseason snaps that are so valuable for a young development quarterback. But all the young development quarterbacks have to deal with those circumstances this year, and other positional players. It’s just a function of where we are here in 2020.”
Bush is a player many are hoping takes a large jump in his second year in the NFL. Coach Tomlin was asked about Bush’s growth in year two, particularly when it comes to communication on defense.
“Communication is a big part of his general growth and development because of the position that he plays. He’s a defensive quarterback, if you will, being an all-situations linebacker. One that plays on all down and distances and certain circumstances. And so, he’s the type of guy that has to be a hub of communication. We were thoughtful about the things that we asked him to do in that regard a year ago. He was challenged enough just to play and to be as productive a member of the unit as he was for us. It is reasonable for us to expect him to take a significant step in those unofficial endeavors that kind of encompasses his position. And so, we’re working on usual things and he’s displayed the usual maturational process things. He showed up in great condition, and that indicates an understanding of the nature of this thing that maybe didn’t have a year ago. And we’ll proceed from there, but they’re also unofficial things that he has to embrace and that’s the things that come with being defensive quarterback, if you will.”
One of the longer tenured Steelers defensive players in linebacker Vince Williams. Coach Tomlin was asked about Williams’ role with the 2020 defense.
“It’s his role in terms and the division of labor, that’s why we come to camp. That’s why we go to the things that we go through just in terms of having worked with Vince over the course of his career. He’s a formidable run stopper. That is his niche. He’s always been really solid in that regard over the course of his career. He’s worked to develop other aspects of his game. His rush is something that is been noteworthy in recent years; his ability to win as a blitzer versus backs is an asset to us. And his football intelligence and communication skills have always been a solid component of his resume. So we have a lot of respect for Vince and we’re excited about his contributions this year and some of the details in terms of what his role might be and how it plays out will be determined through this process.”
With 2019 being a wash, everyone wants to know how Ben Roethlisberger is progressing. Coach Tomlin was asked about how comfortable he was with watching Roethlisberger throw.
“I’m extremely comfortable with where he is in the process. It’s been great communication from and through him and the medical professionals through his rehab process. I did watch him throw. I didn’t see anything that was alarming in any way. His velocity is excellent. Maybe his spiral could be a little tighter—I’ve seen it tighter—but nothing to alarm you in any way. We’re going to continue to proceed, and proceeded appropriately with him in an effort to to have him ready to go when we step into a stadium.”
Tomlin was also asked about what he expects from Roethlisberger this season in his interview on Good Morning Football.
“Just in terms of mentality and intent, I have no question about what we’re going to get from Ben. I’m going on 14 years working with this guy and been in a lot of competitive situations. I’ve watched him stare adversity and challenges in the face over that time. It brings out the best in him always. In terms of physically and how he’s rebounding from there. So I think that it’s a process that he’s going through and with and we’re proceeding. Obviously, leaning on the expertise of the medical people and how he feels and so far so good. I’ve watched him throw a couple of times this week and he appears to have Ben-like velocity. I’m still looking for that extremely tight spiral that I’m used to seeing and so there’s still some ground to cover, but we still have some time. I’m excited about him doing what he does—stepping out in a phone booth, if you will, with the cape on—and being the guy that he has been for us and facing the challenges that this season is going to present.”
The Steelers All-Pro safety hopes to bring even more to the defense this season. Coach Tomlin was asked on Good Morning Football how he would evaluate Minkah Fitzpatrick as a former defensive backs coach.
“He brings unique football talent. Obviously, that’s why he was drafted where he was drafted, and that’s why we did what we had to do to acquire him. But having been around him now for a year, you see how he produces it. Not only is he extremely talented as a football player, but he’s the type of guy that brings a unique approach. He has a unique desired outcome in that he wants to be great. But day-to-day, he’s willing to do the things that’s going to produce those type of plays. He’s not a guy that’s paid by the hour. He was absolutely the last guy, I think, walking out of the facility yesterday. I watched him walk out and that’s a routine thing for him. He’s diligent about training his mind as it relates to his job. He’s diligent about maintaining and conditioning and getting his body ready for the work. It’s just fun to kind of watch him go through his process and how developed his process is for a young guy. We’ve got to remember that Minkah is still a very young guy, not only an age but in NFL experience. Last year being his second year is really unique to see a guy who has a process—a developmental process—for game readiness that is as mature and developed as his is and I think that’s why the play is what it is.”
Even with the young talent the Steelers have ammased at wide receiver, the national media will continue to focus on JuJu Smith-Schuster. Coach Tomlin was asked on GMFB about the ability for Smith-Schuster to bounce back in 2020.
“I know that JuJu is ready to answer those questions. And it’s not only who’s playing quarterback and overall how he functions within an overall group, but it’s also his generall readiness and health and he had some health issues a year ago. He’s worked extremely hard to show up to camp in the best physical condition that he can be in and in the best physical health that he could be in. And so we start from there. I’m excited about walking this journey with him, and I’m expecting big plays from him and quality performances like he’s delivered for us since we drafted him out of (U)SC several years ago.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview on Good Morning Football can be seen here:
(Part 1) .@steelers HC Mike Tomlin joined #GMFB to talk about adjusting to the unique training camp, the opt out deadline (today at 4pmET), Big Ben, @TeamJuJu, @minkfitz_21 and so much more! pic.twitter.com/zipgQfqozo— GMFB (@gmfb) August 6, 2020
(Part 2) .@steelers HC Mike Tomlin joined #GMFB to talk about adjusting to the unique training camp, the opt out deadline (today at 4pmET), Big Ben, @TeamJuJu, @minkfitz_21 and so much more! pic.twitter.com/CjuFZ9duvn— GMFB (@gmfb) August 6, 2020