The 2021 NFL regular season is rolling into December and teams are used to their routine with what occurs during a typical game week. After coming out of a rough game on Sunday, the Steelers are once again on 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.
T.J. Watt & Alex Highsmith
One of the takeaways from Coach Tomlin‘s press conference was that he talked about being open to potential changes going into the next game. Coach Tomlin was asked if the changes were what the Steelers would be doing or the players in which they would be doing it with. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned a situation from last season with T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Bud Dupree.
“I think it’s both. It might be the repositioning of people or it might be the leaning on depth as a strength. I made a point this morning in a discussion. Last year, we went up there and played those guys and it was a big football game and we felt really good about our quality depth at outside linebacker. So in that game, we played a lot of three outside linebacker defense with T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and Alex Highsmith. We don’t over-complicate things, but we are open to change when change produces or has a chance to produce a desired outcome. When you have red paint, you paint your barn red. That’s kind of a motto or a cliche that we live by at times. That’s what I mean when I’m saying we’re open to change. Is it people and insertion of people? Yes, if it potentially makes us better, but not for the sole purpose of change. It may just mean the alignment or configuration of people in an effort to highlight areas maybe where we have depth and maybe minimize some areas where we don’t.”
Tomlin was later asked at what point in the Covid protocol T.J. Watt was on Tuesday and if he was symptomatic.
“I don’t delve into the specifics. I just acknowledge that he’s in the protocol. Just like I don’t expose specifics regarding the concussion protocol.”
After not being asked for several weeks, Stephon Tuitt and his availability came up once again. Coach Tomlin was asked if he’s assuming that Tuitt will not be back this year.
“I’m not, and to be honest with you, I hadn’t given it a lot of thought. I don’t have a six week perspective. I have a Ravens week perspective. He won’t be available to us this week, and so the people that have my attention are those that will be. We’ll continue to monitor his progress, and when he gets close I’ll have an update for you guys.”
When it comes to changing up things for the game and practice, a point many are constantly going to bring up is Ben Roethlisberger‘s participation throughout the week. Coach Tomlin was asked if Roethlisberger might be doing more in practice.
“It’s more work for certain players based on what it is that they need. Some people need physical work, some people need mental work, some people need to get well. We don’t paint with a broad brush. We make individual decisions that are based on the individual men that put us in position to carry the strongest unit into a stadium on weekends, and that philosophical approach will not change.”
Coach Tomlin also talked about some players needing more mental reps while others need more physical reps during practice. Coach Tomlin was asked about which type of reps Devin Bush would need as he struggles after coming back from his ACL surgery from last season.
“It’s both because he’s an extremely young guy. He’s still very much growing in terms of awareness and the things that come with playing inside linebacker in the National Football League. And obviously, he needs physical work because there’s a lack of volume of plays on his career resume. He’s a guy that probably falls into both categories, like a lot of people.”
Isaiah Buggs & Henry Mondeaux
The Steelers have seen a number of players utilized on defense this year who many did not expect to see significant playing time. Coach Tomlin was asked if there may be a different game plan based off the players he has available. In his response, Coach Tomlin talked about utilizing players last season such as Isaiah Buggs and Henry Mondeaux.
“I was looking at some of the game tape from last year when we played them up there, the first time we played them in Baltimore a year ago. I saw a lot of Isaiah Buggs, I saw a lot of Henry Mondeaux on that tape. I think adversity is a component of football. I think we all face adversity. I think, at times, you miss people and particularly, maybe people at a similar position. You’ve got to close ranks and make necessary adjustments. Although we’re in it right now and it feels specific, we’ve faced that type of adversity a lot over the years. The guys that are on the field are the guys that have my attention, and those are the guys that we’re focused on preparing to play and putting together a winning formula and getting our desired result. We don’t waste a lot of time comparing our current state to our past state and who’s available or not available. We’re focused on the collection of people that we have available to us and the task at hand as it relates to this week.”
On Sunday the Steelers saw their running game take a step in the wrong direction. Coach Tomlin was asked about Najee Harris in the run game and if it was something that the Bengals were doing or if there was a problem with how the Steelers were executing.
“It was both. It was what they were doing, what we were not doing. It was also the nature in which the game was unfolding. We were down a significant number of points and we had to change the pace and the mode in which we were operating in an effort to pursue victory.”
Another young player who struggled on Sunday was cornerback James Pierre. Coach Tomlin was asked if he saw that Pierre wasn’t able to put some of his mistakes behind him as the game went on.
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question if that was something he was concerned about that.
“I was in the stadium, and that’s why we made the changes that we did. We’ll see where this week leads us.”
Carlos Davis & Montravius Adams
The Steelers have a couple options they could use this week to give them a different look on the defensive line. Coach Tomlin was asked if Carlos Davis could be coming back to the roster this week or if newly signed Montravius Adams would be able to fit in right away.
“Both guys are capable. Adams has a few more hurdles to clear because learning what to do is a component of it. Carlos has been practicing, and so we’ll continue to monitor his progress and the quality of that work and let that be our guide in terms of his potential inclusion.”
On Monday, second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool answered a question to the media and he suggested playing music during practice to help the players have more fun. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was going to oblige his request.
“Well, Claypool plays wideout and I’ll let him do that. I’ll formulate the practice approach. And I think that division of labor is probably appropriate.”
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