The 2021 NFL regular season is underway and teams are starting to get into a routine with what occurs during a typical game week. After coming out of a Sunday game, the Steelers are back to a regular week of preparation as head coach Mike Tomlin held his typical Tuesday press conference. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
With Ben Roethlisberger on the Reserve/COVID-19 List, backup quarterback Mason Rudolph made his first start of the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked his thoughts on Rudolph’s performance more than what he said following the game which was that he gave the Steelers a chance to win.
“He did a good job articulating the offense, communicating with guys. The pace in which we desire to work, he was able to uphold. We work fast some, we utilize cadence as a weapon. He is central to that. We got some penalties and got a free five yards and were able to attack them downfield with his use of pace. His ability to communicate, not only in-game but between series, and express likes and dislikes and articulate what he saw was acceptable. His reads and distribution of the football were largely what we wanted. He stretched the ball down the field at times and gave us an opportunity to make them not only defend the field horizontally but vertically. If I could be critical of him in any way, I thought he could have been better from a pinpoint accuracy standpoint in some instances to set up run after. Putting the ball in an ideal circumstance so a guy in a flat can win that flat confrontation, if you will, and things of that nature. But largely, this is not the first rodeo for him, this is not the first rodeo for him with us, and so I don’t think any of us were surprised by the things that he was able to do for us. As a matter of fact, we expected it. I know he expected it. I think that was his tenth start for us now, and so it’s not something that’s troublesome or worrisome. We just expect that guy to play winning football for us.”
In the Steelers’ three drives in overtime, two were killed by turnovers while another was almost a disaster due to Kendrick Green snapping the ball over Mason Rudolph’s head. Coach Tomlin was asked if this was something he needed to work on with Mason Rudolph this week.
“There’s nothing to be on the same page about. Green’s just got to get the snaps down. It doesn’t require a meeting. It doesn’t require schematic adjustments. Certain things are just fundamental, and when you coach and play football at this level, sometimes you can make the simple complex,or you can get too smart. No, we’re just gonna ask that guy to snap the ball in a proficient professional manner and we’re gonna move on with our life. We’re not going to put the quarterback under center and change our personality or approach that way. It requires nothing from Mason. Mason’s got a lot of work ahead of him getting ready to play quarterback, and I think it’s reasonable to expect the center to execute shotgun snaps on a consistent basis. Now, he didn’t in the last game, and so he’s got to recenter his focus and do a good job there this week in preparation, but it won’t create any additional meetings or planning from us. Just like we expect our guys to tackle better this week and we expect our guys to maintain possession of the ball this week. It won’t require any additional meetings or additional points of emphasis. It’s steeped in our culture. It’s fundamental. And so, we’ll go in with that understanding.”
Minkah Fitzpatrick & Joe Haden
Two players from the Steelers secondary who may not be available in Week 11 are safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and cornerback Joe Haden, who left last Sunday’s game with a foot injury. Coach Tomlin was asked about how he feels about the depth behind these players.
“I’ll be in a better position to answer that Sunday night. But I always feel good about our group. Given an opportunity to prepare, regardless of whether or not we have Minkah or Joe Haden or others, you give us six days to prepare, I like our chances.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about who would be the next man up for Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Like I mentioned, we’ve yet to meet as a defensive staff. I meet with the defensive staff on Tuesday afternoons. I’d imagine it’s gonna be a multi-person discussion. Just like the replacement of Mike Hilton has been a multi-person endeavor. When you’ve got significant players, those that are multi-talented, usually that’s the case as opposed to putting the onus of it on one individual.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he wasn’t counting on Fitzpatrick because there wasn’t enough time to clear the protocol.
“Correct, to my knowledge. But again, I don’t have the details. I’m just assuming that that’s the case.”
Tre Norwood & Miles Killebrew
If Minkah Fitzpatrick is still unable to clear the Covid protocol, the Steelers will likely be taking a ‘replacement by committee’ approach. Coach Tomlin was asked about Tre Norwood and Miles Killabrew and if they fit into the equation.
“All are viable options, and we’ll consider them.”
Ben Roethlisberger missed his first game of the 2021 NFL season in Week 10. Coach Tomlin was asked if there is a possibility that Roethlisberger could be cleared of the Covid protocols too late to play in the game.
“I’m sure there are a lot of hypotheticals that could change the discussion that I outlined. But basically, logistically, the framing that I outlined is the mode that we’re in, and we’ll cross those bridges when we come to them. We’ve just got so many decisions and significant days between now and then that we waste a lot of time pondering the hypotheticals. We’re going to build a plan around Mason; that’s what we’re doing today. We get a workday tomorrow with our guys that kind of starts the week. That’s what we intend to do tomorrow. We’ll start weighing those things as the sand runs through the hourglass and we get closer to kickoff.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a later question about how interchangeable Roethlisberger and Mason Rudolph are in the offense.
“Like I just mentioned, also, I said we prepared the game for Ben last week and Mason executed it. There are not a lot of significant differences. It’s not like Mason Rudolph runs 4.4 and all of a sudden, we’re gonna start doing some run pass options and things of that nature. It’s not as significant a discussion as one would imagine. There are probably more likes and dislikes or feel-related things relative to the in-helmet perspective of the position.”
Coach Tomlin was asked if Ben Roethlisberger will be able to participate in virtual meetings this week.
“100 percent. He was a full participant yesterday.”
Steelers linebacker Joe Schobert was the center of some controversial comments following Sunday’s game when on two occasions he mentioned about the Steelers needing to take practice seriously. Coach Tomlin was asked if it was Schobert being a leader or if there was something more Tomlin would like to see in practice.
“I have no issue with how we practice and I’m sure Joe doesn’t. I’m sure he was just answering questions after a football game.”
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