The Steelers 2020 training camp is officially over. The only time we can expect to hear from head coach Mike Tomlin is during his regular Tuesday and post game press conferences. While not always asked about specific players, this week had plenty of questions! So for a bonus edition, we’ll take a look at the players mentioned in Tomlin’s press conferences. Remember these players are ones brought up during the question and answer period.
Zach Banner, Chukwuma Okorafor & David DeCastro
A two part question Coach Tomlin was asked was about the Steelers offensive line. While many had hoped Tomlin would declare the Steelers starting right tackle, he did not although reports came out later that Zach Banner has won the job. Tomlin was asked about the competition as well as the status of David DeCastro who has reportedly been ruled out for Week 1.
“I’m comfortable with the right tackle prospects. Like I said in recent days, it has been a tough decision because I feel like we have two guys that are starter capable. That is a good issue to have. We will quickly sort through that as we get through the week and formulate what is best for us in terms of winning this football game. We didn’t work David (DeCastro) yesterday on the bonus day. We will see what tomorrow holds as we begin our preparation week. I know he is excited about getting back out there with his teammates as soon as possible.”
The Steelers made a change at punter earlier this week, so it was expected that Coach Tomlin would be asked about the switch. Coach Tomlin was asked if the change was about what Jordan Berry did not do, or if it was about gaining more with Colquitt
“It is always a myriad of variables when you make a change or decision. Like I mentioned at the opening of this, Colquitt has the type of resume that is impressive. And forget the things that capture your attention from an outstanding trait standpoint. We just really like his floor. He has a consistent resume over 15 years in a variety of circumstances that we believe is an asset to us as a football team. We think his experience is good, particularly in an environment where you have had a lot of preseason football. This guy is just tried and tested, and we were really comfortable in acquiring him.”
When we spoke to the media last week, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger talked about being nervous about his first game back. Referencing Roethlisberger, Coach Tomlin was asked about nerves being an issue in Week 1 since there was no preseason.
“There are nerves and jitters every time we walk out of the tunnels, at least for me, speaking for myself. Especially the first time you walk out in a season or the first time you walk out, particularly in a circumstance such as this with no preseason. I think I am really focusing my energies on using that angst or anxiety in a productive or appropriate way and working through it and finding comfort through work. That is what I’m going to challenge our team to do and I’m not going to pretend like it doesn’t exist. I think that is a global thing and I think that is something that all of us in some form or fashion or one way or another will have to deal with here in 2020 here in the next seven days or so.”
It’s no secret the Steelers have not taken a “running back by committee” approach in the past. Coach Tomlin was asked the plan for their division of labor for rushing the ball.
“We are going to discover that week in and week out in terms of what gives us the very best chance to win each and every game. We have players with unique and different talents, particularly at that position. As you mentioned, we are not opposed to utilizing all of those talents. All of that being said, there is no question about who our bell cow is. Our bell cow is James Conner and he is our primary ball toter.”
Initially on the Steelers 53-man roster, Devlin Hodges was released on Sunday and added to the Steelers practice squad after the acquisition of Josh Dobbs. Coach Tomlin was asked about the reason for keeping four quarterbacks this season while other teams have not done the same.
“I really don’t worry about how or why others do it. We just felt like it was important in this circumstance for us to have four quarterbacks in the program. We have four quarterbacks in the program, guys that we have played ball within the past. We believe that aids us. Duck’s in the position he’s in being a practice squad guy, this is a guy that started games for us a year ago. We believe that’s an asset to us. In this COVID environment you can’t insulate yourself enough with quality depth in all positions. That’s something we work extremely hard to do. The utilization of vested veterans on the practice squad is another avenue that we thoughtfully delved into all in an effort to insulate us and to fortify our depth in this uncertain environment.”
Sean Davis, Josh Dobbs, & Dustin Colquitt (again)
In the new NFL environment in 2020 due to COVID-19, bringing in new players can get a little tricky. Coach Tomlin was asked about the procedures the Steelers had to follow with their three new acquisitions they made over the last few days.
“They’ve already gone through the protocol in terms of the COVID procedures in terms of making themselves available not only for a workout in Colquitt’s case but also to be in the building, which Sean Davis was yesterday and now Dobbs is eligible too moving forward. We are going to follow the protocol to the letter, whatever the protocol prescribes. We acknowledge that it’s capable of changing because it has. We keep our ear to the ground, and that’s a non-negotiable thing for us.”
Diontae Johnson, Benny Snell Jr., Justin Layne & Isaiah Buggs
There are a number of players coming off their rookie season with the Steelers who are looking for a big second-year jump. Coach Tomlin was asked about the expectations for Diontae Johnson and if he looks ready to make a big leap this season, but he took the liberty to mention several second-year players.
“He does, but so does Benny Snell and a lot of our other second-year players. We’re excited about the growth and development of second-year players. We’re excited about challenging them to take a significant step in their game. The same could be said for Justin Layne and Isaiah Buggs and others. It’s reasonable to expect those guys to raise their level of play.”
With no preseason games, there are definitely challenges facing a team when facing a new coaching staff. Coach Tomlin was asked what film he has linebacker Devin Bush watching to prepare for Week 1.
“Schematically, you watch Dallas tape because Coach Jason Garrett is the leader of the group from a schematic standpoint. Also, their offensive line coach comes from Dallas as well, and their shared experience probably really provides some speculative insights for us to be prepared for. If you’re watching people, if you want to watch Saquon (Barkley) work, which I would think is appropriate for a guy like Devin Bush, then you watch Giant tape as well. That’s not earth-shattering or ground-breaking in any way. That’s what you do in Week 1 when you face some of the challenges that Week 1 provides us.”
For a full recap of Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out our podcast recap below:
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: